Michael T. Pierche (Perrige) served as mayor of Hawley, Pa. 16 years, in the mid-20th century. He and his wife Helen raised three sons, who all became doctors.
HAWLEY - Michael T. Pierche (Perrige) served as mayor of Hawley, Pa. at least 16 years, in the mid-20th century. He and his wife Helen raised three sons, who all became doctors.
A man that obviously loved his town, as mayor, he successfully pushed for an ordinance that caused some raised eyebrows: A dress code for hot summer days along Hawley’s streets.
The Perriges made their home at 521 Hudson Street. Michael Perrige worked as the foreman of the Erie railroad yard in town. He was one of the first board members of the Hawley Public Library when it was founded in the 1961.
MAYOR 16 YEARS- OR 20
He served as mayor from four terms, when the office was known as burgess. The exact years he served is still being researched but it appears he started as burgess in 1942 and served until December 31, 1961. At that time, Harry Goodman was sworn in as mayor. His obituary in 1970 stated that he served as mayor for 16 years. An article in The Pike Wayne Eagle, January 4, 1962, stated that Pierche "completed 20 years service as burgess and seven years as councilman."
Ann R. Morgan, who is a retired registered nurse and served as Hawley’s mayor 28 years (seven terms), knew the family very well.
There is a question about his last name. He went by “Pierche” at least when he was mayor.
Later references give his name as “Perrige,” which is the name his sons used.
“He was a great mayor, friendly and he loved everybody,” Morgan said. Carl Rose also recalled that he was well liked as mayor.
During most of his time in office, borough meetings were held in what had been a house, where council had met since 1930. The borough hall was on Spring Street, facing straight up Main Avenue, at the sharp bend in Route 6. That is, until the borough hall burned to the ground in October 1952. Council held meetings at the American Legion after that, until the present borough hall was opened across from the park in 1964.
Perrige was a Republican.
Perrige actively sought flood control in the Hawley area after a series of severe floods struck Hawley, in 1936, 1942 and 1955.
The summer of 1957 must have been a hot one on the sidewalks of Hawley. People naturally sought to keep cool, but the mayor and council announced there was a limit.
This appears to be why he was described as a “colorful politician” as well as dedicated by The Wayne Independent. Burgess Pierche’s name was on a ban passed by council (Ordinance No. 1019) on scanty attire which included bathing suits, and girl’s short-shorts, and ordered Hawley Police to enforce that dress code.
Robert F. Jennings recalled this well. He said that Perrige’s ban (the mayor seems to have received the credit or blame) went over the news wire and got attention nationwide.
The Plain Speaker, Hazleton, Pa., reported the following, on July 16, 1957.
Hawley Edict: Get Dressed
"Get under cover or get out of town." This is not a warning to the gangster element but rather the substance of an ordinance directed at under-clad visitors to the quiet borough of Hawley, near the popular Lake Walienpaupack resort area.
“Burgess Michael T. Pierche, not an unreasonable man, received complaints of shoppers visiting the town in bathing suits, tights and halters and midriffs, and decided to act quickly before Hawley became wide open. Stating they'd "go to extremes if you didn't watch 'em," the burgess posted an ordinance in the downtown area giving a minimum penalty of $5 and costs for anyone over 12 years of age, male or female, who appears on the streets in scanty attire.
“The order not only affects the women but the men, too. Males who walk around without shirts are included. Burgess Pierche said Police Chief George Krause is enforcing the ban, although only warnings have been issued thus far,” the newspaper reported.
An editorial in The Pike-Wayne Eagle (edited by J. Vance Hunt), July 11, 1957, stated that “Borough fathers are not attempting to deter summer lake residents, city visitors et al, from promenading our streets in the most casual and comfortable summer were available.” It went on to explain that the ordinance is meant to prevent people from wearing on the streets garments meant for comfortable swimming or what one might wear in the privacy of their home. It added that larger resort areas, including Stroudsburg and Atlantic City, have similar laws.
The editorial noted that severe criticism that arose from enacting the ruling had come from misunderstanding and the posting of signs raised more furor than the number of offenders.
“Be comfortable, have fun and wear shorts if you wish,” the editorial added.
The Hawley - Lake Wallenpaupack Chamber of Commerce was opposed to the ordinance.
Hawley businessman Joe Pulici defended the chamber in a letter published July 11, 1957 in The Pike-Wayne Eagle. He said that the Chamber faced an uphill battle against Council in the effort to attract visitors to the area and the only one complaining about the way some people were dressed was a town councilman who was not a Chamber member. Pulici advised that the towns’ two policemen should be able to tactfully use fair judgment when they come upon an extreme case.
Erection of signs advertising the ordinance downtown, Pulici warned, would hasten they a shopping center outside the borough, which would be of great pleasure to business people and cottagers at the lake.
Another letter, from Helen McCarthy, supported the ordinance. The same paper published it on top the front page in the July 18, 1957 edition. She commented, “It is disgusting to see how quickly our young adults are degenerating. Where has all the culture gone to? It is not surprising we have so much crime.”
That issue reported that the Chamber held a special meeting July 17 at the White Deer Inn (today, The Settlers Inn). The Chamber had voted 9 to 4 in favor of petitioning Burgess Pierce “to have the 4x4 foot, two color “Bathing Suit” warning signs removed.
The signs were displayed on Main Avenue.
