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December 12, 2003

Next Monday would have been my Mother's birthday. If my calculations are right, she would be 110 years old on that day. That would not have made her happy. She hated the infirmities of old age and fought their encroachment on her life the best way she knew how, and that was to simply ignore them. "Pretend that bad things never happen," she counseled. She had running battles with such issues all her life. She died in 1967 at the age of 73, just shy of her 74th birthday.

Mother came to Perry, in Oklahoma Territory, from Mexico, Missouri, on February 2, 1902, at the age of nine. She had an older sister, Essie Bucklin, who had some kind of crippling disease and walked throughout her life with great difficulty. The Bucklin family always said the date of their arrival in Perry was easy to remember. It was the second day of the second month of the second year of the new (20th) century.

Ivy and Essie's parents had traveled around quite a bit in that era. Their Dad was Albert Bucklin, who sold things. Their Mother was Margaret Bucklin, a hard-working but always happy lady who was a descendant of Irish immigrants who we believe were forced from their native home in Ireland because of the potato famine.

The Bucklins came to Perry to operate a chili parlor and "notions" store on the north side of the square. I think Grandma did most of the "operating." Mr. Bucklin died in the early 1920s while on a business trip to Texas. I was born four years later and never laid eyes on him. I seem to recollect Mother telling me that he was scouting out another location for the enterprise he had established in Perry. Actually, they told me, the chili parlor was doing well and the "notions" store was taking in pennies, nickels and dimes from Perry students who needed more pencils and Big Chief tablets for school work. Grandma's chili was a big success, actually, but the original recipe was lost for years and when someone finally found it, the wave of interest had subsided.

Grandma also operated a rooming house and one of her tenants was a young Perry pharmacist, Fred W. Beers, a bachelor, who had come to this throbbing little city in 1895, two years after the opening of the Cherokee Strip. While living in the Bucklin home, Mr.Beers met Ivy Bucklin, who was several years his junior. As time went by, their relationship became serious and finally, in 1912, they became husband and wife in a marriage ceremony at the Presbyterian church. Rev. Parvin was the pastor. Five years later, their first child, Jeanice Margaret, was born...She was my big sister. In 1922 they had another daughter, Gloria Mae, and in 1924 I appeared on the scene to round out the family.

Dad owned and operated one of the city's most successful businesses, the City Drug Store, until he died of a kidney ailment in 1931. I was six years old at the time, and it grieves me that I did not have enough time with him to really know him. I remember many little things, but not much. After his death, Mom took over operation of the drug store. She had no business experience, so a nephew, who was also named Fred W. Beers, after my Dad, came here to be general manager of the store. His home was in Kansas City, Mo., but he had been a student at Oklahoma A&M College when Dad died.

Mom gave it her best shot, but the Depression victimized the City Drug Store in 1940, and she locked the front doors for the last time on Christmas Eve. I was a senior at Perry High School at the time. Jeanice was married and had her own family to worry about, and Gloria was looking for opportunities. After we closed our family business, I went to work for Safeway as a bag boy and shelf-stocker. In due time, Mr. Charlie Watson hired me to work at his Brownie Drug Store. By the time I graduated from high school in the spring of 1941, the late W.K. Leatherock had hired me as an apprentice at The Perry Daily Journal.

Mom had supported us by renting sleeping rooms in our house, by collecting from insurance policy buyers, baking and delivering (on foot) hot rolls and doughnuts, and eventually by operating a "student store" in our backyard, just across the alley from Perry High. She didn't make much money, but Cap Swift eventually took over the business and made a decent living.

Mom was a diabetic, among other things, and I can see now that her life was never easy, except maybe for the few years she had with my Dad. I will always admire both of them for their adaptability when hardships came along, and for the love they left as their legacy. Happy birthday, Mom!