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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Making a mark on aviation history

While the Wright brothers may not have hailed from Oklahoma, plenty of other aviation pioneers did, allowing Oklahoma to leave an indelible mark on the industry’s history. Aviation pioneers Clyde Cessna, Will Rogers, Shannon Lucid, Wiley Post, and John “Lee” Atwood all contributed to the craft of aviation while living in Oklahoma, with Will Rogers and Wiley Post both calling Oklahoma “home” for the majority of their lives.

Post first made headlines in 1931 when he and his navigator broke the record by flying around the world in just eight days (hey, it was 1931). This accomplishment made Post a national celebrity (on par with Charles Lindbergh). In 1933, he became the first person to fly solo around the world. For most people, that would be enough accomplishment for a lifetime, but not for Mr. Post. He also developed one of the first pressure suits and discovered the jet stream (all while wearing an amazing eye patch).

Another Oklahoma aviation and military pioneer is Major Gen. Clarence Tinker, who was born in Osage Nation near Pawhuska, Okla., in 1887. He began his distinguished military service in 1912, when he was commissioned into the U.S. Army as a second lieutenant. During World War I, he rose in rank to major, and in 1919 he was transferred to the place where he would spend the bulk of his career, the Air Corps.

After rising through the ranks, he was named Commander of the Seventh Air Force in Hawaii after the attacks on Pearl Harbor. In 1942, Tinker was promoted to major general, becoming the first Native American to reach that rank and the highest-ranking officer with Native American ancestry in the U.S. Army at that time. Tinker demonstrated the hands-on, get-things-done nature of Oklahomans when he personally led a force of B-24s against the retreating Japanese naval forces during the Battle of Midway on June 7.

During that battle, Tinker became the first American general killed during World War II, but his legacy was commemorated in a lasting way a few months later when the Oklahoma City Air Depot was named Tinker Field in his honor. That air depot served its country faithfully during World War II and is still serving faithfully today as Tinker Air Force Base and the Air Force Sustainment Center.

aerospace, aviation, history
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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Tuesday, February 16, 2016


Guthrie at night

The city of Guthrie (located just 35 minutes north of Oklahoma City) was chosen as the territorial capital in the months following the Land Run of 1889, and when Oklahoma gained statehood in 1907, Guthrie became the state capital. Today, Guthrie has retained much of its territorial architecture (and charm!) to become one of the most picturesque places to visit. It stands today as a National Historic Landmark filled with examples of late 19th and early 20th Century architecture.

Here are just a few of the many ways to experience Guthrie:

movies, retail, theater, day-trip, food, Guthrie, history
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Best of 2015

Happy trails to you 2015. While the past year was a banner one for Oklahoma City we think 2016 might top it. There is so much to look forward to as the MAPS 3 projects will continue to take shape, cranes will once again dot the downtown as new towers begin to change the skyline, new music venues will open, new retail will hit the market and who knows? Maybe we will even celebrate the Thunder with a championship parade come June.

This time of the year is filled with “Best of Lists.” Best of music, best of movies, best of television … you get the idea. So why not us? So here are our favorite posts of the past year. Below is a good example of what this blog is all about so you can easily share with your friends and show them why this blog is such a good and entertaining resource. Consider it a “Here-are-five-important-things-a-newbie-to-OKC-needs-to-know” list:

  • Oklahoma Standard- The bombing that happened in downtown Oklahoma City in 1995 forever changed not only our city but country. While it has had a lasting impact the citizens of OKC have not let it define our community. That was never more apparent than this year when we celebrated the 10th anniversary with the Oklahoma Standard campaign.
  • Make Our History Less of a Mystery- From Native American culture to the Land Run saying our region has a unique history would be an understatement. Luckily OKC has a handful of world-class museums that tell our story.
  • deadCENTER Film Festival- We love nothing more than showing off a side of OKC newcomers might not expect. The annual deadCENTER Film Festival is a perfect example of this.
  • Music is in our DNA- Spend any time here and you start to realize OKC can be a bit eclectic. We are little bit country and little bit rock ‘n’ roll (as the kids would say). Nothing exemplifies that more than the musicians who have called Oklahoma home. From the father of folk music to jazz legends, hippie rockers and country superstars, Oklahoma boosts a diverse music scene.
  • Mmm-Beer- Oklahoma City is home to a craft beer scene with breweries taking hope national (and sometimes international) awards.
beer, film, history, live music, MAPS, retail, Thunder
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Learn more about OKC’s military history

display at the 45th Infantry Museum

Veterans Day may only occupy one day on the calendar, but in Oklahoma City you can learn about this community’s military history year round.

Did you know there have been two different USS Oklahoma City ships? There is currently a submarine christened the USS Oklahoma City that served in the Persian Gulf. There was also a light cruiser named the USS Oklahoma City with an interesting history that served in World War II and the Vietnam War. 

