Perry  Armstrong

The  Shelbyville  News
Saturday June 5, 1948
Page 3 column 1
By Ave Lewis
          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.
          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.
          Mr. Armstrong—Perry 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 side tracks."
          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

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