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home : news : history March 26, 2015

9/6/2013 1:11:00 AM
Harper chosen as Parade Marshall
Betty Harper aboard her bus Friday afternoon.
Betty Harper aboard her bus Friday afternoon.

Long-time Perkins resident and school bus driver Betty Story Harper has been chosen as this years Old Settler's Day Parade Marshall.

In 1987, she was asked to drive an activity bus for the Perkins-Tryon School system.

"Lisa was starting college that year so I thought the extra income would come in handy with college expenses," Harper said.

That driving assignment led to driving a bus route twice a day and a shuttle bus during the day, which she still does today.

"I'm often asked, 'How can you stand to drive one of those hot, crowded, loud buses?'" she said. "My answer is always the same. I have loved each and everyone of those kids on my bus over the years and if I can touch their life in some small way - the way the people in this community have touched the lives of my children, then I'll be driving a bus as long as they will let me do so, or until my last stop - whichever comes first! She said it was a great honor to be selected as Parade Marshall.

"My first impulse was to say, 'No, thank you," she added. "I guess that's because I'm not one who seeks the public lime light and to be honest it makes me a little uncomfortable. But, as I thought about it, I decided that this would be an opportunity for me to say thank you to the people of Perkins. I can't think of another person or family that has been blessed as much as my family and we owe all of our blessings to the wonderful people in this great little community!"

She came to Perkins in October 1959 as a single mother with three children - Bobby (9), Blaine (6), and Belinda (4).

"I searched high and low in Stillwater for a place to live with my three kids but no one would rent me a house or apartment," she said. "When I started my search for a home in Perkins, I was welcomed with open arms by Rich and Rose Grimm who operated Grimm's Cafe on Main Street. They had some rental properties and rented me a tworoom house on East 2nd Street."

"The first year, while I was busy getting started in my beauty shop, Belinda stayed with me during the day. Again, everyone up and down Main Street pitched in to help raise her, including Ann Spillars, at Sager's Cleaners. Mrs. Henry, who owed a dry goods store in the middle of the block, would come and get Belinda almost every day. She'd say, "Belinda, you need to come to the store and see Aunt Cecil for a while". Mrs. Baker, who ran the Motel across the street (where PCB is now), would take Belinda to the motel and let her color and play the piano in her house for hours at a time. Of course, Belinda's buddy, Delmar Niles, who owned Delmar's Grocery Store (one block north and then eventually next door to the Beauty Shop), frequently kept her busy in the store. Among other chores, Delmar and Bob would let her stamp the prices on cans and even help in the meat department when she went over to visit them at the store.

Occasionally, I would need a loan for operating costs or personal matters and I would go see Mr. Butler at the bank. Delbert Butler was president of the bank and he would tell me, 'Sis, you go get what you need, then come in and we'll take care of it." I remember Felsa Hastings always making me feel welcome at the bank and of course Lenora West, also a bank employee, who became one of my loyal customers for many years.

In 1967, she married John Harper, a long-time professional race horse trainer for Lee and C.L. Kirk, and other race horse owners in Oklahoma and around the country.

"With the addition of Johnie, we only thought the trailer house got smaller," Harper said. "But then Lisa Harper was born. If you're counting, that's six people living in an 8' X 37' trailer but it didn't bother anyone -life was good.

"I want to thank the people in this community, both past and present, for all of the blessings that you have given me and my family. Over the years, I have learned that a Big City and Big House does not make a home. Those bigger things can't compare to the home that this small community has provided for me and my family. Perkins is our home and always will be, and by the way, you've all helped me raise some good kids - Thank You!"

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