February 6, 1998
Recent items from the mailbag may be of interest to you. One of these is a note from Wichita bearing the signature of a long-time friend, Pat Jones Sewell. She writes concerning my recent column explaining the game of shinny which was favored by kids of the 1930s and 1940s in Perry, and that included Pat.
"Boy, do I remember shinny," Pat writes. "I played shinny a great deal with my pals in this neighborhood. I think it is something we all did for entertainment back then. So much fun! We played in the alley behind our house on Delaware, between Seventh and Eighth streets. The Jones house no longer exists but it was on the space which now served as the First Bank's parking lot. It was the residence of Frank and Elsie Jones, Fran Jr., Frances Marion and Pat. Frank Sr. was a clerk at the post office. The Jones home was directly across the street from The Journal office, and because of that proximity, Pat says a lot of things she did as a kid wound up on the front page of the paper.
Along with the note she sends a clipping from the front page of a 1938 issue of this newspaper. It contains a feature article and a two-column photo of Pat and four of her buddies digging a cave on a vacant lot between the fire station and the American Legion hall. The story relates that the kids, all about the age of 12 or 13, had been playing shinny in the alley behind the Jones house. The can they were using as a sort of dry-land hockey puck kept winding up in the garden of real estate agent and former Mayor H. H. Reynolds, who lived next door to the Presbyterian church. To prevent continuing damage to his garden, Mr. Reynolds tactfully offered the kids free use of the vacant lot he owned on Delaware street. They gladly accepted, and, steeped as they must have been in the lore of Our Gang movies, it didn't take them long to decide to build a cave on the back side of the lot. It provided a brief respite from the game of shinny.
The story identified members of the gang as Kenneth Brengle, Alvin Andrews, Dale Ausburn, Jimmy (Henpeck) Henderson, Vernon (Wed) Nicewander, Harcourt (Corky) Thomas and Jack (Sonny) Hicks. Pat, being a girl, was accorded honorary membership. The term "gang" did not carry the negative connotation that it has today. The photo in the paper shows five of the youths working on the cave, except that two of them are merely leaning on their shovels while the others labor. One of the two idlers was merely taking after typical WPA workers of the day, the article said, while the other wanted to grow up to be a WPA timekeeper. The kids had been fast friends since the second grade. Their gang had no dues, no officers and no name. It was unstructured.
I enjoyed Pat's note and the 60-year-old PDJ article enclosed with it. Would you believe I remember when it first appeared? Perhaps some of you do, too.