Those Were the Days: A Salute to Joe Tooley


I’ve met many people in my life, but none compared to the energy that Mr. Joe Tooley generated every day. This guy was a walking generator that never slowed down! Joe had lost his parents at an early age, but he taught us that we could get a good education due to American freedoms.

He graduated from Baylor University then graduated from Baylor Medical Pharmacy School. Joe had always wanted to have his own pharmacy and, in 1935, bought Richard’s Drug Store, which was for sale. He encouraged us kids that worked for him to appreciate our ltfe and use it for good.

When I met Mr. Tooley, Richard’s Drug Store owner, I was twelve years old. His pharmacy was located in downtown Pampa., Texas.

I had an afternoon paper route, but it only took up an hour of my time each day. Mr. Tooley hired me to deliver drugstore “stuff” to his customers and shut-ins. I enjoyed riding my bike, because it got me out of his store doing the stocking.

His wife went by “Doty” and worked at the store, and they were very kind and shared their viewpoint on life with me. I found out that Joe was part Choctaw Indian, born in the Oklahoma Indian Territory in July 1907 (Oklahoma did not join the US until November 1907 .) Both of these people were small in stature. Joe was 5’3,” and Dorothy was only 4’9”. However, these two folks had enough energy for five people, and it was infectious; it gave lots of “get up and go” to the rest of us. He met Dorothy E Harper, born in Logan, Kansas, but grew up in Pampa and married her in 1932.

Naturally, Joe practiced what he preached. If anybody needed a prescription and couldn’t afford it, He gave it to them and said to pay whatever they could. He also provided medical supplies such as crutches, wheelchairs, tape, gauze pads, etc.

Joe was also very active with the Lions Club. They had what was called “The Tail Twister!” His job was to find something about a member and make him admit to it and then “fine” him from $1 to $5. An example would be a member who forgot his wife’s birthday (paid $1 fine) to forgetting his wife’s wedding anniversary (fined $5). Joe had built this fund up to a reasonable amount, and the Lions used this money to help anyone in first through 12 grade that needed a pair of glasses or eye surgery.

Joe even became a board member of the Texas Eye Association. Another project the Lions Club had was going door to door selling brooms. The club used the money to build a nursing home in Panhandle.

Joe Tooley and his family were members of the First Methodist Church and very active in different capacities. They had two girls, Bette Jo and Melinda Kay. Bette Jo was head cheerleader in high school in 1955. Joe opened his store at the age of 26 and sold it 40 years later.

Joe and Doty loved the circus throughout their life. If ever one was close by, he and his family were there. He liked it so much that when he retired he and his wife moved to Gainesville, Texas, where the circus resided in the wintertime.

Joe passed away at the age of 76 in 1983. He was a wonderful mentor and example to all who knew him.