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September 21, 1995

A member of one of our long-time Perry area families tells this little anecdote about one of her forebears, who shall remain nameless. When he was about 13-14 years old, in the early 1920s, he was orphaned and living with an older brother. Times were tough and the youngster often had to wear overalls that were tattered and torn. One day, when his hand-me-downs were especially ragged and dirty, he spied a clothesline with a few things that looked to be just his size. He stripped off his own duds, put on the others and hurried off in a fresh, clean outfit. It gave him a completely new attitude. Later he hired on as a peanut and popcorn vendor with the 101 Ranch Wild West Show near Marland and earned enough to buy the clothes he needed. Perhaps he also made restitution for the apparel he borrowed that summer day.

Fredonna Dowell is a self-confessed saver of odds and ends, but most of her collection has significance. In recent times she has recorded dozens of video tapes of major news events, and before that she made audio tapes of other important happenings. In addition, she has saved a number of copies of such things as Life magazine covering the assassination of President John F Kennedy in 1963, plus subsequent issues dealing with the state funeral and also the slaying of Lee Harvey Oswald in the Dallas police station. All those are in mint condition. She has copies of The Perry Daily Journal's Nov. 22, 1963, edition, with three-inch black headlines: "JFK ASSASSINATED, and copies of the, Daily Oklahoman covering the story.

Besides all that she has such things as the Sept. 6, 1936, issue of the Chicago Herald and Examiner (which no longer exists) describing the "excitement building over the campaign of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, seeking a second term, and his Republican challenger, Alf Landon of Kansas. The newspaper's story said a forthcoming Crossley public opinion poll was eagerly awaited to show shifts of sentiment. The Crossley poll was the Gallup poll of its day but one of its primary functions was to measure the listening audience for network radio shows. It also was the Nielsen survey of its day. And, in case you've forgotten, FDR swept to an historic landslide victory that year. I don't know if the Crossley poll succeeded in forecasting that correctly. If they failed to do so, that may be one reason we don't hear much about the Crossley poll these days.

Several miscellaneous Perry Journals from the early 1940s also are in Fredonna's collection. She was kind enough to let me look at some of those items recently, and they are fascinating to anyone interested in the history of that period.

Fredonna was city treasurer a few years ago. While in that capacity she compiled a history of the Perry fire department, and one of these days I'll have to share that information with you.