Parish Town Historical Society

P.O. Box  145

Parish, New York      13131


Kay Perham, guest speaker




It was with great enthusiasm that the Parish Town Historical Society (PTHS) welcomed an encore performance by local writer, Kay Perham. Several years ago Kay was a guest speaker at a meeting reading her stories about growing up in Parish and attending the Bidwell Country School.

Recently Kay entered a writing competition sponsored by the Northern New York Library Network, “Researching the North Country.” The PTHS was pleased to be among the first to experience the pieces that Kay entered in the contest. Writers from Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Jefferson, Lewis, Oswego, and St. Lawrence were encouraged to make use of their libraries and cultural resources as primary resource material.

When she first received the information about the contest she told her daughter she didn’t think she had a chance to win. Her daughter answered “the odds would be better if you sent in something.”

Kay’s first essay spoke about early education in Oswego County, particularly the one room school.

As a student in one of the schools, Kay experienced first hand many of the things she wrote about.

The use of the blackboard and chalk was explained as an equalizer of students. Since many students did not have the financial means to buy school supplies and books, the blackboard was in constant use by the teacher who wrote out the lessons on the board. As Kay explained about the lack of sophisticated school supplies and the attitude of the students, “the expectations didn’t exceed what was provided.”

The teacher had an enormous responsibility in teaching students at several levels, with very little in the way of material goods. Kay hailed the rural teachers as giving an exceptional gift.

Another piece written and read by Kay was called Pioneer Women.

The years of 1803-1850 were a time of tremendous growth in Oswego County, and the women of the era were very quietly responsible for the success in settling our county.

Most women left their previous homes, coming to this area with unpredictable winters. They came to property with no houses, gardens or cleared land. The women followed their husbands, and had no choice but to “move forward and dig in.”

An incident, Kay wrote about, concerned a women from the southern part of New York State. She remained at home with a new baby, while her husband and older children made the move to Redfield. The plan was that she would follow when she got word from her husband, but after a year she still had not heard from him.

Along with her young child she made her way to Redfield, only to find that her family had not yet built a permanent house.

Kay said that whether the women “were angel or demon, the area would be impoverished without the women.”

She admitted to her listeners that this type of writing is not her favorite. She prefers to write more personal stories. She is the author of a mystery book which “has gone the route, and is back home again.” This has not discouraged her from starting a second book.

She enjoys writing fiction novels because “you put a lot of yourself into fiction.”

Kay has been a member of the Parish Writers Group since its inception. As well as being a writer, she is also an artist. Last year she had a showing of her paintings at the Parish Public Library.

She is a lifelong resident of Parish, where she and her husband Carl raised their children.