Want to experience a more hands on history of the military? Visit the 45th Infantry Museum, which is dedicated to telling the story of the “Thunderbirds” of the 45th Infantry Division. This group of was formed during the National Defense Act of 1920 and spent their first years maintaining order in times of disaster and political unrest. Before deploying during World War II, the Thunderbirds trained at five bases, including Fort Sill in Oklahoma. They participated in four amphibious landings and saw 511 days in combat, and were described as “one of the best, if not the best division in the history of American arms” by General George S. Patton.     

The Thunderbirds continued to serve after WWII until January 1969, and their legacy lives on today at the museum honoring the accomplishments of the division. Admission is free to this 27,000-square-foot attraction.

You can also head out to the 99s Museum of Women Pilots to learn more about the history of women in aviation. One of the best exhibits includes features on female military pilots. Read more about the 99s Museum here.

If the history of America’s military aviation is more to your liking, then visit the Charles B. Hall Air Park  near Tinker Air Force Base on Interstate 40 East. The park is rich in the history of Tinker Air Force Base and in the aircrafts that have been part of Tinker’s operations for more than seven decades. 

history, military, museums
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Aviation soars in OKC

HIstorical U.S. Air Force in OKC photo

If you are an aviation aficionado, you probably already know what a major role that aviation and aerospace plays in our current economy and in Oklahoma’s history. Aviation pioneers Clyde Cessna, Will Rogers, Shannon Lucid, Wiley Post, and John “Lee” Atwood all contributed to the craft of aviation while living in Oklahoma, with Will Rogers and Wiley Post both calling Oklahoma “home” for the majority of their lives.

In fact, Wiley Post was the first person to fly solo around the world, the developer of the first pressurized suit and the discoverer of the jet stream – all before his death at the age of 36. The spirit of discovery and progress he embodied continues today, as aviation is one of the key drivers of our region’s economy. There are more than 300 public- and private-sector aviation and aerospace firms in the Greater Oklahoma City region alone, and Oklahoma is now one of the top 10 states in traditional aerospace occupation employment. Learn more about Oklahoma City’s booming aerospace industry here.

aviation, history
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Music in our DNA

Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips

Music is a big part of our region’s history, identity and culture. Stretching all the way back to Woody Guthrie singing about the depression, Oklahoma has a strong tradition of producing influential musicians across a variety of musical styles.

Here in OKC specifically the talent is just as diverse. From Grammy-winning rockers to country superstars and early jazz pioneers, check out a list of just some of the famous musicians who have or still call Oklahoma City home: Oklahoma City Blue Devils, Color Me Badd, Mason Williams, Hinder, Garth Brooks and Neal Schon. Also check out these bios for a little reminder of why Wanda Jackson Way, Charlie Christian Boulevard, Vince Gill Avenue and Flaming Lips Alley are named as such.

history, music, Oklahoma City history
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

A Rich History

Have you ever wondered why the influence of Native American is predominant in Oklahoma?

You might be surprised to learn that even the state’s name can be traced back to early Native American settlers. In the Choctaw language, okla means "people;" homma or humma means "red." So Oklahoma literally means “red people.”

Certainly Native Americans have played an important role in shaping our great state, settling here nearly a half-century before the Land Run of 1889. Their contributions to our heritage are evident in everything from our state flag to the markings on our overpasses. Throughout history, Oklahoma has been home to 67 American Indian tribes, and even today, more than 35 federally recognized tribes call Oklahoma home. The state is even home to the Spiro Mounds, considered to be one of the most important Native American sites in the nation. The mounds are open to the public, weather permitting.

To get more information on the history of Native American and our state read one of our past blogs here.

history, native american, Oklahoma
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

We’re Gonna Party Like its 1889

April 22 marks the 126th anniversary of the Oklahoma Land Run and the birth of Oklahoma City, and we know you are going to want to celebrate. Step back in time and revel with our neighbor to the north! The ‘89er Days Celebration in Guthrie celebrates the Oklahoma Land Run in the largest urban historic district in Oklahoma, which makes it easy for you to imagine what life was like during Oklahoma’s earliest days. The events, including the Chuck Wagon Feed & Auction and the beard and moustache contest, start tonight, and culminate with gospel and bluegrass concerts on Sunday, April 19. Don’t miss the largest parade in Oklahoma on Saturday, April 18, at noon. View the entire schedule here.

festivals, history
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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Stake Your Claim as Trivia Champion

Want to impress your friends and stump your foes with some cool Land Run trivia knowledge? Look no further for some facts about Oklahoma City’s first days.

