November 13, 2001
More much-appreciated information has been received concerning a couple of recent Northwest Corner topics -- the series about restaurants and cafes that have come and gone in this community through the years, and the source of some native sandstone used for building projects by the WPA in the 1930s. This comes from Margaret (Kit Norman) Froebel, now of New Braunfels, Texas. Margaret retains her affection for Perry although she left here some years ago. Her mother, the former Gertrude Hartung Norman, also grew up here and she, also, lives in the Lone Star state. She is now Mrs. Gertrude Lockett of Richmond, Texas. Here’s Margaret’s account:
“In 1945-46, mother and Bill Toone co-leased the Nu Way Café (on the west side of the square) from Elvina Dillard for about six months, because Ms. Dillard needed a rest. It was quite an experience, running a restaurant during the rationing of World War II. Mother recalls that they were not allowed to give anyone a second cup of coffee, for instance. I did my own tour there as a part-time dishwasher at the age of about nine.”
And on the other topic, she adds: “The question from John Nida regarding the source of the sandstone blocks which the WPA used for construction also sparked some memories. Mother recalls that every stone used in the construction of the Farmers Union Co-op building in Morrison came from her parents’ farm. Her parents were John A. and Pearl (Harlow) Hartung. Their farm was located a half-mile east, two miles south and another one and a half miles east of Morrison. The Cimarron Turnpike crosses that farm now, and you can still see their farm pond from the highway. Grandpa gave the stone to the government, and they excavated the stones. After the removal of the sandstone, grandpa had a lot more usable pasture land.
“Mother recalls that the large deposit of sandstone on the farm included one very large cave which would have been big enough to have been used as a home. Her mother, fearing a cave-in, would not let the children play there. Mother didn’t watch the stone being removed, but believes they used a block and tackle and mules to load the blocks onto wagons for transporting to the building site. She doubts that the stones in Perry came from this same farm, but it might shed a bit of light on the subject and spur contributions of information from others.”
There’s no question that sandstone was a primary building block for many large WPA projects toward the end of the Great Depression, and I’m thankful that so many of them have survived this long because they testify to the determination of that generation in their war with a wretched economy. The Perry Armory and Perry Stadium are two fine examples. They may not be beautiful and the sandstone doesn’t glisten in the sunlight like marble or granite, but the buildings they made possible are mute examples of the Cherokee Strip pioneers’ determination to claim this land. Thanks to Kit Froebel and her Mother for contributing this information about the subject.