May 11, 1995
Throughout this long and sad Oklahoma City bomb episode, it has become very clear that the Daily Oklahoman has done a truly superlative job of covering a momentous news story. The reporting, photography, feature stories, in-depth details and editing in each day's edition have been thorough, professional and tastefully handled. Working under extreme pressure in the most difficult conditions imaginable, with their own emotions to deal with and the public's as well, the Oklahoman staff has just been outstanding.
If the Pulitzer prize selection committee fails to honor the Oklahoman when awards for 1995 are announced, it will be a terrible error. The Oklahoman has earned that kind of accolade. And of course the man who supervised that coverage was someone we all know in Perry, managing editor Ed Kelley, son of Calvin and Marion Kelley. Ed has brought honor not only to his newspaper and to himself, but to the journalism profession in general. His hometown can glow with pride a little bit, too.
The readers write, thank goodness, with interesting topics or comments on previous columns. Here's one such missive from long-time friend and former co-worker, Wesley A. Leatherock, of Oklahoma City. Wes read the recent question posed by Mrs. Harry Gengler as to why the Burlington Northern Railroad is now so much busier through Perry than it used to be. He writes:
"Several years ago the Santa Fe and the Burlington Northern reached an agreement to run through intermodal trains (those carrying trailers and/or containers) between the West Coast and the Southeast to Memphis and Birmingham. In addition, the Santa Fe abandoned part of its line from Kansas City to Tulsa, and its service to Tulsa now is carried over the Burlington Northern into Tulsa, again primarily from the West.
"So the Burlington Northern line through Perry is now part of the main line from the West Coast to Tulsa, Memphis and Birmingham. And the Santa Fe has apparently been very successful in developing the business, with UPS traffic, container lines from the Far East, J. B. Hunt trailers and containers, and other business.
Back in the days when it was the Frisco, the doodlebug was a prime method of transportation. It was a diesel or gasoline powered 'motor car' (self-contained, no separate locomotive) pulling a single coach. It ran daily in each direction between Tulsa and Vernon, Texas, through Pawnee, Perry, Enid and Clinton. It was especially used by people traveling between Perry and Enid. Gloria and I used to ride it, and so did she and her parents. There were, I think, probably a couple of freight trains a day in each direction then on the Frisco, plus more during harvest and during wartime.
"The doodlebug carried a great deal of mail from the East. When Perry got its mail by train, the scheduled Post Office Department service from most points was as fast as (in some cases faster than) it is now when all the mail goes to a regional point where it is sorted by machine at night, then goes by plane the next day to another regional point where it is again sorted at night and sent on the next day, and so on.
"In those days the mail was sorted on the train day and night by railway postal clerks. My grandfather (W K. Leatherock's father, who died when W. K. was not quite a teenager) started out as a railway postal clerk, later becoming a postal inspector. Both of those were considered elite jobs."
In addition to that very interesting information about train and mail service, Wesley's letter brings back a torrent of other memories. His father, W. K. Leatherock, was publisher of this newspaper when he hired me in 1941. WKL's personal column, "In the Wake of the News," graced and brightened the front page of The Journal for many years and set a standard for others to emulate. I have many, many recollections of the Leatherock family. Wesley's wife (the Gloria he referred to) is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Emmett Wills, who moved to Enid from Perry in the late 1940s.
I appreciate Wesley's letter for the light it sheds on the stepped-up traffic over the Burlington Northern Railroad line through Perry. His information on the Avant-Tulsa corridor also was confirmed the other day when Bill Joplin, the line's director of governmental affairs, spoke to a group of Perry civic workers on ramifications of the Burlington Northern merger with the Santa Fe. Formal ICC approval of that step is expected in August.