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November 3, 2000

A couple of articles in recent editions of the Daily Oklahoman drew my attention the other day because they have local connections. The first was a cover story on the paper's "Oklahoma Now" section which deal with health, science, and technology. The central figure in the article was Professor James Bose of Oklahoma State University, but you may not be familiar with that name. Do Phil Albertson and Ditch Witch ring a bell?

The article deals with the "rediscovery" of the geothermal heat pump by Professor Bose in the early 1970s during the energy crisis the U.S. was experiencing at that time. As a result of his work, Oklahoma is now the headquarters of the industry and the Perry-based Ditch Witch Company is a principal player. Phil is officially retired from the company but during his full-time tenure there he worked closely with Professor Bose in the development of equipment and marketing strategies for geothermal heat pumps. During the heat crisis some 25 years ago, Professor Bose came across the theory in "a dusty old mechanical engineering text." Phil and others helped make the system a practical reality.

Geothermal heat pumps use the earth to help heat and cool homes, schools, government offices and commercial buildings, the article states. The Environmental Protection Agency calls them "the most energy efficient, environmentally clean, and cost-effective space conditioning systems available." The Charles Machine Works, Inc., parent of Ditch Witch equipment and related products, builds the tools that are needed to install the systems underground. Phil Albertson, an engineer himself, has dedicated a large chunk of his life to spreading the word about the method. The Oklahoma City newspaper article, signed by Chip Minty, tells in some detail how the system works. Even though it fails to mention Phil Albertson or Ditch Witch, we recommend that you find a copy of the October 10 edition and read it.

The other article was in the "Destinations" section of the Sunday, October 8, edition of the paper. A headline spread across the top of the page reads: "Rejection's not the end for romance writers." The story, by Mary Ann Kerl, relates that some 100 Oklahomans write love stories, according to Romance Writers of America. In addition, numerous other Sooner writers sell romances but are not members of RWA. Kerl's article deals with some of these writers and one of them - Sharon Thetford Ervin - is a native of Perry. Her father was the late Francis Thetford who was managing editor of this newspaper when I joined the staff as a reporter in 1941. Francis and his family left here in 1946, when Sharon was five years old, and he was a featured columnist with the Oklahoman until his death in 1969.

Sharon experienced 18 years of rejection before selling her first book to Erica House in New Jersey, and that was hard to take. The title of her first book is not included in the newspaper story. However, I did learn through June Ream that the publisher has not yet released the book, and that Sharon lives in McAlester. Her husband is a lawyer and they have two sons and two daughters. Her mother now lives in Dallas and gives golf lessons after surviving a cancer attack, similar to the illness that claimed Sharon's dad. June's information was obtained through some detective work by her daughter, Charlotte Ann, who now lives in Oklahoma City. Some of you still remember the Thetford family from their years in Perry, I'm sure.