The Shelbyville News
Operating a business
that is without competition in these days and holding an almost perfect Sunday
school attendance record are but two factors which make Perry Armstrong,
Waldron harness maker, a somewhat unusual man.
Saturday June 5, 1948
Page 3 column 1
By Ave Lewis
He’d scoff at the
word "unusual" but it’s the one which comes to mind after a pleasant
two-hour chat with him in his quiet, clean-leather smelling place of business in
a bright yellow building near the Waldron railroad tracks.
is the name used by everyone in the Waldron community—has been in the harness
making and repair business since 1885. He’s widely read and from a vast
store of memories and experiences, he drops interesting bits of information and
philosophies which make him an exceptionally good conversationalist. His
own philosophy he developed long ago and summed up it is this: "When
you aim at a goal with determination, the Devil and other detriments take to the
He’s applied the
theory to a great many things in his life. He likes getting along amicably
with people, and that sometimes takes determination; he wanted to be a harness
maker and that necessitated determination, and he wanted to—and still wants to—attend
Sunday school regularly and he’s missed only five Sundays since 1885.
And he remembers the reason for those five absences. Once his means of
transportation, his horse, was under a veterinarian’s care, one day he and his
wife visited their son who was waiting at Fort Harrison to be sent overseas in
World War I; another Sunday he was confined to bed with ‘flu’; once there
was no Sunday school because of a fire in the Waldron business district and the
fifth absence was due to his attending a Methodist meeting in Columbus, Ohio.
Although the arrival
of automobiles sounded the death knell to his harness business as a flourishing
industry, Perry still has "all he can do." He provided a great
part of the fancy harness which is used in the horse pulling contests over the
states and he does extensive repair work of various kinds. This may mean
sticking rivets in a piece of farm equipment canvas or cutting down a piece of
rubber sponge into a chair seat or any number of other jobs. Minor, so far
as work is concerned, but vital to the one wishing the work done. In that
respect Mr. Armstrong has it "made." The closest harness making or
repair shop is in Indianapolis and he finds himself with customers from
communities all over the state and from out of the state.
Perry also makes
unique leather belts, which delights the sports clothes minded women and he
chuckles as he recalls that his fancy harness and belts set some New York women
agog back in 1944. They were editors and reporters of a woman’s magazine
who were writing stories of 4-H Clubs and the Waldron community. They
"bought him out" and his repeat orders for belts continued until World
War II made the purchase of leather almost impossible.
From his birthplace
near Cambridge City Mr. Armstrong came to Shelby county with his widowed mother
when he was 10 years old. For a while the two stayed in Shelbyville and he
worked as an errand boy for his uncle, Henry Powell, who operated a
grocery on East Washington Street. After going to Waldron and completing school
he badgered the late John McCain into teaching him the harness business.
It was an apprenticeship sort of learning. The first year he worked for his
board and the second he was paid 50 cents a day and his board. He later went
into partnership with Mr. McCain and at the latter’s death in 1916 took over
the business as his own.
His Sunday school
record began when he was put in as superintendent of the school at the Waldron
Methodist Church in 1885. He served in the capacity for 18 years. In
1888 he married Miss Tillie Huber whose death occurred four
years ago. They became the parents of two children, a daughter Mrs.
Eunice Mitchell and her husband, Allen, reside with
him in Waldron, and a son, Herman, is cashier at the Westport
bank. While not superstitious, Perry believes the number "7" has
played a big part in his life. Both he and Mrs. Armstrong were born on the
seventh of the month; there was seven months’ difference in their ages and the
years in which both his children’s births occurred ended in seven.
As he fingered a paper
weight—a souvenir piece of stone from the Ogden cemetery explosion of 1890 —
and reminisced over events of his life he stated, "the automobile killed
the driving horse harness business, guess the harness business and I probably
will close up about the same time."
Contributed by Barb Huff