  • President Benjamin Harrison signed a proclamation on March 23, 1889, that opened the Unassigned Lands of Indian Territory to settlement. The Oklahoma Land Run took place less than a month later on April 22, 1889.
  • The Land Run opened up a 1.9-million-acre tract of unassigned land for eager citizens to settle.
  • Cannons and pistols fired at precisely high noon on April 22, giving the go ahead for people to stake their claim on a tract of land. Those that participated in the mad dash were called “Boomers,” since they waited for the boom of the cannon to charge into the new territory.
  • Soldiers were tasked with keeping the rowdy crowd in line, but a few sneaky citizens slipped through and crossed into Indian Territory before the sound of the gun. These people were labeled “Sooners,” which is the source of Oklahoma’s nickname “The Sooner State.”
  • Veterans of the Land Run were known as “eighty-niners.”
  • While Rome wasn’t built in a day, Oklahoma City sure was. From high noon to sundown, Oklahoma City added 10,000 residents to its streets, all residing in tent residences.
  • The Land Run on April 22, 1889, was the first of seven land runs to take place in Oklahoma.
  • Oklahoma has an official Land Run Song called The Oklahoma Run. It was written by an area professor to commemorate the explosive start to our upstart state. Many people who grew up in Oklahoma learned this song in elementary school. We suggest you memorize it and sing it spontaneously to all your friends.
history, Oklahoma City history
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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Make Our History Less of a Mystery

We know that all this history talk has probably whetted your whistle for more insight into what makes Oklahoma City the place it is today. Lucky for you, OKC is home to many history-focused museums and organizations that make it their mission to educate people about the past.

The Oklahoma Historical Society
The Oklahoma History Society has chronicled the history of Oklahoma for more than 100 years, and its Oklahoma History Center provides a self-guided exploration of Oklahoma’s past and present. In addition to having tons of resources available on their website (including several different first-hand experiences of the 1889 Land Run), the Oklahoma History Center currently houses an exhibit detailing the Century Chest Time Capsule unearthed in the basement of the First Lutheran Church of Oklahoma City in 2013.

The Gaylord-Pickens Museum
No one tells the story of Oklahoma like its own people, and the Gaylord-Pickens Museum specializes in honoring and preserving the stories of the individuals who have shaped this state into what it is today. Through its interactive exhibits, you will get to know the faces, voices and spirits of Oklahomans from every walk of life. You can also become part of Oklahoma’s history by sharing the story of your own heritage. Be sure to visit the Oklahoma Hall of Fame Gallery to research the stories of more than 650 inductees dating back to 1928.

The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
The early days of Oklahoma City probably make you think about the Wild West, right? If you want to dive into Oklahoma’s Western past, the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum is America’s premier institution of Western history, art and culture – and it's located right in the heart of Oklahoma City. This museum is home to a vast collection of classic and contemporary Western art, including the awe-inspiring 18-foot “End of the Trail” sculpture by James Earle Fraser.

history, museums, Oklahoma City history, western heritage
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Dodger Data

Dodger Fans

Let’s get to know a little more about OKC’s parent club, the Los Angeles Dodgers.

  • Nicknames include: The Blue Crew, The Boys in Blue, The Azul, and Los Doyers (more)
  • The Dodgers have won the World Series six times and the National League pennant 21 times.
  • The Dodgers moved to LA from Brooklyn in 1958.
  • The team, formed in 1883 (before the land run!), was originally called the Brooklyn Atlantics.
  • The “Dodgers” name is a shortened form of “Trolley Dodgers,” which came about in 1895 due to the “complex maze of trolley cars that weaved its way through the borough of Brooklyn.” (Fittingly, Oklahoma Citians will soon be dodging our own streetcars soon!)
  • Jackie Robinson became the first African-American to play Major League Baseball when he suited up for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947.
  • Dodger Stadium in LA is currently the third-oldest ballpark in MLB, behind Fenway Park in Boston and Wrigley Field in Chicago.
  • The Dodgers’ biggest rivals are the San Francisco Giants, who used to play across town in Manhattan as the New York Giants when both teams were in NY.
  • Other rivalries include the LA Angels of Anaheim (the “Freeway Series”), the San Diego Padres (both in NL West), and the New York Yankees (there have been 11 Yankees-Dodgers World Series).

There is lots more great Dodger info at the team’s website. Let’s go Dodgers!

baseball, Dodgers, history
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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Baseball Has Been Very Good to Us

Drawing of All Sports Stadium

Did you know pro baseball has been played in Oklahoma City since at least 1903, and maybe even earlier? That’s right, just a few years after settlers ran for land to call home, players ran for home plate at Colcord Park, a baseball field near the current Farmer’s Market area in what was called Delmar Gardens. The Oklahoma City Metropolitans made the park their home until 1908, when the Oklahoma City Indians, managed by the too-apropos-for-an-old-school-baseball-guy-to-be-made-up-sounding Doc Andrews, joined the class C Texas League the following year and took up residence at the park. After years of bouncing around lesser leagues, in 1962 Oklahoma City joined the ranks of AAA with the advent of the 89ers, who played in All Sports Stadium at the Fairgrounds and were the farm club of the awesomely-named Houston Colt .45’s. 1990 saw the advent of the much-heralded Robo Niner era. The ‘Niners and their mascot stayed there until the opening of the Bricktown Ballpark in 1998, when the team was renamed the RedHawks. (Local legend has it Robo-Niner escaped destruction by hiding in the basement of the Space Tower, but his plan was foiled when it flooded in 2010 and he finally succumbed to metastasizing rust.) The RedHawks, after becoming the Astros top farm team in 2011, switched affiliations to the LA Dodgers over the winter, and Boom! It’s Dodger time in OKC. If you’d like to delve further, a good read on the history of baseball in Oklahoma City would be the book Baseball in Oklahoma City by Bob Burke.

