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December 31, 2001

Carol Steichen gave me an advance look at some of her new acquisitions the other day, and I’m like a kid in a candy store. So many interesting photographs, bits of memorabilia and other treasures. All of them bring us clear glimpses of Perry as it must have been seventy or eighty years ago. It appears to have been the kinder, gentler age that we can only dream about now.

I want to share some of these with you, but there is a problem. Reading descriptions of these fascinating shards of information cannot begin to explain the fascinating images the articles conjure in our minds, so you may want to see and touch them for yourself. For instance, a collection of some rarely seen picture postcards and other photographs of Perry scenes in the 1890s and early 1900s show us how local citizens dressed and wore their hair back then. Merely reading about them does not conjure the mental images that spring up when you hold the photos in your hands.

Most of the material I’m writing about here is from the estate of the late Fredonna Eisenhauer Dowell. She saved many things, including newspaper clippings and some correspondence from Russia received by the Perry school instrumental music director, Professor Leopold Radgowsky, the Russian Bolshevik refugee who wound up in Perry after the 101 Ranch Show went bankrupt. Professor Radgowsky had no family in this country, so when he died in 1938 many of his things were bequeathed to Lizzie Eisenhauer, his landlady and friend, who also was the mother of Fredonna’s first husband, Jesse Eisenhauer. The Professor, of course, is a story all by himself.

The handwritten letters are in the language of Russia, so whatever light they shine on that period must remain hidden until a translator is found. The other articles are in English and they help to illuminate our understanding of that age. For instance, there is a single-sheet, printed program for a Perry High School senior class play, with the year unfortunately missing. Members of the cast were Lucinda Wollard, Carl Thomason, Ella Merry, Margaret Monroe, Edward Trumbla, Jessamine Jensen, Sherman Branen, Edna Mugler, Maxine Woodruff and Robert Coyle. Some reader probably can tell us what year that would have been. Title of the play was “I’ll Leave It to You,” a three-act comedy. Entertainment between the first and second acts was provided by Marguerite Braden singing “In Old Madrid;” a Spanish dance by Alene Willett; and a vocal solo, “In Old Madrid,” by Clara Bowles.

In the same area is another single-sheet program, this one for the PHS junior class play, “A June Rose,” also without showing the year it was presented. Music was provided by Professor Radgowsky’s orchestra. Cast members were Maude Jensen, Margaret Harbaugh, Josephine St.Clair, Norman Jones, Russell Dotts, James Johnston, Sue Powers, Ruby Walters, Christine Casparis, Helen Lobsitz, Viola Hogzette and Otis Sims. “Specialties between acts” were offered by a boys’ quartet composed of Harold Victory, Norman Jones, Earnest Brown and Ted Duty; plus a vocal solo by Georgianna Blake and a number by a girls’ quartet composed of Miss Blake, Christine Casparis, Jonnie Lee Atkins and Josephine St.Clair. Advertisers who bought space in the program were J.C. Penney Co. (“A Nation-Wide Institution Where Savings Are Greatest”); the O.K. Filling Station (“Service” Our Motto); The Famous (“Noble County’s Greatest Store”); Kraemer’s Shoe Store (“The Home of Standard Merchandise”); McCuiston’s (“The Men’s Store”); and Lobsitz Hardware Co. (“35 Years in Perry and Always on the Square; Everything in Hardware”). The program was printed by Hovey’s Print Shop (“Where Work Is High Class and Always on Time”). On the back page, Mr. Hovey claimed to have patrons “in Tokio, Japan,” and to prove it he threw in a few Japanese language characters, which probably no one in Perry could read.

More on this collection coming soon.