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April 4, 2000

Jane Schneider burst into town like a breath of fresh prairie air in the spring of 1941 shortly after receiving her degree in journalism from Oklahoma A.& M. College. Perry residents had no reason to suspect the impact she would have on their tranquil life. Jane had been hired as an addition to the news staff at The Perry Daily Journal, where W.K. Leatherock was editor/publisher. There she joined the managing editor, a young fellow named Francis Thetford, and yours truly, a teen-age cub reporter in training, fresh out of Perry high school. The three of us -- Francis, Jane and I -- became a team on the newspaper, but more than that, we became fast friends.

We razzed each other mercilessly at every opportunity, pointing out grammatical or spelling errors committed by any of the others and doing it with relish and unrestrained zeal. I had great respect for their training and experience and I listened carefully when either offered suggestions, criticism or advice. It was a learning experience of the highest order as I stumbled along a path that I had wanted to follow since learning to print block letters in the first grade. Jane and Francis did their best to make something out of what I now realize was pretty raw material. We had fun but we worked hard to produce an interesting, newsy daily paper.

Jane wrote many stories for what we then called the "Society" page, something almost non-existent today. She also covered some of the many organizational meetings going on in Perry then, just as today, and numerous other news page stories. Before long she began writing a witty., conversational column that she called "Perry Parings" and signed it "Jane of the Journal." Since she was officially the women's editor, her column appeared on the "Society" page but her range of topics and subjects was very broad. It was one of The Journal's most popular features.

She quickly became part of the community's little colony of young bachelor girls. Some of her friends and confidants were Doris Rodolph, who at the time was vocal music teacher at Perry high school and choir director/organist at the Methodist church; and Reta Pinkstaff, a Red Rock girl who also was on the faculty at PHS. There were others, of course, but I won't try to name all of them.

By the time I left The Journal in 1943 to join the U.S. Army, Francis had moved on to the Ponca City News. Jane and I had divided his duties, and her workload became somewhat heavier with my departure. Mr. Leatherock hired some new folks to help her and the paper continued its extensive local coverage pretty much as before. Jane was a faithful correspondent during the three years I spent in service. She once sent me a letter typed on the remnants of a roll of newsprint, trimmed to 8 1/2 inches wide. It was a continuous sheet measuring about ten feet long and she sent it in a mailing tube. Because of her generosity and thoughtfulness, I was fairly well informed on local happenings.

Another time she sent me a deck of cards bearing images of Esquire magazine's famed long-legged Petty girls. I still have the deck intact in a drawer. They were too nice to play with so they are still in mint condition. She also once sent me a collection of "Blondie" cartoons because she remembered that I always read the Chic Young strip in the Daily Oklahoman each morning after arriving at The Journal office. I still have that book and it still gives me a chuckle, and so does her ten-foot-long letter, which I also have kept all these years.

More remembrances of Jane of the Journal when this column returns.