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July 8, 1995

You think Perry shoppers aren't being ardently wooed by some of our neighboring towns? How about that slick four-color newspaper insert that appeared here the other day, courtesy the Stillwater Convention & Visitors Bureau. "Stillwater Is Jumpin' in July," according to the billboards on I-35, and this new magazine-format brochure tells Perry residents all about the fun things to do in Stillwater, and, oh by the way, a few ads from their merchants also appear.

Just remember, the sales tax dollars we spend in our neighboring cities don't do a thing to provide better health care, municipal services, a school system or quality of life for the home folks here in Perry.

The picnic photo on the front page of the Stillwater brochure is credited to Page Davidson, former Perry school teacher who is now a resident of Stillwater. You might remember that her husband's business, Oklahoma Joe's Smokers, was lured to Stillwater from Perry last year. It was probably inevitable that Oklahoma Joe's would be invited to relocate locate away from here, but we do miss them.

Give credit to Stillwater and other towns engaged in the, same kind of effort. They are earnestly trying to improve their retail community and their industrial base as stepping stones to growth and prosperity. That's what we're trying to do here, and that puts a burden of responsibility on our own Perry businesses. If they hope to be a player in this game, they have to meet the competition from towns around us with a good selection of merchandise, friendly and courteous clerks to wait on the public, a clean and pleasant shopping environment, a genuine concern for shoppers' needs, and aggressive promotional efforts.

Our downtown area is going to be spruced up very soon, thanks to the newly awarded grant for broad new sidewalks and decorative street lights in the courthouse park, and a continuing effort is being made by the Perry Development Coalition to clean up and beautify the community. All these will help bolster our shopping and residential areas, and that will give the entire community more appeal.

Perry merchants appreciate and depend on the support of their hometown neighbors. You can count on seeing some of them move out or just fold their tents if business dries up here. If you're a shopper and you can't find what you want in Perry, tell the merchant. If that doesn't work, feel free to look elsewhere, but let's help our local merchants every chance we get. Give them a break. We've already seen too many of them disappear from the landscape. 'Nuff said on that subject.

My friend Shirley Morton calls attention to another sad but significant aspect of the Noble county polio epidemic back in the 1940s, as described in this column recently. In 1946, Ramona VanBebber, 12, eldest daughter of Ray and Hazel VanBebber, became the county's first polio fatality during that siege of sickness. She was only two weeks away from her 13th birthday. Such tragedies were terribly hard on this community, as they were in others throughout the U.S., until the Salk and Sabin vaccines were developed and succeeded in virtually eliminating that disease.

Some of these columns recently have dealt with a few of the grand old hotels which came and went here through the years, and that prompted a question from Laura Kemnitz and, her husband, Charles. An early day Perry businessman, Mr. Sunfield, had a two-story building with an upstairs hotel on the southeast corner of Sixth and Cedar, where Charles now has a service station. Laura is hoping to find a photo of that building or some information about it.

The best I've been able to come up with is a reference in my book, "The First Generation," in a chapter describing the 1912 cyclone or tornado which heavily damaged this area. The chapter quotes an article from a local newspaper of that time, the Perry Republican. It describes wind damage to the front and roof of "the Sunfield building and the Pressler Hotel," on the southeast corner of the square. I dimly remember the old building from many years ago, before the service station was built, but Laura and Charles would like to see a photo. Anyone out there have one?