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May 6, 2003

To conclude this series of columns telling about the early days of the Perry fire department, here are a few odds and ends, salvaged from various sources.

The new Perry fire station on "D" Street was dedicated on September 10, 1923, with an open house and a royal feast served with a keg of cold Budweiser. On December 3, 1905, the Perry fire house was destroyed by fire along with two or three other buildings.

On February 4, 1902, the city council fixed the following monthly salaries for Perry officials: City treasurer, $20; marshal, $50; and policemen and firemen, $40. In April of that year, a city ordinance was adopted prohibiting policemen and firemen from playing cards, pool or billiards while on duty.

Fire destroyed two Perry landmarks in 1911 -- the Bryan building and the old Van Cleef building housing the McCoy Grocery and the Ed Mossman Grocery. The old Senate building, as the Bryant property was called, had an interesting history. It had been occupied as a saloon, restaurant, dry goods store and again a saloon several years before statehood. The upper rooms had been put to various and divers uses (according to The Perry Republican). The 1890s, the newspaper reported, was the palmiest period for the building. The gentle clicking of ivory checks (?), the magic whirl of the roulette wheel or the eager "little Joe" or "come-a-seven" could be heard from the crowd around the crap table.

On April 3, 1908, (the paper reported) the City Drug Store on the west side of the square, owned and operated by my Dad, Fred W Beers, was destroyed by fire along with the entire contents, with the exception of an iron mortar, which we still have. In less than 10 days the City Drug was back in running order on the north side of the square, in the Palmer & Smelser building, which Dad had purchased.

The first move toward a fire department was made on March 12, 1894, by the first city council, which purchased a hook and ladder outfield for $1,200. J. C. Patterson was appointed fire chief.

I hope these tidbits of information about the early days of the Perry fire department have been interesting, if fragmented, as you read them.

THIS PHOTO shows the Perry fire department as it existed in 1916. It includes regular firefighters along with the volunteers, lined up with their new fire truck, which may be the old Stutz Bearcat that served the department for many years. None of the firefighters are named Here. In the background is the old Perry post office, a sandstone building that graced the north-west corner of the courthouse park for many years.