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