November 4, 1997
Mike, and Janet Shannon are celebrating their 25th anniversary as operators of the Foster Corner Drug Store on the east side of the square, and I join in congratulating them on this special occasion. They have been fine additions to our community in many ways since coming here from Ada in 1972. Besides their dedication to business interests, they have been faithful workers in civic endeavors, their church, and other aspects of life in Perry America. Mike has even sat in as trombonist for the pit band in several Stagecoach Community Theatre productions. They are, indeed, very good citizens, and we are pleased to have them as residents here.
The Shannons are perpetuating a record of community service that began with their predecessors as operators of Foster's Corner Drug. The business, a venerable Perry institution, was here before Mike or Janet Shannon were born. It was established by the late Ralph Foster Sr., whose pioneer roots were valid and very deep in the Cherokee Strip. After his death, the store was operated by his younger son, Woody, until his own untimely death. The Shannons came here following that sad event.
Ralph Sr.'s older son, Ralph Jr., made a name for himself as a strapping All-American football lineman at Oklahoma A&M College (now OSU) after starring for the Perry Maroons in the 1930s. Following World War II military service, Ralph Jr. returned to A&M and later was a member of the Chicago Cardinals team in the National Football League. The Cardinals eventually moved to St. Louis and the franchise is now in Arizona. Ralph Jr. lives in retirement in Stillwater but one of his sons, Doug Foster, is a teacher in the Perry school system. As I have mentioned on numerous occasions previously, Ralph Sr. was a contemporary of my dad when our family operated the City Drug Store on the north side of the square in the building now occupied by Roy Kendrick's Cherokee Strip Antique Mall. The Fosters have been family friends for as far back as I can remember.
When the Foster sons were playing football at PHS, Ralph Sr. had a local artist create a poster-size season schedule to show the scores of each game, year by year, and these were prominently displayed above the fountain in the drug store during the season. Mike still has most of those carefully stored and they should be considered more valuable as memorabilia as time goes by. Back in the '30s, the Fosters started a tradition of presenting each high school Maroon squad member with a small gold or silver football to wear on the key chains that were in vogue then. Gold balls were given in years when the Maroons won their first conference title; silver balls were given in other years. The tiny footballs were engraved with the year of presentation, but in later years they became unavailable when the original source quit making them. Jay Williams of the Sport Shak has tried, unsuccessfully, to find another source in hopes of reviving the tradition.
Another Foster contribution to the nurture of local sports fans was his innovative World Series scoreboard. The device, about the size of a small billboard, was suspended about eight feet in the air from the exterior north wall of the drug store. It was animated by electric lights which showed the progress of runners on the diamond. It contained about as much information as the voguish Jumbotron scoreboards now being hoisted at football fields of the more affluent schools throughout the land. The Foster scoreboard was updated each inning by someone standing on a step ladder who received his information from the radio broadcasts or from Western Union. In those pre-TV days, hundreds of local citizens gathered on the north side of Foster's Drug Store to "watch" each World Series game. They cheered or groaned, depending on what their favorite team was doing, with every pitch, fly ball or run. All games were played in daylight back then.
George Foster, an early-day sheriff in Noble county and later a deputy U.S. marshal, was the father of Ralph Foster Sr. The story of the Foster family at the time of the Cherokee Strip run in 1893 is interesting, as are all other accounts of life in that era, and Ralph Jr. recently took the time to share with me a few recollections of his grandfather, and I'd like to pass them along to you. Watch for the rest of this story in a subsequent column.