baseball, history, Oklahoma City history
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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Tuesday, February 3, 2015


Just slightly northwest of Oklahoma City you will find Kingfisher. First and foremost, cool name right? Kingfisher is named after an early resident name King Fisher. Want another fun fact about Kingfisher? Walmart founder Sam Walton was born there in 1918.

Kingfisher was located right on the Chisholm Trail, over which millions of cows were driven from Texas to Kansas. This was right after the Civil War so when we say driven we don’t mean by semi-truck. You can learn all about this fascinating time in America’s history at the Chisholm Trail Museum. The museum features one-of-a-kind artifacts from that time period including Native American, farm and pioneer implements.

The grounds of the museum is also home to a pioneer village that features five original buildings from the late 19th century, including a one-room school house and the first bank established in Kingfisher.

So in short, Kingfisher is a great place to take a quick drive to and learn more about a unique time in Oklahoma history.

history, Kingfisher, museums, native american, Oklahoma
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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Rounding Home

There are two more communities to the north that are well worth a day-trip when you want to explore. We’ve already talked about them previously so be sure to check out some of our past blogs for more in-depth info.

  • Guthrie- The great state of Oklahoma’s first capital (for the full story click here), Guthrie is located just 35 minutes due north of OKC. Downtown Guthrie is a must-visit destination on your check list as it feature many buildings from the late 19th century and is even designated a National Historic Landmark.
  • Stillwater- Head just a little further up I-35 and you’ll hit Stillwater. The town is home to Oklahoma State University so it’s a great chance to catch some college sports. You can also visit the National Wrestling Hall of Fame for more on the history of one of the world’s oldest sports. Downtown Stillwater offers a classic main street and there are three lakes in Stillwater that offer aquatic fun.
Guthrie, history, museums, Stillwater, water sports
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Ralph Ellison’s Visible Legacy

(Photo: © United States Postal Service. All rights reserved.)

Ralph Waldo Ellison was born in 1914 (or 1913 – there is some debate on the date). Oklahoma City’s most notable literary figure and the author of Invisible Man, Ellison grew up in the Deep Deuce neighborhood and loved music (jazz as well as classical). He began playing the cornet at age 8, eventually majoring in music at the Tuskegee Institute after graduating from Douglass High School in 1932. But it was a meeting with writer Richard Wright after moving to New York City in 1936 that directed his path toward authorship. He published many reviews, short stories and essays from 1937 to 1944. Invisible Man was published in 1952, winning the 1953 National Book Award. Ellison then traveled and lived abroad (including in Rome) for a few years before returning to the U.S. in 1958 to teach at Bard College. In 1964 he began teaching at Rutgers and Yale before receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1969 and becoming a permanent faculty member at NYU in 1970. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1975, and continued teaching and publishing essays, receiving the National Medal of Arts in 1985 and publishing a collection of essays, Going to the Territory, in 1986. He died in 1994.

Oklahoma City’s Ralph Ellison Library was first dedicated in his honor in 1975, and in 2012 artist David Phelps unveiled a sculpture honoring Ellison at the library. As part of its Literary Arts series, the U.S. Postal Service issued a 91-cent stamp honoring him on Feb. 18, 2014, and on March 6, 1914, a portrait of Ellison was hung at the State Capitol on the fourth floor. The Ralph Ellison Foundation was also founded in 2014 to highlight “the accomplishments of the acclaimed author Ralph Waldo Ellison” and to empower “the lives of others through his philosophy, talents, and writings in the areas of Literacy, Music, and the Arts.” You can “check out” many of his works at your local branch of the Metropolitan Library System.

More info on Ralph Ellison:
-Library of Congress
-Interview with The Paris Review (Spring 1955)
-PBS’ American Masters
-Journal Record article on Ralph Ellison Foundation

history, library, Oklahoma City history
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Time Flies When You’re Having Fun

If you are a regular reader of this blog (if you aren’t you should be) then you know 2014 was a pretty big year for OKC.  2014 marked the 125th anniversary of our great city’s founding. Yes the town born in a single day (true story) celebrated its Quasquicentennial. Oh, and what a 125 years it has been. From land runs and rugged wildcatters looking for oil to the Oklahoma City Thunder and construction of the 50-story Devon Tower, our fair city has seen some things. While the city continues to evolve in dynamic new ways, one thing stays the same: the people. The original settlers of the city claimed their lands on April 22, 1889, and did so with an independent and entrepreneurial streak that lives on in the citizens to this day. With the land run, Oklahoma City has a history and a founding that is truly unlike any other city. People from around the country gathered on one day to take a chance, start a new life and work together to build a city from scratch. That wildcatter spirit and sense of teamwork is still at the heart of OKC 125 years later.

