December 19, 1996
Our local food service emporiums might want to think about stocking up a little extra inventory in their pantries during the New Year's holiday coming up very soon. That's always a busy time for travelers along I-35, but this year there may be an even greater surge through this area. That forecast is based on some information brought home the other day by John and Ione Steichen who visited last weekend with their son, James, and his family in Manhattan, Kansas, where James is a professor at Kansas State University. While they were there an article appeared in the local newspaper giving valuable travel information to the horde of K-State football fans who soon will be heading for Dallas to see the Cotton Bowl game pitting their Wildcats against Brigham Young University.
Among the facts provided in the article were such basics as the travel time to Dallas from Manhattan on I-35, estimated to be about eight and a half hours. The writer, who apparently had made a test run of the route to gather information for those going to the game, recommended Perry as the best place to make a food stop along the way. A huge delegation of K-State fans is expected to hit the highway for the trip, based on the advance sale of 33,000 tickets to Wildcat supporters. If only a fraction of that number pull off the interstate at one of the Perry exits, there will be a significant upward spiral in the normal holiday flow through here. Local folks, be advised.
John and Ione were in Manhattan for a very important event. Their daughter-in-law, Marie, received her doctor of philosophy degree from KSU in weekend convocation ceremonies. Marie, a native of Stillwater, wrote her dissertation on "Social Construction of the Jail Location Problem in Riley County, Kansas. It was based on the controversial selection of a jail construction site near a children's playground, and the subsequent alternative location away from there. Her major subject is human ecology. Her husband, Dr. James Steichen, also has a doctorate. He has been a professor at K-State for some 15 years, and his wife is hoping to secure a teaching position now that she's achieved her goal of attaining that PhD.
The current issue of our superb state magazine, Oklahoma Today, contains an article about the big bluestem tallgrass area of our neighbors in Osage county. Entitled "Big Blue," the piece describes "a journey into the tallgrass" of Oklahoma as experienced by writer Annick Smith, a native of Chicago. It's an interesting story, but the specific point of local interest is a reference to former Perry resident William C. (Dick) Whetsell, who left here in the 1950s to oversee the Adams family cattle operation on the tallgrass preserve. Dick is identified in the article as a "semi-retired" rancher and scholar. Smith, the writer, adds that Whetsell also helped develop the manuscript and botanical illustrations for Pasture and Range Plants. The writer. tells us that the black-bound volume originally was commissioned by Phillips Petroleum to better encourage range management, but that it has now become his "prairie bible -- the drawings so lovely I am tempted to tear them out and frame them." It's an interesting article, along with everything else in the magazine, and it comes heartily recommended by this reader.
Incidentally, Dick Whetsell and his wife were among the many well-wishers in Perry Sunday for the 60th wedding anniversary celebration for Glenn and Eleanor Yahn. Other former Perryans who came back that day included Dr. Melvin Self, our former school superintendent, and his wife, Ione. The Selfs now live in retirement in Shawnee. They left here some 40 years ago. Like the rest of us, they have never lost their love and respect for Glenn and Eleanor, and the large turnout for Sunday's celebration at the Elks Lodge is evidence of that. Thanks to Bettye Kaye, Gary, the grandchildren and great-grandchildren for allowing the community to share in that event.
Monday's edition of The Tulsa World has a feature article on the Business page that profiles the career of Dr. Eugene Swearingen, who was born and reared in Perry. Gene is a former vice president of his alma mater, Oklahoma State University; former president of Tulsa University; and former president, CEO and board chairman of the Bank of Oklahoma. After retiring from the latter position at the age of 60, he accepted a professorship at Oral Roberts University for $1 a year. He also had a close brush with death as a Navy officer in the Atlantic during World War II. That's not all there is to Gene Swearingen by a long shot, but it gives you an idea of the depth and breadth of this man's lifetime achievements. And they're not over yet. He and younger brother Wayne are co-writing his fourth book, tentatively titled We Flunked Retirement and You Can, Too. Gene, now 76, says he never plans to retire. The Tulsa newspaper article opens by stating that "...Swearingen -- scholar, businessman and mentor to many -- is certainly one of the most successful men in Tulsa." The profile also deals with his early years in Perry and the crushing loss of his wife, Asalee, a native of Morrison. The couple were married 54 years. Asalee died last March 11 after a bout with Parkinson's disease. Gene calls that the darkest point in his life. If you know the Swearingen family and if you can locate a copy of Monday's World, you'll find this article extremely interesting.