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June 3, 2003

Some of you will remember this, others will not. It takes us back in time, more than 60 years ago, when Perry's downtown business district was booming. Remember?

It was before America joined the Western Allies in World War II. The west side of the square had its share of shoppers. The Safeway Store at 317 Seventh street was a major attraction; it was packed with shoppers (mostly city wives and farm wives) all day on Saturdays, Ernie Edwards, the manager, greeted each of them with a smile. During that period, I was employed by Safeway as a sacker and carry-out specialist. Many of the farm wives shopped for a month's needs, and their grocery carts were usually full. Just up the street, Brownie's Drug Store at 321 Seventh and Forney's Dairy Store at 325 Seventh Street attracted teen-agers and adults for light refreshments and booths for hanging out. Charlie Watson, the owner of Brownie's, kept a vigilant eye on kids at the magazine rack. Don Kirchner, manager of Forney's, waited on the trade and mixed fountain drinks as they were ordered. Every storefront around the square was occupied by a variety of enterprising merchants.

Into this mix one day came a gentleman name of James Vaughan, who moved to Perry and opened a new meat market on the west side of the square at 311 Seventh Street. Mr. Vaughan's market was just a few steps south of the Safeway Store, but Ernie Edwards was happy to have the competition. There was no great hoopla at the time, but that began changing fairly soon.

Vaughan's Market was an instant hit with Perry grocery shoppers and soon a young new clerk by the name of Herman Eisenhauer was added to the staff. Although Herman was a life-long resident of Perry and a graduate of PHS, few people knew his real first name. Most folks knew him merely as "Katz," and he was well-liked. Vaughan's Market prospered, partly because of him. A little later, Mr. Vaughan added a partner, the late Leonard Williams, and the name of the store was changed from Vaughan's Market to the V&W Food Store.

In a short while, the V&W Food Store outgrew the 25-foot front building it occupied on the west side of the square. About the same time Safeway closed its store on the south side of the square, which originally had been a Humpty Dumpty Grocery, and consolidated its merchandise into the west side store. Safeway realized it was growing too big for that location, so the corporate planners announced the firm would build a new, larger store just off the northwest corner of the square. That building is now occupied by the Dollar General Store. It has had other tenants through the years, such as Triton Motors (Chrysler-Plymouth dealership) and the Oklahoma Tire & Supply Co. (OTASCO) store, in addition to the present business.

Meanwhile, Mr. Vaughan retired and a new partner, Ralph Marriott, was welcomed into the business. The store was renamed "M&W" in recognition of that change, and Katz Eisenhauer left to accept a new opportunity in another state. The M&W Food Store kept on drawing customers; and soon the business moved to the north side of the square. M&W occupied the lower pail of the two-story building where Georgia Curtis now has a furniture and antique shop. Previously, my Dad's store, the City Drug, was in that location for some 40 years. Safeway's new store, with its large concrete parking lot on the south side, was still just a few feet from M&W s, but they both seemed to thrive on the competition. M&W built a new rear entrance for the convenience of its customers who parked on the Safeway lot. Safeway soon put up a chain link fence to halt that flow of traffic. The two firms were truly rivals. Safeway and M&W were two of the biggest advertisers each week in The Perry Daily Journal, back in the days before pre-printed color inserts were commonplace.

In time, Mr. Marriott's son, Roy, became an integral part of the business. They later opened a store in Ponca City. Safeway eventually bought a large chunk of real estate at the corner of Seventh street and Fir avenue, and built a fine new store there. When Safeway sold its interest in Oklahoma, the building was acquired by Homeland, the present occupants. M&W stayed close again, building a large store across the street from the present Homeland near the corner of Eighth and Fir. In time the Marriotts and Williamses retired, and their last store building here is now the home of Kennedy's True Value Hardware. A lot of us remember the Safeway-M&W stores fondly, perhaps for different reasons. That was truly another chapter in the story of Perry. Remember?

The chronological sequence of some of the events described herein may not be exactly right but that's the way I recall them.