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The Heydays of Commerce Street

Rhiannon Walker Modified: June 23, 2013 at 5:30 pm •  Published: June 22, 2013


It was good livin’, a good place to be and a slow time in life.

Kenneth Ericson used to walk from 333 S.E. 28th street to Capitol Hill, and he might be up ‘til after dark, but he never worried a bit or about walking back.

“You were Capitol Hill, you were basically part of a big family at that time,” Ericson said. “During that period of time, it wasn’t uncommon for your neighbor to take care of your kid, even though she wasn’t supposed to be takin’ care of you. It was just if you were there, she watched and took care of you. And the same thing when you came downtown here; no big thing.”

If there was ever a day to be in Capitol Hill, Saturday was that day.

There was nothing like being on Commerce Street on the first day of the weekend. People would come dressed to the nines to spend their day shopping, window shopping, eating or to just enjoy the atmosphere.

“Unbelievable; on Saturdays especially, you couldn’t hardly get up and down the street,” Ericson recalled. “People were doing their shopping, people just looking, they’d just come up to the movies, go for hot dogs, there was a little bakery down here — I believe it was Brown’s bakery originally, if I remember right —, had a jewelry story, C.R. Anthony was here…TG&Y was here, we had a bank and post office too! We had a little bit of everything.”

And even if you leave Capitol Hill, it never really leaves you.

One day, Ericson was sitting in a Chicago restaurant. He overheard a conversation between two gentlemen: The customer was from Tulsa and the waiter was the son of a person who had graduated with Ericson’s wife.

“Now you’re a friend from that point on,” the 74-year-old said. “Capitol Hill is a little bit like a cult, in the sense that if you’re part of Capitol Hill, you know everybody; you’re friends. And it doesn’t matter what part of the world you run into them, if they know you’re from Capitol Hill, that’s all it takes.”

Ericson said it was amazing how he and his friends used to entertain themselves. There were always sports to be played, rabbit hunting was a viable option and if nothing else, he and his friends could find joy in just riding up and down SW 25th Street. On Sundays, there were church functions, and occasionally, yes they got bored.

But that was OK, because in general there was something to do.

Ericson used to have friends come over to his grandmother’s house and they would climb the tree and eat the cherries.

“Nowadays, the kids look at us and say ‘You’re crazy, how could you enjoy that?’” the South Oklahoma City-resident said. “Get a little melancholy when you think about it. Back then, you got up fairly early, even in the summer. …You got to play sandlot baseball or go to a park and play basketball.”

Capitol Hill gave Ericson too many great memories for him to name one in particular, but if there was anything he would talk to someone outside of Capitol Hill about, it would be Christmas time.

In his time, people were easier going, gifts were more often handmade than store bought and the smells, oh boy, the smells could leave a lasting mark on your memory.

Between the decorations streamed down the light poles and the stores adorned with all the trademark Christmas items, there was nothing that could compare to Capitol Hill at the most wonderful time of the year.

“Everyone celebrated Christmas, the decorations across the street, each building had their decorations (and) the smells,” Ericson said. “Oh, you walk in the store and you smell the holly. We didn’t have the plastic stuff back then; the trees were all real. As crazy as it sounds, walk into Oklahoma Tire and Supply Co., and they had all their Christmas stuff out, and you could smell all that fresh rubber from the tires.

“Those things stick with you. As crazy as it sounds, it sticks with you.”


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