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July 18, 1995

How about a few anecdotes to relieve the tedium of the day...

Former Perry Police Chief Gene Wood tells about a stake-out he made with former Sheriff John Beasley one time about 30 years ago at the old Safeway Store on Seventh street, now the home of our Dollar General Store. Wood and Beasley were behind a latticework wall, watching for someone suspected of shoplifting. They could see customers in the store, but the two men could not be seen from the customers' side of the partition.

Margaret Hayne, a lady with a sense of humor whom they both knew quite well, was looking at the produce counter, where they were stationed at the time. The two officers were a little bored with their duty by then, so they decided to have some fun.

As Mrs Hayne picked up a head of lettuce for closer examination, one of them said sternly in a deep voice: "PUT THAT DOWN!" Startled, Mrs. Hayne looked around and hastily complied with the command. She moved on down the counter, reached for another item and was stopped short when one of the officers warned: "YOU'D BETTER NOT PICK THAT UP!"

That was enough for Margaret. She made a bee line for Ed Feken, the store manager, and told him to hustle over to the produce counter. "Something real strange is going on over there," she said. Ed was in on what was going on, but he managed to keep a straight face. The incident helped relieve a bit of boredom and Wood and Beasley eventually did catch the shoplifter in the act. (It was not Mrs. Hayne!)

Frank Ley relates this one. Back in the 1930s depression era, Walt Kehres Sr. was the owner and operator of the widely known Elite Hotel & Restaurant on the north side of the square. A panhandler approached him one day in the restaurant and asked, "Can I have a dollar?" "Why sure," Walt replied, and led the way to the cash register. He punched it open and peered in, then looked up at the man and said, "Well, I had one in there but I gave it to someone before you came in. Just as soon as he brings it back, you can have it." The hobo left, somewhat confused by Walt's dry sense of humor.

My cousin Fred W. Beers, now of West Palm Beach, Fla., recalls this yarn from the 1930s, when he lived in Perry. Dr. J. W. Francis was visiting with a group of men near the stairwell that led to his second story office on the north side of the square, when O. H. Hovey, the bearded eccentric printer, strolled up to the group. He pointed a finger at Dr. Francis and solemnly declared: "You're the one!" The men stared at Mr. Hovey. They knew him as a rather quiet, mysterious man. Dr. Francis in particular was puzzled by the indictment.

Mr. Hovey, not waiting to be asked, explained: "I just heard on the radio that one in every ten people have gonorrhea. I've been counting while I walked around the square, and YOU are Number Ten! You're the one!" In a moment the little joke brought a few guffaws and grins to the group. Mr. Hovey, pleased with himself, walked on, presumably to resume counting.

Some local folks were recalling depression-era days in Perry when it was not uncommon for gypsies or other transients to come to the back door and beg for supper. Some may have been truly needy and they usually got some kind of a handout, but the general perception of them among the hard-working people of this community was not good. A TV comic was on this same subject the other night. He said when someone like that came to his parents' house, his mother would ask: "Do you like day-old soup?", and the visitor invariably said "Yes." Closing the door, the lady would snap, "Well, then come back tomorrow." It usually worked quite well.

No guarantee is made for the authenticity of any of these, but the ones who related them swear they're true. I for one believe them. Considering the time period involved, who's going to prove otherwise?