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August 31, 1995

The city street department has a 1952 model Gradeall machine which they rely on heavily to clean out ditches and to perform other chores. At 43 years of age, that piece of equipment probably has gone well beyond its life expectancy, but those who know say it is better than many of the more recent models. Trouble is, you can hardly find parts for it any more, as Commissioner Jim Davis learned the other day when two heavy-duty 5-inch hydraulic cylinders broke down. Replacements simply were not out there.

After installing a rebuilt Continental engine earlier this year, the street department was faced with the unhappy prospect of spending a substantial amount of unbudgeted dollars to have the two large cylinders replaced when the main seals blew out. However, once again our faithful Ditch Witch plant and its very capable employees came to the rescue. Davis discussed the matter with product development and manufacturing people at the Charles Machine Works, Inc. plant, and they designed new replacement parts to get the equipment operational. Larry Jarrett of Jarrett's Machine Shop, west of town, also provided a helping hand. The busted cylinders were replaced by a "new and improved" version designed and crafted right here in Perry. The parts were put through a trial run and passed with flying colors, and no hydraulic fluid leaks.

Now the Gradeall is back on line for service as needed and the city has, realized a substantial saving, thanks to the cooperation, teamwork and general goodwill of many people. That's another fine example of what makes this such a special community. Many other instances of Perry people lending a helping hand to each other, and to visitors or even strangers in far away places, occur daily but we don't always hear about them. Who would want to live anywhere else?

Speaking of the street department, I see where some of the last remaining brick streets in downtown Perry are disappearing beneath an asphalt cover. The other day crews were working on a stretch just off the east side of the square, on Sixth street and extending south past the Perry Lumber Co. In a way it's kind of sad to see that link with the past being covered up. There was a time when all the streets around the square were brick, but asphalt was put down there years ago. Gene Taylor street (formerly Brogan), which is only two blocks long, also is brick. That's the mid-block street on the south side the square adjacent to City Hall. Birch street has a brick surface between Sixth and Seventh streets, going past the Subsite building.

As I say, in a way it's distressing to see those bits of nostalgia being resurfaced and thus eliminating a visual reminder of what Perry used to look like. On the other hand, if you have had an opportunity to drive over any of those brick streets lately you might be inclined to disagree with that sentimental thought. Brick streets are notoriously rough and difficult to maintain, so I guess the necessity for covering them was inevitable. Eons from now, when archaeologists are digging through this area, they may be wondering why we placed such a substantial base (all those bricks) beneath layers of asphalt. Perhaps we should deposit something in a time capsule to explain this to future generations. But for now, it's farewell to another stretch of our red brick streets.

Along this same line, you've got to admire the new 6.5 mile asphalt resurfacing job on U.S. 64 east of Perry. New center stripes and shoulder lines also have been painted on the highway, and it is so nice and smoooooth! Patching of stretches also is underway on State Highway 86 south of the city. All of this kind of work is most welcome.

Contractors are moving along nicely on the large new building being added to the Green Valley Nursing Home complex. A large slab of seamed concrete has been poured on the west side of the building to park automobiles when the addition has been completed. Over on Fifteenth street, the Perry Plaza has built a concrete bottom for the deep drainage ditch adjacent to the C.R. & Co. store. The ditch had been showing signs of erosion, or it did the last time it rained, anyway.

Christ Lutheran church has engaged local paint contractor Dee Oden for some extensive work on the exterior of their handsome edifice. I really like the traditional architectural style of that building. Thanks to the Lutherans for keeping it so tidy and brightly gleaming.

Friend Irl Henry passes along the tip that Ed Skalenda, his onetime boss, also was a member of Cap Swift's Zouaves and traveled with the big 101 Ranch Wild West Shows way back there some 65 years ago. Incidentally, you should drop by Perry Carnegie Library to see Irl's collection of necktie slides fashioned from sunflower roots and his colorful carved gnome. The comical tie slides are in a display case in the foyer at the west entrance to the library and the gnome is on the main floor. Irl's a wizard at carving things from such media as roots and gnarled branches. "I just hack away the stuff that doesn't look like what I see in my mind," he says, "and pretty soon the image emerges." I'd say he has a rare gift.