Today I have another interesting story from out of our collection of Oral Histories. This story is about a darker time in Perry and America’s history: segregation. This story comes from the Oral History of Glen Theulen. It is about a high school dance that he attended and danced with an African American classmate, and the reactions of people at the dance:
“When I was in high school…I was a junior…we had a dance up on the old gym floor up here…the old high school. And the whites were not to dance with a black girl, never and vice versa. And so… So anyway why the…the dance goes on and so I went over and I said to Sophia White, I says come on Sophia let’s dance. Oh we can’t. I said come on, come on, let’s dance. And Sophia White is the sister to Roy White. Okay. Sophia was a year ahead of me…brilliant girl…and man we got on that floor and jitterbugged and I thought every teacher in that gymnasium was gonna have a heart attack and I’d forgotten about that but Kenny Appenzeller, kid from Perry…farmed outside of town here… When I first got home here in ’89 said you remember the night that you got old…got the…Sophia White on the floor? He says I thought the teacher was gonna have [unclear]. I thought she was gonna…and I said well I kinda remember that, yeah. And you know I just never…”
Unfortunately, we do not know what Kenny thought the teacher was going to have, as the translator for the script could not make out the words being said. However, as you can see, segregation was a real thing here in Perry. Even dancing together was not allowed, and from the sounds of it almost gave all the teachers heart attacks! Clearly, dancing with Sophie was completely unexpected, even if their jitterbugging was amazing. It is such a shame that a simple act of dancing with another person could lead to such awful words and hate. Thankfully, segregation no longer exists in our country today, and we have come a long way on discrimination. Do you, readers, have any stories about segregation? If you do, please feel free to share them with us!