November 18, 1995
We were out of town the other day when Monte Jones passed away and I'm sorry we could not attend his funeral service. Monte had been battling health problems for quite some time, so, as is very often the case, his discomfort and suffering are over now. Wuzzy certainly will miss him after 58 years of married life. Monte retired several years ago and consequently he had not been the familiar figure around the square that he used to be, but many remember him fondly from those earlier days.
Monte was a sales representative for a wholesale drug company in the 1930s and his travels took him through Perry frequently. He called on local drug stores, including Brownie Drug on the west side the square. Something about Perry and Brownie's appealed to him.
World War II interrupted his career and Monte was called into military service. While he was gone, his wife, Juanita (universally known by her nickname, Wuzzy), took over his job with the drug company and learned more about Perry while making regular calls here. When peace broke out and Monte was discharged, they purchased Brownie's from the late Charles G. Watson in 1946 and became citizens of Perry.
Along about the same time, The Perry Daily Journal hired a young fellow from Oklahoma City, Boyd Norman, as advertising manager. Boyd had been recently discharged from the Marine Corps after four years as a Japanese prisoner of war. Captured in the Philippines at the fall of Corregidor, he was in the infamous Bataan death march. I had just returned to work at The Journal following Army service in the Pacific and Boyd and I became good friends, two young bachelors with no money but lots of ideas about everything. Monte and Wuzzy befriended us, and they were among those from Perry who attended Boyd's funeral just a few years later in Oklahoma City. He died young as a result of malnutrition and physical beatings suffered at the hands of his Jap captors.
Brownie's was an authentic Perry institution even before Monte and Wuzzy bought the business. It had a large soda fountain, booths and tables where Cokes and malts could be sipped, row after row of the day's popular magazines, and of course all the hundreds of items drug stores were expected to carry, plus a complete prescription department. Starling Miller's auction company now occupies that building and you can still see the checkered floor tiles there indicating where the fountain was installed. After Mr. Watson sold the business, it became "Monte Jones Drug Store," but its character remained the same.
Monte and Wuzzy developed a special relationship with their customers and the store prospered. Monte was active in civic affairs, working in the Chamber of Commerce and various fund-raising campaigns to support semi-pro baseball and many other worthwhile local projects. Sometimes his countenance made him appear to be scowling, but in reality he was jovial and soft-spoken. I guess the fact that he came from a Tennessee town called Friendship had something to do with that. Back home in Tennessee he was known by his middle name, Laverne, but it was always Monte in Oklahoma.
Many changes have taken place in the Perry business community since 1946, and there is no longer a Monte Jones or Brownie's Drug Store. Chris Cockrum's Pharmacy still serves the public from the west side of the square, and so do Mike Shannon, Gene Breshears and Dennis Thompson from their locations, but the drug store business is different now in so many ways. Merchants in many other lines have come and gone since 1946. Monte, at the age of 87, had enjoyed a full and long life, but his passing takes away one more link with the recent past in Perry. We'll miss him.