Valley Brook: A town at a crossroads

With two high-profile issues boiling in Valley Brook, residents of this small town in southeast Oklahoma County have plenty to think about.
by Andrew Knittle Modified: November 4, 2013 at 10:00 am •  Published: November 3, 2013
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As you head east on SE 59 from Interstate 35, it doesn't take long to know you've arrived in a special place.

After driving a half-mile from the busy interstate, you're confronted with a towering video billboard, a sign for Little Darlings, the biggest strip club in Valley Brook. It's the first thing visitors see when they enter the town of about 760 people.

Drive a little farther and you'll see the Valley Brook police station and town hall. The two buildings are next to each other on SE 59, nestled between the two strip clubs and other small businesses.

Another few hundred feet and you'll see Joe's Addiction, a coffee shop that caters to convicted felons and others living on the fringes of society. The shop's clientele come from a mobile home park filled with sex offenders, across the street from the town, and from homeless camps in a field just to the north of Valley Brook.

A few hundred feet more and you're out of Valley Brook, but not before passing Fancy's, the other strip club in town.

Stuck in the middle of all of this — in between the fields filled with homeless camps and the businesses along SE 59 — are hundreds of residents. Many of the homes are dilapidated and have been condemned. Most look every bit of their age. Others are well-kept, some with extensive outdoor decor to match the season.

Stray cats roam the town's streets, hiding behind old appliances and lawn furniture when strangers pass by.

Many residents interviewed by The Oklahoman have been here for decades, some for their entire lives. They choose to live here, charmed by a combination of Valley Brook's small-town feel and its low cost of living. Others are just passing through and likely will be gone in a year or two.

Some, however, are concerned about the future of Valley Brook, more than bothered by a coffee shop that caters to convicted felons and the homeless and by the looming prospect of an all-nude strip club coming to town.

A ‘quiet' place

Jim Watts, who lives with his wife, Donna, on Pat Avenue, has called Valley Brook home since the early 1970s. He said the town always has been “rowdy” and that he used to fight with “drunks all the time” in front of his house.

Watts and his wife raised four daughters in Valley Brook. One daughter lives next door with her husband and young daughter.

“I know everybody on this street,” Watts said. “If anybody has any problems, they come to me. If I see they're in trouble, I'll go to them.”

Watts and his wife attend town hall meetings and are active in local politics. They care about the town, although Watts wishes it would be annexed by Oklahoma City so something would be done about all of the dilapidated properties in Valley Brook.

Yet, when asked about his plans for the future, Watts answers quickly and emphatically.

“I'll be here,” he said. “I'll die here.”

Rusty Wilson, who lives with wife, Jamie, and their young daughter, described Valley Brook in a way that might seem odd for a town known for debauchery and strip clubs.

“Quiet,” he said. “It's a small town ... and it seems that way, too. You don't get a lot of the city noise that you get in other parts of town ... it's quiet over here.”

“We all know each other, we take care of each other,” Rusty Wilson said. “If we go out of town, we watch each other's houses.

Jamie Wilson grew up in Valley Brook and has lived in town her entire life. She and her husband live next door to Jim and Donna Watts — her parents.

“It was quiet growing up here,” she said. “We used to be able to walk around the corner to the store without (our parents) worrying about us. I felt a lot safer when I was younger, though.”

The young mother said she wishes Valley Brook town officials were more involved and would “enforce things more.”

“I remember, when I was growing up, the mayors had a lot more to do with keeping (the town) up,” Jamie Wilsons said. “Now, it just seems like it's falling apart.”

The Wilsons, who are both in their early 30s, say they've thought about leaving Valley Brook — frequently. But they stay.

“We look all the time,” Rusty Wilson said. “And it stinks, because we own our house ... we're young and we have the opportunity to be a young family and grow.

Continue reading this story on the...

by Andrew Knittle
Investigative Reporter
Andrew Knittle has covered state water issues, tribal concerns and major criminal proceedings during his career as an Oklahoma journalist. He has won reporting awards from the state's Associated Press bureau and prides himself on finding a real...
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