So as 2014 draws to a close, we wanted one last chance to look at some of our favorite history posts from the past year. These posts help tell the story of our city but there are many chapters yet to be written. You can also access the history posts on your own here.

history, Oklahoma City history
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Scary Skirvin Stories

Oklahoma City’s Skirvin Hilton Hotel, beloved by all, is also the heart of one of Oklahoma City’s most controversial ghost stories. Frequenters of the Skirvin, from professional athletes to hotel staff, claim to have experienced inexplicable cries and unexplainable activity while being in the hotel. But is the ghost story fact or fiction? Read on for more about the ghostly legend and decide for yourself.

The Skirvin first opened in 1911 under the ownership of its namesake, William Balser Skirvin, and soon became the Oklahoma City hotspot of business and political life. Legend has it that a hotel maid named Effie became pregnant after an affair with the widowed Skirvin. To protect his reputation, Skirvin locked the maid on the 10th floor of the hotel and forced her to remain there, even after she successfully delivered her baby. Driven mad by the isolation and unable to escape her prison, Effie is said to have thrown herself from her room’s window, holding her infant child in her arms as they plummeted to their deaths.

This story, whether it is just a legend or otherwise, was largely forgotten until recent years. In 2010, after a loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder in Oklahoma City, the Jared Jeffries and Eddy Curry of the New York Knicks told the Daily News that they partially blamed their loss on a rather restless night at the Skirvin. Weeks later, Chicago’s Taj Gibson claimed that his bathroom door mysteriously slammed shut in the middle of the night. Later in 2013, a player on the Phoenix Suns team said he awoke to find his bathroom door closed and the tub inexplicably filled with water. Even sports writers have been the victims of Effie’s pranks, with ESPN’s Bill Simmons hearing a crying baby near the window of his room.

As long as Effie haunts the opponents of the Thunder, it can’t be that bad, right? As the New York Times puts it, Effie is the Thunder’s apparitional sixth man. There’s only one problem with this theory: there is no record anywhere of a maid named Effie working for the Skirvin, and no recorded suicide of a woman from the Skirvin’s rooms. Even the accounts of her supposed death have shifted over the years, with different accounts of room numbers, hotel floors and even differing names of the maid being circulated. So is this ghostly tale true or not? Let us know in the comments.

history, Oklahoma City history
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Halloween History

What a weird holiday, eh? Dress up, go door-to-door, demand candy under threat of some sort of vandalism, go to next house, repeat. Sounds a little like extortion to us. We here at TBL HQ decided we’d do some research on this wild and weird tradition.

What we found out is you’d better put down that devil costume! It turns out Halloween, or as you may have seen it spelled, “Hallowe’en,” has its roots in a religious observance known as “All Hallows’ Eve” or “Allhalloween.” What does this mean? Basically, “All Hallows Eve” means “The Evening Before All Hallows’ Day,” or, in other words, “The Evening Before All Saints’ Day.” All Saints’ Day is celebrated in many churches in the west on Nov. 1 in honor of all the unknown and known saints in heaven (Shakespeare and others have used the term “Hallowmas” to describe All Saints’ Day / All Hallows’ Day). Oct. 31 is the day before All Hallows’ Day, hence, Hallowe’en or Halloween.

But what about the trick-or-treating? In England and Ireland, (possibly going as far back as the Middle Ages), a tradition developed on the day before All Saints’ Day wherein children and the poor would go door-to-door asking for “soul cakes,” small cakes filled with appropriately-timed fall spices and nuts and topped with a cross, all while singing and saying prayers for the dead, an activity known as “souling.” In Scotland and Ireland, this practice morphed into “guising,” where kids in costumes or “disguises” went around asking for fruit, cakes and coins. “Guising” made its way to North America by the early 20th century (the first recorded mention was 1911 in a Canadian newspaper), and before you know it, we’re over here trick-or-treating until our feet give out. So, go easy on the house that didn’t have any candy for you. Maybe they’re just at church!

Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The person behind the name: Lake Overholser

If you’re just relocating to Oklahoma City and heard about Lake Overholser for the first time, it might not even occur to you to ask for whom the lake was named  – or who is behind the names of any of the city’s other places.

But if you are wondering, or even if you’re not, we’ll tell you.

Edward “Ed” Overholser was elected Oklahoma City’s 16th mayor in 1915 and served until 1918. From 1922-1927, he also was president and general manager of the Chamber of Commerce, the organization that is now named Greater Oklahoma City Chamber and that sponsors The Better Life blog.

