August 4, 1998
I have to admit that I had lost track of Ethel Shaw until reading about her death last week in this newspaper. She has been in poor health and living away from here for the past several years and her friends here just simply lost touch with her.
Bert and Ethel Shaw were integral parts of this community for three decades or longer after the Miller Bros. 101 Ranch Show folded during the early days of the Great Depression. They were musicians and entertainers, proud to be show people and always glad to share their talents. Ethel played piano and Bert played the trombone. But when hard times forced the Millers to end the 101 Ranch Show era, they came to Perry to make their home. Ethel was a beautician and Bert helped out around the shop wherever needed. In time they added sheet music, records and other related items and the beauty shop also became a music store.
Their shop that I remember was on the east side of the square, approximately midway between the Roxy and the Annex Movie Theatres. I passed by there many times on my regular trips to catch the new movies. Bert was always friendly, even with barefoot boys who hung out downtown during the summer vacation from school. Ethel was usually busy in one of her shop's cubicles, doing hair for one of the town's ladies.
At that same time, my folks had the City Drug Store on the north side of the square and I remember lunch hours when Bert and Ethel would stop by. Our store was the local headquarters for RCA Victor records and for some reason we also had a piano. When the Shaws were there, Ethel would sit down at the piano and knock out any tune that came to mind, or she would take requests. A community sing usually ensued. Those were some of the lighter moments of the Great Depression Era.
Bert also was interested in government. He served on the Perry City Council and later threw his hat in the ring for statewide offices. A race for lieutenant governor failed, but Bert was well aware of a sort of phenomena in state government: Three offices, state auditor, state treasurer and secretary of state, were on the ballot every four years. At that time the office holders could not succeed themselves, a constitutional provision, so they found a way to stay on the state payroll. One of the three gentlemen was A.S.J. Shaw. He had been in the rotation system through several elections, and, probably because of his name recognition, voters kept electing him to whichever office he sought.
Bert filed for state auditor one year, using his legal name of A.F. Shaw, and he won the job, possibly because some voters mistook him for A.S.J. Shaw. Bert was not an accountant, but he hired a friend, Marion Watson, as his principal deputy, and his term of office was successful. Marion was the retired assistant Perry postmaster and he understood accounting very well. Bert freely gave Marion credit for enabling him to have a good administration.
When the 101 Ranch Show folded, the Millers had a Russian bandmaster named Leopold Radgowsky, who spoke virtually no English. He was fearful of being deported to Russia, the land he had fled after the Bolshevik revolution. He was subject to execution there because he had been part of the Czar's household. Bert befriended him and introduced him to Perry families as a music instructor. They soon lined up enough clients to provide the "Professor,” as Mr. Radgowsky was known ever after, to make a living. He soon became the Perry school's band and orchestra director and in the 1930s was named "Perry's Most Valuable Citizen."
Bert preceded Ethel in death some time ago. I suppose God must have needed another pianist for some angelic chorus, and so one day last week He called her home to handle that task. I'm sure she and Bert are deeply involved with music of some kind, he on the trombone and she at the piano keyboard. They left us many happy memories.