August 1, 1996
A recent Sunday edition of Denver's Rocky Mountain News contained not one but two highlighted features dealing with folks from this area. We're indebted to Mel and Jean Thompson, former Perryans who now live in Littleton, Colorado, a Denver suburb, for providing this information. They sent the clippings to their former baby-sitter, Agnes Dunn, who showed them to me. Mrs. Dunn lives in the Villa Apartments. She and the Thompsons stay in close touch.
One of the pieces has to do with the prairie grass fires that have plagued Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas this year. Written from Dallas by Kevin O'Hanlon of the Associated Press, the article is illustrated with a 3-column photo of Wilbur Finnell of Orlando. Mr. Finnell is shown watching volunteer firefighters as they battled a grass fire on his ranch earlier this spring. In the photo Mr. Finnell is wearing a baseball cap with "Wayne Casteel and Sons, Auctioneers," stitched prominently on the front. Pretty good advertising for Wayne and the boys, considering the broad coverage enjoyed by the Denver newspaper.
The other article is from a column entitled "Rocky Mountain Memories," and it deals with a subject even more unpleasant than grass fires. The writer, Frances Melrose, recalls a 1953 incident in the Kremmling, Colorado, area in which a local sheriff shot and killed two suspected murderers. Kremmling is a small town near Granby in the resort area north of Denver. On a snowy April day in 1953, the sheriff was taken captive by the two desperados.
Although under their watchful eyes in the back seat of a speeding car driven by one of them, the sheriff managed to divert their attention long enough to pull out a gun concealed under his coat. He shot both men, then grabbed the steering wheel as the car threatened to careen out of control into a telephone pole. One of the men had a Perry connection, which was mentioned only briefly in the Rocky Mountain News article. We'll not go into further detail in this family newspaper except to say that the sheriff survived the incident while his two captors did not.
That column in the Rocky Mountain News inspired a reader to send the columnist information about events that preceded the sheriffs ordeal. This writer told how his car was hijacked by the same two badmen in Wyoming. They left the car owner standing on the highway in his shirt sleeves during a blizzard. Apparently feeling remorse, they made a U-turn and came back to toss his coat out the window, then sped away. He had expected to be shot, but came through the experience in good shape. Later, when the two outlaws were slain, the former Perry man was wearing that man's cowboy boots. The victim of the carjacking went on to become a Denver police officer.
One way or another, Perry area people seem to make news in other parts of the country, and not all of them have to do with what we think of as "bad" news.
Catherine Grant Dormire, who now lives in the area north of Bill's Corner, has come across three memory-provoking souvenir books from her days as a grade school student in the 1920s at the old Fairview school in District 76, Rock township. She allowed me to take a look at them, and they are indeed little treasures, each measuring 3 1/2" x 5 1/2". They are for the school years of 1922-23 and 1925-26, plus another which is undated but came out in the same era. Each contains the names of all students at the school for that year, along with many inspirational poems and quotations on such virtuous subjects as "Mission," "Give Your Best," "Nobility" and "My Gift." A small photo of the teacher was pasted inside the front cover of each book, and names of school board members also are given.
Mary Albers was the teacher on May 10, 1923, when one of the books was distributed. School board members that year were Lee Barnes, director; J. L. Winkler, clerk; and Frank Baumgartner, member. Students were Arvesta, Walton, Lawrence and Wanda Barnes, Dorotha, Maxine, Marden and Farrel Winkler, Margaret and Laurence Hoggatt, Martha, Rosey, Beulah, William, Violet and Frank Knight, Ruby and Pearl Shelton, Robert Malone, Leroy and Inez Malone, Elmer, Fay and Ralph Havin, John Swendig, Roberta, Wilda, Ivan, Kenneth and Catherine Grant, and Elizabeth, Marcelle and Raymond Baumgartner.
The booklet dated April 23, 1926, lists these school board members: Lee Barnes, J. L. Winkler and Mrs. Ethel M. Hoggatt. The teacher was Myrtle Stagner. Pupils were Arvesta, Lawrence, Wanda and Walton Barnes, Ruthie, Elizabeth, Marcelle and Raymond Baumgartner, Robert and Walter Campbell, Catherine, Ivan, Jennie May, Myron, Roberta and Wilda Grant, Laurence and Margaret Hoggatt, Beulah, Frank, Lucille, Violet and William Knight, Morton Monk, Pearl Shelton, John Swendig, Helen and John Tetik, Dorotha, Farrel, Marden and Maxine Winkler.
The undated brochure lists the teacher as Clara Mae Kearns. School board members were Lee Barnes, J. L. Winkler and Ernest Crockett. Pupils that year were Lee Edwin, Arnesta, Wanda and Lawrence Barnes, Clarence, Lucille, Frank, Violet and Bill Knight, Eula Crockett, Ruth, Marcelle, Raymond and Elizabeth Baumgartner, Alpha and Herman Thompson, Pearl and Vera Shelton, and Helen and John Tetik. These names and dates bring back many memories to the former students of Fairview school, one of the many little one-room schoolhouses that used to dot the rural landscape around here. Thanks to Mrs. Dormire for sharing the nostalgia.