Archive for July, 2013

 This is another fun town to visit with lots of things to do.  Since much of the city is reflected in its history, I need to start there.

            Just over 150 years ago several Native American tribes were forced marched from the East to the “Indian Territory” and many of you probably have heard the name “The Trail of Tears” from the Cherokee march.  Over one third of the Cherokee died on their march to Oklahoma.
            After the Civil War and especially when the railroads started in the 1870’s, cattle and ranching became a big industry.  It was so much easier to get the cattle to the East using the railroad rather than the old Chisholm Trail.
            Most of Oklahoma was given to the Native Americans except a section in the middle of the state that was dubbed “Unassigned Lands.”  In April of 1889 the territory was opened to homesteaders in a Land Run.  On April 22nd, it is estimated there were 50,000 people making a dash for the perfect place to own.  However, some people snuck out the night before to get the best land and they were called the “Sooners” and this brought about the state’s nickname.  Over 10,000 people settled in Oklahoma City (OKC, by residents) overnight and with the cattle and other industries, 65,000 people were living in OKC when it became a state in 1910.
            Some of the famous people important to the city were Jim Thorpe, who won gold medals in the 1912 Olympics, Henry Ford who opened an assembly plant there in 1912, Will Rogers a Cherokee cowboy and humorist, who brought the area international fame, and Wiley Post, a legendary pilot who lost his left eye in an oil rig accident.  He was the first man to fly around the world solo but he and Will Rogers died in a plane crash in 1935 in Alaska.  The whole nation mourned when that happened.  There is a PBS special, narrated by Bob Hope, about Will Rogers that I always show on my motorcoach when going through OK. So if you want to know more about Will Rogers, check out the DVD.
            The downtown was constructed with red bricks (many early frontier towns were destroyed by fire since they were built from wood) and the area became known as “Bricktown.”  This area was revitalized in the 1990’s and today there are many restaurants and hotels and even a “riverwalk” and boats, called water taxis, you can ride for one mile on the Oklahoma River.
            There is also some other notable places downtown.  There is a Triple A baseball park, a farm club of the Texas Rangers and you’ll see a statue of Mickey Mantle out front.  One of the top ten arenas in the country with 100,000 square feet exhibit area, named Chesapeake Convention Center is there and a 20,000 seat Ford Center which hosts the Kansas City Blazers, a hockey team, as well as some NBA teams.
            In 1928 the first oil well was drilled and it changed the economy and landscape forever.  The most renowned strike was in 1930 and lasted eleven days spreading oil over fifteen miles. Imagine what a mess that was, especially back in those days.  Today there are still operating wells on the capitol grounds as well as 2,000 wells still producing all over the city.
            Summer is a good time to visit since many of the Native Americans hold Powwows.  Also a must visit is the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.  There is Western art and sculptures (including works by Russell and Remington), a 1900’s cattle town, a 1950’s rodeo arena, and the Western Performers Gallery with a salute to those old 1950’s Western movies.
            Finally you can’t talk about OKC without mentioning the bomb site of the Murray Federal Building in 1995.  There was a lot of symbolism put into the Memorial where 168 people died, including 19 children.  Sixteen building were taken out and today there are new churches and parking lots that replaced those buildings.  There is a survivor’s tree and a small portion of the wall still remaining.  There is a reflecting pool where McVeigh parked his truck in front of the building.  But most impressive are the 168 empty chairs where the building stood.  There are 9 rows of them, with the exact amount of chairs in each row for how many people died on each floor.  Sadly there are 19 small chairs in the second row for the children who died in the daycare located there.  It is good to see the Memorial in the day time but if you get a chance go at night, too, when it is all lit up.  There is also a museum you can visit in the daytime.
            Although the Depression and the Dust Bowl hit OKC hard today it is back to its former glory.  Today it is known as “America’s Crossroads” since three interstates are located there as well as being a prominent stop on the historic Route 66.  Why don’t you visit and see what you think.
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