April 25, 1997
Winter weather finally showed signs of exiting as the month of March approached in 1938, and depression-weary Perry residents looked forward to spring's promise of a rebirth. The local Chamber of Commerce struggled to put a good face on the economy while President Franklin Delano Roosevelt continued his efforts to shore up the nation with an array of make-work projects. The WPA -- short for Works Project Administration -- was one of the keystones of FDR's recovery program; it was enabling thousands of unemployed men to earn a living by building public structures throughout the U.S.A. Perry managed to get its share of federal assistance.
By 1938, Perry civic leaders had mastered the art of successfully applying for grants to bolster this community. On January 31 that year work was scheduled to begin on two WPA projects: a $15,000 native stone building at the high school to house the vocational agriculture department and the manual arts department; and a six-room addition to the Blaine separate school on the city's south side. No cost estimate was given for the latter job. In due time the WPA provided the means of replacing the ancient Perry post office, construction of a fine new armory on Fourteenth Street, the addition of several badly needed city school buildings, and similar projects. None of them would have been feasible without government assistance. A large new park was built southeast of town in 1934 by the Civilian Conservation Corps (the CCC), another of FDR's devices for breathing new life into a very sick country. The experience gained in landing that park gave local officials an idea of what had to be done in 1938 to secure assistance for more major projects to benefit Perry.
Uneasy foreign observers watched with alarm in March, 1938, as Germany's Adolf Hitler seized control of neighboring Austria without firing a shot. In Perry, our attention was directed to a poll of its members that had been conducted by the Chamber of Commerce in February to identify "the most popular projects" needed by this city. The No. 1 project listed by a majority of those polled indicated the city needed a new municipal stadium for football and baseball. Other projects named, in declining order of popularity, included a new grade school building, street improvements and a campaign to absorb all eighth grade graduates of the county into Perry high school.
Early in March, the city council took first steps toward acquiring a stadium when it announced plans to seek immediate approval by the WPA for the construction. The council OK'd an $8,000 expenditure toward an anticipated total of $25,000 to $30,000 for the project. Mayor Fred Kretsch and council members said community support was being organized to back the plan.
Within a few days district WPA officials were processing-Perry's application for federal cooperation in the project and engineers already were preparing plans and specifications. The city council selected a location north of town on property called "the city farm," an 80-acre tract which had been purchased by the council several years earlier. Civic leaders said the site would provide ample room for football and baseball fields along with "unlimited" parking space. It was easily accessible and on the pavement just off U.S. highway 77, where the stadium is indeed situated today. In the meantime, it was announced that Dennis Donovan of Enid had been hired as the engineer to design plans for the stadium. All this happened during the first ten days of March, showing a degree of speed not usually associated with WPA projects.
As a footnote, Donovan also was the engineer (architect) for the manual arts-vocational agriculture building at the high school and the addition at the Blaine school. Years later, after World War II, Donovan designed the junior high building which was built with a school bond issue after the WPA had been phased out.
More on the original construction of Perry Stadium as a WPA project when the Northwest Corner makes its next appearance.