I work on the ninth floor of The Oklahoman building on the corner of the Broadway Extension and Britton Road. Most mornings I travel to work on I-235 to the Broadway Extension and exit at Britton Road.
The view that greets me every morning, except when the fog is particularly bad, is the twinkling lights from the antenna farm.
Most Oklahoma Cityans are familiar with the radio and television towers located both north and south of Britton Road and mostly east of the Broadway Extension. Looking east from my ninth floor breakroom, I can count at least 17 large towers and there are numerous smaller communication towers.
The first tower to arrive east of Britton was WKY’s 915 foot tower, then the tallest in the world. WKY was relocating from their station at NW 39 Street due to the expansion of air traffic. This was announced in 1941, but due to World War II, it was in the April 2, 1944 Daily Oklahoman that featured a photograph with the announcement of the completion of the tower. On December 21, 1944, the radio station switched it operations to its new studio/transmitter building on Britton Road. That building, now nearly 65 years old, is still standing between the KOMAradio station building and the KFOR-TV studios.
Best of all for me, is seeing the red-sparklng towers rise above the horizon each morning. One of my landmarks and touchstones is still there.
When I was young, one of my absolute favorite things was visiting my grandparents.
My paternal grandmother, Stella Young, and my maternal grandparents, Dewey and Audrie Bennett, both lived on SE 21 Street. Lightning Creek separated them.
It was so much fun for a little girl to walk down to the foot bridge that spanned the creek. Not only could I visit my grandparents but I could cross the creek and look down and see all of what now would be just cast-off trash, but then was treasure, just out of reach.
Imagine my surprise when, looking for something else in The Oklahoman’s archive, I stumbled across a photograph of the very foot bridge I remembered from my childhood.
The story published March 8, 1944, tells the story of “my bridge.”
The original bridge across Lightning Creek had been destroyed earlier in the year by a tornado. With the war still ongoing, steel was unavailable, so the mother of invention took over.
“With steel for a modern bridge unavailable at this time, W. J. Booth, superintendent of the municipal garage, gathered up some salvage pipe from the Bluff creek project, welded them together, applied a new coat of paint and brought out a bridge.”
“Two men, working 10 days in the city garage, whipped out the structure at a total cost of $125 for a welding rod and material.”
The story goes on to say, “A total of 1,500 feet of pipe was used in constructing the 75-foot bridge. It is five feet, nine inches wide. A wooden flooring will be added.”
I remember the big wooden planks that made the floor of the bridge and provided my aunts, uncles and mother a shortcut to school.
The bridge is no longer there, probably a victim of the flood control measures to keep Lightning Creek in its banks.
The street is not the street I remember of houses and people. Most of the houses are gone now, but I can close my eyes and see that little girl holding her daddy’s hand walking across the old bridge.
I will admit that when I came across the headline above, that appeared in The Oklahoman for August 22, 1909, I wasn’t completely sure what peripatetic meant. But after reading the story I understood the defintion from Merriam-Webster Online: “movement or journeys hither and thither.”
“When a man named Jackson built a little frame chapel at the corner of Broadway and Noble avenue (now SW 3rd street) in 1899, he little dreamed what its influence was to be on the religious history and development of Oklahoma City.
“The little chapel was built originally for the use of the Salvation Army, but was later acquired by the Baptists of the city and in 1902 was removed to Washington avenue (now SW 2nd street) and Walker avenue. Here it was used by the Washington avenue Baptist Church for about six months, that now flourishing congregation being organized there. In 1903 it was removed to Capitol Hll. In it the Capitol Hill Baptist Church was organized and it was the only home of that organization for the next two years. Then, in 1905, the First Baptist Church bought the building and placed it on the corner of East Fifth and Phillips streets. It was used for a mission Sunday school in the Maywood district, under the supervision of Dr. H. Coulter Todd for the next year. In 1906 it was again removed to East Ninth and Phillips streets, where it was again used for a mission Sunday school under the supervision of G.N. Longfellow.
