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July 20, 2005

'Way back there in time, what now seems like a pre-historic era, Perry had a virtual fleet of taxicabs. Yes, they were money-makers for the operators and there were other side benefits, like tips, reasonable working hours, being your own boss, and other bits of good news. The thing that inspired all of them, however, was the arrival and departure of passenger trains in Perry. At that time, we had riders on both the Frisco line and the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe line. Many of the riders were old folks who could not or did not have access to a car of their own. They depended on the taxis of Perry to get them to and from the railroad depot.

I'm probably forgetting some of them, but the cabbies I remember are Charlie Jirous, H.R. Bittman, Bud Francis, Pat Townsend and Paul Wood. As I say, that is probably not a complete list, but it's the best I can do, even with the help of the Moorhead Directory, which has not been published in recent years.

I knew Bud Francis better than most of them, because his taxi stand was on the north side of the square, where our family-owned City Drug Store once was located. We had a popcorn machine in the building with Bud, and I had charge of that operation. Bud and I solved a lot of the world's problems by discussing them. He also had a telephone, a table and a chair, and, of course, a four-door sedan for taxicab passengers. None of the cab drivers that I remember had a meter to determine charges for rides, but no one argued with the amount assessed by their driver.

As I recall now, all the taxicabs went out of business when passenger train service was discontinued here. Some of the drivers also aged, and they chose to retire when they felt the time for that was here. Mr. Bittman was a familiar sight around town for years. He probably wondered why pedestrians scattered when his route merged with theirs, but he knew how to get passengers delivered on time. All the drivers did.

He was not a cab driver, but Mr. Herb Peden should be mentioned here. He drove a model-T Ford truck, carrying mail and other objects from the Perry post office to the mail trains that came through town. Mr. Peden was a gentleman, friendly with kids, but he did not covet passenger trade. He's another friendly icon from out of the past in this little prairie town.

Those are just a few of the people from out of the past who made this a special little community. In the minds of those who remember them, they still have the power.