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A Morning with the Coney Island Crew

Rhiannon Walker Modified: July 8, 2013 at 6:00 pm •  Published: June 25, 2013

I spent last Tuesday with eight Capitol Hill natives, and I learned a few things.

One, I talk way too fast. I’ve heard that a lot, but they stopped me very early on in our conversation before I could really get revved up.

Two, none of these guys have a filter, and they’re absolutely hilarious. No one was safe at this table. Even Chris and I were the subjected to a few jokes here and there.

Three, they have some of the best memories of their hometown. They still remember people’s names, every detail, and they explained it all in a way, that I felt like I was right there in that moment.

With that said, this blog is some of the dialogue that went on for the hour I was at Coney Island on 240 SW 25th St. These are the stories of Bob Potter, 82, Ken Ericson, 74, Tom Wood, 81, Herschall Burns, 80, Al Miller, 81 and Jack Burt, 79.

Q: What was Capitol Hill like?

Al: They used to have a big rodeo up at Capitol Hill Stadium. The parade started downtown, and it rode by here. We all got involved with it here, shot BB guns at it. On the horses, you know, stir them up a little bit.

Q: What if they stampeded?

Al: That’s their problem. They were on the rough. They made the decision to ride those horse over here.

The Preacher story:

Al: I had a preacher talking to me, a friend of mine, he was from back East. Every time we’d say Capitol Hill, he’d roll his eyes. I told that preacher, I said look, I know anybody can get saved anywhere, but you gotta go through Capitol Hill to get to Heaven.

Q: You guys think you’re funny don’t you?

Bob: We’re just a bunch of good natured old people.

Q: So what do a group of guys talk about when they meet up? Well apparently medication, sports, and operations. The one thing that don’t talk about: girls. I wasn’t the only one surprised by that answer.

Bob: The only thing we don’t talk about now is girls.

Al: We don’t?

Bob: We gave that up several years ago.

Q: Really? I thought that was something that continued throughout the whole male lifetime.

Jack: These guys are habitual addicts.

Bob: Medication. We talk a lot about medication.

Al: And obituaries.

Bob: Obituaries, that’s right.

Ken: Sports. A lot of sports; usually there’s more than one coach here.

Bob: They can tell you about operations, scarring, medication, how to spell it, make lists, present it to everyone for sympathy.

Ken: Rhi, don’t listen him we don’t talk about that.

‘He steals money out of her purse:’ So it was finally confirmed that women do actually run the household. How else could you explain a guy switching from OSU to OU or vice versa?

Jack: I went to Oklahoma State, and then I changed to OU after I got married and became a kept man.

Q: But why?

Jack: (My wife) had the money; she had the job.

Q: So women really do run the household is that what I’m hearing?

Jack: That’s it.

Q: That’s it?

*Jack pulled out his wife’s sun glasses*

Jack: Even the glasses.

Bob: He steals money out of her purse to come up here and eat.

Bob: Whenever he gets a $20 bill…

Jack interjects: I usually ask.

Bob: She usually gives it to him.

Bob Potter caught on the pot:

Bob: Another little kid and I, his dad owned that little plumbing shop. I lived down on 26th street right across from the junior high. We were probably 2 or 3 years old. Some guy from The Oklahoman came by and took a picture of us; we’re both sitting on commodes with our pants down and they’re right there on the sidewalk.

Q: Some guy from The Oklahoman took a picture of you guys, with your pants down, sitting on these toilets?

Jack: Search the records for that, I bet that be a great shot.

Al: You have to understand that The Oklahoman was kind of weird anyways.

Q: I just don’t understand the point of the picture. Did he ever explain what it was for?

Al: Well it’s an oddity, wasn’t it? You got two kids sitting on pots.

Tom: And outside, out in the public, with their pants down.

Al: I think you call it a human interest story.

Bob the Mischievous

Bob: We used to come up on Saturday as little kids. I lived down the alley, and I would come up and meet Fred and we would go around and follow a police officer named McMillan. He would mark the tires of the parked cars, and then he would come back in an hour write tickets if they were still there. We would go around and erase, with a rag, erase the chalk mark he had put on the car. We did that for three or four hours, and he couldn’t write tickets. Finally, he caught us, and he took me down to my mother and said ‘This kid is driving me crazy.’

Years later, in 1955, when I went to work in the police department, he was still there. And they introduced me out in front of the shift. This is a new police officer, and McMillan’s in the back, and he says ‘He’s a damn thief; he’s a damn Capitol Hill rat.’ I didn’t have any idea who said that, and when I saw him, I laughed. Well, they put me in the car with him for two days, and we had more fun laughing.

So what’s for dessert? Bob said his bowl of chili was the main course, and then, out of nowhere, he pulled out a hot dog and explained that was his dessert. So I asked what’s the dessert after the dessert?

Bob: Go home and take a Pepto-Bismol.

Al: Take a tums.

What is your favorite memory or part of Capitol Hill?

Bob: Saturday, that’s the day everybody came up here. That’s the day all the farmers came in. The sidewalks would be literally full with people selling produce. It was almost a festive occasion really on Saturdays. Sitting out on the cars playing banjos; it didn’t cost anything, seem like it attracted a lot of people. But for me, living on 26th since birth and seeing all of that, all of this come forward in the last 80 years, it’s amazing. It’s amazing I’m still here; it’s amazing the changes, changes yet the buildings are still the same. It’s very nostalgic. I can’t help but drive by places that I’ve driven up and down the street, 50, 60, 70 years. My old grade school, drive by my old high school, just as a matter to and from wherever I’m going and to see that every day.

Al’s favorite memory:

Al: My favorite’s that state’s football championship 1949.

Q: Who played?

Al: Played Seminole; we beat them 28-14.

Q: And why’s that your favorite?

Al: Well, because it just triggered everything…

Jack interjected: He was a team member.

Al: I did score 22 points that day.

Q: See, I was like, there has to be a reason this is your favorite for some reason. 22 points?!

Al: Yeah.

Q: You didn’t think that was important to tell me?

Al: I scored three touchdowns and scored all the extra points.

I thanked and shook everyone’s hand at the table. I learned about a lot more than just Capitol Hill sitting down with these gentlemen. The greatest thing I took away from that hour was understanding true friendship. Their friendships have persevered through time, military assignments, moving and other elements of change.

Yet with all those things, they all still find time in their day to come together and reminisce about the “golden days.”  That was the best part of my time with them: Seeing them interact with one another. It’s rare you get to see friendships like that, so I consider myself lucky to have shared their company.