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December 24, 2004

The glass bottle mystery deepens

The saga of glass bottles in Noble county goes on unabated. New information turns up almost every day and some of it actually helps to clarify the mystery of whether or not soda bottles were really made here shortly after the Cherokee Strip land run of September 16, 1893. Some folks believe the bottles were made here, others are of the opinion that bottles were brought here, already made, and then filled with Coca-Cola or other soda water.

You'll recall that this discussion was initiated a few weeks ago by a question from H.B. Evans of Billings after two bottles in his collection were broken. An embossed line on the bottles indicated they were made and filled right here in Perry around 1893.

Ed Malzahn knows a lot about manufacturing. He is the head man out at the Ditch Witch factory, where international trade is carried on for the trenchers and other underground construction equipment that he either invented or developed. His opinion is that the bottles were brought here from somewhere else, then filled with the fizzes of the day and sold that way. "Glass manufacturing is an art and a heavy, industry," Ed says, "The only Oklahoma glass plant I know about was located in Sulphur; OK, and it may still be there. I don't think Perry ever manufactured glass. There have been plants here that filled bottles brought in from somewhere else." His word on the subject is good enough for me.

Harry Hughes has been a real estate developer, automobile paint and body expert, and who knows what else. Through the years he has been involved in the razing of several historic Perry buildings, and what he uncovered at some of them has been fascinating to contemplate. The other day he showed me some bottles that turned up when he was doing surface dirt work at the site of the old St. Louis Hotel, the Grand Opera House, and other locations in this community.

One that interested me bore the embossed line of "E.E. Howendobler, Pharmacist, 103 Cedar Street." My dad, . Fred W. Beers, also a pharmacist, was invited to come here in 1895 from Wichita by Mr. Howendobler, and Dad eventually opened his own business, the City Drug Store, on the north side of the square. Harry has an extensive collection of bottles and in a unique way they tell the history of this area.

When Harry demolished the old two-story St. Louis Hotel, on Cedar street, where Dr. Brian Busby now has his dental office, he remembers that the hotel's walls were "four bricks thick," and to bring them down all it took was a slight push. "The sand and lime mortar wiped off clean from each brick," Harry remembers, and they required nothing more. Hundreds of the bricks were used to build Dr. Busby's office, others helped build homes in Perry and Oklahoma City The old Grand Opera House on the east side of the square had its own peculiar problems. Each building Harry has helped clear away had its own story to tell, and he remembers all of them. His own house, in Hughes-Busby Addition, was built with bricks from the St. Louis Hotel. The home is now owned by Mr. and Mrs. Robert Rupp.

Many have shared with me the joy they have experienced through collections such as these bottles, and it is easy to understand how they feel. There's a bit of a cloud of mystery surrounding the issue of whether or not glass bottles were ever actually made in Perry but we'll leave the solution of that question for others to solve, Thanks to all who have given us their thoughts on the subject, and let us all keep Noble county history in mind as we store away mementos of that era around September 16, 1893.