Moving Out

Oklahoma’s rural population exodus to cities and towns, and both the residential and commercial urban movement outward from city and even town centers (OKLAHOMANS 2, Chapters 8, 9) accelerated in the 1960s. One stunning statistic perhaps best evidences that. In 1960, the downtown district generated 80% of Oklahoma City’s total annual retail shopping revenue. Only four years later, the same percentage of that revenue, 80% was generated outside the downtown area. Cheaper land in remote areas, growing suburbs, and outlying towns, coupled with improved vehicles and roads, and increasing highway and freeway construction, stimulated this historic shift.


According to historian Bob Blackburn, school bond issues for growing Oklahoma towns and cities helped solidify these growth patterns:


“If I’m a superintendent back then and I’m putting together a school bond package that I want the people to approve, I’m going to build those schools out where the voters are. I’m going to build a school a mile from where you’re now living, out there (in new suburban areas), instead of taking an old downtown school, in a mixed neighborhood, where you have Latinos and African-Americans and poor people, as well as middle class. No, I’m going to build suburban schools, because those people vote more, and because they would approve it. If you put together a bond package to build a new school downtown, they’re going to vote no. Meanwhile, the people who (would) benefit from that really aren’t going to vote, because they don’t know what’s good for them.”


According to Blackburn, “market possibilities began to drive everything for school superintendents. Bond issues were building new schools,” remote from downtown and older city districts. In Oklahoma City, that produced from the mid-1950s into the 1960s, Northwest Classen, John Marshall, and U. S. Grant High Schools, and a new facility for independent Putnam City. Tulsa opened McLain, Nathan Hale, Edison, and Memorial High Schools in the same era.


“These are the golden years of those schools,” Blackburn said, “because private schools really hadn’t (come into prominence) yet, with the exception of some Catholic schools.” Many other Oklahoma communities, including Lawton, Norman, Muskogee, and Duncan also built new schools farther from their downtown districts.

 

The above article is a bonus to the fascinating historical content found within our book

Oklahomans Vol 2 :

Statehood - 2020s

which can be purchased HERE.


View the inspiring 2-minute preview video HERE.

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