He initially moved to Oklahoma City in 1890 to manage the Overholser Opera House but ended up in a public service career.

Among Overholser’s accomplishments in various roles, according to the Oklahoma Historical Society’s digital archives:

  • He completed the city’s waterworks system.
  • He established town sites at Stroud, Wellston, Luther and Jones when the St. Louis and Oklahoma City Railroad was built between the city and Stroud.
  • He had a long-distance telephone line built from Oklahoma City to Stroud and Shawnee.
  • He and his father, Henry Overholser, built 23 business buildings, including restaurants and hotels, in Oklahoma City.
  • He enabled the purchase of a site for the State Fair and served as that association’s first secretary.
history, Oklahoma City history
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Oklahoma State Fair, a History

[Photo courtesy of the Oklahoma Historical Society]

When it comes to partnership, the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber and the State Fair of Oklahoma go together like mac ‘n’ cheese, especially if that mac ‘n’ cheese is covered in batter and deep fried.

When a young Oklahoma City had the opportunity to host the Farmers National Congress in 1907, city leaders were determined to do everything they could to make the convention a success. There was only one stipulation from the convention organizers: They wanted a fall fair so their delegates could see the achievements of agriculture in the new state.

Oklahoma citizens pushed for an annual fair as early as 1892, recognizing the impact that the fair could have on the new territory. Convinced of the potential, a coalition of business leaders gathered in the offices of the Chamber on Jan. 18, 1907, to organize a state fair association. After months of planning, the first State Fair of Oklahoma celebrated its opening day on Oct. 5, 1907. Since that time, the Chamber has continued to support the fair as a natural extension of its long history of economic and community development.

history, Oklahoma City history, State Fair Park
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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Take to the Skies

You have probably already heard about Oklahoma City’s aviation history, but an upcoming event at Will Rogers Airport will give you the chance to experience it. The Commemorative Air Force is bringing their AirPower History Tour to Oklahoma City from Sept. 18-21.

Attendees will be able to tour aircraft and experience a ride-along on one of four aircraft, all from the WWII era: Fairchild PT-19, Boeing Stearman, C-45 Expeditor and a B-29 Superfortress. The B-29, named FIFI, was the premier bomber of WWII and the last one still flying. Admission is $10 per person, with discounted admission for children younger than 18 and free admission for children under the age of 10. Visit the website for more information.

aviation, history
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Aviation is More Than OK in OKC

Oklahoma City and aviation go hand-in-hand. If you are new to OKC you might not fully appreciate how important the industry is to our current economy and our state’s history.

You can’t talk about aviation in the Sooner State without first mentioning Wiley Post. First of all Post had an eye patch; that alone made him 72 percent cooler than he already was. Eye patch aside, Post first made headlines in 1931 when he and his navigator broke the record by flying around the world in just eight days (hey, it was 1931). This accomplishment made Post a national celebrity (on par with Charles Lindbergh). He had dinner at the White House and his own ticker-tape parade in New York City.

Post decided to one-up himself in 1933 when he became the first person to fly solo around the world. More than 50,000 spectators greeted him when he completed his trip - and he got his second ticker tape parade in NYC.

For most people, that would be enough accomplishment for a lifetime, but not for Mr. Post. He also developed one of the first pressure suits and discovered the jet stream (all while wearing an amazing eye patch).

Today aviation is one of the key drivers of our region’s economy. It supports more than 85,000 workers and the production of $7.3 billion in goods and services in Oklahoma City alone. On a state level, aviation is Oklahoma’s top foreign export and accounts for a staggering 10 percent of our state’s economy. Oklahoma is one of the top 10 states nationally in traditional aerospace employment.

aviation, history, Oklahoma
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Give us Some Space

Tom Stafford inside Gemini IX spacecraft

Oklahoman Tom Stafford commands Gemini 9-A in 1966, the 7th manned Gemini flight.

We here at TBL HQ were enthralled with the recent “Oklahomans and Space” series on OETA. The documentary series (and book by Bill Moore, who also produced the shows) details the impact that Oklahomans have had, and continue to have, on the space program. From astronauts to engineers to mission controllers and more, Oklahoma lays claim to a remarkable level of accomplishment when it comes to exploring the final frontier. Archival footage and current interviews combine to make a heart-stirring, educational retelling of some of our nation’s greatest scientific and exploratory triumphs, by the Oklahomans that helped make them happen. If you missed the series on TV, fear not! The book and eight-disc DVD set are both available at the Oklahoma History Center Museum Store and online.

history, Oklahoma
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Music, Maestro

Oklahoma City has a deep and rich music history, and that fact is exemplified by the acts immortalized by being named after Oklahoma City streets (or is it the other way around?). You just have to look at notables like Oklahoma City Blue Devils, Color Me Badd, Mason Williams, Hinder, Garth Brooks, Neal Schon and others to see that Oklahoma City has birthed and raised a number of music legends. Check out these bios for a little reminder of why Wanda Jackson Way, Charlie Christian Boulevard, Vince Gill Avenue and Flaming Lips Alley are named as such.

