Central Oklahoma

Jim Watson's house was in 424EAST4TH is in Edmond, Oklahoma, a suburb of Oklahoma City, far enough to have its own identity beyond the metro yet close enough to be an integral part of the Oklahoma City metro area. The first Europeans in the area came through as a result of the Santa Fe railroad laying tracks through the territory in the mid-1880s. Like all towns in Central Oklahoma, Edmond began at 12 noon on April 22, 1889; the Great Oklahoma Land Run. The government had decided to open up Oklahoma Territory to settlers with the promise of free land. All one had to was stake a claim. The government had previously plotted all the claims: lots within designated cities and quarter-mile quadrants outside the towns. Edmond was a water stop on the Santa Fe and was designated by the government surveyors as a 'town'. Edmond was originally named 'Summit' as it was believed that it was the highest point between the Cimarron and North Canadian rivers.

For the run, the townsite committee was considering the name 'Birge City' but when the papers were filed in 1889 at the Land Office in Guthrie (Oklahoma's first capital), someone, no one knows who, had crossed off Birge City and written in 'Edmond'. It was most likely named for Edmond Burdick, a freight agent for the Santa Fe railroad. Edmond became the site of the Oklahoma Territory's first institution of higher learning - the Normal School began classes on November 9, 1891. It is now the University of Central Oklahoma. Edmond grew rapidly: it was a stop on the Santa Fe railroad, it was later on the Interurban rail line running from Oklahoma City to Guthrie, and Route 66 ran right through town, today's Second Street and south on Broadway.

Edmond used to be a "Sundown town" or "Sunset town" - local law required any non-white person, including Blacks, AmerIndians, and Hispanics to be out of town before sunset. According to historian Christopher Lehman: By ordinance, the city of Edmond, Oklahoma, prohibited Blacks from the city limits for generations. The 1940 postcard for the Royce Café proudly emblazoned "A Good Place to Live. 6,000 Live Citizens. No Negroes" as an attraction for prospective residents. No Negro attended school in Edmond until 1974, and no Negro family lived there until 1976.

All the food at the Royce was "supervised by women."

As of 2015, Edmond has grown from 6,000 to 85,000 citizens. Today, there is a Muslim Mosque, a Mormon Church, a Witness Meeting Hall; and numerous Hispanics, Asians, and Negroes living in the city.

Capital View addition

The second major housing development in early Edmond was south of Second Street, between town and the college. It was originally the site of the Clegern family farm, bounded by Second Street, Ninth street, Boulevard, and Rankin. Their farmhouse stood near the corner of Second Street and Jackson Street. The barn and a pond stretched south to what is now 4th Street. In the 1920s, the Clegerns built a new house on what is now Fifth Street, east of Rankin. They sold their farm and divided it into housing lots, first in 1917, and again in 1921 - the former Clegern farmstead became the Capital View Addition. Lots were typically 25' wide and 140' deep, although new owners bought 2 or more lots. The developer built the Clegern School on Jackson and 5th and a roundabout at 4th and University (then called College). The roundabout was removed and paved over later but reconstructed in about 2008 with a smaller diameter to accommodate today's larger trucks. Across Rankin (where the apartment complex is now) was a pioneer Edmond cemetery (graves were later moved to GraceLawn Cemetery on Danforth and Boulevard).

Above: the original lamppost in the roundabout circle at 4th and University (named College then). Below: Reconstructed version.

When Watson decided to buy a house, the Capital View naberhood was the only one considered: it is close to the campus (Watson sometimes walked to work), has houses with character, the trees are larger and more mature, and the location put Watson close to work, shopping, and highway access.

424EAST4TH is actually two city lots - lots 4 and 5. They remained vacant for 30 years. It is not known who owned these two lots during that time. In 1951, the owners contracted to design and build a house on the lots. The original house was designed by Richard Henley, an Oklahoma City architect. Construction was completed in 1952 in the typical brick ranch style. The most intriguing exterior architectural feature was the brick planter running along the front of the house. Jim Watson saw the house at 424EAST4TH and within minutes saw the possibilities for transformation from a cluttered space to one of openness. Watson was seeking the openness of a loft type space with a bit of industrial feel yet in a residential naberhood. The interior of the house was completely remodeled during the summer of 1995 by Watson. An office addition was designed by Watson and built during the summer of 2000; the new kitchen was designed and built during the summer of 2002. A new driveway with parking pad was designed and poured in winter 2004. The bathroom was enlarged and remodeled in spring 2004.

Route 66
The Mother Road came east/west along Second Street and north/south along Broadway to OKC. The Royce Cafe stone building is still there (now it houses offices).

1934 & 1962:

The Wide-A-Wake, a landmark on Route 66, was always open. Tastee-Freez at 8th Street & Broadway.
Below: Postcard, "Camp Dixie for rest: It's the very best" Edmond, Okla. This was where the drive from 2nd St to the Union is now. To the east of the Camp Dixie was a Dairy Queen, about where the Bronco statue is today.

Below: Stephenson Park and the former WPA Armory, now the Edmond Museum. The Edmond Swimming pool:

Above right: Former Boulevard Supermarket, now the Boulevard Steakhouse.

