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April 17, 1998

Through the years, this community has been rocked by many tragedies, but none harder to bear than the loss of those two young boys in last week's traffic accident on the Orlando road. Perhaps their families are somehow buoyed by the knowledge that all of us share in their grief, even though we cannot begin to understand the degree of heartache they are experiencing in this sad hour. Our love and sympathy are poured out to the Pagel and Richardson families, and to the Bolay family as well. With Easter's blessed meaning still fresh on our minds, perhaps all of us can find reason to expect solace in the days that lie ahead.

Congratulations to Mayor Hollingsworth and Chief of Police LeValley for their determination to eliminate the dangerous and foolish practice of U-turns around the square. After some three years of warnings and courtesy tickets, the practice continues, even at the driver's peril as he or she makes an illegal turn in the face of oncoming traffic. Perhaps those $62 fines and the new "get tough" policy will bring this scofflaw practice to a merciful end.

Warm applause also for the new crossing at the Burlington-Northern Railroad tracks on Seventh street. It is the smoothest and least jarring crossing in town, and all of us are appreciative. Hopefully, other crossings on Fir, Cedar, Eleventh and Fifteenth streets also will have the same grade repairs in due time.

Another pat on the back to the crews who built the new roadway and bridge on Cedar street between Fourteenth and Fifteenth streets. It is a REAL road, wide enough to meet standards and well surfaced with durable asphalt. That particular section is becoming heavily traveled with the retail businesses, Department of Human Services offices and new houses being built in the area. Cleaning out the drainage area also will help carry off excess rainfall which drains into the low place behind the hospital and the armory and eventually feeds into Cow Creek.

Thanks also to Leroy Rolling for his decision to restore the old Gem Cafe' building, on the south side of the square to its original appearance. A partition separating what used to be the cafe and a barber shop has been removed and the interior has been gutted. Instead of separate front doors flush with the front of the former businesses, the main entry has been recessed and returned to the center of the 25-foot front. A faded "Cafe" sign is still visible on the original brick front. In time, the PHS Alumni Association will have a home of its own in the building. This restoration project is a fine example of the very thing our Perry Main Street organization is working so hard to accomplish throughout the business district.

A major construction project is underway at Eighth and Fir where the Kennedys have a hardware business. Concrete has been poured for the floor and vertical steel beams are in place for the exterior walls and ceiling. It will be a nice addition, big enough for an expanded product line, on the west side of the building.

A popular pastime of the day seems to be guessing how many near-accidents will occur when the blinking red traffic lights around the square are ultimately restored to the normal cycle of red, amber and green. A couple I know was laughing about their trip to last Sunday's Easter sunrise service at Camp Tan-Da-Ko. "I knew it was too early in the day for him," the lady said, nudging her husband, "when I realized he was waiting for the light to change at a corner of the square." He confirmed the incident with a grin, but others consoled him with tales of how many times they have run through red lights at Seventh and Fir after making a rolling stop there, as we have to do on the square.

When the traffic lights are fixed, a lot of us are going to be like Pavlov's dog-trained to move on certain signals because of the prolonged spell of blinking lights -- and it will be hard to adjust to the way they're supposed to operate. Some folks fear chaotic traffic conditions will be commonplace for at least a few days. Bear with it a little longer. One of these days it will be back to normal, if we can just remember what "normal" is.