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September 9, 2003

Back in 1953, this newspaper put out a Cherokee Strip celebration edition that was chock full of interesting stories and photographs about the historic land run that took place in this area on September 16, 1893. It was the 60th anniversary of that great event, and I remember working on it very diligently for several months beforehand.

Because our mechanical equipment at that time could handle nothing larger than an eight-page section, all of it was written, designed, and printed in six- and eight-page sections 'way ahead of the release date, which was September 13, 1953. The special edition was made up of 80 pages. It turned out to be the biggest edition of The Journal ever printed up to that time, according to the Northwest Corner column that day, and it even included a splash of bright red ink on the cover and in several ads placed by merchants. Printing an 80-page newspaper was not easy at that time since we were dealing with an ancient Goss flatbed press. The front page of the news section that day included a letter from President Eisenhower to Kenneth Coldiron, finance chairman of the anniversary, congratulating the citizens of this community for staging the celebration.

Despite the poor images in some of the photos, the text included many wonderful stories about the pioneers who settled this part of Oklahoma Territory, and I know it sparked an interest in me as I reflected on the fascinating history of this chunk of real estate. That interest has endured and increased through the years, and it has motivated me to delve deeper into the historic fabric of this part of the Cherokee Strip.

One of the stories that was covered the best in that edition was the saga of early day telephone service in Perry. Southwestern Bell Telephone Co., which served this area, provided facts and photos on that subject. Those were added to the reflections of some of our first telephone operators, Edna Brown Foster and Tillie Ringler Hall. Many of those who contributed to that historic newspaper are no longer with us, but some of them left their recollections to help the rest of us understand what it was like back then.

All of this prelude is just to furnish a polite nod in the direction of all who have endowed others with their memories of the first few years of Perry's existence. None of those who staked claims after making the Cherokee Strip run in 1893 are with us any longer, but subsequent generations can pass along stories to the rest of us and thus make the historic event come to life. Right now we are in the midst of a multi-part story about the telephone people and how our present-day system began. On Saturday, September 13, our little prairie city will again mark "the run," as we have every year since the drama of 1893 unfolded.

As you watch the big Cherokee Strip parade around the square and take part in other events, such as the county fair, remember the people who made it possible for the rest of us to thump our chests and proudly say, "We are part of a land of romance and industry, and we're proud to say so." Thanks to the hardy pioneers and their descendants who made it possible for us to be here today.