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November 2, 2001

One of those columns the other day about Perry school programs presented on the stage of the old Grand Opera House some 90 years ago listed a piano duet played by Miss Ellen Bowles and Miss Ethel Knox as one of the features. Those with long memories will recall that Miss Knox went on to become a social science teacher at the old elementary school, a Perry historian and an accomplished organist, among other things. Miss Bowles also continued to serve this community as a pianist for years at the First Presbyterian church, where her family were devoted members. A sister, Claire Bowles, was a concert singer and their brother, Ed Bowles, became an attorney, Perry postmaster, violinist and a staunch baritone choir member at the local Presbyterian church. The father was William M. Bowles, a no-nonsense attorney who became district judge.

The Bowles family lived at 801 Holly street in a spacious, multi-level frame house most recently occupied by Mrs. Bill Hodge. The house, with its distinctive broad veranda, is still standing. It has a carriage house at the rear of the property, and together they provide a fine example of the architectural style favored by early-day residents of this city. For years, the next-door neighbors of the Bowles family were Mr. and Mrs. Jack Snyder and their daughters.

In a recent letter, one of the “Snyder girls,” now Mrs. Maurine Peake of Nashville, TN, tells a story from her childhood when the two families were neighbors. I thought you might be interested in at least a portion. Here it is, in Maurine’s words:

“My parents were Jack and Roberta Snyder, who moved to Perry before 1925 (when I was born) and are buried there now…. As you may remember, all of the Bowles’ children grew up to be fairly accomplished musicians, and Ed played the violin. I have a remembrance of being introduced, when quite young, to Professor Leopold Radgowsky, the Perry school instrumental music instructor, in the presence of Ed and Claire, his sister. There may have been other musicians present also, but I don’t know. I just know that what I said when told who the professor was, caused some smiles and titters. My remark to him was, ‘Are you as good as Ed Bowles?’ The incident has stayed in my mind probably because of the reaction it provoked. I think my parents were thoroughly embarrassed, and even at that age I realized I had committed a gaffe. But at the age of four or five, what did I know? I eventually majored in music education at Phillips. But I would not like to be remembered for my remarks to Professor Radgowsky.”

Maurine’s sister and brother-in-law, Herbert and Coralie Brown, have moved back to Perry after an absence of several years. Maurine writes an interesting letter and I’ll share some more of her recollections in another column.