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February 17, 1996

The Perry Golf & Country Club dates its existence from about 1917 or 1918. Records are a little vague, but I would guess the club probably was organized after World War I, which ended on Nov. 11, 1918. Whatever the starting date may be, the club always has been one of Perry's assets and it continues to be so even today. Its well-designed, meticulously manicured nine-hole grass green layout would do justice to a much larger community. The pool, tennis courts and other types of recreational facilities provided by the club also are worth bragging about.

The Country Club is newsworthy right now because of its newly announced plans to build a new club house to replace the present multi-level frame building. I wrote a nostalgic column the other day looking back at some earlier days at the club, and that brought me a note from former Perryan Howard Kelley, now of Dallas, who grew up here. Howard is a brother of Leroy and Calvin Kelley. Howard writes:

"(The column) reminded me of my family's early days in Perry, starting in 1930. One thing that I could add about the Country Club was that in the summer time it permitted a supervised play program headed by Coach Hump Daniels to use both the club house basement and the lake for swimming and recreation during the hot summer months.

"This was before the pool was built in the West Park. I don't know if the Country Club was reimbursed for the use of their facilities but they were greatly enjoyed by myself and lots of other Perry boys in the early '30s. Hats off also should go to Mr. Chester Swart for using his truck to haul the kids out to the club and back to town for this enjoyment."

Chester Swart and his family operated a produce market at 519 Cedar street, across the alley from the old First National Bank (now the Foucart building). Chester's flatbed one-ton truck had side rails and he could haul 30-40 boys or girls out to the Country Club lake on summer mornings for their designated swim days. I doubt that the club ever charged the supervised play program for use of the lake.

Another public servant who filled the same role from time to time was Jack Snyder, the operator of a wholesale candy and tobacco company here. Jack made his daily deliveries to drug stores, grocery stores and other local snack bars in a truck -- that was about the same size and vintage as Chester's and he made it available for use as needed in the play program throughout the summer. During football season Jack also hauled members of Hump's team from the high school dressing rooms in the gymnasium out to the Perry stadium practice field. School buses were virtually unknown here at that time.

Jack and Hump, the wily PHS football coach who directed the summer play program in the 1930s and 1940s, were close personal friends. At the end of the supervised play program each year, Jack also used his truck to transport Perry youngsters to Oklahoma City for a final outing. The itinerary usually included a visit to the zoo, where the participants ate a sack lunch sent along by their moms, and climaxed by a game at the old Texas League Park featuring the Oklahoma City Indians and a visiting team.

I well remember making one of those trips on a hot August morning, scrunching down on the planks of that flatbed truck along with some 30 other juvenile colleagues while the sun beat down mercilessly on our uncaring young faces. We didn't mind the crowding and jostling on the back end of that old truck because we were convinced we were having fun. Looking back on it in my mind's eye now, the vision is rather like that of Hitler's victims being carted off to World War II concentration camps, but that was not our feeling at the time.

On one of those occasions, I was seized with hunger pangs en route to the city and found myself unable to resist the banana in my sack lunch. It went down just fine, but in a matter of minutes the sun's rays, combined with the unforgiving bouncing action of the truck and the banana now in my stomach, produced a decidedly sick feeling which would not go away.

I spent the rest of the day, including an afternoon at the ball park, feeling perfectly miserable and dreading the return trip home on the back end of that same bouncing one-ton truck. Hump later told me that was the only time he could remember when one of his young charges got sick on the season's final outing to Oklahoma City. It remained my particular distinction until the junket was dropped some years later. Only in recent years have I been able to eat a banana again without feeling acute nausea. Ah, the pleasant memories of childhood.