Showing posts with label Oklahoma. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Oklahoma. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

College life in the 1960s: College kids try to kill themselves in a 1961 Chrysler Imperial--but botch the job

I ain't hurtin' nobody. I ain't hurtin' no one.

John Prine

I enrolled at Oklahoma State University in 1966, just as the Vietnam War was heating up. The rules were quite clear. Boys could avoid the draft for four years if they kept their grades up. But if they flunked out, they’d be drafted and probably go to Vietnam.

I still remember some of my dorm buddies who lived with me in Cordell Hall, a four-story neo-Georgian monstrosity located near the ROTC drill field. No air conditioning. Most of us were poor or nearly poor or we wouldn’t have been living there.

I remember Alton and Bobby, two freshmen from southwestern Oklahoma. Alton was from the little town of Amber; Bobby was from the nearby hamlet of Pocasset.  If you asked them where they were from, they both would say Am-Po, expecting you to know that they were referring to the Amber-Pocasset Metropolitan Area.

And there was another kid whose name I’ve forgotten who was clinically shy and morbidly frail. His skin was almost translucent, which gave him the appearance of a young girl. I’m ashamed to say the guys in the dorm nicknamed him Elsie. He never objected.

Everyone liked Elsie, partly because he had something most of us didn’t have: a car. His parents loaned him their 1961 Chrysler Imperial, perhaps the ugliest car ever made. It had all sorts of buttons and gadgets, including power windows, which I had never seen before.

Elsie was incredibly generous with his car and loaned it to just about anyone who asked. One Saturday during the fall semester, Alton wanted to go to Oklahoma City to see his girlfriend, and he asked Elsie if he could borrow the Chrysler. Oklahoma City was 120 miles away, but Elsie offered to drive him there. Several bored freshmen joined the expedition, and six or seven of us piled into the Imperial for the run to OKC.

But Elsie didn’t drive us. Alton insisted on taking the wheel, and when we got out on Interstate 35, he said, “Let’s see how fast this baby can go.” In an instant, we were hurtling south at 120 miles an hour. No seat belts.

I was terrified but I didn’t have the courage to tell Alton to slow down. Then I looked through the rear window, and I saw a Highway Patrol cruiser closing in on us--siren wailing.

Alton panicked when he heard the siren. In a desperate attempt to get his speed down to double digits, he stomped down on the brake pedal and jerked up the hand brake. That definitely slowed us down.

Alton laid down about 100 feet of skid marks, which you can probably still see on Interstate 35. In an instant, the whole car was filled with smoke and the smell of burning rubber and fried brake pads.

We’re in big trouble now, I thought. But the cop didn’t seem concerned about the fact that seven idiot teenagers were apparently trying to kill themselves in a Chrysler. The cop said hardly a word; he just wrote Alton a speeding ticket and drove away in his cruiser.

Am-Po Bobby also had a car, an old Chevy Nova; and every Monday night he chauffeured a bunch of freshmen to Griff’s Drive-In. Griff’s sold tiny hamburgers for 15 cents apiece, and on Monday nights it sold them for a dime. Pooling our resources, we could usually scrape up three bucks, which would buy us 30 hamburgers. We all ate four apiece, and a couple of big eaters would eat five. Oh, we were living high!

One Monday night, we were waiting in Griff’s drive-through lane and Bobby spotted a metal gasoline can behind Griff’s back door. Bobby got out of the car, shook the can, and confirmed there was fuel in it. Free gas! Bobby put the gas can in the backseat of his car, and we picked up our 30 burgers at the drive-through window.

Unfortunately for Bobby, an alert Griff’s employee witnessed the theft and called the Stillwater police. A cruiser arrived immediately, and an elderly officer gave us all a lecture on stealing. He confiscated the gas can and then walked to the back of Bobby’s car to jot down the license plate number.

And what did Stillwater’s finest see on the rear bumper? A sticker that said, “Support Your Local Fuzz.” Now we’re really in trouble, I thought. We’re going to be arrested, OSU will kick us out of school, and we’ll all wind up in Vietnam.

But the officer had seen moron college students before and knew we were basically harmless. He just shook his head when he saw the bumper sticker and drove off without even giving us a citation.

The 1960 Chrysler Imperial: Power windows!


Oklahoma Highway Patrol: "Let's be careful out there."


Griff's Hamburgers: 10 burgers for a dollar (but only on Mondays)


Friday, August 16, 2019

College life in the 1960s: Seven idiots in a 1960 Chrysler Imperial


I ain't hurtin' nobody. I ain't hurtin' no one.

John Prine

I enrolled at Oklahoma State University in 1966, just as the Vietnam War was heating up. The rules were quite clear. Boys could avoid the draft for four years if they kept their grades up. But if they flunked out, they’d be drafted and probably go to Vietnam.

I still remember some of my dorm buddies who lived with me in Cordell Hall, a four-story neo-Georgian monstrosity located near the ROTC drill field. No air conditioning. Most of us were poor or nearly poor or we wouldn’t have been living there.

