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May 11, 2005

A famous visitor

Here's the rest of the story about two distinguished visitors to Perry, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt (Mrs. FDR) and the young screen star, Mickey Rooney, in the 1930s. These portions are taken from Chapter 31 of my book, The First Generation, which is available at the Cherokee Strip Museum on West Fir Avenue. The first installment dealt with Mrs. Roosevelt's trip here in 1937. Mickey also was here during that decade.

"While Mrs. Roosevelt's trip to Perry was well known in advance, the nation's No. 1. movie box office attraction arrived (on a southbound Santa Fe train) unannounced. Mickey Rooney was just beginning his reign at the top of the heap of Hollywood stars when he came to Perry on November 1, 1938."

"He was king of the hill, the most magnetic name and the brightest star of them all in the magical, glamorous home of movieland. Clark Gable, Jean Harlow and others were megastars, but their names on the marquee did not mean the automatic success that Mickey Rooney's did at the time." (And when he co-stared with Judy Garland, it was a heavenly thing for the big time movie investors.)

That's the gist of the story. My friend adds this personal note: "Eleanor is no longer with us, but Mickey is! I wish our city leaders would use some imagination. Why not invite Mickey back for a second stop along with his wife and let them lead the parade around the square during our Cherokee Strip celebration?"

Sounds like a reasonable suggestion to me. Does anyone else remember in the 1950s when we had Mr. and Mrs. Buster Keaton here for the world premiere of the movie about his life? At first, that sounded like an impossible suggestion, too, but it happened. Maybe we could have Mickey Rooney here again on just such a far-out idea.