By Ann Gill (M.A., ’76)
Editor’s note: We would like to thank Robin Karst (B.A., ’86) for bringing this story to our attention. Karst worked at Batson Drugs while earning her degree and went on to become a Fort Collins and northern Colorado business owner herself.
John Batson (B.S., ’43), an animal husbandry major turned pharmacist, opened Batson Drugs in Fort Collins in 1948. Located on the 800 block of South College, just across the street from campus, the store not only was a Fort Collins institution but also very popular with students.
John grew up in Colorado’s San Luis Valley and originally started school at the University of Colorado, but he contracted jaundice his first semester and withdrew. He later enrolled in and graduated from Colorado A&M. He married Margaret McCoy (B.S., ’43), a home economics major and drum majorette, in 1943. John served in World War II with the 557th Field Artillery Battalion. He landed on Utah Beach and participated in the battles of Ardennes, Northern France, Rhineland, and Central Europe. He was awarded four bronze stars and received a field promotion to caption.
After the war, John earned a degree in pharmacy and, in 1948, opened Batson Drugs at 816 South College Avenue. He worked at his store thirteen hours a day. After several years, John helped build a new structure at 804 S. College and moved Batson Drugs into that building. John was proud that the drive-through window at the new pharmacy was the first of its kind in Fort Collins.
Given the location of Batson Drugs and Margaret’s job as director of food services for Colorado A&M, the Batson’s family life centered around the campus. Son Jack, who later became a civil rights attorney in Augusta, Georgia, would go to work every day with his mother, eat breakfast at the student union, which was located on the southeast corner of the Oval, then walk to school. After school, he would come back to campus and entertain himself by watching sports teams practice, wandering the campus to look at displays and small museums in various buildings, climbing trees by the student union, and watching movies being shown in classes. The family ate dinner at a dorm or the student union every evening. The Batsons were die-hard Rams fans who had season tickets for football and basketball.
These stalwart Rams also were very active in the community. John ran for mayor and was in Rotary; Margaret was a volunteer at the Poudre Valley Blood Center and served on the board of directors for United Way. After working on campus for 13 years, she became director of food services for the Poudre R-1 School District where, among other duties, she administered the Head Start program for migrant children. The Batsons, along with fifty other local families, purchased land and created a country club in Fort Collins.
Margaret passed away in 2009 and John in 2014. The pair were an important part of CSU and Fort Collins history.