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November 10, 1998

Charles Monroe Sr. and R. W. (Pop) Dotts were two knowledgeable merchants in this city in an earlier era. They joined forces and formed the Dotts-Monroe Hardware store on the south side of the square. Eventually they went their separate ways and operated competitive businesses, both still on the same side of the square. Mr. Monroe had his son, Charles Jr., and son-in-law, J. E. (Tiny) Lang, as partners in his business. Mr. Dolts, or Pop, as he liked to be called, had in his business his wife, Leola, or Mom, as she preferred; his son, Russell C., or Bus, and Bus' wife, Dorritt, better known as Dutch; and a daughter, Bonnie, and her husband, Buck Goolsby. Their former store building now serves as a meeting room for the city council.

The Monroe-Lang store was down the street from there in the two-story sandstone structure now owned by Mr. and Mrs. Glen Zimmer. Before it became known as the Monroe-Lang building it was the Kirchner building, and other owners predated Mr. Kirchner. The spacious second story, accessible to the public only by an outdoor iron stairway on the west wall, was used as a dance hall about once a month and occasionally as a dance studio. The structure is now being renovated and restored to the original appearance as it was in 1895 when A. C. Hinde built it for his hardware store.

In 1938 the Monroe-Lang store was extensively remodeled and a formal open house was held to show off the premises. A news story on the front page of The Perry Daily Journal announced that the open house would be held on November 3, and gave a brief history of the business. According to that account, the store took the name of Monroe-Lang on January 1 of 1938 when Mr. Monroe and Mr. Dotts ended their partnership. "It (Monroe-Lang) was one of Perry's older firms, being an outgrowth of the Kobes and Marchbanks Hardware Co. established 18 years ago," the story continued. As Dotts-Monroe Hardware, the firm had expanded every year, The Journal said, with additional services for consumers of the Perry trade territory.

The first location, then known as the Kobes and Marchbanks Hardware, was near the east end of the south side of the square in a building later occupied by Bill Ringler's leather goods and harness store. "Nine years ago," the newspaper reported, "the stock was moved to the Kirchner building, its present location. In January (1938) a new merger was formed with owners being named as J. E. Lang, Charles Monroe Sr. and Charles Monroe Jr. The title was then changed to Monroe-Lang Hardware Co." A warehouse had been added just south of the store and new departments were created "to serve radio consumers, a complete plumbing department, a refrigeration facility to meet every need and all electrical appliances now in demand by the public."

Employees listed were E. E. Ryerson, bookkeeper; Bill Pricer, radio installation and serviceman; Melvin Polwort, salesman; Clarence Kolb, radio service; Ben Beckham, electrical refrigeration troubleshooter; Ralph Hutson, salesman; and Les Hargis, plumbing head. Charles Monroe Jr. attended Oklahoma A & M. College and worked for an oil firm in Gladewater, Texas, before returning to Perry to join the hardware firm. His father had been a resident of Perry since 1896 and had been in the hardware business 16 years. J. E. Lang came to Perry in 1933 from Shawnee where he worked for OG&E. He was with Dotts-Monroe Hardware from 1933 until the reorganization in 1937. Mr. Lang also shared duties with Harold (Hump) Daniels as catcher for the semipro Perry Merchants baseball team. His wife, Margaret, was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Monroe Sr.

To remodel the store, Monroe-Lang was completely shut down for two weeks. The owners called on a St. Louis firm that specialized in designing interiors for hardware stores to do the job. New fixtures and shelves were installed, walls were painted and a more adequate lighting system was installed. It really seemed like a big-time, modern store for Perry. In later years the firm acquired the adjacent building on its east side where James Lobsitz and son, Leo, had operated another hardware store. Part of a wall was removed to create an opening between the buildings, and Monroe-Lang expanded its product line to include items of furniture, more appliances, and, in due time, television. Another phase of the business was the Northern Oklahoma Butane Co. which served rural homes throughout a broad area.

In 1962, several years after the death of his father, Charles Monroe Jr. and family left Perry to enter the securities investment field in Oklahoma City. Monroe-Lang was closed. Joe Williams purchased Mr. Monroe's half of Northern Oklahoma Butane Co. and thus became Mr. Lang's partner. One year later Williams and Lang opened a sporting good store, the Sport Shak, in the old Lobsitz building and operated that for 20 years. Joe's son, Jay, now has the sporting goods store and the Casteel family have the butane business. Charles Monroe Jr. and his wife, Trudy, live in retirement in Oklahoma City, and Mr. and Mrs. Lang died several years ago. Today there are no hardware stores around the Perry square, but the old Monroe-Lang building soon will be "live" again with a new occupant.