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May 9, 1997

The question comes up every now and then: Is Fir an avenue or a street? Maybe this doesn't annoy you even a little, but it's the kind of thing that sometimes causes me sleepless nights. For several years I have wrestled with the question, so recently I decided to find the answer once and for all. This gives you an idea of what clutters the landscape of my mind.

The big green exit ramp signs on I-35 advise motorists that they have reached the "FIR ST. entrance to Perry. At the signal light over 15th and Fir, the signs again call it "FIR ST." (all in capital letters). It's easy to understand why so many motorists, seeing those signs for the first time, mistakenly read them as "FIRST, " not "FIR ST , and become confused about their actual location.

Our newest Perry phone directory sidesteps the question in many cases by simply omitting references to "street" or "avenue." To them the streets are mostly just plain Ash, Birch, Cedar, Elm, Fir, and so forth -- neither street nor avenue. There are, however, numerous exceptions, as we shall note later. The directory's inconsistency is puzzling. Not that we are to assume the phone directory is the final arbiter of style in such things, but the book does provide a standard printed work that is available to all for reference and therefore it seems a shame that the logic of form is not given greater emphasis. Perhaps it is enough that we just entrust to them the responsibility of printing correct phone numbers. It's not their fault it we can't make up our minds about the names of our streets.

They do list "Highland Dr." for those who live on that street, and there's also a "Country Club Dr." I live on Park Lane and the phone directory correctly includes the "Dr." suffix for my address. (To me, "Drive" is superfluous in that usage so I give the location as plain old "Park Lane." Do I have a legitimate right to be so arbitrary?) Similarly, the phone directory also lists the following addresses with abbreviated "Drive" additions ("Dr.") tacked onto the end: North and South Brookwood, Country Club, Skyline, Oak, Memorial, Lakeview and Terry, to name a few. In one instance Highland is shown differently in successive listings, first as "Highland Drive" but on the following line it is simply "Highland." I guess it's the lack of consistency that worries me.

Research on this project stirred anew the awareness that I have not been keeping up with the city's residential sub-divisions and the accompanying proliferation of new street names. Growing up here, it was easy to remember the alphabetized east-west streets, named mostly for popular shade trees, while the numbered streets running north-south simply began with First (not "Fir St.") on the east side of town and ending with 15th on the west side. Now, however, we have a growing stockpile of street names that are indeed classy sounding but nonetheless fail to convey their location like the alphabetical listings did. Here are a few street names that still give me trouble in mentally placing them on the city map -- even if many of them are not all that new:

Skyline Hills, Skyline Avenue, Park Drive, Rose Terrace, Quail Creek, Camden Way, Primrose Lane, Wilshire, Pheasant Ridge, Wakefield, Ridgecrest, Hillside and Lakeview. I know, some of those have been in existence for a few decades, but my mind just has not gotten around to placing them geographically. And we haven't even begun to think about those new streets coming in the Fairway subdivision, next door to the Country Club.

There's still a bit more to be said about our street names. Please stick around for another, and concluding, installment on this topic in the next Northwest Corner. You know where to look for that.