Christmas on 2nd Street, just north of Willis Ave, in Winter 1942 (left) and on December 15, 2017 (right).
Welcome to the Christmas edition of the Hometown Heritage blog! Today, we’ll be taking a trip down memory lane, looking at some historic Christmas decorations as well as reminiscing about how Perry’s business district has changed over time.
The photos above show the home of Perry’s Lighted Christmas Parade (2nd Street, just north of Willis) in 1942 and 2017. While we haven’t had any measurable snow yet this year, the 1942 photo shows Perry residents and businesses coping with a recent heavy snowfall. Festive garlands encircle 2nd Street’s light poles, while garlands and wreaths were suspended for several blocks over Perry’s commercial district.
The 1942 photo also shows several businesses of the day. A Philco Hall Maytag Co. office is on the west side (left) of the street, where the Crisis Intervention & Advocacy Center is today, and a car dealership used to reside in today’s Josh Davis Memorial Plaza. Robinson’s Clothing can be seen on the east side (right) of the street, which had overcoats on sale for $14, $16, or $24. In the alley south of the store, part of a large painted advertisement for OshKosh B’Gosh can also be seen.
Christmas on 2nd Street, just north of Lucinda St, in late Fall c. 1951 (left) and December 15, 2017 (right).
On a rather warm day in late fall, likely in 1951, Perry residents set to decorating 2nd Street for Christmas. Once again, suspended garlands hung over the street, this time, adorned with large stars and bells.
The date for this photo can be narrowed down by the movie on the Perry theater marque, Francis Goes to the Races. This picture, a sequel, was a black-and-white filmed comedy from Universal released in May 1951, which told the story of a talking mule and his owner who becomes entangled with the mob. The Perry Theater likely didn’t get this film right away, so it was showing later that year.
A number of 1950’s businesses can also be seen in this photo. On the west side (left) of the street, Rosie’s Café served food where today’s Eye Care Associates is located, the Perry Gas Co. did business in 2017’s H&R Block building, and the Perry Daily Chief newspaper was housed on the west side of the street. In addition, one of Perry’s furniture stores – Bennett-McDaniel Furniture – can be seen between Rosie’s Café and the Perry Gas Co. On the other side of the street, a sandwich shop is located near the end of the block and a Sinclair Gasoline H-C sign is visible just past this. In the center of the photo toward the back, a car can also be seen stopped at the railroad crossing, waiting for the train to go by.
Christmas at the Carnegie Library. Left: Librarian Marian Krohnke sits by the fire (c. 1953). Right: The Festival of Trees (December 15, 2017).
The Carnegie Library also got into a festive spirit. The photo on the left, showing Librarian Marian Krohnke, dates to around 1953. While she isn’t sitting next to a roaring fire, the fireplace mantle displays a nativity scene.
Today, the Carnegie Library Museum hosts the Festival of Trees. Carnegie volunteers Katie Schott and Laura Stebbins organize this annual event, in which local businesses, churches, and organizations set up festive displays, each vying for visitor votes in this fundraising and cheer-raising event. The photo on the right is just the tip of the iceberg that is the 39 (!) displays, which can be viewed through the end of this month (see the schedule below for holiday hours). Make sure to stop in and see this festive exhibit!
We at Hometown Heritage would like to thank all of our wonderful volunteers, visitors, and supporters this year, and wish you and yours very happy holidays!
Hello readers and welcome back to the Hometown Heritage blog!
If you have not figured it out from the heat these past few days, June is here in full force! Of course, the heat isn’t the only thing that June brings: it also starts the season of summer blockbusters. Perhaps some of you have already gone to see some, such as Wonder Woman, at the Grand 3 Theatre. However, did you know that in the early 1900s the Grand 3 was not a theatre and that there were actually two different competing theatres in Perry?
Years before it became what we frequent today, the Grand 3 Theatre in Perry was an entirely different form of entertainment. Perhaps you have noticed that the main screen at the Grand 3 has a different feel to it than the other screens. There are balconies on either side of the screen and there used to be an elaborate frame around the screen with busts above it. There even used to be a stage that extended out into the room! What do these lead you to believe the theatre used to be? If you guessed Opera House, you would be right! When it first opened in November 1903, the Grand 3 Theatre was actually the Grand Opera House. We do not have any pictures of the inside of the building when it was an Opera House, but one can assume that the balconies were once functional, with wealthy citizens sitting in them to watch the show. Although, come to think of it, I used to work at the Theatre and I never found a way to access those balconies, so maybe they were always just decorations!
Now, although the Grand 3 Theatre was not always used to show movies, there were two other places in Perry one could go to see the moving pictures. Opening around 1910, these two theatres were the Rex Theatre and the Majestic Theatre. The Rex Theatre, as I understand it, was just down the street from the Grand Opera House on the corner of Second and Lucinda. The Majestic Theatre, on the other hand, was farther down Second Street, closer to the Carnegie Library (in fact it looks like it used to be in the building where the Shoppe of Oddities is now). In fact, according to our collection there used to be a third theatre called “Foxy Theatre”, but I can only find one reference to it so I am unsure if it was an actual third theatre or a rebranding of one of the other two theatres.
Still, with all these other theatres in town it makes me wonder why none of the rest of them survived. Did the Grand 3’s transition to a theatre drive the rest from town? Did the other theatres burn down in one of the numerous fires in Perry? If any of you readers know, tell us in the comments, and join us next week for another Hometown Heritage Blog!
Hello readers and welcome back to the Hometown Heritage Blog!
Today I have a story for you about one of many fires that have happened in Perry’s history. The 72nd anniversary of this fire is actually coming up on February 12, so I thought it would be an interesting time to revisit the event!
This fire is called the “Woolworth Store Fire”, and it left a big mark on the Perry landscape. As you may have guessed from the name, the fire happened at the Woolworth Store. Although we have a decent number of pictures of this store, none of them mentioned what the store sold. My best guess, based on the pictures, was that it was some kind of general department store, similar to the old store Sears. In any case, a fire mysteriously broke out on February 12, 1945. The entire building, named the Carter Block, was burned. The Woolworth Store, along with all its contents, were destroyed and the loss is estimated at between $150,000 - $200,000! Our catalog has no mention of what caused this devastating fire. Perhaps someone in the store dropped a lit cigarette, and it sparked a blaze, or perhaps an angry costumer snuck in at the dead of night to get revenge? We may never know, unless one of you, readers, has more details for us.
As I said, however, this fire left a big mark on the Perry landscape. Perhaps you can tell where the building used to be from the before and after pictures belong! Let me give you a hint, currently the El Rey market stands where this building once stood. Although it is unclear if the entire building was burnt to the ground in the fire, it is clear that the new (or rebuilt) building never had a second floor. Imagine this: if this fire had not happened, there would be a much bigger building on the corner of Second and Willis. The new Woolworth store, which it appears the El Rey now occupies, opened in 1948, just a few years after the fire. Clearly, despite the change in the landscape and loss of inventory, the citizens of Perry and owner of Woolworth continued forward and rebuilt.