Berry Tramel

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Grand Lake: The Crown Jewel of Oklahoma, by Jim Weeks

by Berry Tramel Modified: January 21, 2014 at 4:15 pm •  Published: January 21, 2014
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Jim Weeks is the man who got me into the sportswriting business. Hired me when I was a 17 years old to be a virtual intern at the Norman Transcript, where he was sports editor for 26 years. Like Hans Castorp in The Magic Mountain, whose short visit to a cousin in an Alps sanitarium extends to seven years, my foray into the newspaper business went a little longer than maybe anyone expected. I spent 13 years at the Transcript, now 22 at The Oklahoman. Thirty-five years on the magic mountain.

Jim Weeks retired in 1990. He and his wife Micki moved to a beautiful home on Grand Lake just outside Grove. Jim died in 2009. Micki asked me to speak at the funeral, which I was honored to do.

But now, yet another blessing from Jim’s life has arrived. The completion of a book he had been working on for a number of years. Grand Lake: The Crown Jewel of Oklahoma.

Grand Lake has indeed been an Oklahoma jewel. It’s become a tourist destination for people from all over. I’m a little partial to Grand Lake because the Pensacola Dam, which basically dammed up the Grand River and created the gorgeous lake, is in Mayes County, between the hamlets of Disney and Langley. My dad was raised in Mayes County; I’m headed there Saturday for a Tramel family reunion.

Jim’s book was produced in conjunction with the Grand Lake Area Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber issued a release saying it is proud of the book “recounting the history behind the construction of the Pensacola Dam and the dramatic impact it has had on all of northeastern Oklahoma. It traces the roots of an idea to provide electricity to The Cherokee Nation to what has now become home to the one of the most exciting recreational based economies in our nation.”

The book is to be introduced at the Tulsa Boat, Sport & Travel Show in late January, retailing at $50 per copy. But copies ordered prior to the boat show introduction will be sold at an advanced sales price of $35.

I knew Jim kept writing even after leaving the Transcript. About 10 years ago, I drove up to Grove — he asked me to speak at his civic club luncheon — and he talked some about the Grand Lake book. It was clear that he had found a passion in Grove and the lake and his adopted home.

The Grand Lake chamber of commerce wrote “The fruits of Jim Weeks’ passion for the story of Grand Lake and those who played a role in bringing a farfetched idea to reality is told in 96 pages filled with both photos and written accounts of Grand Lake’s history ,,, the journalist in him soon led to an idea of researching the colorful history of Grand Lake and publishing a book on the subject.

“Soon, Weeks was engrossed in interviewing Grand Lakers new and old, spending countless hours at the Grand River Dam Authority’s headquarters in Vinita researching its archives and reviewing old newspaper accounts of anything related to the history surrounding Grand Lake. His efforts led him down a chronological path to that day in August of1940 when the last gate was closed.”

After Jim’s death, Bruce Howell, the retired superintendent of Tulsa Public Schools and primary author of the Echoes from the Past series of articles related to the history of the four-county area surrounding Grand Lake, the idea of a collaboration between the Weeks family and the Grand Lake Area Chamber of Commerce to publish the book was initiated. An agreement was soon reached and the project was underway.

Rusty Fleming, the chamber’s executive director, said the idea for a book separating fact from fiction regarding the unique story of Grand Lake is way overdue and the older the lake gets the more difficult it has become to determine which was which. Fleming and others who have read the Week’s transcript have marveled at the amount of details and wide swath of research included in the book.

“It’s difficult to even begin to estimate the number of hours Jim invested in this detailed account of our lake’s history,” Fleming said. “The chamber is extremely fortunate to have this opportunity to partner with the Weeks family and the Grand River Dam Authority in this long overdue account of this unique project being published.”

To order the book, you can email a request to grandlakechamber@gmail.com, visit the chamber’s office in the GRDA Eco-Systems Building in Langley or place a telephone order at 919-782-3214.

Jim Weeks authored three OU football books. One of them, The Sooners, I read when I was kid, long before I knew him. Then we crossed paths and he changed my life forever. My heart is happy today thinking that his work lives on.

 


by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The...
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