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October 29, 1999

In a previous column we read how Perry's first physician, Dr. Thomas McIntyre Cullimore, was roughly handled while attempting to stake a claim near here at the opening of the Cherokee Outlet on September 16, 1893. His injuries were severe and they apparently caused him to close his practice here and return to Illinois, his previous home, where he later died at the age of 49. It's a sad but interesting story, including how I came to hear about it in the first place.

Earlier this year Lynn Scott, minister of our First Christian church, told me that he was having a Subway sandwich in Oklahoma City recently and had fallen into conversation with a gentleman nearby. As they talked, the stranger learned that Lynn was from Perry and that opened the door for a story about the early days in this area. Lynn learned that his new acquaintance was Clarence Cullimore Mercer, great-grandson of Dr. Cullimore. The tale of the pioneer physician's experiences fascinated Lynn and he passed some of it on to me, along with his new acquaintance's e-mail address. I contacted the gentleman in Oklahoma City and asked a few more questions, most of which he graciously answered in short order.

However, the missing pieces seemed vital to me, so I laid the project aside until time allowed more detailed study. You know how that goes. The material was placed in a "futures" file and there it languished for several months. It might be there still, but the other day Carol Steichen of Antiques on the Square called to tell me that she had just come across some very interesting reading in a 1960 issue of The Oklahoma Chronicles, the excellent quarterly published by the Oklahoma Historical Society. For one thing, that particular issue contained an article written by Dr. Cullimore's son, Clarence. It is a wonderfully detailed account of the physician's story before, during and after the run. The article is entitled "Perry's First Doctor." You read about that in the column preceding this.

The story in the Chronicles relates that Dr. Cullimore built the first two-story residence in Perry, locating it at the corner of Thirteenth and Ivanhoe. That would have been on the far northwest edge of town in those early days. A photo of the home is shown, and to me it looks like the home later occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Herb Peden. Mr. Peden will be remembered by some of you as the contract mail carrier who drove a model T Ford flatbed truck each day to the Frisco and Santa Fe Railroad stations. There he received the bags of U.S. mail brought by trains to Perry for our local post office and delivered the bags of outgoing mail. That faithful old truck, minus side rails on the bed, chugged up and down Perry streets for many years and Mr. Peden always kept it in good working order.

Mrs. Peden had a small enclosed porch on the east side of her house. It was used as a candy store and short order lunch counter for kiddos at the elementary school, which was just across the street. At the time, which would have been in the early 1930s, there was no school lunch program, no school cafeteria, where youngsters could get a hearty, nutritious meal. Mrs. Peden offered varieties of soup each day along with a few sandwiches, plus soda pop, chocolate milk and plain milk. A boy or girl could also spend a few pennies on Holloway chocolate suckers, licorice sticks and other sweet delights. Mrs. Peden's lunch counter had no real name. We always referred to it simply as "the little store." The old house is gone now, as are Mr. and Mrs. Peden and the model T truck, but all of them will remain fresh in the minds of many of us.

More about the articles in that 1960 issue of the Chronicles when we return.