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April 3, 2001

An enthusiastic group of Perryans representing virtually all age brackets met briefly one spring night in 1973 to look at the possibility of forming an organization to invite traveling artistic and cultural events to this city. The principal motivation for that came from the new auditorium nearing completion on the junior-senior high school campus. Talmadge Stands, a lady representing the Oklahoma Arts & Humanities Council, met with the group to explain some of the goals that could be set for the future of such an organization.

The group quickly voted to form a local Arts & Humanities Council, elected officers and board members, and began looking forward eagerly to future seasons of soul-satisfying musical programs, art displays and other forms of culturally fulfilling events. The newly elected president was A.J. Bontrager, a young Perry pharmacist. Other officers were Steve Daniels, first vice president; Steve Smallwood, second vice president; Doris Graham, third vice president; Emaline Miller, recording secretary; Gloria Bluethman, corresponding secretary; Kenneth Coldiron, treasurer; Leroy Rolling, historian; James McFarlnd, parliamentarian; and Mary Malzahn, John Coker and Harriet Hoot, board members at large. Look carefully at that list of 12 names. Seven have moved to other locations, two are deceased, and only three still live in Perry.

To ensure the broadest possible participation, these organizations named representatives to the Council. In that group were Mrs. Kenneth Reed, Marigold unit of the Perry Garden club; Mrs. Tom Kirby, Petunia unit; Mrs. Lowell Highfill, Columbine unit and Noble County Homemakers Council; Mrs. O.C. Lackey, Iris unit; Mrs. Fred G. Beers, Progress club; Mrs. Paul Edmundson, Perry Study club; Mrs. Frank Boothe, Ladies Tuesday Afternoon club; Mrs. A.J. Bontrager, Chapter BH, PEO; Mrs. Terry Leonard, Jaycee Jaynes; Mrs. Dennis Maine, Alpha Chi Child Study club; Mrs. Harold Smith, Business & Professional Women’s club; Fred G. Beers, Rotary club; Jim Thompson, Lions club; H.B. Evans, Billings community; Mrs. Lawrence Mack, Lucien Community club; and Mrs. Betty Clark, Red Rock.

The newly formed Perry organization hit the ground running. Its first membership drive that year produced a total of 411 paid-up members. The future looked even brighter when it was announced that the Oklahoma City Symphony Orchestra would appear in concert at the new auditorium in October that year. Reserved seats were offered at $4 each and all were quickly purchased. More on this unique but now non-existent organization will follow shortly.