The English are famed for their dry wit. When asked if her heritage fits well into Oklahoma’s culture, English-born Tulsan Jean Conway answered, “What culture?”
She’s just as irreverent about England, which she left in 1955 to marry an American against the wishes of her parents.
“My family disowned me because they don’t like Americans,” she said. “They’re very snooty and high class.”
Delivered in the Queen’s English, Conway’s brash wit is disarming, which may help to explain the success of her informal social group, The British Lunch Bunch.
English Clubs and Associations in Oklahoma
The British Lunch Bunch members dine together once a month to share their experiences of life in Oklahoma with fellow Brits.
“We have a lot of jokes and naughty words that Americans don’t understand,” Conway said. “It gets very loud, everybody talking at once with plenty to say.”
Considering how many English people there are in Oklahoma, the community has surprisingly few resources.
There are few, if any, English clubs and associations and little community coherence. Perhaps it’s because of the piecemeal arrival of Brits to Oklahoma, usually by marriage to Americans, as well as the ease with which they assimilate.
It’s usually the little things that English immigrants miss, like Robertson’s Jam, marmalade, or a proper cup of tea. They needn’t go without in Oklahoma because the inventory at Things UK in Broken Arrow reads like an Englishman’s shopping list.
Owner and native Englishman Graham Smith said customers come from as far away as Fort Smith, Ark., Oklahoma City and Kansas to shop at Things UK, which has been in business for 15 years.
They even have seasonal novelties like chocolate Easter eggs and Cadbury’s Christmas stockings.
Dogs are one import with surprisingly devoted fans. There are at least eight commercial English bulldog breeders in Oklahoma and they’re often fanatic about the breed.
“It’s like having a 3-year-old with fur,” said bulldog breeder Ellen Dunway.
She started breeding 16 years ago and has since bred several hundred dogs at Bulldogs of Timber Ridge in Howe.
A well bred bulldog fetches upward of $1,500, but Dunway is very forthcoming about their flaws.
“Bulldogs have everything known to man wrong with them,” she said, including small tracheas which cause breathing problems in the heat. But that doesn’t temper her enthusiasm, “They’re so ugly they’re cute.”
Some would say that English food also has everything wrong with it, yet English staples like bangers and mash and fish and chips have made it onto menus throughout the state.
Cultural Awareness Oklahoma Know It
English Oklahoma Know It