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August 5, 1995

Sixty years ago this weekend, The Perry Daily Journal moved from its old home on Seventh street to its present location on Delaware in a building twice the size of the old one. The former building was a 25-foot front structure on the west side of Seventh street in an area now occupied by the First Bank & Trust Co., just a few feet south of the present Perry Electronics Lab.

Moving a newspaper printing plant was not an easy job in those days, nor is it now. The Journal's Goss flatbed press was cranky and temperamental in the best of times. The idea of getting it moved and operational again in just 36 hours did not excite the men who had to coax it through each day's run. An excavation was dug in the concrete floor of the new building and the press then was set in place over it. The concrete-lined excavation, or "pit" as it was called, enabled pressmen to get beneath the press to load forms on the lower deck and make adjustments on such things as the ink flow, the web of newsprint which wound through the press and make other refinements to print each day's Journal. Oftentimes a welder also had to go into the pit to re-attach a gear or some other crucial part that flew off in the midst of a run.

Linotype typesetting machines also were inclined to shut themselves down if some part of their complex equipment became out of sync, or if all of their thousands of moving parts were not absolutely on the square and level. Even in optimum conditions, Linotypes could be cantankerous so The Journal's operators approached the move with mixed feelings.

The Journal's last edition in the old building was printed on Saturday, August 3, 1935. On Monday morning, August 5, the staff began work in the spacious new quarters. A move like that usually meant that a newspaper had to rely on a friendly neighbor's plant to put out one or more of its editions, but The Journal did not have to do that. A lot of the credit goes to P. J. Cordes, who supervised the moving operation. The larger pieces of machinery were moved from one location to another by using the power winch-equipped truck of Everett McMillan, Perry oil field contractor. Smaller equipment was handled by the Grant Harris truck line.

The old home of the paper was in a cramped 25-foot front building facing Seventh. As I recall, passersby could look through a plate glass window directly into the business office, the publisher's office, a tiny newsroom and the equally small advertising department, and the noisy sounds of mechanical equipment in the back end of the building were quite audible from the front sidewalk. The old building was torn down years ago when the bank expanded.

W K. Leatherock, publisher of The Journal in 1935, wrote in a news story that the new location, owned by H. C. Donahue, provided the paper with 5,000 square feet of space, double the area of the old building. The previous tenant of Mr. Donahue's building (again, this is strictly by my own recollection) was the wholesale candy and sundry business of Jack Snyder and his father-in-law, W. S. Fallis. To accommodate The Journal, a new front was constructed with casement windows and a stucco finish was applied. Windows and doors also were installed on the east wall.

Separate quarters were provided in the front 30 feet of the building for the main business office and a line of office supplies was added. Job printing already was an important sideline. The publisher's office was in the northeast corner adjacent to the advertising department. The newsroom was in the northwest corner. Behind it was a supply room. The rear 70 feet of the building contained the presses, typesetting machines and rolls of newsprint. A separate building was added at the rear for stereotyping, where paper matrices were converted to lead images for reproduction in the paper. Journal carriers also had a caged-in room at the rear of the building. Delaware street was widened back to the sidewalk at the front to provide diagonal parking spaces for customers.

When the Monday, August 5, 1935, edition of the paper was published, Mr. Leatherock described some aspects of the move: "Moving of The Journal plant, a big undertaking in every way, was completed in less than 36 hours, a near record for newspaper plants of this size." The move marked the start of a new philosophy for the newspaper. Mr. Leatherock was intrigued by modern trends and developments in the business and he introduced a number of fairly revolutionary ideas in the makeup and content of this newspaper. The Journal was one of the first papers of any size to drop the familiar column rules from its pages. They are rarely seen on any paper today. He later experimented with a tabloid-size edition, but the mechanical requirements for a small operation like this proved too difficult and the idea was scrapped.

Still, for some time Mr. Leatherock adopted as a motto for The Journal, "The Only Modern Streamlined Daily Newspaper in Oklahoma," and his adventurous ideas made it so.

On August 24,1935, The Journal published a special "New Home" edition to announce an open house celebrating the change. A letter of congratulations addressed to "My Dear Mr. Leatherock" from President Franklin D. Roosevelt dominated the front page of a special tabloid section. The section contained column after column of commendations and best wishes from virtually every publisher in the state, as well as messages from dozens of home folks. Typical was this statement from Wilbur Mouser, lease broker: "Few papers in a city the size of Perry offer their readers the variety of news that The Perry Journal does."

A photo in the special edition showed The Journal's crew of carrier-salesmen. Buddy Warner was the senior in point of service; he had been a carrier since June 1928. Others shown were Paul Pricer, Johnny Treeman, Joe Lumbers, Paul Nicewander, Earl Nicewander, Bill Pratt, James Samuelson, Herman V Eisenhauer, Hartwell Walter and the publisher's young son, Wesley A. Leatherock.

Mr. Leatherock, who died in 1949, summarized his thoughts on the move with these comments: "It is a big step forward as The Perry Journal looks forward to a greater Perry in the future. A city which we will continue to consider with pride, one we will be proud of, and one we will feel we have made a better place in which to live by us having lived here." In a way, little has changed since then. The Journal and the community it serves continue to complement and support each other in a most unique, distinctive way.