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October 3, 2003

The other day, Laura and I visited with a friend, Hazel Kay, while she was a patient in the local hospital. Hazel is a resident of Green Valley Nursing Home, and that is where Laura, who volunteers there weekly, met her. But I first knew Hazel 'way back' in the early 1960s when I labored in the news room of The Perry Daily Journal. That's when The Journal purchased The Billings' News from the late A.M. Miller, longtime publisher, and his son, Leon.

A.M. Miller had several acquaintances in Perry and I understand he even served in the ministry here at one time, but I knew him primarily through his frequent trips to The Journal to pick up the columns of type we had used to publish the monthly report of county commissioners. Mr. Miller's newspaper, being a legal publication, was entitled to run those proceedings each month, as was Mr. Fred Logan, publisher of the now-defunct Morrison Transcript. Mr. Logan got the type for the proceedings after they had been printed in the Billings paper. That was a different time in the newspaper business, as it was in other endeavors. But I always enjoyed those brief visits with Mr. Miller and Mr. Logan, and the opportunities they provided for a bit of shoptalk.

In due time, the Perry newspaper became the owner of the Billings' weekly, and that meant a lot of changes in our office. Mr. Milo Watson, publisher of this paper at the time, shouldered the responsibility for advertising matter in The News and I became editor of that publication. I spent one day a week in Billings gathering news and information for the next issue. In the process, I had a lot of help and made a lot of friends in the Billings Community, Hazel Kay was one of those. There were many others and if I tried to name all of them, several would undoubtedly be unintentionally overlooked.

Still, I remember Madge Hunter and her Mother, operators of Hunter's Dry Goods Store. They represented this paper even before we acquired the Billings paper, and they always had a few tidbits of news to pass along. Sam and Juanita Nelson were forever giving me suggestions for stories about the Billings school system; Sam was school superintendent and Juanita, his wife, taught business subjects and also was faculty sponsor for the school yearbook. Chester Craig, drivers, training instructor, and Jerry McKeown, a faculty member who later became superintendent, were always helpful. Mrs. Bertha Hostetler ran the school office and usually had items to share for the newspaper. The Billings school cooks, without fail, had tasty offerings on the Fridays when I was there. Walter Shultz, school custodian, also was a good source of information

Gordon and Billy Hayton of Hayton & Son, and Billy's wife, former Perryan Betty, knew about Billings farming conditions. Mrs. Paul Ford was a club woman and an interesting lady. One of her specialties in the kitchen was sand plum jelly. L.V. Stinnett was a rural mail carrier and that brings to mind all of those good folks at the Billings post office, including the postmaster, Mrs. Martin Kingery. Mr. and Mrs. Bill Rush were always cordial. Aubrey Tipton, the grocer, and Al Hardin, operator of the Billings Nursing Home, were good friends. So were the Brand family. In that same category were W.A. (Dib) Kay and his wife, Hazel. They both provided good tips and good humor to a somewhat bewildered Perry newsman who only had a chance to see them on Friday of each week. I know I said at the start of this piece that I would inevitably leave out some names that should be mentioned. Please forgive me because I know that has happened. Nevertheless, all of those good Billings people were and still are important to me and I will never forget the friendships that emerged from that period. My belated thanks to all of them. Billings is a fine community.