Fink Park: built 1926 along Route 66

Above: 1971 and 2010. Below: Park bridges, probly built in the 1920s?

Below: Likely site of a croquet field:

Below: Creek retaining wall, a WPA construction?

Below: Potential early camping sites:

'Lover's Rock' 1915 (students from an art class having a picnic). 1918 (before it was declared a city park in 1926). 2017:

Below: Entrance sign to the park, 1930; and 1964 with an arch of cedar:

Above: Picnic table likely built as a WPA project. Below: WPA-era tables from other area city parks:

Below: Maybe the original Pavilion (the caption just places it "in a city park"). The slope down makes this location likely for the original set of steps (now it's an ADA-compliant ramp.

The hike & bike trail

The City of Edmond Parks Dept built a hike/bike trail that starts at Fink Park and winds along a creek, behind Target and Lowe's (and close to Starbucks) and over to Hafer Park. I walked the dogs there several times a week.

Aerial view from 1971

Photo from the Archives & Special Collections, Max Chambers Library, University of Central Oklahoma

We celebrate Litter Day every week

The trash truck in our naberhood regularly disperses trash on the street as the robotic arms lift the green bins, turn them over, and hope the contents make it into the truck opening on the roof. But, the Oklahoma wind rarely cooperates with that intent. So, we have embraced it by renaming Trash Day as Litter Day.

The grave of aviator Wiley Post

Wiley Post was one of this country's aviation pioneers - he began his career in the early 1920s as a barnstorming pilot, often performing as a parachute jumper. Some of his highlights:
• An aerial racer in the early 1930s, winning the Bendix Trophy while flying in his plane "Winnie Mae".
• The first person to fly solo around the world. 1931: 8 days, 16 hours. 1933: 7 Days, 19 hours.
• He pioneered a number of aviation inventions, including the automatic pilot.
• Helped develop the first high-altitude pressure suits, on display at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC.
• Good friends with humorist and entertainer Will Rogers, who decided to accompany Post on a flight to Alaska. On August 15, 1935, a few miles from Port Barrow, Alaska they became lost in bad weather and landed in a lagoon to ask directions. The engine quit when they tried to take off again and the plane plunged into the lagoon and both Wiley Post and Will Rogers died instantly.
Wiley Post is buried in Memorial Park Cemetery in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, just a few miles from my house in Edmond. I had searched for his grave before, but it wasn't until this historical marker was put up that I finally found it.

Oklahoma boasts
• The first electric steel guitar: Beggs musician Bob Dunn, early 1930s.
• The first parking meter: OKC, July 16 1935.
• The first shopping cart: OKC, June 4 1937.
• The first Yield sign: Tulsa, 1950.
• The most diverse terrain of any state in the nation. Environmental Protection Agency: 11 distinct Eco-regions in Oklahoma.
• More man-made lakes than any other state. More than a million surface-acres of water and 2,000 more miles of shoreline than the Atlantic and Gulf coasts combined.
• Home to more astronauts than any other state. Owen Garriott: Enid, Tom Stafford: Weatherford, Shannon Lucid: Oklahoma City, William Pogue: Okemah, and Gordon Cooper: Shawnee.
• 3rd largest gas-producing state in the nation
• 4th in the production of wheat, cattle and calves
• 5th in the production of pecans
• 6th in peanuts
• 8th in peaches
• Famous hometowns
    Chester Gould, Dick Tracy cartoonist: Pawnee
    Clarence "Ducky" Nash, original voice of Donald Duck: Watonga
    Garth Brooks: Tulsa
    Reba McIntire: McAlester
    Toby Keith: Clinton and Moore
    Ron Howard: Duncan
    Troy Aikman: Henryetta
    Brad Pitt: Shawnee

From a recent study of Happiest States by National Geographic Explorer, based on these 5 criteria: Daily life, Physical health, Location, Finances, Companionship

Oklahoma Values
"Oklahomans have known for a long time that the state is a great place to raise a family, grow a business and live your dreams." stated by the President and CEO of the State Chamber. Similar comments were made following the 2008 presidential election - the one in which Oklahoma was the only state to have 100% of its counties vote for John McCain. Okies wrote in to the newspaper and stated how proud they were that Okies held to their values. Okie values. Just what are those values? Lets look at some categories.

Rates of violent crime (per 1,000 people, in selected cities)
89.30 Oklahoma City
87.92 Dallas
86.25 Los Angeles
85.52 New York City

Areas in which Oklahoma ranks in the top 10
Incarceration of women.
Household hunger.
Pain killer/Opiod abuse.
Methamphetamine laboratories.
Youngest age to get married.
Women killed by men.
Overall incarceration.
Teen births.
Fatal drug overdoses.

Areas in which Oklahoma ranks in the bottom 10
Well-being and happiness.
Most livable state.
Peacefulness and non-violence.
Women's progress economically, socially, and politically.
Teacher pay.
Population covered by health insurance.
Overall health.
Fruit and vegetable consumption (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
Life expectancy rate in USA.
Amount of walking that its citizens do and is rated as one of the most sedentary.
Prevalence of smoking - 1 in 4 Oklahomans smoke.
Prevalence of obesity - since 1990, increased from 12% to 29% of the population, increase of 148%.
Poor mental health days.
Cardiovascular deaths.
Premature deaths.
Overall health rank.

