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January 30, 1998

It was a cold day in February 60 years ago when dozens of Perry citizens braved the weather to make their way downtown to welcome a new, state of the art business -- the Diamond Ice Plant at 210 Seventh street, owned and operated by a newcomer, Clarence B. Page, and his business partner, Weldon Hall. They said the plant represented an investment of $40,000, a fairly large amount of money for those days. The grand opening was deemed so important that it was actually spread over a period of four days, February 15, 16, 17 and 18. Despite the frosty 1938 weather, depression-weary Perryans happily joined in the chance to greet a new industry that promised to provide jobs for several willing workers. It was an exciting development for all of north-central Oklahoma.

What visitors found at the opening of the new plant was a renovated two-story masonry building with a large recessed dock on the west front where motorists could pull up for curbside service, with an attendant on duty in a small office at the south corner. For after-hours purchases, a coin-operated device was provided at the dock, with no attendant necessary. The spacious building was painted entirely in white. Diamond-shaped company logos in bright green provided an accent on each side facing traffic.

The dock on Seventh street was at the front of the building. Behind its walls was the automated equipment that fed the chute for the vending machine, plus freezing chambers recessed into the floor where large blocks of crystal clear ice were formed amid a chilling brine that swirled around tanks containing fresh city water.

Back behind that part of the plant, at the east end of the building, was a new wrinkle for Perry: Frozen food lockers for rent by the month. The lockers gave housewives a place to store sides of beef or cuts of any size and description, all wrapped in crisp white paper and sealed with moistened tape. This part of the plant was entered from a door on the north wall. Everything about the new plant was considered first-rate, but the new frozen food lockers were something of a marvel locally. Few homes had freezers of their own; most had golden oak ice boxes to hold 25- or 50-pound cakes of ice. Refrigerators were not yet that common. Diamond Ice Co. also was local dealer for Coolerator ice boxes, which looked like refrigerators but were chilled by blocks of ice.

In the next column, we'll have more of the story about Perry's Diamond Ice Plant and its grand opening in 1938.