Druggist Wold served Austinites for 72 years

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 1, 2000

For years the brickwork was hidden under white metal siding and the painted sign was only a memory.

Friday, September 01, 2000

For years the brickwork was hidden under white metal siding and the painted sign was only a memory. Then the city removed the siding earlier this year, and suddenly the slogan of the old Wold Drug Store was there again: "Your grandfather told your father about us."

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For a few weeks, folks would stop and look, and reminisce about how they used to catch the bus near the drug store, or how they bought their first Brownie camera there in 1952 for $2.85. That same year, a person could buy a pocket comb at the Wold Drug Store for 7 cents, many styles of sunglasses for 25 cents and a tube of zinc oxide ointment for 22 cents.

Now nothing is for sale in the old Wold building except a commitment to historical renovation and the building itself.

It’s a building steeped in tradition. Like the slogan said, generations visited the drug store and its owners. Knud O. Wold and then his son, Guy Wold – both very long-lived gentlemen – ran the drugstore at what was then the corner of Main and Bridge streets for nearly 70 years with Knud working a total of 72 years as a druggist in Austin.

Knud – known as K.O. Wold – came to Mower County from his homeland of Norway in 1866, when Austin still was a village. He worked a year with his parents on a farm they purchased in Adams Township, then he took a job as a clerk in the drug store of Woodard and Dorr. Six years later, he bought an interest in the drug business with Dorr. In 1897, Dorr withdrew from the business and K.O. took over from there.

K.O. was described in a story written after he died in 1937 at the age of 92 as "the last of the pioneer businessmen." A village of less than 1,000 when he came here, Austin was a city of 18,000 when the Norwegian druggist died.

"He was honorable in his dealings," it was written after his death in the Mower County News. "Steady in his business, of a quiet nature, he served the public in a beautiful, manly, businesslike way, ever at his post to give service in whatever avenue called, he enjoyed his work."

It was a joy he passed on to son Guy, who took over the business when his father died. The younger Wold often was called "Austin’s one-man Chamber of Commerce." He also was very active on the Mower County Fair Board and was director of the Mower County Historical Society for 24 years.

In honor of Wold, the flags at the fairgrounds were flown at half-staff on the day of his funeral.

Guy continued the family business until he sold it in 1964. Even then, the drug store retained its name. An Austin Daily Herald article written in 1989 explains that Len Astrup kept the name when he bought the business from Guy, even if he covered up the sign. Most recently, the building housed Ertl’s Toy Store. The building is now owned by the city.