September 18, 2001
These “ladies” probably brought a little laughter to depression-plagued Perrans in the late 1930s. Do you know them?
Rummaging idly through a stack of old, unrelated but interesting photographs the other day, I came across one that piqued my curiosity even more than the others. It appears with today's column and I'm hoping that perhaps a reader can shed some light on the story of this comical photo.
Here is what I know about it. The seven people shown sitting and standing are all well-known Perry business and professional men wearing women's attire. This originally was a picture postcard, and it probably was sold at different locations around town. An inscription in the upper left, corner reads: "To My Valentine - Enright Studio -1937." That means the photo was taken at a sitting in the studio of Mr. Barney Enright on a balcony located at the rear of Nelson's Pharmacy on the south side of the square, 609 Cedar street, where City Hall is now located. The year shown on the postal cancellation also is 1937. A three-cent postage stamp is affixed, and the addressee is "L.B. Swearingen, Perry, Okla." There is no return address and no message. Intriguing.
At some point, some person took the time to write the names of the "ladies" on the reverse side of the card. Here they are, from left to right seated on the front row:
Charles Monroe Sr., Russell Dotts, Dr. O.W. Boyer, Ted Newton and Everett Nelson. Standing behind them are L.B. Swearingen and Paul Harding. All were familiar to folks who transacted business in Perry.
It is quite likely that these gentlemen are made up and dressed up for some kind of local benefit show, the kind we used to have regularly almost every year. Messrs. Monroe, Boyer and Harding were charter members of the Lions club and the others also may have been Lions in 1937, but there is nothing to confirm that.
Mr. Monroe and Mr. Dotts were partners in the Dotts-Monroe Hardware Store on the south side of the square; Dr. Boyer was a dentist with offices on the second story of a building on the east side of the square; Ted Newton and his father, George, operated the Christoph & Newton Furniture Store on the west side of the square and also the Newton Funeral Home; Everett Nelson had a drug store (which also housed Mr. Enright's photo studio) on the south side; L. B. Swearingen was an engineer at the city water and light plant; and Paul Harding was in the insurance business.
As you can see from the photo, each of the seven gentlemen was wearing lipstick, rouge and eye makeup to enhance their appearance, not to mention skirts pulled well back of the knees and the popular cloche hats along with the other female finery. My guess is they probably had more laughs than anyone else out of this picture and whatever else they did in drag that year, when the Great Depression made the nation yearn for comic relief. Can anyone shed more light on this old photo?