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November 4, 1995

The recent column mentioning exterior renovation on the Kasper law office and Three Sands Oil Co. suite on the north side of the square brought back some memories for June Ream, one of my friends at City Hall. She remembers the Ryerson Nursing Home on the second floor of that building, back in the late 1930s and early 1940s, and wonders how many others share that recollection. Let me refresh your memory.

Ethel Ryerson was a licensed practical nurse who assisted several Perry physicians in office work and home care. Eventually she leased the rooms above Zorba's Department Store and operated a maternity clinic there for several years. Although it was called a nursing home, its mission was not what we associate that term with today. Rather than providing eldercare, she primarily served expectant mothers who delivered there and remained for the usual recuperation period of several days. Doctors admitted their patients and officiated in the delivery room and Mrs. Ryerson saw to it that the proper post-natal care was provided.

She was a friendly, gregarious, grandmotherly lady, with iron gray hair, horn-rimmed glasses, a ready laugh and a broad smile for everyone. She was a bit heavy set and not very tall, and when she moved her starched nurses uniform made a rustling sound. Mrs. Ryerson was both efficient and loving in the care she provided. Many young Perry families of that era were happy that the Ryerson Nursing Home was located here.

Her husband, Earl, was a bookkeeper for Monroe-Lang Hardware on the south side of the square, in the building that formerly housed the Inch-By-Inch Salon. I understand the old hardware store building itself is in line for major renovation in the near future.

Earl and Ethel Ryerson had two daughters and both of them followed their mother as medical caregivers. The elder, Gladys, assisted her mother in the nursing home. The younger daughter, now Florence Vorndran, was a nurse's aide at Perry Memorial Hospital for several years before retiring. The Ryerson family home was the first house west of the First Baptist church, near Seventh and Fir. The location is now part of the church parking lot.

Mrs. Ryerson's facility was directly above the original Zorba's store at 633 Delaware. Across the hall from her, located, above the J. C. Penney Co. store of that time, was the suite of Dr. J. W Driver. He was a Harvard-trained physician and surgeon who came to Perry from Ponca City in the mid-1930s and enjoyed a successful practice here for several years. His wife, Edna, was a registered nurse and frequently assisted him.

At that time, Dr. C. H. Cooke owned and operated Perry General Hospital in a two-story stucco structure at 903 Sixth street. The building later became a nursing home operated by Mr. and Mrs. Fred Nichols, and Dr. Cooke built a new one story story hospital at 1120 Seventh street. That location is now the home of Mrs. Doris Bronner. Dr. Cooke closed His hospital after the opening of Perry Memorial and moved his practice to an office just east of the fire station. In the meantime, Dr. Driver built a new ground-level suite of offices at 720 Delaware and left the upstairs location. Dr. Scott Cowell, optometrist, now maintains his practice in the building constructed by Dr. Driver.

Dr. Driver's twin brother, Dr. George Driver, followed his brother to Perry and had an office suite on the second floor of the Davis Furniture Store building, where the First Bank & Trust Co. is now located. Dr. George Driver and his family also resided in an apartment adjacent to his office. During the scorching summer heat of that time, when air-conditioning was virtually unknown, Dr. and Mrs. Driver and their young children frequently spread pallets on the metal awning over the furniture store display windows and spent the night there, enjoying any stray breeze that might come along.

The two Drs. Driver were colorful and interesting characters, and despite some personal difficulties, including occasional animosities between themselves, they were well liked, socially popular and each had a successful practice in this community. Both died relatively young.

Thanks to June Ream for helping us to bring back some of these personalities from a few decades ago.