5 months ago
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Back at the beginning of the last century the automobile was hitting mass assembly lines, Henry Ford was considering interchangeable parts, and Oklahoma was hoping to grow up to be a real state like Kansas or Arkansas. There were a couple of problems with this wish, the land was full of Indians run out of the Eastern part of the country by Andrew Jackson, the territory was full of criminals hiding from justice and that hanging judge Parker in Ft. Smith, and there was a sticky black goo that bubbled up all over the freakin place.
Surprisingly it was the black goo that ended up making the state known throughout the world. In fact, Tulsa still tries to claim the title "Oil Capital of the World." With money came law enforcement so eventually the criminals were run to ground and the Indians were displaced in just the right way. Economically.
Little towns around Tulsa began to spring to life. Glenpool is literally named for the pool of oil found in the glens south of Tulsa. As money rich men from back East came to suck the state dry of resources. Men by the name of Phillips, Skelly and J. Paul Getty walked the streets of my home town. They built refineries, built railroads, and made fortunes large enough to support their families until they needed to buy a Presidency... but that's another story.
One of the railroads they had built runs from Tulsa through Okmulgee County. Right along old highway 75, straight as an arrow. The railroad is still used heavily even today. Traffic is still stopped in these small rural towns while trains switch tracks, change loads, or wait for one to pass another. The trains still exist, the tracks are maintained but the old depots have long been forgotten.
Many local towns converted the old traditional train depots into city offices. They have the look and feel of olden times, preserving the nostalgia while providing space for community offices or events.
Back at the turn of the last century the Phillips brothers and Skelly Oil made sure the trains ran through Okmulgee County. Now, 100 years later those companies have moved on to greater, more important things, like Iraq. The refinery is gone and the wells are dry The old refinery whistle that used to blow at 7:30 and 8:00 each morning, at noon and 1:00 then at 5:00 every evening is silent. When I was a kid you set your life by that whistle. It could be heard in every corner of the town and every parent knew it because their childhoods had been ruled by that whistle. A sound my children will never hear. A security none of us will ever feel again.
At the top of the hill of the historic downtown Okmulgee Main Street is the old depot. It is dark and dilapidated. People have tried to build nicer, newer buildings around it to hide the old embarrassment. Then the renovation of depots started and the City got all excited and decided they too wanted to renovate their historic turn of the century depot built by the Phillips Brothers and the Skelly family. Only the City couldn't actually prove they owned the damn thing.
So they contacted the railroad company, which now has it's own real estate business division, to rent off or sell old railroad properties. The Railroad said they would be willing to work on the situation but then the Muscogee-Creek Nation Tribal Government said that in all truthfulness, THEY were the real owners of the old crumbling building.
So another year ticks by and a few more bricks fall and shatter. The building is not even recognizable from the photograph above. It sits as an unofficial shelter for bums, hobos and gangbangers. It is the unspoken symbol of our community. A rich heritage that is squandered by little men with petty goals that would rather see rot and decay than progress and hope.