Travel to U.S.: Oklahoma: Norman in Sum: Take One
At the end of the day, Norman can be spun to suit all tastes. Your choice; eye of the beholder. This folder presents the town in a flattering light.
We begin again with the railroad station, a budget version of the Richardsonian gloom and grandeur of bigger towns. There's a simplicity here that will please anyone of truly democratic and republican sympathies. (The two occasionally go together.)
Abner Norman, in the bronze. It's a recent statue, based on some photographs, and to the extent they notice it Normanites seem fond of it. It stands in front of the new--and none too charming--city hall.
The fairgrounds are on the northeast side of town and are used a lot, most regularly perhaps by a seasonal farmer's market that attracts a lot of loyal customers for berries, tomatoes, corn, watermelons, baby potatoes, and greens. The fairgrounds themselves are nothing fancy, but the typeface at the main entrance has the feel of a time when Norman was small enough and slow enough that community had not yet been driven off the road. Unfortunately the letters are gone, casualties of a remodelling.
Less well-known: the entrance to the old Carnegie Library, now a senior-citizen's center.
The old post-office was built like a battleship and is now used by the school district. The new post office, like the new library, was a huge step backwards architecturally.
Another vestige of Rooseveltian Norman: the outdoor theater in the city's first park. The theater was built by the CCC, which was amazingly loyal to local materials, in this case the Permian sandstone upon which Norman sits. Alas, the seats are empty just about year-round, thanks to a decline in popular willingness to sit outside in hot weather.
Very, very popular, especially with parents of young children: the Duck Pond is wedged between the Santa Fe tracks and the OU campus.
A real Norman icon, known to everyone in town, albeit almost never seen from this angle. This is the mounded-up backstop for the military firing range of the old naval-air station. The trees on the left mark the concrete trench in which the target apparatus was set up. Interstate 35 runs between the mound and the apartments in the background; here, Mt. Williams is seen from the east, on land slated for industrial development. Pity.
And so it came to pass. January, 2006: Mt. Williams yields to a SuperTarget. Did people care? Indeed some did, because a city on the plains needs all the placemarkers it can get, especially when the cultural landscape is so ephemeral that today's drycleaner is tomorrow's liquor store. The University of Oklahoma Foundation, which owned the tract and stood to gain from its development, was politically astute enough to remain silent in the face of murmured protest. A week or two after this picture was taken, the hill was gone. Think Interstate 35, just behind it, will replace it?
A little epitaph, from Willa Cather's My Antonia, Part I, Chapter 4: "It must have been the scarcity of detail in that tawny landscape that made details seem so precious."
A close-up of that target apparatus, now in ruins.
Icon in the making? Maybe. The bronze bison stands outside Norman's new museum of natural history, built to house the university's truly remarkable--and until now grossly underprotected--holdings.
"The teacher." Ah, for the days when teachers could in fact be as single-minded as this woman, who stands before the university library but looks at though she's quite willing to beat knowledge into her students, if that's what it takes.
Some of the older neighborhoods around the OU campus have been designated historic districts; real-estate values, though low by national standards, have been rising.
Pure Americana: every year, the McFarlin Methodist church imports a mess of pumpkins from New Mexico. They aren't cheap, but what are you going to do, dad? Say no?
Downtown is undergoing that brave conversion to an arts community. As it stands, even the unconverted sections are pleasant on a nice day, if you're in a decent mood.
Time out. Norman doesn't exactly excel in culinary attractions. (Yes, this is an understatement.) One of these days, somebody will open a restaurant with something good to eat. Meanwhile, there's this downtown diner. Grits? You bet. Biscuits and gravy? Homemade each morning. If you're hungry and fond of the Southern food groups, you'll like the place.
Early one morning. Lots of people drive past without a second thought, but they must have been born after the '50s. Inside, there's a hardwood rink with miles of memories.
A genuine '50s drive-in. The interesting story is that it used to be part of the Sonic chain. When fees went up, the owner bailed. Sonic turned baleful: threatened to build--then did build--a spanking, company-owned drive-in next door. Years have passed, and the old place still has the business; only strangers in town use the new one.
An old fire-station was converted 20 years ago. It's a busy place.
And could the 7-time national football champions be omitted? Owen Field, named for an early coach.
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