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Memorial Park remembered

by William Crum Published: July 23, 2014

 

Courtesy Oklahoma Historical Society.  Old post card images of Putnam Park, renamed Memorial Park after World War I.  The park is on NW 36 between Western and Classen in northwest OKlahoma City.  Photo by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman
Courtesy Oklahoma Historical Society. Old post card images of Putnam Park, renamed Memorial Park after World War I. The park is on NW 36 between Western and Classen in northwest OKlahoma City. Photo by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman
The Oklahoman’s story this week on re-imagining and renovating Memorial Park prompted Dick Hefton to write with his boyhood recollections of the park.

Oklahoma City is about halfway through a $1.8 million makeover at Memorial Park, at N Classen Boulevard and NW 36 Street. When it’s done, the fountain will be refurbished and set within a proper plaza, new playground equipment will be ready for children, tennis courts will be resurfaced and a “great lawn” will be ready for festivals and pickup soccer games.

An 8-foot-wide walking path will ring the 15-acre park — artillery is not part of the plan, though.

Read on for Dick’s recollections, including playing on the big guns that once “guarded” the park.

“Thanks for the memory! Of Memorial Park, that is!

“I’ve watched with sad nostalgia in recent years to see the old icon of my youth run down and wondered if the construction viewed there lately was to be more of the same?

“I’m a Muskogee boy whose family lived here during the war years … not WWI, the second one to end all wars. Our stay from ’38 – ’43 included Putnam Heights and Harding.

“You may know the park in those days, and I assume from its early days, boasted two artillery pieces of what I assumed to be WWI vintage on display along the Classen street sidewalk west of the big beautiful fountain.

“Permanently stationed side-by-side was what I recall was said to be a French 75. No expert but I remember it as being smaller than our 105MM Howitzers. The other may have been a US 155MM. It contained a shield behind the barrel and in front of the shield were two passenger seats for gunners for transfer. Those seats were like thrones for a pair of sixth graders to sit and imagine heading to battle to win the war.

“Most of what we call the metro in the war years was overrun with military but the area there was relatively quiet. So much so our parents would drop my neighbor buddy and me off at the Mayflower or Victoria theatres for a double-feature on Friday evenings and let us ride the streetcar home. On summer nights we spent he fare and walked the two miles with long stops at our seats on the cannon.

“A large shallow pool was positioned approximately at mid-park parallel to the small parking area accessed off 36th street. The pool got heavy traffic as did the nice tennis courts located west between the pool and the fountain.

“You made it fun to draw a mental picture of a happy young life in the grip of WWII.”

Thanks, Dick Hefton

 

 

 

by William Crum
Reporter
OU and Norman High School graduate, formerly worked as a reporter and editor for the Associated Press, the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, and the Norman Transcript. Married, two children, lives in Norman.
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