American Fitness Index: Oklahoma City ranks last
The annual Index is based on a number of health factors, including percentage of residents who smoke, obesity rates, percentage of people who exercise and availability of parks, walking trails and farmers' markets. Oklahoma City is at the bottom of the list because of the residents' personal health habits such as smoking, not exercising enough, and not eating enough fruits and vegetables. "It takes a healthy community to produce a healthy population."
      1. Minneapolis-St. Paul
      2. Washington DC
      3. Boston
      4. Portland OR
      5. Denver
      6. San Francisco
    50. Oklahoma City
Source: American Fitness Index from the American College of Sports Medicine, designed by health and medical experts and funded by the non-profit WellPoint Foundation. Reported in USA Today, May 23, 2011. More info.

Rural Oklahoma counties have highest per capita rate of female inmates
From The Oklahoman, March 2009. Oklahoma leads the nation in the per capita number of women in prison - Oklahoma imprisons 131 women per 100,000 women. The national average is 69, according to US Department of Justice statistics. "While we can't change these figures internally, we can make changes by making sure that women who leave our system are more prepared and returning at a lower rate," Pitman said. In the past three years, the number of women in prison has grown steadily by at least 10 percent each year, according to the report. Without significant changes, the female prison population could grow to as high as 3,028 by 2013, according to the report. In 2008, there were 2,721 women in prison, DOC records show.

Cities with the most faith
November 10, 2010. Men's Health magazine's Metrogrades survey is based on these criteria: places of worship per capita (from the US Census and Yellow.com); number of religious organizations (US Census); number of volunteers who support these groups (VolunteeringinAmerica.gov); amount of money donated to religious organizations (Bureau of Labor Statistics); and amount of money spent on religious books (Mediamark Research).
    1. Colorado Springs CO
    2. Greensboro NC
    3. Oklahoma City OK
    4. Wichita KS
  10. Little Rock AR
  11. Fort Worth TX
  17. Dallas TX
  96. Portland ME
  97. Hartford CT
  98. Boston MA
  99. Providence RI
100. Burlington VT

Some selected area cities. Oklahoma City was #2 of all cities over 250,000 people (Mesa Arizona was #1).

Oklahoma in bottom 10 of US states in peacefulness
April, 2011. Oklahoma ranked No. 43 in a study by the Institute for Economics and Peace that measured US states in peacefulness, defined by the absence of violence. The United States Peace Index defines peace as the absence of violence and uses measurements of homicide, violent crime, jailed population, number of police officers and availability of small arms. New England states generally were ranked as the most peaceful (those states have the lowest percentage of religious people). States in the South (most religious) ranked in the bottom 10 of states in peacefulness.

Mixed emotions about the spending by the Federal Government
According to the Washington Post, April 2011, analysts say that skepticism toward the federal government in Oklahoma - where Obama won no counties in 2008 - is deep. According to an OU political scientist, "there is a lot of sentiment that the federal government is too large, too intrusive and probably too wasteful." Oklahoma's congressional delegation is known as the most conservative in the nation. In the last election, Republicans swept nearly 70 percent of the state legislative seats.
But the federal government in central Oklahoma not only keeps more than 20,000 civilians employed but also is helping to nurture the area's increasingly prosperous and diverse economy. The federally fueled economic mix has helped the city withstand the recession better than most places. Overall, Oklahoma City has a 6.2 percent unemployment rate, the second lowest among the nation's metropolitan areas with populations over 1 million, behind only Washington DC.
The state of Oklahoma gets back $1.35 for every dollar its residents and businesses pay in federal taxes, according to the Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan tax research group. That's the 15th most generous return among the 50 states.
• About 7 percent of the workers in Oklahoma City are federal employees, more than double the US average.
• A fast growing sector of the local economy is the aviation industry, which economists call an outgrowth of the work done at two large federal outposts: Tinker Air Force Base, which employees 14,400 civilians, and the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center which employs more than 7,000 people.
• The city is a crossroads for three major interstate highways which were built with federal money. Currently, the city is rerouting a section of Interstate 40, opening up 750 acres of land for new development and a planned park - work being done with federal help.
• The state's booming energy sector as well as many of its farmers benefit mightily from federal subsidies.

So, just what are Okie values?
Why is Oklahoma such a great place to raise a family? The statistics above just do not paint a very family-friendly picture. I suspect what they mean is that Oklahoma is full of conservative Christian Republicans - are these the true 'Oklahoma values'?

There are many great things about Oklahoma: convenient location for traveling to other parts of the country, close to Dallas/Ft. Worth and Kansas City, beautiful diverse terrain for hiking, water sports, etc, a growing creative and arts community, many fine restaurants, and live music entertainment, casino gambling, and relatively minor traffic problems in the cities. But, too often, the good things about Oklahoma are overshadowed by statistics such as those above.