The Pike-Wayne Eagle’s front page of the July 17 edition had in bold headlines, “To Visit Hawley Where the Men Wear Full-Dress Suits and the Ladies are Completely Veiled?!!”
The same edition added that a “$64,000 question” (referring to the old TV quiz show) arose at the Chamber function about how to define “Midriff” and “Halter.” Never resolved, the paper invited readers to make up their own minds.
This ordinance was not rescinded until December 1973. The News Eagle, in the October 11th edition, gave a report from the Hawley council meeting, declaring, "Hawley Council: Swim Suits Okay After Dec. 1..."
The report states that after Dec. 1, 1974 it will again be legal to wear a swim suit or for a man to walk around "bare chested" on Hawley streets. The ordinance affected anyone over age 12.
Representing Hawley Chamber of Commerce, Richard Teeter said that the Hawley Police had been issuing warnings and otherwise suggesting to offenders that they were on the brink of persecution. He said that the Chamber felt the ordinance was a detriment of the town and business community, and the ordinance should be repealed. Council agreed, but due to the requirement for legal publication and other technicalities the repeal would not be in effect until about December 1st. (Of course it would be too cold then for swim suits anyway but that was not mentioned in the story!)
AT THE RAIL YARD
Michael Perrige worked as a machinist foreman for the Erie Lackawanna Railroad for 53 years. He had charge of the Hawley yard. He would clean the engines and move locomotives about in the yard, which was considerably larger than it is today.
“I recall Mike with a shiny bald pate with a bandanna wrapped around his neck,” Eugene “Art” Glantz said. “He was usually pretty well smudged up from his work, but when he was cleaned up, he was always spic and span.”
Perrige was still listed as working for the railroad in 1968, in the Hawley street directory.
LIFE IN HAWLEY
Michael T. Pierche was born October 28, 1903 in Moosic, Pa. (Lackawanna County), the son of John and Mary (Callahan) Perrige. One reference says he came to Hawley in 1927 as a machinist for the D&H Railroad. The 1930 census, however, listed him as a resident of Scranton, where he was raising his young family and working as a machinist at a woolen mill.
He was married to Helen (Condofer). Their first born son was John Joseph Perrige, born October 5, 1924, in Hawley. The next son was William Michael Perrige, born October 29, 1925 in Scranton. Their third son was Michael L. Perrige, born October 13, 1939.
The 1940 census lists their home at 521 Hudson Street in Hawley.
Thomas E. Sheridan, who is 87, shared fond memories of the boys. “John, the oldest, played clarinet and was very good at it,” he said. John played with Fritz Swingle in a dance band at Greeley. Tom said he thinks William Perrige played the French horn.
“Bill and John built model airplanes with motors and took them to the park to fly them,” Tom said, adding, “That was some thing for us younger kids to watch.”
Carl Rose, who is 92, said that the mayor’s son William was a classmate at Hawley High School, Class of 1943. “Bill was an ‘A’ student…,” he recalled. He added that their father was “well liked” as mayor.
Ann Morgan recalled that her parents were good friends with Michael and Helen Perrige.
The Perriges’ first born son, John Joseph Perrige, became a physician and conducted his practice in Hawley, Lake Ariel and Honesdale.
After graduating Hawley High School, John served in the U.S. Army during the 2nd World War and in Korea. He earned the rank of 1st Lieutenant.
John finished Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, in 1955. His specialty was pathology.
Ann Morgan recalled that Dr. John Perrige had a medical office on Church Street in Hawley, next door to what is now the candy and gift shop, Penny Lane. “Dr. Perrige was a special person,” she said. As a nurse, she often assisted the doctor on his house calls when her services were needed. She would also help him at the hospital when he made his rounds.
Dr. John Perrige was the elected county coroner from 1960 to 1968. He afterwards served as chief deputy coroner under Bob Jennings, who followed his time in office, serving 16 years as coroner. Jennings said that Dr. Perrige was very knowledgeable and did autopsies for him.
“He was one of the last old time docs,” Jennings said. “He ran around with a black bag. He was old school. A likeable guy; well respected.”
Dr. Perrige and his wife Bernadette lived near Lake Cadjaw. They had two daughters. He died at the age of 62, March 29, 1987.
Dr. William Michael Perrige was also a physician, and a veteran. He was living in Columbia County when he died at age 76, June 25, 2002. Tom Sheridan recalled that William became a cardiologist. He was also a deputy coroner for Columbia County.
Dr. Michael L. Perrige was a dentist. A 1957 Hawley graduate, he later attended the University of Pittsburgh Dental School. He was married to Anne V, (Abimo). They had two sons and a daughter.
He opened a private practice in Philadelphia in 1969 and was there 22 years.
In later years, he was living in Columbia County, when at age 51, he passed away on June 9, 1991.
After retiring from the railroad, Michael T. Perrige ran an antique shop on Route 507 near Lake Wallenpaupack, said June Ellingsen Strait, 98. He later ran an antique shop in Bloomsburg.
Strait said that one time Mrs Helen Perrige went with them on a family trip out to Arizona.
“They were very nice people,” Strait said.
The Perriges were Catholics. Michael and Helen lived at Bloomsburg, Columbia County where at the age of 70, Michael passed away on Sunday, June 28, 1973. Helen lived to until March 27, 1991, when she was 90.
Wayne County Historical Society
Wallenpaupack Historical Society