I remember Delmar and Bobby, two freshmen from southwestern Oklahoma. Delmar was from the little town of Amber; Bobby was from the nearby village of Pocasset.  If you asked them where they were from, they both would say Ampo, expecting you to know that they were referring to the Amber-Pocasset Metropolitan Area.

And there was another kid whose name I’ve forgotten who was clinically shy and morbidly frail. His skin was almost translucent, which gave him the appearance of a young girl. I’m ashamed to saythe guys in the dorm nicknamed him Elsie. He never objected.

Everyone liked Elsie, partly because he had something most of us didn’t have: a car. His parents loaned him their 1960 Chrysler Imperial, perhaps the ugliest car ever made. It had all sorts of buttons and gadgets, including power windows, which I had never seen before.

Elsie was incredibly generous with his car and loaned it to just about anyone who asked. One Saturday during the fall semester, Delmar wanted to go to Oklahoma City to see his girlfriend, and he asked Elsie if he could borrow the Chrysler. Oklahoma City was 120 miles away, but Elsie offered to drive him there. Several bored freshmen joined the expedition, and six or seven of us piled into the Imperial for the run to OKC.

But Elsie didn’t drive us. Delmar insisted on taking the wheel, and when we got out on Interstate 35, he said, “Let’s see how fast this baby will go.” In an instant, we were hurtling south at 120 miles an hour. No seat belts.

I was terrified but I didn’t have the courage to tell Delmar to slow down. Then I looked through the rear window, and I saw a Highway Patrol cruiser closing in on us--siren wailing.

Delmar panicked when he heard the siren. In a desperate attempt to get his speed down to double digits, he stomped down on the brake pedal and jerked up the hand brake. That definitely slowed us down.

Delmar laid down about 100 feet of skid marks, which you can probably still see on Interstate 35. In an instant, the whole car was filled with smoke and the smell of burning rubber and fried brake pads.

We’re in big trouble now, I thought. But the cop didn’t seem concerned about the fact that seven idiot teenagers were apparently trying to kill themselves in a Chrysler. The cop said hardly a word; he just wrote Delmar a speeding ticket and drove away in his cruiser.

Ampo Bobby also had a car, an old Chevy Nova; and every Monday night he chauffeured a bunch of freshmen to Griff’s Drive-In. Griff’s sold tiny hamburgers for 15 cents apiece, and on Monday nights it sold them for a dime. Pooling our resources, we could usually scrape up three bucks, which would buy us 30 hamburgers. We all ate four apiece, and a couple of big eaters would eat five. Oh, we were living high!

One Monday night, we were waiting in Griff’s drive-through lane and Bobby notice a metal gasoline can behind Griff’s back door. Bobby got out of the car, shook the can, and confirmed there was fuel in it. Free gas! Bobby put the gas can in the backseat of his car, and we picked up our 30 burgers at the drive-through window.

Unfortunately for Bobby, an alert Griff’s employee witnessed the theft and called the Stillwater police. A cruiser arrived immediately, and an elderly officer gave us all a lecture on stealing. He confiscated the gas can and then walked to the back of Bobby’s car to jot down the license plate number.

And what did Stillwater’s finest see on the rear bumper? A sticker that said, “Support Your Local Fuzz.” Now we’re really in trouble, I thought. We’re going to be arrested, OSU will kick us out of school, and we’ll all wind up in Vietnam.

But the officer had seen moron college students before and knew we were basically harmless. He just shook his head when he saw the bumper sticker and drove off without even giving us a citation.

The 1960 Chrysler Imperial: Power windows!


Oklahoma Highway Patrol: "Let's be careful out there."


Griff's Hamburgers: 10 burgers for a dollar (but only on Mondays)


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Suicides and a Jail Death in Anadarko, Oklahoma: Bitter, Angry and Frightened, Oklahomans will not vote for Hillary

Last January, the Washington Post reported on a spate of suicides in Anadarko, Oklahoma. Four people committed suicide over a period of less than two months. All were young, all were racial minorities, and all killed themselves with guns.

And last April, Darius Robinson, an African American father of seven, was killed in his Anadarko jail cell, asphyxiated by jail employees. Jailers say Robinson was trying to escape, but the Oklahoma Medical Examiner ruled the death a homicide.  A small demonstration was organized a couple months after Robinson's death; about 50 people attended. Robinson, by the way, was not in jail for a violent crime; he was in the slammer for failing to pay child support.

You might think these tragedies would draw the attention of President Obama. Four desperate young people killed themselves with handguns--what a great opportunity for the President to talk about gun control. A black man strangled by his jailers while in police custody--that's as least as shocking as the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore/

Nevertheless, as far as I can determine, Barack Obama has said nothing about these deaths, and Hillary Clinton has said nothing about them. And, to the best of my knowledge, neither Al Sharpton nor Jessie Jackson has shown up in Anadarko.

