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July 6, 1999

Some of the changes in our local economy become more obvious when we read about major events that were going on in this community nearly 60 years ago. Until the post-World War II period, agriculture was the leading industry hereabouts. Noble county was fortunate to have a large number of progressive ranchers and farmers when wheat crops and cattle were the main focus of this area -- plus an occasional brief oil boomlet. Small family farms were numerous and some proved very profitable. Many operators of those tidy patches of Noble county land were leaders in associations that were dedicated to the promotion of their farm output. Among these were the Northern Oklahoma Hereford Association and the Perry Sales Day Association, both of which had the resounding support of most ranchers, farmers and the Perry Chamber of Commerce itself.

Today there are fewer small farms around here, but those that remain have been consolidated into larger operations and a number of our friends continue to till the soil, reap the harvest and feed cattle herds, even though that is not their primary occupation. They do it because they love the land. When their day jobs don't interfere, they find release from other cares by heading for the country and indulging in many of the myriad chores related to running a farm. Some of them are proud to be on homesteads that were staked by someone in their family when the Cherokee Strip was opened to settlement on September 16, 1893. But this piece is not intended to be a philosophical discussion of today and yesterday. It's just another glance back at the way things were while Perry and Noble county continued to mature in the decades that followed the run.

I'm indebted to Ken Box for passing along the printed programs used at the annual Chamber of Commerce membership dinner, the annual dinner meeting of the Perry Sales Day Association's Hereford Breeders Day, and the chamber's tenth anniversary dinner for the Perry Sales Day Association. They tell an interesting story about our community's self-prescribed remedies for the Great Depression.

The dinners were separate events, all held about 1940 or 1941, although the exact years are not shown on the programs. At least we know they were in the neighborhood of 60 years ago, toward, the end of the 1930s and the start of the 1940s. The printed pieces were among the keepsakes saved through the years by Ken's dad, the late William A. Box, a tireless civic worker, school board member, gasoline wholesaler, car dealer and retail merchant before his death.

The story told by those three dinner programs will require another column to relate, so please watch for the concluding installment in a few days.