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January 16, 2001

The Charles Machine Works, Inc., Perry's home-grown industrial giant, receives a measure of recognition in the latest issue of Oklahoma Today, the official and highly regarded bi-monthly magazine published by the state of Oklahoma. My copy arrived in the mail the other day and I discovered that this is "the Business Issue: A special focus on Oklahoma commerce, past and, present." CMW, manufacturer of the internationally marketed line of underground construction tools known as Ditch Witch, is spotlighted in a full-color, full-page photograph on slick paper that shows technician Keith Hayes working in the manufacturing assembly department of the company's product development center. An unidentified welder also is silhouetted in the background amid a shower of sparks. This excellent magazine is distributed and read throughout the U.S. Find a copy and check out the Ditch Witch article. Better still, order a subscription and receive it regularly.

In just a few succinct words under the heading, "Be Witched," the magazine tells the Ditch Witch story, something that is familiar to nearly everybody hereabouts - how a young engineer named Ed Malzahn designed the first practical small trencher in the business founded by his father, Charles Malzahn, for whom the company is named. Also sharing the magazine's spotlight in the Business Edition are the Sonic Corp., Kerr-McGee, Phillips Petroleum, Express Services, Glamour Shots photographs, Parks Place (owner of all the Six Flags parks), Harold's clothiers, Dollar Rent A Car, and Conoco Oil Co. I'd Say Ditch Witch is in pretty good company, and deservedly so.

Another state publication, The Chronicles of Oklahoma, a quarterly from the Oklahoma Historical Society, is just out with a new issue and it contains more about the decline of the Ku Klux Klan in this state. You may recall that the same subject came up in this column last week. The Chronicles article is entitled "Consorting With Blood and Violence: The Decline of the Ku Klux Klan." The author is Michael M. Jessup, associate professor of sociology at Taylor University, Upland, Indiana. The Chronicles format affords Professor Jessup ample space to discuss and analyze the topic, and it is well documented. The subject matter is interesting, particularly in light of the current debate being stimulated by a study of the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot.

A former Perry resident who grew up here during the period when Klan membership and activities were politically and socially correct contacted me after the appearance of my earlier column on the KKK. "Our family employed several African-Americans in the 1920s and I always had a high regard for them," the caller said, "but I'm not sure how the rest of my family felt about them. To me they were more like friends and I still feel warmly toward them." Many others who grew up in that same time period still find it difficult to accept individuals who come from non-white cultures or racial backgrounds. It may take several more layers of generations before the old hostilities are altogether dead and buried. The Klan was not solely responsible for the racial hatred and degradation that still partially divides this country, but the KKK is an icon that symbolized the problem. Read the Chronicles article and reflect on what it says about all of us.