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August 20, 2002

Come along with me for a quick trip back in time. On the way we’ll enjoy a bit of Perry’s history as it is reflected in the yellowing pages of some old newspapers. Thanks to friends (including Virginia Gengler) who are also readers of this column, I have quite a collection of Perry Daily Journals and other papers to guide us on the trip. I cannot tell you how much pleasure I have already derived from these treasures.

Primarily, we’re going back to a time when Perry and the rest of the U.S. were wrestling with a suffocating malaise known as the Great Depression. Most of the papers I am using for reference are from the 1930s and 1920s. Most families of that period scrambled daily just to put food on the table but, strangely, most of us did not know we were having a hard time surviving. That oddity shows in the topics covered by the local press. There were other important issues to be dealt with. Here are some examples:

In February of 1929, The Perry Journal gave top display space on the front page to a locally written story focused on the statehouse in Oklahoma City where Gov. Henry S. Johnston’s impeachment trial was ready to resume. Mr. Johnston was a Perry attorney in private practice before ascending to the state’s highest office in 1926. On this particular day, he appeared ready to fight back against his accusers in the legislature. They charged him with many wrongdoings in the bill of particulars that led to the impeachment trial. This is what the Perry newspaper had to say on that cold February day:

“…Interest here has been more or less dragged during the past few weeks while the presenting of evidence against the governor dragged along, however, with the governor starting to fight back, it is expected that Perry as well as the state will watch the proceedings more careful.” (Grammar and punctuation are just as the newspaper had them.)

“Three witnesses from Perry, P.W. Cress, W.A. Ricker and W.M. Bowles, have been summoned as defense witnesses while Ernest Cooper, former fire chief here and now assistant state fire marshal, and J.W. (Buck) Eldridge, who has done some special investigation work for the governor, have both been called.” The Journal continued its extensive coverage throughout the trial and the eventual removal of Mr. Johnston from the governor’s office.

Another top story on page one of that edition reported that Perry had lost a high school basketball game to Pawhuska the previous night by a score of 18-13. Here’s a brief part of The Journal’s account: “In a game which was not as good as the score might indicate the Perry Maroons suffered a defeat in their final home game at the hands of Pawhuska, Northern conference foes, 18-13, last night…. Coach Leslie Van Noy used Kent and Bunch at forwards, Dotts at center, and Duty and DeVore at guards as a starting lineup. Later, Lawrence Edgar was also sent in to the lineup but not a great deal of difference was made in the team when the changes were made.”

And so it was in Perry during that late winter season in 1929. We’ll have more of these tidbits as time and space allow.