We moved often in my childhood, and quite far at times. While most of it was somewhere in Oklahoma, it did range out to Four Corners once. Up through my current adult life, I’ve lived as far west as Salem, OR; as far north as Anchorage, AK; as far east as Seminole, OK; and as far south as the area of Madisonville, TX.
I’m going to tell you that Midwest City is not that special. I am particularly unhappy with the municipal government. I’ve had enough dealings with them to know that they are relentlessly middle-class materialists. They invite you to comment and open their meetings, but those meetings are all structured to accommodate the upper middle class only, in the sense that they won’t even register dissent that doesn’t fit into their plans. So if you have a truly substantive complaint against their cultural orientation, it’s as if you said nothing at all. They aren’t particularly arrogant, just restrained by tunnel vision.
Recently the city announced plans to revitalize some of the suburban decay. The old Original Mile will be tarted up a bit. That link takes you to a story featuring an aerial view from the west side of the area under discussion. That’s the large plot of land bought by a speculator who heard that the huge prairie just south of there was slated for a Douglas Aircraft plant back in the 1930s. It was eventually called the Midwest Air Depot. Along with a few other companies, Douglas geared up for WW2 and the Air Force moved in some folks to coordinate. Eventually the Air Force took over the place.The Original Mile used to host a large patch of two-story apartment buildings (right), which was the first place Veloyce and I lived after our wedding in 1978. Those buildings are long gone, replaced by the current massive shopping center that faces the northern end of Tinker AFB (above left).
This Original Mile is all looping streets with mostly aircraft company names in some semblance of alphabetical order. I don’t recall seeing an “A” but we had Boeing, Curtiss, Douglas, Ercoupe, Fairchild, Grumman, Harmon, Jacobs, Kittyhawk, Marshall, Northrup, etc. Somehow the northwest corner ended up with botanical names, but what matters most is how easily you could get lost if you didn’t have a map.
Aside from what was originally a handful of useful stores along the first row facing SE 29th Street, there was a second group built along SE 15th that still stands today, called the Uptown Center. The big anchor store in the main building was TG&Y, which space is now occupied by Langston’s Western Wear. TG&Y faded starting in the 1970s. Behind the main building stood a Sears auto garage and a military surplus store.
The center building faced out onto Key Boulevard, opposite what was for a very long time our main post office (now Sherwin-Williams paint). I spent a lot of money in the shops that once occupied this strip: sporting goods, boot repair, even a cheap jewelry store where I bought a pocket watch and carried for years.
Finally, the far western building was an IGA grocery store until that company lost their suburban market share. Actually, the place was run out of business by the aggressive and hateful practices of Nick Harroz, deceased founder of Crest Foods. That man bullied the city government to keep the competition out. He died and his heirs sold the business to some big faceless corporation, but to this day, the old main store management is pretty ugly with certain classes of customers. For example, he hates cyclists. This guy put the bike rack out at the base of their sign next to the sidewalk, as far as possible from the building, as a way of making sure cyclists know they aren’t welcome. Meanwhile, as previously noted Locke Plumbing and Electrical now occupies the old IGA store.
Finally, just for fun, I took a picture of the historic Journal Building, which is opposite Locke on SE 15th and faces out on Key Boulevard. The news company that built it went of business long ago and I can’t find any references to them. I do know that the local county welfare services used it until the renovation, and now it stands empty. The renovation was mostly making the bricks dark.
Oddly, I think this prissy sprucing up of the city won’t go to waste, because our local economy is actually doing rather well. The greater OKC Metro seems to be growing, with vast acreages of McMansions under construction expanding out from the core in all directions for dozens of miles. OKC alone encompasses more than the county, and at last count holds some 620 square miles. Midwest City is the largest eastern suburb. It’s not a bad place to live.