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December 7, 2001

Early Noble county draftees had their picture taken with Selective Service board members at the Perry Santa Fe Railroad station as they awaited a train that would take them to an Army base. Left to right: Board members Joe McClellan Sr., Ile (Ace) Levy, John M. Steighten and Billy Reckert; plus inductees, from left: Walter Anglemeyer, next one unidentified, and Frank Henry Knight.

Stories about the "new" Perry post office keep popping up. When we speak of the "new" post office we are referring to the nice looking red brick building constructed by the Works Progress Administration in 1939 to replace an aging sandstone building that once occupied the extreme northwest corner of the courthouse park. That "new" 1939 building is still there but it has been enlarged and updated by the Postal Service to keep pace with Perry's growing needs. Here's a story for this Pearl Harbor Day.

When the so-called new post office building was constructed, it had a full basement with office space for several government entities. In 1939, that included the newly formed Noble County Selective Service board, which had the unpleasant duty of summoning young Noble county men and sending them away for military duty. To build a well-trained Army and Navy, men 18 years of age and older were drafted even in the trying days before the U.S. became a belligerent in World War II. After the sneak Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, our entry was formalized by President Roosevelt and an angry U.S. Congress. The conscription tempo became much more hectic after that.

The Selective Service Board, or draft board as most people called it, was an early tenant in the new post office basement. Mr. Ile (Ace) Levy, who operated a pawn shop on the north side of the square at 603 Delaware, was clerk of the board. He and his wife, Ethel, a telephone operator, and their young daughter, Janice, had an apartment above Joe Appelman's (sic) Smoke House. Today Mr. Levy would most likely have a different title, something like "administrative assistant," because he really was the full-time executive in a most sensitive position. I believe Irene Malzahn, who passed away last year, was his secretary for a time. Mrs. Jane (Fyffe) Davis also was a key figure in the draft board office. She saw military duty during the war in the women's Coast Guard branch, the SPARS.

One of the draft board's principal responsibilities was the frequent review of men who had registered with them. The board was charged with creating a pool of healthy young men who were eligible for the draft when their registration number was called. If you were ready for the draft, you were classified as 1-A. If you were physically unqualified for service, you were classified as 4-F. Each month a group of Noble county men would be called to have physical examinations at the Tulsa Selective Service office. If you were found to be physically fit for service, you were classified 1-A and told to await orders for induction.

Mr. Levy and the other draft board members had a tough job. Keeping the military supplied with strong young men was not an easy task. They also had to listen to appeals from men and families who wanted a different classification for specific reasons. It was not easy to be deferred after having been classified 1-A, but there were legal grounds for that to happen. Draft board members must have had many sleepless nights as they performed their duties in the basement of the post office building. As a young reporter for The Perry Daily Journal at that time, I became familiar with the draft board and the issues they dealt with, and of course in tune my number came up and they sent me to Camp Fannin, Texas, for basic training in the Army, just like hundreds of others before me. The board was composed of dedicated men and I respected them for the way they discharged their duties, although at times that must have been stressful and distasteful.