Saturday, October 13, 2007

Truly the Final Shots of the Plains

Okay, truly the final shots of my visit on the prairie. May Avenue -- named after the Mayefsky family that, like my own, are assimilated Jews who also changed their name to fit in -- south of NW 23rd is becoming increasingly Hispanic. I recall that in the late 1970s the May Theater went from being a second run, neighborhood playhouse to a mecca for foreign films. I saw Seven Beauties, Swept Away and other Lena Wertmuller films there.
Down the block was Buckstretcher and a Baptist Church.
Just a few blocks west of the now busy Bricktown, a ready-made city center like a Santana Row dropped from the heavens, are the ruins of the city's true downtown. All that really survives is the aforementioned Hightower Building and a few abandoned storefronts
It's a bit spooky to think that this the commercial core of a city of over a million people...
...and that this same part of town looked like this 70 years ago.
Having read Erudite Redneck's comments about Mulligan Flats, I thought was it was this neighborhood.
Though interesting, it's not the true place.
As this house shows, there's some pretty interesting architecture. But as another commentor correctly noted, the true Mulligan Flats is gone. I was talking to my sister this afternoon, and we recalled that as late as the 1970s Mulligan Flats did exist on the shores of the then North Canadian River, a surviving remnant of the Dust Bowl with shacks along the banks of the muddy red creek of a river. It has since been widened and redubbed the Oklahoma River with ritzy boat houses, regattas and upscale rowing teams.I do believe that Oklahoma City is the only place in the world with a neighborhood named after a person that inspired an Ethel Merman character (Sally Adams in Call Me Madam, modeled after Perle Skirvin Mesta.)

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At 11:06 AM, Blogger rich bachelor said...

Ah. I'm glad that I introduced you, however clumsily, to the Erudite Redneck. I've been reading his stuff for years, and even witnessed his conversion from pro-war to the pretty damn vehement no-war person he is now.

Also, again; nice shots.

At 11:13 AM, Blogger Ladron de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Rich - Thanks for making the introduction, and congratulations on turning a hawk into a dove. I enjoyed having some guidance, albeit virtual, from a local in my former hometown. It certainly added some local authenticity to have Erudite Redneck and his friends adding commentary along the way. That was pretty interesting to learn about the frequent theft of the Flaming Lips sign. Tempting as it may have been, I only stole a photo of it.

At 6:39 PM, Blogger Erudite Redneck said...

Glad to meet you, too, dude.

BTW, re: "Bricktown, a ready-made city center like a Santana Row dropped from the heavens ..."

I dunno what Santan Row is, but you do know that Bricktown was OKC's first industrial district, and dates to the turn of the 19th century? The adaptive reuse of those fine old brick warehouses started in the late '8os, and the place has only come into its own in the past, oh, five years or so. True, it's challenging to balance the needs of modern enterainment and retail consumers against the need to respect century-old construction and industrial architecture. But that's one of the reseaons the place might not seem to "pop" to suit ya: Lots of Bricktown is still vacant, partly because the ptoperty owners are totallyu senstive to maintaining the hiostoric aura of the place, but maoinly because the city shuts downj any attempts to sacfrice Bricktown's authenticity just for for more traffic dowm there.

:-) Sorry. One of the writing projects I'm working on right nowe has to do with statehood-era construction and architecture, and that makes me full of sensitive insight to the place. As always, I am also full of beans. :-)

Holler next time you head this way. If I haven't hied myself to Colorado, we can getr a drink st Maker's. Peace!

At 9:31 PM, Blogger Ladron de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

ER - I still have mixed feelings about Bricktown. It has some great restaurants, and I'm happy people are thinking of coming downtown and actually wanting to live there. My disappointment centers more on the lack of continuity in the actual downtown and the hugely boggled I.M. Pei plan set out in the 1960s which virtually destroyed all of the once bustling businesses and department stores. When I was very small, my mother would dress up with hat and gloves as if going to opera to shop at John A. Brown, Rothchild's and the Hightower Building boutiques. I. Magnin, Bullock's Wilshire and countless others have met a similar fate elsewhere in the U.S., but few downtowns took the hit OKC's did. I was looking at a great book while in town of historic photos that showed the intersection of Robinson and Main circa 1937, and it could have passed for Market Street in SF -- tons of cars, the sidewalks overflowing with smartly dressed pedestrians, bustling shops with colorful signs and displays.

I'd enjoy being introduced to St. Maker's since I've never heard of it. I'm I missing something? Would they lynch (or lunch) me there?

At 8:53 AM, Blogger Erudite Redneck said...

Urban Renewal is still a cuss word in some circles 'round here, for razing so much.

Nope. Maker's is just a cool ceegar bar in the Oklahoma Hardware Building, which is a cool old building, built in '10. Patrons would largely be ambivalent as to yer, ah, youness.

At 9:09 AM, Blogger Erudite Redneck said...

At 9:50 AM, Blogger Ladron de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

ER - Well, in an ideal world, there would still be a booming downtown AND Bricktown. Thanks for the link to St. Maker's which does look cool I am oblivious to my Youness as well.

