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May 17, 2002

Our friends at the metropolitan press down south have covered some Perry area stories lately and I wanted to be sure you heard about them. One told of the new sculpture studio opened by Jim Franklin on the south side of the square. Jim took early retirement last year from the Charles Machine Works, Inc., where he was part of the research and development team. Today he is one of the happiest men I know, creating magic with clay models for bronze sculptures in his studio. He used to do stuff like that in a sort of makeshift basement studio at his home, laboring until the wee hours of the morning and then hurrying off to work at CMW at an early hour the next day. Now he can sculpt 24 hours a day if he chooses. It’s a dream come true for Jim, who is loaded with more kinds of artistic gifts than your average person. He was once described as a Renaissance man, and the description fits him like a glove.

Another article concerned the business life of Mary R. Grace, described as a farm girl from Perry who majored in English at Oklahoma City University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree, and at Central Oklahoma University, Edmond, where she received a master’s degree. Ms Grace is the sister of Edward Appelbaum of Perry, which she still calls home. She is now managing member-broker for Grace Commercial Real Estate Services LLC in Oklahoma City. The article was an executive Q&A piece. It tells how, after working several years in the city’s biggest realty firms, she took the advice of friends and opened her own commercial brokerage business in an office on the Northwest Expressway in Oklahoma City. It’s an interesting story.

Another piece was a full-page article with color photos that told about Perry’s wonderful Cherokee Strip Museum on West Fir avenue. And still another full-page Saturday layout dealt admirably with the Dr. Renfrow-Miller museum in Billlings. The Perry story appeared just before the Rural Heritage Festival when we celebrated our legacy of agriculture and other features in this special little city on the prairie. The text and the choice of photos for both articles gave the pages a life of their own. How lucky we are to be living in communities like Perry and Billings.

A separate article in a Sunday issue related to “the oldest standing Carnegie Library” in the state of Oklahoma – the one at Guthrie, which is no longer a library but a part of the Oklahoma Territorial Museum. The story about the centennial observance is interesting in its own right, but an accompanying sidebar lists all the Oklahoma libraries that were endowed by the philanthropist Andrew Carnegie between 1901 (Oklahoma City) and 1922 (Lawton). The Carnegie Library in Perry was opened in 1910, and of course it is still very much a library, one of our proudest possessions. Two other Cherokee Strip cities – Enid and Ponca City – also opened Carnegie libraries in 1910. I wager neither of them has been maintained and updated more lovingly and in better shape than ours.

One other piece in the Big Town newspaper was a major disappointment. The thrust of the story, also in a Sunday edition, was headlined, “Band directors share insights to excellence.” As you would expect from that title, it featured interviews with some of the state’s outstanding high school band directors. If you’ve been in Perry very long, you know that we regard Professor Leopold Radgowsky as the one who put the Perry high school band program on its current phenomenal winning track. His successors through the years also have been masters of the art but not one of them was mentioned in this piece. Bill Rotter, Sandy Hentges, Jim Parham, Ashley Alexander Jr. and all the others who have waved the baton here should have been included. Hard to believe they were overlooked.