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April 13, 2004

It's going to take just a little while, getting used to having only one drug store around the square in downtown Perry. The announcement in this newspaper last week that Chris' Pharmacy and Foster's Corner Drug Store were merging was like a dash of cold water on a frosty morning. They were the last two pharmacies around the square. It's especially hard to believe because I grew up in a downtown apartment when our family business, the City Drug Store, was one of four such enterprises around the square.

Yes, there were four of us. Foster's Corner Drug was on the east side, where they are now; E.E. Nelson's Southside Pharmacy was on the south side, where City Hall is now established; Brownie Drug was on the west side, where Dr. Starling Miller's auction business is head-quartered; and the City Drug was on the north side in the middle of the building now occupied by Georgia's Fine Furniture. We fought our little battles in diverse ways, but it was always friendly competition, like families have. One year, a drug store from Enid opened a branch here on the west side of the square, but the locals found a way to prevent them from getting a foothold and they soon left. It was our store's misfortune that we could not survive the terrible Great Depression. The City Drug Store closed for the last time in 1940, and we didn't blame anyone but ourselves for that. The competition and the sense of being part of something rare and interesting kept my attention, and I still miss our drug store. In the 1950s, Mr. Nelson sold his store and it became A.J. Bontrager's business. Meanwhile, pharmacist Merrill Hamous left our store and went to work for Charlie Watson at Brownie's. Jim Hopper moved here, from Oklahoma City; I believe, and opened a radical new drug store where Chris' Pharmacy has been located. It was radical because it did not have a soda fountain, like most drug stores of that time. Eventually Mr. Hamous joined Mr. Hopper and the business was known as Hamous & Hopper's Service for the Sick. Still later Mr. Bontrager bought the Hamous & Hopper store, and in a few years he sold it to Chris Cockrum, who operated a fine store for more than two decades. When Chris met an untimely death a few years back, Earlene, his wife, ran the store until Calvin Anthony of Stillwater bought it and ran it without changing the name of the store.

But I will always remember those four stores, including my Dad's, and this will not seem like the same old town without them. Anyway, welcome to Perry, Troy Simons, who now assumes a major responsibility in this friendly little community.