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July 3, 2001

Perry was rather quiet in the early spring of 1935. That gloomy, somber mood resulted from a combination of two major problems. For one thing, Dust Bowl woes plagued the usually placid life in this area. Added to that was the economic stress of the Great Depression. The Dust Bowl was a regional matter but the Depression gripped the entire nation. Locally, the air was clogged almost daily with particles of red soil. Great clouds of dust filled the air to such an extent that it irritated the eyes, ears, nose and throat. It could be tasted. The grime seemed to roll off the prairie and permeate everything. Dust Bowl concerns did have the dubious virtue of taking our minds off the crushing economic crisis. Thus we were assaulted by both physical and emotional challenges. Few things could deflect an adult's attention from those two parallel problems, but occasionally something did happen to provide at least momentary relief. In this case, municipal elections were scheduled, and that helped a lot. It was something else to talk about.

Ted Newton, energetic young furniture dealer and mortician, was completing a two-year term as mayor and he liked to remind folks that he was the first native son to head our city government. He was a Republican, and Oklahoma was considered a heavily Democratic state, so his first term as mayor had been something of a surprise. Terms of office then were two years for the mayor, city council members and city clerk. Four of the eight council members were up for election on alternate years. In those days candidates for city office filed as Republicans or Democrats, unlike today's nonpartisan elections.

Mr. Newton had compiled a good record of accomplishments when he pitched his hat into the ring for a second term. That, plus his youthful zest, led many to believe that he was a shoo-in for reelection. Ah, but the outcome of Perry political races was not easy to forecast then, even as now.

Some of the hot-button topics around town in 1935 were the exciting possibility of a new municipal stadium for Perry high school football and the semi-professional Perry Merchants baseball team, to be built by the federal Works Progress Administration (WPA) at the northeast edge of town, and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) park to be built southeast of town on property owned by the city of Perry. Both were to be largely government-funded as depression-busting innovations. Mayor Newton had a hand in pushing both projects. They were not yet sure things, but they had people excited about the possibilities. The projects were popular with many citizens but the usual swirl of controversy also descended on them

The primary election was scheduled for March 12. In addition to Newton, Republican candidates for mayor were H.H. Reynolds and J.A. Wood. Democratic candidates for mayor were Fred Kretsch, Bert Shaw, W.E. Johnston and Marsh Woodruff. Four seats on the city council also were at stake. In ward one, candidates were L.J. Mooter, Republican; and John White, Orlando Walkling and W.H. Sheets, Democrats. Ward two council candidates were Bert Stevens and Bert Bobbitt, Republicans; and Floyd Laird and J.M. Abel Democrats. Ward three council candidates were H.R. Walker, Republican; and Donald Taylor, Paul Ryan and Harold D. Roads, Democrats. Ward four council candidates were John Adams, Republican; and V .K. DeBord, John C. Jacobs and George A. Butler, Democrats. Candidates for city clerk were Henry Henriksen, Republican; and C.V. Guthrie, Sadie Lee Freeman and Charles 0. Collins, Democrats. For city treasurer, O.R. Hall, a Democrat, was unopposed. City school board elections were part of the primary. Candidates locally were Harry Donaldson, ward 2; John Mugler, ward 4; and R.J. Huston, outlying district.

For reelection, Mr. Newton had more on his hands than the opposing candidates. He was the subject of a little 8 1/2 x 11 flier published on one of the hand-fed presses in the print shop of Mr. O.H. Hovey. We'll have more about all this in the next Northwest Corner.