MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WREG) — A Southaven woman who worked for Walgreens for 67 years has made history as the company’s longest-serving employee.
Melba Russell was just 19 years old when she started working at a Walgreens on South Main in 1956. In May, she retired from store number 3013 on Elvis Presley Boulevard in Whitehaven at the age of 88.
“When I went to work, I planned on six months, and that jumped many years. I enjoyed it,” said Russell. “Time passes fast.”
Russell worked at the lunch counter at the Walgreens in Downtown Memphis and said back then, they sold slices of strawberry pie for 35 cents.
“I wasn’t old enough at that time to ring up beer, so I had to take the cafeteria side,” said Russell.
At the time, the Walgreens was located at 2 South Main and moved to 64 North Main two years later.
Russell also worked a few years as an assistant store manager in Huntsville, Alabama, when her husband got a job transfer but spent the last 25 years at the Whitehaven store.
Russell, who liked supervising the big trucks as they unloaded stock, said she had no plans to retire, but a bad hip forced her off her feet. She said her hip has since healed.
“I thought, well, I enjoy my work, so why quit, you know? All my kids live out of town. So, it just takes up time,” said Russell.
Russells said she misses her customers and the employees but still keeps in touch with her co-workers, talking to some two to three times a week.
“All the employees were so sweet, and they still are. We have lunch sometimes,” she said. “I miss getting up and seeing all the employees. That was my family.”
Russell, a widow, has two children, two grandchildren, and five great-grandkids. She still drives and is about to turn 89 but has no plans to slow down any time soon.
“You don’t retire and just sit down. I mean, you got to keep moving, or they say you are going to lose it,” Russell said.
Russell said she is proud of being Walgreens’s longest-working employee and isn’t too worried about somebody breaking her record.
“I’m not sure that’s going to happen. The workforce isn’t like it was in those days. You didn’t have a lot of options,” Russell said.
Russell will celebrate her 89th birthday on Wednesday, Aug. 9.