Basketball season will be upon us in a few months.
The Thunder faithful will gather again on Reno Avenue north of the Chesapeake Arena in anticipation of another great game.
But go a few blocks north to where Broadway and Sheridan form a T intersection anchored by the Cox Convention Center, the Sheraton Century Hotel and the Renaissance Hotel, and imagine, if you will, Broadway extending south and each corner populated with its own diverse group of citizens.
This article from The Oklahoman, May 25, 1919, tells the story of Gospel Corner.
” ‘Gospel Corner,’ famous in the history of Oklahoma City until a decade ago, is being rehabilitated, after being partially suppressed by police edict. During its palmy days, ‘Gospel Corner’ vied with Trafalgar Square in London as a place where the freedom of speech regardless of how seditionary or unorthodox, was permitted. During the summer months it was not uncommon for four religious meetings to be in progress simultaneously — one on each corner, and it was because the intersection of Grand Avenue (now Sheridan Avenue) and Broadway was favored during the cool of the evenings as a place for street sermons that the intersection became known as ‘Gospel Corner.’
“Any man or woman who thought he or she had a message to deliver to the world was welcome to mount a soap box and begin expounding after 6 o’clock p.m. The city was filled with transients at that time, and any speaker was sure to have an audience regardless of the subject or length of the address.
“Religious ideas were not the only ones disseminated at ‘Gospel Corner’ during the heyday of its glory. Soap box orators and curbstone statesmen flourished here in those days, and a citizen with a few minutes to spend could learn how to save the country. The information was free.
“Gospel Corner’s downfall really dates from the time that ‘God,’ ‘Adam’ and ‘Eve’ (a group of nudists or naturists) undertook one day to put their preaching into practice on West Grand avenue. In broad daylight the three, attired even as Adam might have been, emerged from a doorway near Robinson avenue and began a march east on Grand avenue.”
After being covered up by well-meaning citizens, the trio were taken to jail and then banished from the city. The police pronounced an edict prohibiting gatherings on the corners.
The 1919 article ended by saying:
” ‘Gospel Corner’ is being revived but it is now pitched upon a higher plane. On several evenings last week two organizations were holding forth simultaneously at ‘Gospel Corner’ and the gatherings assumed the proportions of the old time crowds.”
The crowds have moved two blocks south now to Reno, and the shouts are for the home team, but if you’re at Broadway and Sheridan on game night, use your imagination and hear the sounds of those long-ago crowds.
As the 2012 Summer Olympics are now under way in London, a look back in The Oklahoman shows the Stockholm Olympics were drawing to a close 100 years ago on July 15, 1912.
How exciting it must have been to have been a participant as the winners of gold, silver and bronze received their awards. The Oklahoman, July 16, 1912, described the spectacle on the front page:
“With the United States well in the lead in total number of points in all sports; with a sweeping victory to the credit of Yankee athletes in track and field events; and with an Oklahoma Indian, James Thorpe, proved the best all-around athlete in the world, the curtain has fallen upon the Olympic Games of 1912. Never before has there been such an assemblage of athletes, never before have the events been so hotly contested, and never before have previous records been bowled over so ruthlessly as in the fifth Olympiad.
“James Thorpe of the Carlisle Indian school proved himself easily the greatest all-around athlete of the world in the decathlon, which proved a variety of tests of speed, strength and quickness… .
“It seems marvelous that any capacity to shout was left in Stockholm after the last nine days but the victors got all due them when they received their laurels. … Three handsome stands were placed on the greensward and all the winners of first, second and third prizes marched into the arena and assembled in three groups before the stands. The athletes and gymnasts and officers of the various nations who competed in the military events were in uniform while the women prizewinners were variously attired.
“The king (Gustave of Sweden) conferred on the winners of each first prizes an oak wreath, a gold medal and a challenge cup. Crown Prince Gustave Adolph presented a silver medal to each member of the second group and Prince Charles, brother of the king, handed bronze medals to each of the third group. A herald in medieval costume called the name of each who then stepped forward and received the prize.
“(Jim) Thorpe was honored with a huge bronze trophy so large he could hardly carry it.”
As London presents this year’s Olympics, The Oklahoman will again keep us apprised of the competitions. Let us cheer all the competitors on, with special cheers for the 39 Oklahoman athletes, coaches and support staff. Four of the rowers trained on the Oklahoma River.
History often shows up where we least expect it.
My sister, Martha Vickery, and I occasionally go to estate sales, searching for bargains and odd, interesting items
At a recent sale, I saw a plaque on the wall, looked at it, thought the $12 price was too high and went on looking through the house.
Before I paid for the things I had found, I looked at the plaque again and decided to buy it.
It is a simple board plaque with a half-inch thick slice of iron rail attached and a piece of paper pasted to the bottom with this simple explanation:
TOWARD A FINER OKLAHOMA CITY
This section of streetcar track was removed in 1976 from its original location at Main and Robinson during the renewal of the Central Business District. As part of the downtown city loop of the street rail system, this track served all the north and east areas of Oklahoma City, including such routes as the Fairgrounds, East Fourth, Capitol Culbertson, Lincoln Park and North Robinson. Over this rail passed thousands of merrymakers destined for the Fairgrounds as well as those with civic pride eager to see the new State Capitol dedicated July 4, 1917. During 1920, the system’s best year, 25.5 million passengers used the lines of the streetcar system.
— George H. Shirk, Christmas 1976
My guess is George Shirk, former mayor of Oklahoma City and a lifelong preservationist of Oklahoma history, might have given these as Christmas gifts the year before his death in 1977.
Why is the plaque important to me?
That piece of streetcar rail represents a part of my family’s history. My Oklahoma pioneer grandmother, Stella Young, rode the streetcar to Guthrie for the 89er parades. My aunt, Grace Helms, tells how when she rode the cars as a child, the wicker seats were so slick, and the streetcar’s swaying motion made her afraid she might slide right off.
Many family memories centered on the fairgrounds, then at NW 10 and Martin Luther King Avenue, where Douglass High School now stands, Northeast Lake near the zoo, then a popular swimming area, and trips downtown to window shop, all destinations on the streetcar lines.
The only street cars I’ve ridden were those in San Francisco.
The closest I had come to the rails were those still in the street under the overpass at NW 4 and Broadway.
Now, I have a piece of Oklahoma City history.