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July 17, 2001

Ah, yes indeed! Times change. It happens before we notice it, but then some unrelated incident calls the transition to our attention. For me, one thing that most often brings this to mind is the scanning of old newspapers from other generations. Often those columns reveal changes in our society so subtle that we didn’t notice them as they occurred. While researching information in The Perry Daily Journal for the recent series about the 1935 municipal election, in which Mayor Ted Newton was defeated with the help of a flier from the print shop of Mr. O.H. Hovey, I came across quite a bit of information on other topics. One of those tidbits dealt with a city-wide revival service held in the courthouse park during that Dust Bowl spring in Perry.

The revival was held under the joint sponsorship of the Baptist, Christian, Methodist and Presbyterian churches, with Rev. George Rose as the visiting evangelist. Far as I know, at that time we had no organization like today’s Ministerial Alliance. So that kind of ecumenicity alone was an intriguing twist, but there is more. The services were held nightly for four weeks in the great outdoors on the courthouse lawn which was renamed “Revival Tabernacle” for the event. Obviously there was a lot of harmony and cooperation among those four local congregations. Thank goodness that has not changed.

Does it seem hard to believe that the revival went on each night for four weeks? That length of time was not unusual in those days, before so many demands on our time came along – like TV, movies in nearby towns, and so forth? By contrast, we have become accustomed to that kind of service on just a few nights, not four weeks.

To be honest, I don’t remember that particular series of union services in my pre-teen age years, but I am sure our family was represented in the revival tabernacle every night. Our drug store, and the others around the square, probably served lots of root beer, limeades and Cokes to thirsty customers when the services were dismissed. I do remember going to revival services in brush arbors and tents whenever they came to town, which was about once every spring or summer. Usually these were held on the vacant lots where our Municipal Court building is now headquartered, or behind Foster’s Corner Drug where the Ruble-Vance auto dealership is located. (Some further irony: The latter also was part of the very sinful “Hell’s Half Acre” after the opening of the Cherokee Strip on September 16, 1893.)

In a front page story about the union revival service on Saturday, March 30, 1935, The Perry Daily Journal stated that Mrs. George Rose, wife of the scheduled evangelist, was going to preach at 7:30 that night from the platform in the courthouse park. Her husband had been ill and unable to preach for a few days, so she filled in. The story did not say where the Roses were home-based.

In those days, churches of virtually all denominations had worship services each Sunday morning and evening and again on Wednesday night. Today, such schedules are rare, just like the four-week revivals in the courthouse park. Somebody tell me, is that progress or just a symbol of changing times?