October 26, 2001
The Perry post office building shown here served many years before it was replaced by today's much larger brick building. This photo was taken on October 15, 1939, when the newer building was ready for occupancy. Part of the new building is barely visible at right. Lined up in front of the older building are most of the U.S. Postal Service employees in Perry at that time. Shown, left to right, are Ted Sherrard, city carrier; George Butler, clerk; Herb Peden, mail messenger; Frank Jones Sr., clerk; Allen Merriman, rural carrier; Ed Trumbla, clerk; Ed Bowles, postmaster and later a .rural carrier; Ernest Moore, city carrier; Allan F. Wilson, clerk; Henry Schurkens, rural carrier; Marion Watson, assistant postmaster; Quine Brengle Sr., clerk; E.E. Lewellen, rural carrier; Fay Thompson, rural carrier; and John Warner, fireman-laborer.
When you hear Perry old-timers speak of “the old post office,” it’s a pretty safe bet they are referring to the single-story sandstone building that once served the public at the extreme northwest corner of the courthouse park. It’s been gone since 1939, when the Works Progress Administration (WPA) built the original part of our present handsome post office, but many of us still have vivid memories of that old building. Along with that, we recall some of the men who served us there.
The “old” post office was not the first one built here. At the time of the Cherokee Outlet land run on September 16, 1893, a small frame shack already was located on the government preserve, a five-acre tract in the heart of this new city. Also on the preserve was a frame Land Office building, where the land run pioneers filed their claims for property they had “staked.” The tract was a desolate, wind-swept piece of real estate. Some misguided businessmen had staked claims on the preserve, only to learn later that the area was set aside for government buildings only, and they were driven off by armed troops. Eventually a courthouse, post office and land office were built there, and still later the Carnegie Public Library was added to the collection. The Land Office was closed in due time after claims had been registered and processed. The frame building was discovered in Perry some 50 years later, serving as a small home, but an effort to move it to the grounds of the Cherokee Strip Museum failed when the structure collapsed.
The sandstone post office was a narrow building in a classic architectural style of the early 1900s. The north wall was covered with ivy vines, but that was about the only vegetation aside from a Bermuda grass lawn. The hip roof had distinctive dormers at the east and west ends with ventilation vents to keep Oklahoma’s summer heat from building up in the attic. The main entrance was on the west end, and a smaller entry served the north side. On the south side, a driveway was built for use of motor carriers and a contract carrier (Mr. Herb Peden), who hauled incoming and outgoing mail in his flatbed Model T truck to and from the Santa Fe and Frisco Railroad Stations several times each day.
It seemed that each postal worker in the 1930s and 1940s had a unique and very distinctive personality. All of them were Civil Service employees and they served the public in many ways. Back then, many people used Postal Savings as a safe depository in preference to bank savings accounts. Money orders, registered and insured mail and other services were provided. Along with all that, one-cent stamps had to be sold for postcards, or three-cent stamps for first-class mail. The local newspaper also was brought to the post office each afternoon on large-wheel carts for eventual delivery to out-of-town subscribers.
Mr. Lincoln Grant Shoop was the postmaster when I first became aware of the post office. He was a rather small man, with gray hair. He was cordial to patrons and you would see him serving as a clerk in one of the lobby windows from time to time, but mostly he dealt with administrative matters in his office. Some of the clerks were George Butler, Frank Jones Jr. and Quine Brengle. Each had a unique personality and all of them were hard-working, knowledgeable public servants. The same goes for the city foot carriers and the motorized rural carriers.
When the WPA turned the new post office over to the Postal Service on October 15, 1939, an era ended. The new building was just a few inches south of the old sandstone structure. By that time Ed Bowles had become postmaster but most of the crew from the old post office moved to the new location. Many things have changed in the nation’s Postal Service, including the price of stamps, but Perry is fortunate in having a nice looking, sturdy building and a crew of friendly, capable people to handle our mail.