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May 11, 1999

Adversity has a way of bringing out the very best in Oklahomans. How paradoxical -- times of immense tragedy catalyze the greatest show of compassion. Last week's historic night of tornadoes on the plains and in metropolitan areas literally rocked this durable state, where disastrous bombings and cataclysmic weather are no strangers. Extremes at both ends of the scale are found in the retelling of what happened that night and in the aftermath.

There's little to add here to the reports still flowing from the media. Our friends and neighbors, especially those in Mulhall and other areas south and east of Perry, have suffered enormous losses and many barely escaped with their lives in this demonstration of the wrath of nature. Many of us were fortunate and escaped with nothing worse than the loss of a few hours of sleep. Our hearts ache for those who became victims. We applaud all those who are going the extra mile to assist in so many ways. May there be no more "mother of storms" in the next century to match the intensity of that terrible night.

The Perry city council is wrestling with the problem of finding an alternative water supply. It seems like this debate has been going on forever, and maybe it has. I have just been handed a copy of the March 21, 1957, edition of The Perry Daily Journal which also points in that direction. That day's newspaper reported on a meeting of the city council in which the very same problem was addressed -- with the same inconclusive results. Councilman Foy Branscom, who also was acting mayor, proposed that the dam and spillway at the municipal reservoir southwest of town be raised to impound more water. A shortage of water was in prospect that summer. The newspaper reported that councilmen were reluctant to approve that proposal, so action was delayed. Does any of this sound familiar today? Will there be a resolution to the problem this year? Stay tuned.

The shortage of water is not the only current problem that has plagued the city council for a few decades. Anyone else remember the time in the late 1940s when the council called for bids on garbage hauling but postponed action when the rates requested by prospective contractors seemed too high? After that information was printed in this newspaper, a young male teacher at Perry High School put together a bid of his own. It was lower than the others, the council accepted it, and the teacher resigned from the school to concentrate on hauling trash, which paid more than the school job. This made the front page of the Oklahoma City Times and was carried on the Associated Press and United Press news wires. It was a curious story -- trash hauling paying more than teaching -- but after about a month on the job, the young man resigned as garbage collector, left Perry, and presumably went back to teaching school. Today we again have a trash hauling dilemma and a water problem. Nothing new under the sun, really.

Congratulations to Perry's Ed Kelley for the fine job he's done as managing editor of The Daily Oklahoman the past nine years. He won awards for his paper's coverage of the Murrah building bombing and he has maintained the Oklahoman's record of excellence. He will do equally well at the paper's Washington bureau, where he served with distinction before becoming managing editor. He's a good newspaperman.