November 20, 1998
Emergency housing for veterans who returned to this community after World War II were erected on publicly owned land in northeast Perry as the result of joint efforts by the city council, Mayor G.A. Ley, the local Chamber of Commerce and the Perry board of education. The location finally selected for the units was an area now known as Jay Dauman Park. Perry was chosen to receive four surplus two-story barracks that had become available from the military because of rapid demobilization after the war. The barracks provided living units for 20 families. They were by no means luxury apartments, but they helped to ease a critical housing shortage and the young families who eventually occupied them were glad to have them.
Like Perry, the entire U.S. was experiencing a major problem when the war ended because virtually no civilian housing had been built between 1941, when the U.S. became a combatant in World War II, and the signing of the peace treaty in September 1945. When hundreds upon hundreds of discharged servicemen and women began returning to their hometowns, many with newly acquired families, there was just no place for them to live. Sixty-five veterans had registered with the Perry Chamber of Commerce for consideration when the emergency units were requested in March 1946, but only 20 living units were available. The chamber decreed that the first 20 on the list would be given priority. The federal agency handling Perry's request granted approval at its Fort Worth, Texas, office on March 19, 1946, and wheels began turning immediately to bring the dismantled buildings here and erect them on the chosen site.
By April 9, footings for the buildings were being dug. Harold D. (Speck) Roads, Perry cafe operator and a WWII vet, was hired as timekeeper for the job by Grimshaw Construction Co. The contractor estimated the units would be ready for occupancy by the first of June. By early May, rental fees had been set -- $35 for two-bedroom apartments and $40 for three-bedroom: apartments. Henry Dolezal, another returning veteran, was chairman of a local management committee. Mr. Dolezal said the fees complied with regulations of the Federal Public Housing Authority, and that adjustments could be made to as little as $22.50 per month for low income families.
The usual expectable delays occurred in getting the frame buildings ready, and by June 9 Mr. Roads announced that the completion date had been pushed back to about July 15. In a near-disaster on June 30, winds clocked at up to 65 miles per hour ripped the roof off one of the buildings, promising still more delay. In the meantime, more GIs were coming home and others hunkered down in close quarters with relatives or made do with garages that had been converted to cozy, temporary dwellings.
Finally, in late summer, the four former barracks were declared habitable and the first 20 families on the waiting list began moving in. Most of them had young children and clothes lines were festooned daily with loads of diapers. Our town's newest civilians were finally in homes they could call their own, at least temporarily, and the city of Perry began its experiment with public housing. The road ahead was not strewn with roses. More on the subject coming up.