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January 18, 2002

It’s kinda rewarding to spend a few minutes at this point in time looking back through the Christmas cards and other holiday greetings received during the past month. Inevitably, there are some thoughts or comments on those messages from dear friends and relatives that didn’t quite penetrate to our consciousness when originally scanned. A second look brings greater appreciation. It’s a shame that this is the only contact we have with some people who mean so much to us, and all too often the only “message” contained is the printed or signed name of the sender. We would much prefer a few brief sentences telling how things are going but we also are often guilty of sending similar bobtailed greetings, so we can’t protest too much about the ones we receive.

So, a second look may turn up some gems. My award this year for the best line in a Christmas greeting goes to Roc Mitchell, a friend in Farmers Branch, Texas. In writing about the family’s woes of 2001, Roc described his own physical problems, including a suspected aneurysm at the base of his brain stem. That was chilling news at the time, but he went on to say: “In May the neurologist explained that they had reexamined all the tests and had decided that none of the earlier predictions were true and to the contrary, I was healthy, old and had arthritis. I knew two out of the three, but was relieved to know that I was healthy. They still had no idea what was causing the tingling in my left hand.” Roc is a graphic designer and retired Scoutmaster. He, his wife, Clarice, and their children are continuing to live their normal (which is to say, peripatetic) lives. Laura and Clarice have been friends since the high school years in Oklahoma City. We both look forward to the Mitchells’ annual Christmas greeting.

That column the other day about the old Perry Mill & Elevator provoked a lot of thoughts for those old enough to remember an era, perhaps seventy years ago, when the mill was the economic mainstay of this community. The mill was located on Birch street just south of the Perry square. In the 1930s it was sold to General Mills and in due time the new owners closed it and the building complex was cleared. The last to go was a 100-foot brick smokestack, an architectural feature that stood out in many early day “bird’s eye view” photographs of the city’s skyline. Among other things, the Perry Mill used a shrill whistle to announce the start of another workday, lunch hour and quitting time. It was a distinctive, audible sound, and Perry folks missed it when the business shut down. So, General Mills donated the whistle to Perry and it was installed at the old water and light plant that used to generate electric power for the city. It was located near the Santa Fe Railroad tracks in southeast Perry.

The shriek of the whistle then again was heard each weekday. Employees at the water and light plant took turns pulling the cord that powered the whistle. It was sounded at 6 a.m., 8 a.m., 12 noon, 1 p.m., 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. Local folks set their clocks by that whistle. It also was used to welcome in the New Year at midnight each New Year’s Eve.

All this was brought to mind again the other day when Jesse Phillips found an old cloth sack that originally held six pounds of “Pride of Perry Flour,” the product that emanated from the old Perry Mill & Elevator. The Perry Mill was the city’s largest employer in its prime, but few remember it today.