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March 13, 1998

My fascination with mementos from Perry's past has been nourished through the years by unexpected treasures offered by thoughtful friends. Sifting through some of these articles the other evening, I remarked to Laura that I would someday have enough to start my own museum, whereupon she chided that we have already reached, if not passed, that point. She is long suffering, thank goodness, so the collection goes on. Uncataloged, of course, and for the most part not even stored in a logical manner for retrieval. Thumbing through them from time to time brings back memories of another age in my hometown, of memorable characters you and I have known and others we've only heard about, while simultaneously giving rise to great admiration and respect for the original settlers in this blessed part of the Cherokee Outlet. They brought a new order to a largely untamed land and made it possible for this generation to enjoy a lifestyle that induced admiration from visitors who stray here from overcrowded urban areas far away.

Often the priceless souvenirs handed to me are undated articles or photos of groups and individuals with no identification attached, and that makes them enigmatic indeed. But even with that information missing, they offer clues to earlier generations. By studying the clothing worn by those in the fading sepia photos, or vintage automobiles, or hair styles, or perhaps a building that still exists, one can arrive at an approximation of when the camera's shutter was snapped. Newspaper clippings with no dates can sometimes be placed in a general time period if the accompanying ads offer a hint or two. You've been through this with your own family albums so you know the problem. But there's a great reward of self-satisfaction when somehow you track down that missing data.

In recent weeks several additions have been made to my ever-growing pile of memorabilia and I derive great pleasure from thumbing through them, trying to imagine what life was like in Perry in another time. What were the concerns of local folks in, say, the 1920s? Were they sharing the euphoria of the nation's booming economy? Were they troubled by the moralism of that era when prohibition was adopted as a national standard and bootlegging became a reality in large and small cities throughout the land? What did they think about in their idle time? Were teen-agers restless? If only we could read the minds of those smiling, anonymous figures in the photographic keepsakes that now are jammed into boxes in our closets and under our beds. Perhaps someday that will be possible.

I'll have more on this subject in a subsequent column.