My mother loved to write and found history fascinating. The Butler County Historical Society held the Jessie Perry Stratford Competition annually and it provided the impetus for her to research and commit local history to paper. She first entered in 1987 with a story about her husband’s uncle, Ivan Halligan. “The Golden Crossroads” featured his experience in the early El Dorado oil fields before World War I. It won an honorable mention.
She entered each year from 1992 though 1997 and earned three more honorable mentions, an award of merit and the trustee’s award. She entered again in 2001 and then in 2004.
The titles of her essays were:
- I Was Chosen for the Federal Grand Jury
- 15,942 Working Hours (about the plastics factory where she worked a number of years)
- Journey from the Past on the Little Ranger (about the local doodlebug train)
- Triumphs of a Country Woman (about a local writer of the 1940s, Myra Lockwood Brown)
- Remarkable Woman from Turkey Creek (about teacher Nellie Cronk)
- Doves of Lillihammer (about a local balloon making company that provided balloons for the Olympics)
- A.J. Thompson – Seventy Years in the Oil Fields
- What’s Cooking in Butler County (local cookbooks over the years)
- Did You Know Jack? (about the life of WWII flying ace, Jack Thomas)
Here’s what Mom said when her final entry won first prize:
Gail Martin – May 10, 2004 – This came with a $200.00 check for a researched essay about a WWII Flying Ace from El Dorado, Jack Thomas. I titled it “Did You Know Jack?” and my last sentence was “Oh how I wish I had known Jack!” This was a memoir writing about a man I’d never met.
Talk about being high on excitement! I still can’t believe I won first place in the contest. Besides the award, I get a year’s membership to the museum. Lots of congratulations from everybody.
Her daughter, Karen said, “I hope you’re planning to get this framed and hung on your writing room wall, Mom! Actually, you could have a whole wall of your writing awards to inspire you!”
You can read her prize-winning story online. She devoted a wall of her writing room to hanging all her awards, mostly received when she was in her seventies and eighties.