July 10, 2001
O.H. Hovey first appeared on the streets of Perry in 1906 when he arrived driving a one-cylinder Oldsmobile, the first automobile seen in this city. He remained here until his death at the age of 91 in 1940. In the intervening years he and his long white beard were familiar sights. He operated a job printing business from his home, a rather ramshackle building on the north side of Cedar street, about a half block off the west side of the Perry square. His house sat back some 20 feet from the sidewalk and quite a lot of vines, weeds and other vegetation grew rampant along the pathway to his door. Exotic birds in tall cages were on the front porch, and local youngsters could fantasize that he also harbored reptiles and other venomous animal life forms there. Such stories, for the most part, were mere figments of their imagination. Mr. Hovey was something of a populist and he pulled no punches in his campaign to defeat the incumbent mayor, G.D. (Ted) Newton, Republican, in his bid for a second two-year term. The year was 1935 and voters needed a little relief from worrying about the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl.
Announcing his campaign for another term in the February 23, 1935, edition of The Perry Daily Journal, Mayor Newton stated: "I have only one promise and that is to continue giving the city of Perry the best administration it has ever had.... By this, I refer you to each department of the city." He went on to point with pride to the police force, the fire department, water and light department, sewage disposal plant, light plant and the individuals who operated all of them. He invited voters to "compare what I have done with what has been done in the past." He added: "I am the youngest and only native-born mayor Perry has ever had.... My heart and soul (sic) is in the upbuilding of Perry...." When the filing period closed, six more candidates had filed for mayor. Opposing Mr. Newton in the Republican primary were H.H. Reynolds, a former mayor, and J.A. Wood. Four Democrats also filed for mayor - Fred Kretsch, a former mayor; and Bert Shaw, W.E. Johnston and Marsh B. Woodruff. The primary election was set for March 12 to be followed by the general election on April 2.
Because he had an ax to grind with Mayor Newton. Mr. Hovey chose to enliven the race by publishing a noisy little flier printed and distributed by himself. He was the owner-operator of a small job printing shop. Mr. Hovey was disgruntled because he believed he had been denied some of the city's job printing business during the two-year term of Mayor Newton. So, Mr. Hovey created what he called Hovey's Election Revival Leaflet, an anti-Newton, 8 1/2 x 11 sheet encouraging voters to defeat Mr. Newton.
Mr. Hovey was outspoken but cryptic in his remarks. He did not always name names, perhaps as a safeguard against libel, but most of those who read his leaflets knew who he was writing about. More on all this will appear soon in another Northwest Corner column.