July 11, 1997
I keep trying to figure out how a change in nicknames could improve Perry high school athletic teams. Granted, the name "Maroons" does not necessarily conjure up the specter of a band of fearsome, intimidating characters of Herculean proportions. In fact, if you did not know it was the nickname of a school, you might assume it was merely a color. (As in, "I have a pair of maroon shoes to wear with those gray slacks.") But hereabouts when we hear the word "Maroons" we instinctively know it's spelled with a capital M and that we're talking about a spirited, tradition-rich school which is proud of all its students.
How Blackwell turned up with the same nickname is still a mystery to me, but then I also don't know how it came to be selected for Perry high school in the first place. My sources tell me PHS has never had any other nickname, going back to the earliest days after the 1893 Cherokee Strip run. As I've written before, the great Chicago University football teams of another era were called Maroons, and so are teams from one of the Mississippi universities. Chicago U. dropped football many years ago, but I've never heard that Blackwell or Mississippi had any interest in changing their nicknames. Maybe this is just a diversion to get our minds off the summer heat.
If you wonder about the origin of the name, my Webster's dictionary states that the noun "maroon" is a modification of the Spanish/American word "cimarron" or the French word with the same spelling, meaning "wild, savage." Think of the rampaging Cimarron river at flood stage. The application to an athletic team makes sense to me. Let's leave it alone.
Here's a request for information from a recent Perry visitor, Douglas Wixson, professor emeritus at the University of Texas in Austin. He's doing preliminary research on a former Perry lady, Meridel Le Sueur, for a writing project. Professor Wixson spent some time here recently in connection with his quest for information. I'll let him explain what he's hoping to find. He writes:
"I discovered school records for 'Maridel Wharton,' Meridel Le Sueur's maiden name, in the Noble county courthouse. Meridel graduated from eighth grade in 1913 and left Perry shortly thereafter for Fort Scott, Kansas. If she had continued school in Perry she would have graduated with the class of 1917 (or 1918). So, that raises another interesting possibility: there might be people still living who were members of that high school class and recall Meridel from the lower grades. The problem is, how to locate them."
Professor Wixson is hoping to contact anyone who remembers Meridel (or Maridel) Wharton (and her mother, Marian Wharton, and grandmother, Marie Lucy). Meridel was born in 1900. She and her mother lived with Mrs. Lucy at 924 Delaware street. Mrs. Lucy, one of the early settlers in Perry, died in 1929, Professor Wixson believes. Mrs. Lucy was a member of the original Perry Carnegie library board and later, starting in 1911, served as librarian succeeding Irene McCune Treeman, the first Perry librarian.
"Meridel has become quite a renowned figure in American-literature," Professor Wixson writes. "A number of books and dissertations are devoted to her writing, and her work is widely read and admired. She died last November in Hudson, Wisconsin, where she lived with her daughter, Rachel Tilsen."
If you can help this gentleman with his research, write him at 2108 Griswold Lane, Austin, Texas 78703.