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January 15, 2005

Cleaning up a few contributions from readers and other friends…

John Skinner earned a reputation as Perry's premier and most effective fundraiser years ago when he headed up several crusades for money to assist in polio research. That was just one of the many projects he took on, and he believed in it because he himself had been a victim of the crippling disease. That's a story all by itself, but this one has to do with a recollection of a raffle that John worked on in his senior year at Perry High School. That would have been 1948. Some other beneficiaries of John's money-making methods have been various high school football and band queens, and the 45th Division's National Guard Army Units that have been stationed here through the years.

Right now John is not sure of the organization that benefited from the raffle, but as I recall it was the March of Dimes, which the late President Franklin D. Roosevelt used to promote. He, also, had been a polio victim.

Locally, a brand new Ford two-door sedan from the Randall Motor Co. was offered as a prize for the lucky ticket-holder. It was to be the first post-war car seen in Perry since the Japanese surrendered to the Allies in 1945 to end World War II. John had unsuccessfully tried many times to sell a ticket for the drawing to Otis Shelley, the telephone repairman who died recently. On the final day of sales, about 10 minutes before the drawing, John managed to sell a ticket (only one) to Otis. You can guess what happened. It was the right one, and Otis drove home that night in his brand-new Ford sedan. He and John were both happy.

The first time I saw Mickey Rooney was at Perry's Santa Fe train depot at the east end of Delaware, where Burlington Northern now occupies the premises. That was on November 1, 1938. I know the date because it appeared on a front page feature story in The Perry Daily Journal, written by the paper's reporter, Betty Munger Beasley. Mickey was on a personal appearance tour, headed for Oklahoma City, but he came to the Pullman car's steps and chatted with a few of us who stood in awe of Hollywood's newest mega star. He was a teenager. He had just made the first in a series of wildly popular Andy Hardy movies for MGM, and he was the biggest star in the universe. Now cut quickly to several years later. Laura and I saw him, when he was about 80, in a smash Broadway musical that received great reviews, even though he was advanced in years. He still wowed the critics and his audiences with comic timing and musical skills. I'm still a big fan, so I was happy to catch him the other day on TV with the latest wife (No. 8?) promoting a health insurance company in a new commercial. They both looked great, but Mickey had virtually nothing to do but smile at the camera.

Since then I've learned that he and Mrs. Rooney have done another commercial, which I have not seen, and it is kicking up some kind of storm because in it he drops a towel, or something, as he runs out the door of a room, exposing his 84 year-old hind end. It is just as controversial as it sounds, and I'm sorry to hear that our old friend has fallen to that depth. I still remember him as the tousle-haired Andy Hardy with problems that seemed to have been torn out of my own daily existence, such as it was. C'mon, Andy, we can do better than that.