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January 23, 1996

Edna Frueh raised a question the other day that's been on the minds of many Perry people for some time -- what can we do with our old newspapers? Boy Scouts used to collect them and haul them off to recycling centers as a fund-raising project a few years ago, then folks at Christ Lutheran church took it on. The market got so bad, however, that the work became impractical. Now we hear that the price of newsprint is soaring which makes us wonder if the demand for old papers is correspondingly greater.

At one time a Stillwater recycling firm had a pickup point in Perry for glass bottles, plastic soft drink containers, aluminum and tin cans. They didn't accept newspapers. That service was discontinued some time ago. The city of Stillwater has two collection points within its city limits for recyclables, including newspapers, but it's not always convenient for Perry people to haul this stuff over to the Payne county capital.

I understand the cost of starting up a municipal recycling center in Perry is prohibitive, when the expense of equipment, personnel and all other factors is added up, so we probably cannot hope to see such a service locally. But almost every family in town subscribes to at least two daily newspapers and that generates tons of scrap paper weekly. Wish we had a good recycling place to receive it. Many Perryans are trying to be environmentally sensitive by separating their recyclable trash from the other kind, but the problem is what to do with it after it's separated.

My recent recollection of Ethel L. Johnston jogged the memories of June Ream and Elizabeth Willems with more happy thoughts of that special lady. June recalls that on her daily walks around town, Mrs. Johnston would keep an eye out for what appeared to be needy families.

Spotting one, she would knock at the front door and smilingly ask permission to come in and catch her breath, or to warm herself if it was wintertime. No one would refuse her, and she used those opportunities to look around and make mental notes about special needs - clothes for the children, perhaps food, even furniture.

She had an arrangement with Jack and Hazel Smith who operated Smith's Variety Store on the east side of the square. Jack would call Mrs. Johnston any time he had extra candy for Christmas, Valentine's Day, Halloween or other occasions, and she would go down to the store to claim it, bringing along several Boy Scouts. She divided up the goodies for each of the families she knew about and instructed the Scouts to deliver them as gifts from Smith's Variety Store. Clothing, furniture and other needs were secured from the Red Cross or others who had them. It was one of the many ways she served the needs of deserving Perry citizens.

Elizabeth remembers going on nature walks with Mrs. Johnston. "We would turn over every rock we came across in search of centipedes, snakes or scorpions, whatever happened to be there," Elizabeth recalls. "Ethel L. told about each species as we came across them, and to this day I give her credit for the fact that I have no fear of those creepy little things."

Because of those explanations, Ethel L.'s youthful nature hikers lost their dread of such creatures and learned to appreciate the wonders and the marvels of the world about them. "She was indeed one of a kind," Elizabeth says.