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May 18, 2004

More on the Perry drug store war...

Perry's fiercely independent drug store owners united in a successful effort to keep the "chain store" pharmacies off the Perry square when one such store showed an interest in this market, just as the Great Depression was beginning. Everett Nelson of the Southside Pharmacy, Ralph Foster Sr. of Foster's Corner Drug Store on the east side, and my Dad, Fred W. Beers, of the City Drug Store on the north side, jumped into the fray with a resolute determination to stop the "invaders," a store from Enid. They succeeded, but it wasn't easy. All three men are now deceased.

The story of "the Perry Drug Store War" was told in the April 1931 edition of Drug Topics, a monthly publication distributed to pharmacies all over the U.S. At the time of this incident, drug stores of all sizes were beginning to feel the ominous approach of the depression that would soon engulf them. They banded together in 1931 when they believed that was new battle they could win. And, they were right. The new chain store lasted only a few weeks here.

Drug stores of that day almost always had a soda fountain, popular magazines and several Sunday newspapers from locations such as Denver, St. Louis, Chicago, and so forth. They also handled a wide variety of patent medicines - asprin, laxatives, and some other things compounded from ages-old home remedies. Their primary function ostensibly was the filling of prescriptions scrawled out on pads in physicians' offices. Perry's new chain stores defied many of those traditions. It was primarily a "drug store" to provide medications recommended by physicians or to offer the patent remedies that were advertised in the Sunday papers. As part of a "chain," those stores could purchase things from wholesalers and resell them for less than the common, independent stores. That was a challenge eagerly attacked by Perry's three hometown drug store owners in the late 1920s: It was a fight for survival, and the hometown team won. More on this topic later.