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Notes on the Geography of 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 group of pictures presents the town in a flattering light.

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Oklahoma: Norman in Sum: Take One picture 1

We begin again with the railroad station, a budget version of Richardsonian gloom and grandeur.

Oklahoma: Norman in Sum: Take One picture 2

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.

Oklahoma: Norman in Sum: Take One picture 3

The fairgrounds are on the northeast side of town and are used a lot, most regularly 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. 

Oklahoma: Norman in Sum: Take One picture 4

Less well-known: the entrance to the old Carnegie Library, now a senior-citizen's center.

Oklahoma: Norman in Sum: Take One picture 5

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.

Oklahoma: Norman in Sum: Take One picture 6

A detail.

Oklahoma: Norman in Sum: Take One picture 7

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.

Oklahoma: Norman in Sum: Take One picture 8

Very, very popular, especially with parents of young children: the Duck Pond is wedged between the Santa Fe tracks and the OU campus.

Oklahoma: Norman in Sum: Take One picture 9

A real Norman icon, known to everyone who's been in town for a long time, because it's now been removed. 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.

Oklahoma: Norman in Sum: Take One picture 10

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."

Oklahoma: Norman in Sum: Take One picture 11

A close-up of that target apparatus, as it was in its last days.

Oklahoma: Norman in Sum: Take One picture 12

Icon in the making? Maybe. This 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.

Oklahoma: Norman in Sum: Take One picture 13

"The teacher." Ah, for the days when teachers could in fact be as single-minded as this woman, who stands before the university library and looks ready to beat knowledge into her students, if that's what it takes.

Oklahoma: Norman in Sum: Take One picture 14

Some of the older neighborhoods around the OU campus have been designated historic districts.

Oklahoma: Norman in Sum: Take One picture 15

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?

Oklahoma: Norman in Sum: Take One picture 16

Main Street is undergoing a 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.

Oklahoma: Norman in Sum: Take One picture 17

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.

Oklahoma: Norman in Sum: Take One picture 18

It's gone now, but there used to be a hardwood rink with miles of memories.

Oklahoma: Norman in Sum: Take One picture 19

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 punished him by building a company-owned drive-in next door. Years have passed, and the old place still has lots of business. Sonic meanwhile has given up and moved its restaurant a block away.

Oklahoma: Norman in Sum: Take One picture 20

An old fire-station was converted 20 years ago. It's a busy place.

Oklahoma: Norman in Sum: Take One picture 21

And could the 7-time national football champions be omitted? Owen Field, named for an early coach.


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