“On October 24, 1907, the little chapel was acquired by the Immanuel Baptist church, which was the third and last Baptist congregation to be organized within its walls. The Immanuel Baptist church then had but twenty members, but they were “game” and bought the building and lots for $1,367. That night the Rev. Forrest Maddox was called from the Portland Avenue Baptist church at Louisville, Ky., to the pastorate for the little new church in Oklahoma City. The Rev. Maddox proved to be a hustler. He got the Baptist state board interested and it helped out financially. The little chapel was torn down and a new temple built last year with a seating capacity of 700. The church has grown from twenty persons to a congregation of 169. The Immanuel Baptist church also owns a mission at the corner of Kelham avenue and East Fourteenth street, and its total property is worth over $7,500.
“The little church was moved about so often during the days of its existence that among the church people of the city it came to be known as “the peripatetic meeting house.”
Of the churches mentioned, the Salvation Army is still a force in Oklahoma City as is the First Baptist and Capitol Hill Baptist churches. Immanuel Baptist and the Washington Avenue Baptist Church which became the Second Baptist Church are no longer in existence.
If you go downtown, at some point you will probably find yourself on Robinson Avenue. It certainly is one of Oklahoma City’s oldest streets.
A story published in The Oklahoman July 16, 1972, reported, “The morning of April 23, 1889, surveyors set up tripods and squinted through the transits. The links of surveyor chain clanked as Robinson Avenue was surveyed from Reno Road through South Oklahoma toward the North Canadian River. Marching north from Reno at Second Street, the Oklahoma Station surveyors hiked up the old Boomer ‘blue hill’ painted and perfumed by a carpet of wild violets in bloom, and Robinson Avenue stopped at a homesteader’s claim at Seventh Street. ”
“Robinson Avenue began as a dusty or muddy road, depending on the weather, a mile and a quarter long through the townsite of Oklahoma , and South Oklahoma.”
But who was it named for? A Vermonter and a man who never was a resident of Oklahoma or Oklahoma City, Albert Alonzo Robinson. Born in 1844 and raised on the edge of the Wisconsin frontier, he graduated from the University of Michigan in 1869 and began his career as a surveyor’s axeman (the man who cleared the way for the surveyor). By 1886, he was the newly promoted chief engineer for the Santa Fe railroad, and Santa Fe had obtained a federal charter to build the railroad across the Cherokee outlet and Oklahoma lands, working south from Arkansas City to what would become Purcell in the Chickasaw Nation. They started in September 1886, and by February 1887 they were at Deer Creek, OK. Many of the railroad employees were Boomers, those who settled Oklahoma Territory legally. They recognized that the railroad building was a “double blessing,” it provided a good living and kept them near the land they hoped to homestead.
The charter had a deadline of April 20, and it looked like the tracklayers had no chance to meet it.
The government sent a marshal to serve a writ on the railroad, but they didn’t reckon with Mr. Robinson. He sent his chief clerk to take over, and while he laid track and avoided the marshal, Robinson ignored all the messages to cease construction. On April 26, the tired marshal rode in to the railroad camp and told Curtis he was there to serve the writ because the work was not finished.
Curtis said, “The track is all finished, look for yourself.” The marshal agreed.
“That was the last Robinson and the Santa Fe heard of the federal writ. Old Boomers slapped each other on the back about how Robinson had saved the railroad for Oklahoma country.” The famous photograph of the Run of ’89 shows some of the settlers arriving by train on the track that Albert Robinson made sure was laid.
During his 22-year career with Santa Fe, Albert Robinson was responsible for building more than 5,000 miles of track, the bridge over the Royal Gorge and rising to vice president of Santa Fe. When he retired as president of Mexican Central, he returned to Topeka, KS, and died in 1918.
It’s been 120 years since Robinson Avenue was surveyed and named for the Boomers’ friend, Albert Alonzo Robinson, but it is fitting that Oklahoma City’s “main street” is named for the man who made sure the railroad made it to Oklahoma.
Note: Some of Robinson’s biographical information was obtained from Internet biographies.