Charlie Christian
Oklahoma City’s own Charlie Christian, the “Father of the Electric Guitar,” was one of the notable musicians who jammed in the 20s and 30s along N.E. 2nd Street in Deep Deuce. 

concerts, history, music, Oklahoma City history
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

OKC Gives You Wings

Will Rogers and Wiley Post cph.3b05600

Has all this patriotism given you the drive to take to the skies? We don’t blame you. In fact, Oklahoma City has long been a powerhouse of aviation, with connections to some of history’s greatest aviators. This includes Wiley Post, who was the first pilot to fly solo around the world.

In 1913, the Post family visited a county fair in Lawton, Okla., where Wiley saw his first aircraft in flight. This inspiration caused Wiley to immediately enroll in the Sweeney Automobile and Aviation School in Kansas City, and upon graduating he returned to Oklahoma to work. His aviation career began in 1924, when he worked as a parachutist for a flying circus at the age of 26. After working as a private pilot for wealthy Oklahoma oilmen for a few years, Wiley bought a high-wing, single-engine Lockheed Vega nicknamed “Winnie Mae” in 1930. Wiley was at the helm of this aircraft when he won the National Air Race Derby from Los Angeles to Chicago on Aug. 27, 1930. This garnered him national attention, and Wiley completed his first solo flight around the world in 1931.

During his career, Wiley also helped develop the first practical pressurized suit, which he used in an unpressurized cabin at heights reaching 50,000 feet. Because of the heights he reached, literally, Wiley is often credited with discovering the existence of jet streams.

While Wiley Post may be our most famous aviator, Oklahoma’s claim to aviation fame runs deep in its own right. In addition to the contributions made to both military and private aviation, Oklahoma City is home to the International Organization of Women Pilots, and you can learn more about the female contribution to early aviation at the 99s Museum of Women Pilots located near Will Rogers World Airport.

history, museums, Oklahoma, Oklahoma City history
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Go West, young (wo)man!

While you’re in Oklahoma City, don’t miss the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. The museum bills itself as “America’s premier institution of Western history, art and culture.” You’ll realize the description is an accurate one as you wander through its multiple art and sculpture galleries, stand in front of the poignant 17-foot-tall “End of the Trail” sculpture by James Earle Fraser or explore a replica of a Western town for children, called Prosperity Junction, and the Children’s Cowboy Corral. You’ll learn about cowboy culture and gear, Native American history, Western performers, settling the frontier and more.

The museum has plans for its future, such as a seven-acre outdoor addition, but here’s a bit about its past.

It was founded as the National Cowboy and Hall of Fame and Museum in Oklahoma City in 1955, seven years after its founder Chester Arthur Reynolds envisioned a hall of fame that would honor cowboys, cattlemen and ranchers.

Governors from 17 western states, prominent cattlemen and leaders in rodeo were invited to serve on the museum’s board, and a 37-acre site at what is known as Persimmon Hill was dedicated on Nov. 11, 1955. And in 1960, the museum became the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center. (It took on its current name, dropping the Hall of Fame part, in 2000.)

Although fundraising efforts stalled along the way, it finally opened in 1965. It fell into disarray in the 1980s but a $35 million capital campaign revived it. In 1993, President George Bush formally dedicated the site that had expanded to more than 230,000 square feet.

Since then it’s been host to numerous community events, collections and Museum events such as the annual Western Heritage Awards, honoring significant contributions to literature, music, film and television.

Adventure District, arts and culture, history, museums, western heritage
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A Myriad Gardens Primer

If you are a regular reader of our blog (or reading it for the first time) you realize we talk about the Myriad Botanical Gardens a lot. We have a soft spot for the 17-acre park as it serves as a nice getaway for downtown workers and a community gathering place for great festivals and concerts. Basically, it’s our little slice of relaxation in a bustling downtown. If you are new to OKC here is a brief (very brief) history of the gardens.

The first thoughts of the gardens came about more than 50 years ago in 1964 when world-renowned architect I.M. Pei was hired by city leaders to create a plan to revitalize downtown OKC. Oklahoma City pioneer Dean McGee (founder of Kerr-McGee Oil) became a champion for the park and continued that cause until his death in 1989.

In 1970, the name Myriad Botanical Gardens was adopted. Where did the name come from? If you are new to our city, across the street from the Gardens used to sit the Myriad, a 13,000-seat arena (the arena still exists as part of the Cox Convention Center).

The process was slow but in 1977 ground was officially broke on the Gardens. In March of 1988 the Crystal Bridge Tropical Conservatory was opened to the public. More than 12,000 people visited the gardens in its opening weekend.

