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Do You Like Us? Do You Really Like Us? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Steve Lackmeyer   
Monday, 15 December 2008 03:09

It was déjà vu all over again...

The Oklahoman today (Sunday, Dec. 14, 2008) featured a story about the Zogby poll surveying outsiders’ opinions of Oklahoma City. Apparently, people overall like us. But we’re told we still have a long ways to go when it comes to national image.

Haven’t we been down this road before? And before? It seems as if we’ve always worried about what others think about us.

Sure enough, just browse through the Oklahoman archives and one can find a full page of coverage dedicated to what outsiders and newcomers think of Oklahoma City.

Mick Hinton (a great writer and reporter who retired a few years back) based the story on an influx of newcomers arriving in OKC in 1978. About 700 a month were making Oklahoma City their home. Among those making the journey to Oklahoma City that year were the Lackmeyers, previously residents of Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York. The following impressions were reported by Hinton in his story:

- Diane Stroup, 26, former airline attendant retraining as a hairdresser. Native of upstate New York before marrying an Arkansas native and moving to Oklahoma City:

“When people back home talk about ‘going west’ they mean west of Syracuse. I never would have believed anyone if they told me I’d live in Oklahoma. It just never occurred to me.”

Stroup added she hoped to work downtown after finishing school.

“I like the Conncourse and the people – the activity. My neighborhood is a nice place to live, but you don’t have anything to talk about with the neighbors if you don’t have kids.”

Stroup said she was impressed by the low employment rate and good economy, but wondered what would happen when the new GM plant was hit with a strike. And one more thing ...

“OU football – is there anything else? The first time I walked into a department store, they were going at it over a loudspeaker. I thought these people are nuts, crazy.”

- Mark Lester, 25, a single geophysicist with the Union Oil Company of California. Born in Michigan, Lester spent his life in Indiana and Louisiana before coming to Oklahoma City:

“It’s a good place for people in the oil industry to get a start.” But he planned to move within a few years to “some place like Denver, because I like the mountains. Familiar with Tulsa, Lester said Oklahoma City’s downtown was about a decade behind in development. He chided locals who put up with the smell from the stockyards and the packing plants, “especially on a hot summer day driving down the interstate. I’d like to see the stockyards move out of town.”

-  Larry Cuff, 38, assistant comptroller at the new General Motors plant. A native of Dallas, Cuff first worked for GM in Detroit and Massachusetts:

“It’s like coming home. Sure the New England landscape is beautiful, especially in the fall. I spent all summer trying to keep alive my trees. But I see the flat land, red clay and dust, and I know I am home. I dressed up in a leisure suit and cowboy boots for a farewell party in Massachusetts. That’s what a lot of people expect to find out here.”

- Waunita Nelson, 30, homemaker and mother of four, raised in Minneapolis and lived in Colorado Springs before moving to Oklahoma City:

 “I didn’t leave the house all summer the first year we were here. But I’m getting used to the heat.”

Nelson said she would never go downtown shopping in Oklahoma City though she did so in Minneapolis. “Minneapolis has hundreds of different stores, while Oklahoma City has only a few specialty shops.”

- Bill and Jane Morilak, both 49, were lifelong residents of a Polish neighborhood in Cleveland until they made the move:

“Someone told us there is a Polish community in Harrah,” Jane Morilak said. “Well we drove out there looking for businesses with Polish names, but we didn’t find any.”

The Morilaks also said they discovered most people avoided downtown Oklahoma City. “We drove around downtown for three nights looking for the big department stores until our realtor told us there weren’t any.”

- “First Impressions of Newcomers to Oklahoma City,” By Mick Hinton, The Oklahoman, Dec. 17, 1978

Last Updated on Monday, 15 December 2008 03:25