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September 24, 1996

We have our occasional problems downtown because of those malfunctioning traffic lights, but Perry folks in the early 1920s were having their own kinds of trouble moving from the horse and buggy era into the modern world of gas jalopies.

One of the biggest gripes, apparently, was the parking situation, particularly on the east side of the square where two of our newfangled movie theaters were located. All this is gleaned from the December 7, 1922, edition of The Perry Republican, a weekly newspaper that preceded The Perry Daily Journal on the streets of this city. The editor of that day commented on the situation in a page one news story, headlined "New Parking Method Made -- Cars Must Be Parked Within White Lines; Will Increase Parking Space." Here's what the editor had to say:

"The street department is completing a much needed service in the business part of town by painting parking lines on the pavement. Eight-foot parking space is provided between each of the lines, which run from the curb at an angle.

"Much trouble has been experienced in the past to provide adequate parking room, especially on the east side of the square near the shows. Car drivers have been in the habit of parking their machines at all angles, from parallel to the curb to 45 degrees. It has also been the habit of motorists to head in with a space between their machine and the next one to them, which is too narrow for another car to park, but altogether too much room to be wasted.

"When you drive in to park now, keep inside two of these white lines." (Funny thing. In the 74 years since that was written, some of us still haven't got the hang of it when it comes to parking between the lines.) "The police department declares that motorists who cannot remember this rule will be given 'five and --' a few times to improve their memory."

I'm not sure what constituted that penalty of "five and-," but I hope the editor's warning was sufficient to keep those motorists from parking parallel to the curb. Angle parking is much easier, anyway.

Another item on the front page of that particular day's edition was headed "School Notes," and it contained some interesting statistics in light of the newly announced enrollment figures for the 1996-97 term of Perry schools. Superintendent Larry Fry has disclosed that the average daily membership in the entire Perry school system now stands at 1,386. In December 1922 the total enrollment at Perry high school (not the total system, remember) was 272 with an average daily attendance of 256.

The 1922 "School Notes" column added another comment on "deportment," a word you hardly ever hear any more. Here are some of the school's thoughts on that subject almost 75 years ago:

"There is nothing in school which reflects the influence and training of the home more than deportment. The deportment is the average of the deportment turned in by the several teachers. It is most gratifying to know that only five out of 260 made a 'P' in deportment. More than 60% made an 'E.' Parents, do you know that the grades made by your children are placed on the permanent record of the high school for the inspection of the public and that this record will follow them if they ever attempt to attend a college or university?

"Scarcely a week passes by but that some inquiry comes to the office about prospective boys or girls or someone comes in person to inspect the records. The reports for the past six weeks have been mailed. Please take time to see if your son or daughter is one of the five."

Hopefully, a word to the wise was all it took to straighten up those five "P" recipients. If we still graded high schoolers on deportment, I wonder how many would earn an "E" today?