February 17, 1998
Don Stoddard, a regular reader and an occasional contributor to this column, takes note of my frequent references to the time when both of us were growing up in Perry. Don writes: "My thoughts took me back to the latter half of the 1940s, when the present location of Habben's Real Estate office, on Sixth street, was an empty lot. I wonder how many people now living in Perry can remember the root beer stand that was erected on that lot by the Frankie Vann family?"
Continuing, Don writes: "Being such a small lot, there was only room for a handful of cars to park, but most of us kids in high school back then didn't own a car anyway, so it didn't matter that much. The majority of us walked to wherever we were going, both summer and winter. The Perry Theatre was located directly across the street from that root beer stand. I can remember coming out of the theatre on those hot, sultry summer nights back then and heading across the street to the root beer stand. I think the only businesses air-conditioned in Perry at that time were the two movie theatres, the Roxy and the Perry. I can still taste the great frosty flavor of those root beers."
Don goes on: "I can also remember a soft drink stand that was located on the curve, across the highway from where our school bus barn is now located. I can't remember the name of the family that built that stand, but I do remember that they came to Perry for whatever reason from Battle Creek, Michigan, and that they had a daughter in high school here at that time. I also recall that there was a miniature golf course on that curve not far from that soft drink stand. Just thinking of those soft drink drive-ins and the old Perry and Roxy Theatres brings back a flood of good memories of the Perry that I knew and loved, back some 50 years ago."
My own memories of those places go back a bit beyond that because Don and I are not precisely the same generation. (In other words, I'm older than Don.) For instance, I still remember when Orlando Walkling and his son, Virgil, had a hotel, restaurant and meat market where Joe and Betty Habben now have their real estate office. The Walkling building was a two-story frame structure and the hotel occupied the upper floor. An exterior balcony with wooden railing gave access to all of the hotel rooms. Food service was downstairs, and that was where the elder Mr. Walkling also sold whole goat's milk and, occasionally, goat's milk ice cream, which many people regarded as a delicacy. I do not have a very vivid memory of Frankie Vann's family root beer stand in that location. Some of you will remember that Dr. J.E. Beech, still later, had his osteopathic clinic in the building now occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Habben's business.
I can help out a bit with information about the drive-in which was once located on the curve across the highway from our present school bus barn. The name of that business was "The Period," and it was built in about 1948 by Chester and Margaret Stoughton. Don correctly remembers that they came here from Battle Creek. Many of us were hearing a Michigan "Yankee" accent for the first time when the Stoughtons arrived, and we found it interesting. The daughter, I believe, was named Kaye. The Stoughton family stayed in Perry only a few years, but during that time they provided us with about the first postwar drive-in eatery, a precursor of such things as McDonald's and Sonic. The Period was located on land owned by the late Mr. and Mrs. R.J. Huston, parents of Helen Voigt and Ruth VanArsdell. An oil field service firm now has an office and equipment yard there. I believe the Stoughtons also may have operated the miniature golf course that Don remembers. Other restaurants in Perry at that time, according to Moorehead's 1948 city directory, were the Auto-Eat Cafe, 402 Sixth street; Corner Lunch, 123 Seventh; Elite Cafe', 609 Delaware; Harvey's Cafe', 302 Sixth; Kumback Lunch, 625 Delaware; Marcy Cafe', 608 Cedar; Nu-Way Cafe', 307 Seventh; Perry Coffee Shop, 600 Cedar; Severe's Barbecue, 420 Kaw; and U.S. Cafe', 642 Cedar. How many of those do you remember?
Thanks to Don Stoddard for bringing back these memories of a half-century ago in Perry.