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June 20, 1995

I had a terrific boyhood crush on my pretty Sunday school teacher, Kara Lee Coldiron, but she married Robert Eikleberry and has been a resident of Lincoln, Neb., for quite a few years now. Nevertheless, she is still one of my favorite people and I was privileged to read a letter she recently wrote to her brother and sister-in-law, Kenneth and Mary Ellen Coldiron. Kenneth and Kara Lee, of course, are the son and daughter of Dr. D. F. Coldiron and Daisy Lemon Coldiron. You may be interested in part of her letter, too, so here's what she wrote:

"I well remember Daddy's office above the Beers drug store and the store itself. I don't know how old I was when Daddy moved to the new Masonic building on the west side of the square but I was four when we moved to Perry. I do remember visiting him in his old office and especially the stairs. I thought they were a mile high when I looked down. I had dreams of sort of floating about two feet above them to the bottom and making a soft landing.

"Daddy used to take me to the drug store. I remember that he asked Mr. Beers for some carbonated water. He gave me a taste. It sort of exploded in my mouth, quite an unusual sensation. I was impressed because Daddy didn't pay for the carbonated water. I wonder if he was trying to impress me by his importance. He was always careful to pay for things he received unless they were out and out gifts, of course, and he did receive many of those, usually in lieu of payment for service. I am sure he bought medications there or had his patients buy them there.

"I think I had ice cream there, also, but don't remember that specifically. I do remember the pretty glasses, the fountain, and I think the ice cream tables and chairs. There is a 'new' place near Arbor Lodge here that is supposed to be like the old ice cream parlors. My friend Merle and I are going down there when the weather gets warmer and order something like a malt or sundae. I have a sentimental feeling about those old places, probably originating with the Beers drug store."

Dr. Coldiron was Perry's own version of Dr. Christian, the kindly old country physician played in the movies by kindly old actor Jean Hersholt. The character was based on the Canadian doctor who delivered the Dionne quintuplets in the 1930s. Dr. Coldiron never had the opportunity to preside at the birth of quints, but he certainly ushered a lot of us singles into the world. In my case, I arrived a few minutes before he reached our house, but everything turned out all right, I guess.

Carbonated water is the major ingredient used in making Cokes, Dr. Pepper, root beer and other soft drinks at drug store fountains, such as the one at Foster's Corner Drug. It is simply chilled tap water charged with carbon dioxide to make it fizz, a lot like Perrier and some of the other toney bottled water imports now so highly prized by many. A glass of carbonated water generally was served on the house when requested back in those days. Now you pay $1.25 or more for that much Perrier. I suspect my Dad was just doing his bit to encourage Dr. Coldiron to continue sending his patients to the City Drug Store.

Some of Dr. Coldiron's office furnishings now comprise a major permanent display at the Cherokee Strip Museum here. Gazing at it, I can still picture Dr. Coldiron moving around at a slow pace, absent mindedly whistling a tune known only to him, but always speaking softly and gently to his patients. Mrs. Coldiron was a well regarded Oklahoma poet. Some of her work is contained in volumes at our Carnegie Library and you should look them over one day.

As for those stairs leading to Dr. Coldiron's office over the City Drug Store, I remember them pretty well, too. Our family lived in an apartment across the hall from where Dr. Coldiron's office was located. My sister Gloria and I had an annual ritual along about Dec. 26 each year. We would take the decorations off our Christmas tree and use the tree to ride down those steep stairs, from top to bottom, until Mother caught us and brought the fun to a halt. We usually managed to get in four our five breathtaking rides before we were found out each year. It was a cheap thrill in the grim days of the Great Depression. And we never broke a thing.