More recently (three years ago to be exact), the Gardens just completed a $10.5 million redesign that added features like the floating amphitheater, ice rink/reflecting pool and grand event lawn. The redesign also increased the horticulture of the park by 400 percent!

festivals, history, music, Myriad Botanical Gardens, Oklahoma City history, parks
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A Brief History of Tribes

Deeply and inexorably rooted in Native American culture and history, Oklahoma as a state proudly bills itself as “Native America,” with a statue called “The Guardian” depicting a Native American man with a spear and shield by former Seminole Chief and member of the Oklahoma Legislature (not to mention artist, obvi) Enoch Kelly Haney sitting atop the dome of the Capitol. The name “Oklahoma” even comes from two Choctaw words meaning red (“humma”) and people (“okla”).

A total of 67 Native American tribes have called Oklahoma home, and the state is currently home to 38 federally-recognized tribes producing an estimated $10.8 billion in economic impact. As with many indigenous cultures the world over that have been subject to the forces of imperialism or colonization, the history of Native Americans in Oklahoma is not only a source of pride for Oklahomans but is also complex, often tragic, and naturally difficult to sum up in a blog format. But, we endeavor to please, so here’s a brief sketch.

Prior to European contact, native tribes such as the Wichitas, Caddos, Apaches and Quapaws inhabited modern-day Oklahoma. As European influence and pressures elsewhere grew, other tribes migrated here including Pawnee, Osage, Comanche and Kiowa, in some cases displacing other native peoples. The Indian Removal Act of 1830 then forced all native peoples west of the Mississippi, and the “Five Civilized Tribes” (Choctaw, Cherokee, Creek, Chickasaw and Seminole) were relocated to Oklahoma (the eastern half of the state was known as “Indian Territory”), along with several others (Kickapoo, Potawatomi, Shawnee, etc.).

After more post-antebellum resettlement due to stresses partially brought on by the expansion of rail networks through then-Indian lands in Kansas and Nebraska, The Dawes Act of 1887 (and other subsequent legislation in the case of the Five Civilized Tribes) then effectively ended communal land ownership, with the government ceding plots to individual tribal members. The “leftover” land was then allowed to be resettled, often via land run (the method by which a large portion of central Oklahoma was opened). The Wheeler-Howard Law or Indian Reorganization Act ended the practice of allotment and renewed tribal government and organization rights in 1934. After World War II, Congress then decided to end recognition of some tribes, resulting in land forfeiture in some cases.

From 1968 to the present day, Native Americans have been able to claim more sovereignty and take advantage of more of a stance of “self-governance” toward the tribes from the federal government, reestablishing themselves as cultural and economic forces.

For a bibliography/source info and more on this complex subject, please check out:

history, native american, Oklahoma, western heritage
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

‘Oklahoma’s Favorite Son’ – Will Rogers

Will Rogers once said he never met a man he didn’t like, but you’re sure to like the famed all-in-one humorist, roper, cowboy, columnist, actor and social commentator if you go to the Claremore and Oologah areas to learn more about him.

Born in Oologah in 1879, Rogers rose to become the top male motion picture box office star in the early 1930s as well as the most widely read syndicated newspaper columnist. Sadly, he died in a plane crash in 1935 with aviator Wiley Post at age 55.

Learn all about him at the Will Rogers Memorial Museum in Claremore and his Birthplace Ranch in Oologah.

Quotes from the man once dubbed “Oklahoma’s Favorite Son” have staying power. Here are some good ones, according to the official website run by his estate.

  • "Try to live your life so that you wouldn't be afraid to sell the family parrot to the town gossip."
  • "Broad-minded is just another way of saying a fellow is too lazy to form an opinion."
  • "Always drink upstream from the herd."
  • "Everything is changing. People are taking the comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke."

[Image via the Estate of Will Rogers]

history, museums, Oklahoma
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Film History 101

If you’d like to learn more about Oklahoma’s rich movie history, check out the current exhibit at the Oklahoma History Center, 800 Nazih Zuhdi Drive.

Called “Oklahoma @ The Movies” and developed in conjunction with Tulsa’s OKPOP, the exhibit celebrates Oklahoma’s involvement in the movies through the years, whether they’ve created the motion pictures, starred in or watched them.

If you want to learn more about Western movies and cowboys, American Indians and Hollywood, the Oklahoma image on screen, historic theaters, the portrayal of different cultural groups or the innovation and creativity of Oklahomans regarding the silver screen, this exhibit is for you.

Celebrated filmmakers in the exhibit include cinematographer Buss Boggs, public relations executive Stan Rosenfield, producer Gray Frederickson and more.

Actors featured in “Oklahoma @ The Movies” include Tom Mix and Will Rogers from the early days of cinema and the Oklahoma roots and Hollywood careers of Joan Crawford, Gene Autry, James Garner, Tony Randall, Wes Studi, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Brad Pitt, Ed Harris, Gary Busey and others.

Can’t get enough? Buy the companion book.

history, movies, museums
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
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