The Oklahoma History Center recently made a big splash on YouTube, posting a collection of rarely seen videos, one of which is on the verge of going viral with 1,000 hits in less than a week.
“Growing with Pride” starts with an animated figure, an Irish-accented “Casey Ocura” (OCURA — Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority) who greets viewers with an explanation that the head of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber is about to give a tour of the city to a visiting executive.
That chamber official actually was played by the late Gaylon Stacy, a legendary early KWTV broadcaster. But he did the city proud as he greeted his two guests at Will Rogers World Airport and suggested they take a helicopter to their destination downtown.
What ensues next in this celluloid piece of propaganda was the best defense available to city fathers at the time. While it may seem hokey to today's audiences, it's still a good 18 minutes spent for those hoping to understand why so many cherished landmarks were laid to waste in the name of progress.
To understand yesterday's leaders one must remember that even as this film was made in the mid-1970s the city still had dreams of creating a monorail system (one that, of course, would hook up with the helicopter port at the convention center).
The film celebrates the destruction of hundreds of older buildings that included the Criterion and Warner theaters, the Baum Building and Biltmore Hotel.
“How often do you see urban renewal on this scale?” Stacy's chamber executive asks in the film. “It's the beginning of a new city. Most of the old downtown area is gone already and is being rebuilt.”
Then, as viewers and the visiting “dignitaries” were shown footage of the State Theater falling to the wrecking all, Stacy offered up the leading argument of the era: “Businessmen won't invest in an area they see as decaying. But if they see signs that the decay is going to be rooted out, they will come in with their own money.”Watch the video on YouTube