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June 25, 1996

Two professionals representing the Oklahoma Historical Preservation organization were in Perry the other day to explain the National Historic Register process for the benefit of property owners in our core business district. They requested a brief guided tour of the city, including the residential areas, and I am happy to report that they were intrigued with what they saw.

This was not a planned tour so nothing had been done ahead of time to prepare the way for them, and time was a problem so their hosts did not have time to show more than just a few highlights. They were delighted with the types of architecture found in our city, both residences and business and institutional type buildings, and, in some cases, they commented on the obvious care that has been taken to preserve the flavor of the early Oklahoma Victorian and prairie features that characterize this area.

The visitors were kind enough to say several nice things about our town, but the important tour also gave the rest of us a chance to step back and take a more or less objective view of things that we see every day without bothering to really think about them. Yes, we have succeeded in preserving much of our heritage through the restoration or care of our real estate, and a lot more is being planned right now through the Perry Main Street program.

But that same little tour called to our attention some glaring eyesores that must surely be noticed by first-time visitors, even though they don't mention them. I'm talking about the abundance of grass and weeds flourishing in the cracks of sidewalks and curbs all around the square and in every block adjacent to it. It's true that nearly every ground level building around the square is now occupied, but it also is true that many of them have windows so dirty you can barely see through them. Piles of dirt are building up in front of businesses because the front sidewalks are not being swept, and gutters are clogged with leaves, old papers and any number of other kinds of trash.

Similar problems are evident in the residential areas. Most lawns are being well tended, but nearly every block has one or two spots where pride of ownership seems sadly lacking. You'll see a house where the trim is neatly painted and other signs of tender loving care are visible, but right next door may be the start of a badly blighted yard and home.

I hear a growing number of complaints about the weeds, trash and dirty windows around the square from folks who live here and shop here every day. They wonder how serious some of our merchants are about encouraging a shop at home attitude. Those visitors from Oklahoma City were polite enough not to mention such negative things, but you have to wonder what they thought about them.

A lot of good things are happening in this community and that makes us all proud. What each of us needs to do, in the business district as well as around our homes, is to try to look at our own property through the eyes of a stranger, one who would not hesitate to call out the problems he sees, and then take whatever steps are necessary to eliminate them.

Spray weed killer on those ugly sidewalk growths downtown, sweep the front sidewalks around the square every morning, wash the windows regularly, and pick up the trash from the gutter. Home owners can mow their grass and tend to all the other little details we know we should be doing, and then we'll be ready for an honest appraisal of our efforts by every visitor who drops in to tour our fine little city.