Celeste Council, Perry’s venerable last popcorn lady, was born Aug. 17, 1882, near Perry, the daughter of Hannah and Bartlett White. Bartlett’s father was Aaron White, living just southwest of town, at one time the owner of the Asford farm west of Perry.
Born in 1818 in Belmont, Ohio, Aaron White came to Dallas county in 1864, living first near Panora and moving a year later near Perry. Aaron died in 1896 while walking to his well to get a drink at his farm southwest of town. His mother, Almira, born in 1820 in Ohio and died in 1909 in Rippey.
Celeste’s mother was Hannah Buck, the Bucks dating back in the Perry area to the 1870s. Hannah’s father was Truman Buck. He ended up with Asford farm that was west of Perry on 130th Street, starting on the township line west.
At that time there was a large pond at the Milwaukee tracks, and they had a small bridge there. Truman Buck took a team of oxen and a tile plow and headed east to the river, the start of Buck Creek west of Perry.
Truman Buck died in March 1902 at the home of his daughter to the southwest of Perry.
By 1910 Celeste was living in Perry in a boarding house with her sister Bertha. The house was ran by Lawrence Tieman, a furniture store owner in Perry. Celeste and her sister opened a dressmaking shop over Ainley’s Hardware store and ran the shop until the mid-1930s, when pre-made dresses became the thing.
In 1914 Bertha moved to Sturgis, S.D., where her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Bartlett White, lived at that time. In 1918 at Ft. Bliss, Texas, Bertha married Sgt. Frank Stanley and ended up living in Kansas City, Mo. She passed in 1967 and is buried in Valley View Cemetery.
By 1920 Celeste White was living on her own in the Council Block on Railroad Street and was still dressmaking.
Vernon Council was born Sept. 13, 1877, on what was known as the M. E. Fagen farm west of Perry. Vern and his dad farmed for a few years before coming to Perry. Vernon’s father, John Council, came from Logan County, Ill., and his mother, Ruth Hall, hailed from Wisconsin.
Vernon moved to Perry and got a place in the Council Block and worked for the Perry Fire Department. But following an injury when he was thrown from a firetruck, he retired and became a honorary member of the department.
Mr. and Mrs. Rippey had a popcorn stand on Second and Willis for years before Mr. Rippey passed and Mrs. Rippey sold it Vernon Council in 1917. At that time the stand used gas for the burners and a little steam engine to move the shaker.
By 1920 his father and mother, John and Ruth, were living with him on Railroad Street next door to dressmaker, Celeste White.
Vernon and Celeste were married Jan. 23, 1923, in Adel in front of the Rev. Bigelow of the Christian Church, and they moved into his place with his parents in the Council Block. In Jan, 1926 Celeste’s father had a stroke and moved in with them.
As Vern ran the popcorn stand, Celeste cared for Bartlett and John, but her father, Bartlett White, passed on Jan. 29, 1926, and her father-in-law, John Council, soon thereafter on June 8, 1926.
During the 1930s, Vernon and Celeste took turns running the little popcorn stand. She also did some dressmaking and took care of Vernon’s mother, Ruth.
Vernon had a heart attack Oct. 2, 1940, about 2:30 p.m. and passed away. Warren Hile of the Church of Christ gave the interment service in Violet Hill Cemetery. Celeste was unable to run the stand and also care for Vernon’s mother, so Ruth moved in with her daughter, Mrs. W. J. Rawson of Perry. Ruth passed in January 1945.
After Vernon died, Celeste took out the steam engine and had city gas and electricity put in. Then in 1945 the old Carter Block burned down on the northeast corner of Second and Willis. Carpenters and sheet metal workers rebuilt the popcorn stand for Mrs. Council, but she didn’t repair the peanut roaster and ended that line of business.
Mrs. Council use to say, “You never lose anything by being good to children. My husband refused to increase the price of popcorn. ‘Lots of kids never have more than a nickel,’ he used to say.”
Mrs. Council died at 6 p.m. on April 23, 1969, at the Dallas County Hospital in Perry. Her funeral was at the Workman-Timeon Funeral Home, with the Rev. Ivan C. Bys officiating. She was buried in Valley View Cemetery.
Yes, our “popcorn lady” has gone from the little corner downtown, but we still miss her.