Why? Because the Oklahomans don't matter. The Democratic political operatives have written off Oklahoma, and well they should. In the Democratic presidential primary, Oklahoma Democrats voted overwhelmingly for Bernie Sanders--Bernie Sanders! And  God knows they didn't vote for Bernie because they are socialists. No, Oklahoma Democrats loath Hillary Clinton, and Bernie was their only alternative. And if Oklahoma Democrats loath her, you can imagine what Oklahoma Republicans think.

In truth, Oklahomans are bitter, angry and frightened. Outside a few pockets of urban prosperity--Oklahoma City, metropolitan Tulsa, and Bartlesville--the state is in deep depression. From the Winding Stair Mountains in the east to the short grass country of western Oklahoma, there are no jobs. Anadarko, my home town, may be the epicenter of Oklahoma's desperate condition. Abandoned houses, suicide, alcohol abuse, drug addiction--rural Oklahomans are among the casualties of the new global economy.

Hillary and Barack despise these people, and the Oklahomans know it.  Barack sneeringly dismissed poor white Americans generally when he said they comfort themselves with guns and religion. When Hillary condemned the "basket of deplorables," she was talking about the people I grew up with.

Eighty years ago, John Steinbeck wrote The Grapes of Wrath, a tribute to the strength and courage of the Oklahomans who were driven off their land during the Dust Bowl years and migrated to California in rattletrap cars. "We're the people that live," Ma Joad says in the novel. "They can't wipe us out; they can't lick us. We'll go on forever, Pa, 'cause we're the people."

Do you think Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton have read The Grapes of Wrath? Not likely. Do you think they give a damn about contemporary Oklahomans who are suffering now just as much as their ancestors did during the Great Depression? No, of course not.

Image result for darius robinson death
Darius Robinson: "We're the people"



References

Sarah Kaplan.'It has brought us to our knees': Small Okla. town reeling from suicide epidemic. Washington Post, January 25, 2016. It https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/01/25/it-has-brought-us-to-our-knees-small-okla-town-reeling-from-suicide-epidemic/


Xin Xin Liu. Protesters Gather At Caddo Co. Courthouse After Inmate's Death, new9.com, July 22, 2016. Available at
http://www.news9.com/story/32507009/protest-planned-at-caddo-co-courthouse-after-inmates-death

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Medieval America: Victor David Hanson correctly diagnoses the collapse of American liberal democracy

It is difficult to convey a brilliant insight in less than 2,000 words, but Victor David Hanson has done it. In a brief essay published last week, Hanson said it is inaccurate to compare our declining American civilization to the fall of the Roman Empire. In truth, Hanson argued, our nations is becoming like medieval Europe.

Like today's America, Hanson points out, medieval Europe could boast some fine universities where the sum of human knowledge increased. But the universities of that day, like our modern American universities, had strict speech codes. The sun revolved around the earth, and woe to any medieval scholar who argued otherwise.  And today of course professors are permitted to express only one point of view on important global issues like climate change.

Humanist scholars of medieval times "wrote esoteric treatises than no one read," Hanson writes. "These works were sort of like the incomprehensible 'theory' articles of university humanities professors who are up for tenure."

Hanson definitely got that right. Not to mention the 10,000 law review articles that law professors and their students publish every year even as the core principles of our legal system disintegrate.

In my view, Hanson's most trenchant comparison between contemporary America and medieval Europe relates to the economy. Today, as Hanson notes, one fifth of Americans own absolutely nothing or have negative worth, much like medieval serfs. In fact, 18 percent of adult Americans have student-loan debt, which they are permitted to work off by donating a percentage of their income to the government over 20 or 25 years--just like peasants.

Indeed, America becomes more like medieval society with each passing day. The middle class--once the glory of liberal democracy--gets smaller every year. The nation's elites fly in private jets, work in fortress-like offices, and are protected by private security agencies; they are truly lords and barons surrounded by modern-day moats. Their kids go to the best private schools. And the elites do a good job of protecting their income from taxes.

Meanwhile the rest of us ride the subway or commute to work on crumbling freeways. We pay taxes at a higher rate than either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, and we send our kids to mediocre schools.  Defined-benefit retirement plans are fast disappearing, and we put our puny savings into the stock market because the elite have declared that we can earn nothing on our savings if we invest anywhere else.

Everywhere, the non-elites are getting poorer, but the slide into serfdom is most evident in rural America. In my own hometown of Anadarko, Oklahoma, the little family shops and stores of my childhood are all empty and boarded up. If you want to buy something--almost anything at all--you must go to Walmart. Hundreds of houses have been abandoned, including the one I lived in as a kindergarten child. Drug addiction and suicide are up; decent jobs have disappeared.

Americans know in their hearts that our slide into medievalism will accelerate after the national election unless our economy is radically restructured. Let us hope President Trump can do what he promised he would do to restore jobs to middle-class and working-class Americans.


References

Victor David Hanson. Medieval America, Town Hall, October 13, 2016. Available at http://townhall.com/columnists/victordavishanson/2016/10/13/medieval-america-n2231213http://townhall.com/columnists/victordavishanson/2016/10/13/medieval-america-n2231213