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March 2, 1999

Our friendly neighbors in Enid are lamenting the loss of a downtown soda fountain with the closing of a drug store on the west side of their square. Downs Pharmacy, which began life some 95 years ago as Corry Drug with Frank Corry as the original proprietor, was shut down last week. The present owner, Raymond Downs, bought the store in 1944 but the business has declined in popularity in recent years, making the change inevitable. It's a rare thing these days to see a modern drug store that also has a soda fountain.

But, if Enid folks still yearn for old-fashioned friendliness and a drug store where you can sip an ice cream soda while greeting friends, they can come over to Perry because we still have those things available. I understand their sense of loss, though, having gone through that same experience back in the early 1940s when the Beers family's City Drug Store went out of business here. At that time all four of our local pharmacies had soda fountains. Now you rarely find that combination. In the really old days, furniture stores were usually also funeral parlors; barbers were dentists; and drug stores had fountains. Time marches on. Enid will have to learn to adjust or make the short drive to Perry and continue the tradition.

A lot of people in Perry were pulling for Patti Page last week when the annual Grammy awards were passed out to luminaries in the field of popular music. Patti is an Oklahoma girl, reared in the Claremore area, and she began life as Clara Mae Fowler. Her "new" name came when the Page Dairy of Tulsa signed her to a contract and made her the featured artist on a Tulsa radio station -- KVOO, if I remember correctly. In the custom of that business, they also changed her name to help identify Clara as a representative and spokesperson of their business.

She went on to stardom after reaching the big time with a recording of "Confess" in 1948. You know the rest of her story. For years she was at the top of the heap of popular vocalists with records like "How Much Is That Doggy in the Window" and "Tennessee Waltz." She starred in the movies and had TV shows on ABC, CBS and NBC. But, in all those years she never won a Grammy -- her industry's highest honor -- until last week when she took top honors in the Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance category. Her fans thought it was long overdue.

One of Patti's brothers was Dan Fowler, who became a Perry resident somewhere in the 1950s. Patti visited Dan and his wife, Flora, and stayed in close touch with them through letters and family reunions. Sue Rorabaugh, who passed away a few months ago, was Patti's niece. At the urging of local officials, Dan invited Patti to come to Perry for one of our September 16th Cherokee Strip celebrations, but her contractual obligations made that impossible. Nevertheless, many Perryans consider Patti to be something like an honorary citizen, and we're proud of her for winning that Grammy last week.