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December 21, 2001

One of these Northwest Corner columns the other day told about the old sandstone Perry post office, and it was accompanied by a photo of the local U.S. Postal Service crew who worked there in October 1939 when the original version of our present post office was built. That brought back some pleasant memories for Jo W. Garten of Ponca City, who grew up here. Mrs. Garten, daughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. G.A. (Gus) Wollard, maintains several connections with Perry and she is well known to many of us here. I thought you would enjoy her recollections. Here they are, in her own words:

“The Exchange Bank (several years ago) was across the street north of the old post office. Next door west of the bank was my Dad’s office that he shared with W.S. (Walt) Powers. A short distance west was your Dad’s drug store (the City Drug) where my daddy give me a nickel to go get an ice cream cone. That section of town and the old post office were a big, exciting part of my early childhood.

“It was a delight to remember many of the fine men you mentioned who worked at the post office. However, the one I loved most was John Warner. You called him fireman-laborer. He was a black American gentleman. It was in the 1920s and 1930s that I knew him. I was born in 1914. I would perhaps have called him a custodian today. I think the term fireman meant he was responsible for their heating equipment operating in the old post office.

“I was a ‘late in life child’ so my parents were able to afford help with the cleaning. We lived at 1013 Elm street and the street was still dirt. Things got mighty dusty. John Warner came in the spring and again in the fall to wash the windows and beat the rugs. They were large rugs from the parlor, living and dining rooms. He hung them on the clothes lines in the back yard, then beat them with a large wire tennis-shape rod to beat the dirt out. I loved to follow him around and visit with him while he did that and washed the windows. He was a fine man and I feel very blessed to have known him. Racial colors and cultures have never been a problem for me because of knowing him.

“The other part of your article about memories from the 1930s told about the flatbed Model-T truck that hauled mail from the Santa Fe and Frisco Railroad stations. I remember calling it ‘the Special Delivery Truck.’ Air Mail was a new and exciting thing. My sister Mary Lee had graduated from college by that time and was teaching school in Perry. She and I were excited when ‘the Air Mail Truck’ stopped at our house, for it usually meant she was getting an air mail letter from her boy friend. Perry was a wonderful place to grow up. I have indeed been blessed.”

Thanks to Jo Garten for sharing these memories. I well remember Mr. John Warner and he was indeed a fine gentleman. Also, she reminds us of that ritual of beating the rugs each fall and spring. Seems like it took several days of hard work by all the family to get the dust out. But mostly, those were good old days.