Hello Readers and welcome back to the Hometown Heritage Blog!
Yesterday, America chose who was going to be its 45 president. The candidates campaigned hard all across America, but they both spent a fair amount of time in Iowa. This trend does not appear to be new, either. Presidents have been making stops in not only Iowa, but also small towns such as Perry for a long time! Today I thought I would share with you some of the Presidential visits I found in our collection.
This Presidential visit took place in 1948. Some of you may be able to remember that during that time, the President was Harry Truman. Although the pictures we have, such as the one you see here, are of him visiting Dexter and not Perry, Perry still played a big part: the Perry High School band was invited to play at his speech! Our records do not show what President Truman spoke about, or why the band was invited to play, but it must have been quite an honor to play for the President.
Other presidents also have some ties to Perry, Iowa. A presidential hopeful made many stops in Iowa, particularly in Perry, during his many candidacies. This man was William Jennings Bryan, who spoke twice in Perry, trying his best to win each presidential race (although he ultimately he lost three times). We have a picture of one of his speeches on display in the Chautauqua room in the Hotel. Perry native Robert Dean Harrison had some contact with the presidential office, as he served in the Secret Service protecting President Eisenhower. George Soumas also met President Eisenhower. Overall, it seems like even small towns like Perry, Iowa can have some big connections to the highest office in the land.
On a different note, I want to let you all know that Hometown Heritage will be open this weekend during Art on the Prairie! This time we will have Rick Stewart, the man behind the two most recent Wall of Witnesses reliefs, down in our office demonstrating some of his craft. If you are participating in the events, make sure to come down to the lower level of the Town/Craft Building to see a sculptors work in person!
Happy Wednesday Readers,
Since Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, I thought I would share some short stories with you from our collection! The first story comes from Bill Graney. Bill is recounting stories about Mike’s Pub, back before it became Mike’s Pub, when Stub Smithson owned it. He describes the day, saying that there was not much business, and as he was looking at the ceiling he say a big water bug, three to four inches he claims. When he told Stub, Stub removed the bib overalls he was wearing and threw them up at the bug. Now, you may be thinking that this does not sound much like a Valentine’s Day story. However, what you do not know is what Stub was wearing under his overalls. According to Bill, since it was right at Valentine’s time when this happened, Mrs. Smithson had bought Stub some boxer shorts with hearts on them. Stub was wearing these boxers when he took off his overalls. Imagine, seeing the bartender standing there in heart boxers. It seems like something out of a cartoon! However, Stub was unfazed, according to Bill, and Valentine’s Day went on.
The other story comes to us from tales of George Soumas. Apparently, around Valentine’s Day, George had a tradition. He, along with a few other Perry residents, would go to Suzette’s candy store in Des Moines. They would pick up at least two or three pounds of candy. George literally brought boxes with him, and the owners of the store would fall over him since he was buying so much candy. Then, he would take the candy down to the Dallas County Courthouse, and together they would hand out candy to everyone there. Even some of the people from Perry were allowed to keep some of the candy: Barry Bengtson apparently used the candy he got from George to give to his wife every year. She did not find out about this until much later, however. One wonders if she got mad at him or not for taking the candy from someone else.
I hope that these stories got you thinking about Valentine’s Day, and what you could do to surprise someone. In addition, do not forget to come down to the Hotel Pattee tomorrow for Art and Seek! There will be wine, cheese, and other refreshments. The purpose of the event is to highlight the new QR Codes that have been installed, and show everyone how to use them to learn more about their favorite art pieces. I hope to see you all there!