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May 27, 1995

Here’s the rest of the story about the opening of Perry Municipal Swimming Pool back in 1953.

Publicly, the eight-member city council was in accord with Mayor Henry Dolezal and Councilman Jim Wilson, chairman of the swimming pool committee, on the need for a municipal pool here in 1953. Together they called for a $45,000 bond issue election on Feb. 10 to resolve the matter. Mr. Dolezal urged all qualified voters to make sure they were registered before the deadline, ten days prior to the election.

The Perry Daily Journal was estimating 825 voters would go to the polls, based on previous city elections of this type. The Journal ran a daily series of questions and answers to inform voters about the issue. Local merchants purchased two full-page ads in the newspaper urging a "yes" vote, and several merchants ran smaller ads as well. Free rides to the polls were offered.

Decision day, Feb. 10, finally arrived, and the proposal was resoundingly approved, 522-185. A special meeting of the council was held the very next day to set a date for sale of the bonds, and Feb. 24 was chosen. On a resolution drawn by City Attorney Judson H. Pierce, Robert W Wilson, city clerk, was authorized to advertise for bids on the bonds. A single bid was placed for the bonds on the auction day with a low interest rate of 3.09 stipulated. The bid was submitted by a consortium of seven firms, and it was accepted by the council.

A final design for the pool was formally approved by the council on March 18 and the design was tentatively approved by the state health department eight days later. Bids on construction were received April 15. The council chose the J. M. Oliver Construction Co. of Oklahoma City as contractor.

Plans began taking shape for the long-awaited grand opening, even before the date for that event could be determined. Bathing beauty contests were set up in four categories, if you consider a men's division as one of them. The others were for girls 8 years old and under, girls 9-14 for the title of "Miss Perry," and girls over 15 for the title of "Miss Noble County." The Chamber of Commerce appointed Al T. Singletary, Perry attorney, to serve as master of ceremonies for the day. A. A. Laughlin, former Perry dress shop operator, was hired as pool manager at a salary of $200 per month.

The formal opening was announced for Aug. 23. A chain link fence was erected around the pool and visitors were advised they would have to watch from the outer perimeter. Finally the great day dawned, and it was a typically warm Oklahoma August day. A crowd estimated at 4,000 attended the opening. Some 1,000 children and adults took advantage of a free swim offer during the day. Lifeguards were Donna Jean McQuain, Sherry Cress, Ann Yoch, Sam Henderson and Larry Evans. The Perry high school band, directed by Orlan Lemler, played a brief concert. Mr. Singletary introduced local officials and special guests, but there were no speeches. The only mishap reported was the collapse of a makeshift platform, consisting of 2 x 4's on two saw horses. LeRoy Williams and Jean Lee received minor injuries when the platform gave way.

Winners in the bathing beauty contest were Frances Ann Matthews, first; her sister Jeanne Corrine Matthews, second; and Regina Jo Klinglesmith, third, for girls 8 and under; Novie Lee Bittman, first; Danna June Clark, second; and Nancy Morgan, third, for "Miss Perry" (girls 9-14); and Joy Eby, first; Janice Blecha, second; and Cathy Cermak, third, "Miss Noble County" (girls 15 and over). Johnny Skinner won in the men's division. Ninety-nine entries were received overall. The youngest was 10-month-old Kathy Merilynn Snyder of Lucien and the oldest was 59-year-old Walt Nelson.

The pool was open from 1 to 9 p.m. seven days a week. Children up to the age of 18 paid 20 cents admission, adults paid 40 cents.

The pool filled a definite need for young people and adults of that day and it has been a decided asset to the city all these years. Several reasons might be cited if you agree that its popularity has diminished. Our supervised play program has shrunk in numbers, several homes have their own in-ground or above-ground pools, and other things that did not exist 42 years ago now vie for the attention of young people.

But, all things considered, we were lucky to have a municipal pool in 1953, and we're lucky we still have it today. We owe a tip of the hat to some dedicated and determined city officials of that earlier era for their hard work on the behalf of this community.