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August 27, 2004

Another Masonic building memory

Here's something that just occurred to me. Until this very moment, I had forgotten that one of the principal uses of the old Masonic Temple Auditorium about 60 years ago was for the cooking schools sponsored by this newspaper. I'm sorry and I apologize for the oversight.

Those cooking schools constituted just one of the principal features provided by traveling shows, educational and entertaining in nature, that helped small towns like Perry provide programs to attract area customers to our retail markets. There was no TV and the cooking schools were extremely popular. Local grocery stores and related businesses joined hands in bringing chefs and gourmet cooks who demonstrated their skills and recommended product available locally.

Area housewives flocked to the schools, which normally ran two or three days, and lots of kitchen-related products were bought and sold as a result. Cooking schools were eagerly awaited each spring by new brides and others who had already used many of the menus in their cookbooks.

As I recall, there were no registration fees. Drop-ins were welcome and usually the crowds consisted of about 200 housewives. Men were welcome, but few attended. Prizes were given daily for a variety of reasons, most of them related to culinary skills. Everybody won something each day, I believe, and that did not reduce the popularity of the events.

The schools normally ran two or three days. Parking was a major problem. This was before parking lots. People found places to leave their cars on the street and merchants were glad to have them. In the late 1930s and early 1940s, Perry was on the crest of a business boom, and things like the cooking schools were very popular.

How could I have missed those events in this backward look? Those ladies who set them up would never forgive me.