At 12:43 PM, Blogger drlobojo said...

Your pics along First Street of the Mom and Pop store are indeed in the Mulligan Flats area, now called the Mark Twain Neighborhood. The raised berm of the I-40 construction in the late 50's and early 60's cut across the flats.
Road construction and Urban developement dozed level everything south of the Highway. But the "poor richest" third of the flats North of the railroad tracks survived and "thrived"?
I used to trek the Flats and Community Camp inviting kids to the Baptist Mission over on Exchange Ave., even as they were building I-40. Once I even visited with an old woman in the Camp who was cooking a "stone soup" in a big kettle over an open fire hung from a log tripod. She would feed 20-30 people with the soup each night, that she could.

The Bricktown in OKC has the same pedigree as the Cannery Row in SF does. The old working heart of a town that was abandoned and then gentrified and touristified with appropriate greed, facades, and zonning.

The Flats and the Camp were remnants of the 20's and 30's hobo camps. Note that two railroads ran through them one on the south of the river and one on the north. The land was owned by an unnamed woman in OKC, who charged the occupants a nominal (cheap and never collected) rent and sold the land to some who could afford it. Thus the Bull's and Police couldn't clean the place out cause they weren't "squatters".
Now here is a OKC "History" that no one will pursue.

Thanks for you indulgence in letting me post this stuff.

At 12:54 PM, Blogger Ladron de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Drlobojo - Thanks for sharing those historical insights. Actually, I find them intriguing. I had never been into that neighborhood, so it was like charting foreign ground. The development of Bricktown is like that of many similar places all over the country, with much of the original personality of the place disappearing. I had some friends involved in an alternative to the M.A.P.S. Plan that contributed to the development of Bricktown and the river. It was a rare coming together of the LGBT, African American, Hispanic, Asian and other marginalized populations. I don't know if any members of that initiative still converge.

At 6:12 PM, Blogger kusala said...

I haven't had enough time to read a lot of the text, but I wanted to say I enjoy the photos of OK City.

I only drove through there twice (spent the night in a Motel 6 on the outskirts) in 1992. I love these kinds of observations, and I enjoy the "novelty" of seeing different sides of all types of cities and towns. Whether they're 45 minutes from downtown SF, or in the geographic center of the USA, there's so much to be learned from each burg's "character"... even when it seems like "it ain't got none."

At 10:05 PM, Blogger Ladron de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Kusala - I agree that I can manage to have a good time any place I go. Also, I usually avoid the "must see" or "highly recommended" sites. And if you can accept a place like OK City for what it is, it can actually be fascinating. No, it's not Barcelona, or Boston for that matter, but if you go there with no expectations, you can be surprised. I could say the same of Tupelo, Barstow, Newark, you name it.

At 9:10 AM, Blogger kusala said...

Well.... Barstow may be pushing it...

At 9:31 AM, Blogger Ladron de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Kusala - Since I drove through Barstow a few months ago, I have to agree. There is a Harvey House museum there that I tried to find but couldn't. After several hours driving through the desert I was thrilled to find a Starbucks there but not much else. Whenever people make fun of me having grown up in Oklahoma and it being a backwater compared to California, I remind them of Barstow. Oklahoma City has an Ian Shrager hotel, and the last time I checked Barstow still didn't.

At 8:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am so greatful to have found these little bits a
Of info about the Muligan Flats, an area that intrigues me also. Cannot find much abut the history, but I want to learn more. It's legend in my area of work in OkC as I am a real social worker. The local is controversial. I hope to learn more about it's history and that of the camp. I've worked with very poor families and single adults in OkC and the homeless. I can't express why but this history intrigues me. I'll be checking in for more info. Thanks to all of you!

At 12:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am from okc..and they still call the neighborhood between may and Pennsylvania on the north side of the river the "flats"

At 6:51 AM, Blogger One Last Chance said...

Yes, that's the Flats.

At 8:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Awesome. I'm from the Flats and I grew up in that last house picture!

At 7:38 PM, Blogger fuikhvgjkguug said...


At 5:10 PM, Blogger Nicole Hill said...

Yes they are still called flats! Thats where I grew up when I was a little girl and we lived in those rock apts as shown in above pic that was built by hawkins may he rest in peace but that place isnt there anymore and I remember the park that was in front of it and we went to Mark teain school as well so many memories.

At 5:22 AM, Blogger Randy Jenks said...

Outsiders looking in, if you only knew the half of it. Ill be a Flatt Ratt till the day I die. I wouldn't trade it for the world. But I won't wish it on anyone either. It's changed so much in my thirty six years of living there . We might have been poor but we never went hungry and everybody helped everybody. We've lived together loved together faught together even went to church and jail together. But through it all the good and the bad we stick together. Every where we go people wanna know who we are so we tell them. We are the Flatt Ratts the mighty mighty Flatt Ratts yes we are! There's more that I can't tell you about life there than I can. But through it all I learned what the meaning of love your neighbor as you love yourself is. And that we don't have to like you but we will always love you. FlattRatts 4 life!


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