Friday, October 17, 2008

Springlake via Arcadia

Quick links in this article:
Full Circle Book-signing   About the publication
Book Reviews   Sample Pages   Acknowledgments
Updated October 24, 2008


FIRST BOOK-SIGNING IS SET DONE!

In my September 26 update, I reported that my first book-signing for Springlake Amusement Park was set for Thursday, October 30, at Full Circle Bookstore.

The event was moved forward one week to THURSDAY, OCTOBER 23, as shown below.

I'm pleased to say that the book-signing got some nice publicity Tuesday morning, October 21 at 7:15 a.m., on Randy Renner's KOKC Radio's Sunrise News -- my 1st radio interview! A real gentleman, Randy didn't ask any questions that I didn't know the answers to! A big Doug Dawg thanks goes to Mr. Renner and Talk Radio 1520 for the opportunity to talk about the book.




It was my great pleasure to talk about Springlake and other remembrance with those of you who attended the book-signing last evening, and I thank all who came to the event! A few photos appear below, after the Full Circle book-signing ad.

FULL CIRCLE BOOK-SIGNING! My first choice for a book-signing was Full Circle Bookstore at 50 Penn Place, Oklahoma City, and I got my wish.
  • When? Thursday, October 23, 2008, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m.

  • Where? Full Circle Bookstore, 50 Penn Place, northeast corner of the lower level.



  • Some Who Came -- click images for larger views
    Judi Kemler, me, Norman Thompson




    Stan Foster & his wife, Steve Lackmeyer, Mary Hart



    My son, David, Sophia, me, grandson Tyler



    Me, son-in-law Brian, Sophia pulling my ear, daughter Mary



    Sophia, to whom the book is dedicated



    The event was here, at Full Circle Books



  • What? Get your copy of Springlake Amusement Park signed by Doug Dawg (if you want) and mingle with others who are there and share your remembrances and stories of the greatest amusement park that Oklahoma has ever known!

  • Why Full Circle? Quite simply, Full Circle was my first book-signing preference because it is the very best bookstore in Oklahoma. Locally owned, it sets the standard for what a bookstore can be, and, if it can, should be. More than 60,000 new titles are in stock and it is the largest independent bookstore in Oklahoma. Although every taste in books is catered to, it has an especially fine selection of books on Oklahoma and Oklahoma City, quite likely the most number of Oklahoma titles under one roof in the state.
So, I again thank all who attended, and it was a pleasure to see those I already knew and to meet others as we rekindled and shared memories about this exciting amusement park you went to when you were young.

The following photographs taken by me on September 25 give a fair idea of the sumptuous and casual flair of the place but fail to capture the feeling of being there. For that, one must go there for oneself.

For the images below, click on any image for a larger view

Looking Around






The store contains several rooms or enclaves — here is a children's area



Here are a couple of others, but there are more





Notice the ladder in the photograph below. The pair of shots
after the next are from the top of one of the many ladders.








Soups, salads, sandwiches & sweets are available in the Garden Café
11:30 a.m. – 2 p.m. Monday through Friday, Noon – 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
Or, one can just sit and have some cappuccino, espresso, or
just plain coffee from the Java Joe Coffee Bar.



ABOUT THE PUBLICATION. I am very pleased to report that the paper quality is a higher quality glossy paper than I expected and the imaging work done by Arcadia is really first-class, sharp and crisp, good contrast and resolution! Arcadia has done its production work very well. The book is 127 pages long and includes around 180-190 photographs and images. This is the 1st edition, published in 2008 by Arcadia Publishing.

The book will be on local bookseller shelves on Monday, October 13, 2008, including the locally owned stores like Full Circle Bookstore, Oklahoma's Red Dirt Emporium on the Bricktown Canal, and Edmond's Best of Books, as well as at the various local Barnes & Noble and Borders shops.

The book may be pre-ordered at Full Circle Books or at the publisher's (Arcadia) website or at Amazon.com, although I hope that you will favor our local merchants.

BOOK REVIEWS. As of October 9, 2008, the book has been reviewed by Rod Lott of the Oklahoma Gazette. Here it is:

Click the pages below for larger views

Aside from a couple of small mistakes (ads in the book weren't from the Oklahoman, they were from the Oklahoma News; and I didn't conclude that Springlake's swimming pool was converted into a sea aquarium "out of spite" — I mentioned that as one of three possibilities), I would be hard pressed not to be very pleased with the review — and Mr. Lott is completely correct — I did miss a step and should have dug just a bit more to see if photographs were available of the 1981 arsonist's fire which caused $200,000 damage to the park and/or images showing its dismantling after the park was purchased by Metro Tech. If an opportunity exists to do that in later editions (should that event happily come to pass), I'll certainly see what I can find.

SAMPLE PAGES. Below, I've included 21 "sample pages" from the book — however, these are work-ups made from PDF files which I made during the book's completion. In Arcadia's format, the pages will look a little different (better) and may contain slightly cleaned up text. But, what follows is very close to the "real deal" that's in the book. Click on any page below for a more readable view.



About the Cover


Table of Contents


Introduction




From Chapter 1: Overlooking the Park




From Chapter 2: The Early Years



From Chapter 3: The Middle Years




From Chapter 4: The Heyday Years









There's lots more — 106 additional pages and lots more images — of the Big Dipper, the pool, the rides, pretty girls, and the fireworks, as well as photos of Springlake's Early, Waning, and Last Years, in the "real book" and I hope to meet you and sign your copy at an autograph session on October 23, 2008, at Full Circle Bookstore.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS. When making this post originally, I said,
It gives Doug Dawg great pleasure to say that I'm writing an "Images of America" book on Springlake Amusement Park for Arcadia Publishing Company, and I'm planning to have the final text done in early May 2008. The cover, above, is already set ... click the above image for a closer look.
And I asked for the help of you readers:
But, what's not done is all of the written text, and that's the reason for this post. I'm looking for additional information that I don't yet have, from anyone that wants to give it! That could be ...
  • Anecdotal stories/memories about Springlake from its earliest days (1922) until its end (1981) ... the remembrances don't necessarily need to be "happy", e.g., if you were black, you couldn't gain access to the park until 1964 since the park was segregated until then and that's an important part of the telling of the story, as well ... my goal is to accurately tell the whole story or at least as much of it as I know.

  • Personal photographs that are of sufficient quality to be included in the book ... if so, I'll need original photos to scan to Arcadia's specifications and your consent to include them in the book.
Ninety-nine percent (99%) of my research and a large part of the text is already done ... I've scoured newspaper articles in the Oklahoman and its competitors ... in the Oklahoma News which was a Scripps-Howard Oklahoma City newspaper in days gone by and in the Oklahoma Journal ... as well as anything else I could lay my hands on. But, maybe you have some recollections that you'd like to share, and I'd welcome having them if you are!

Naturally, any anecdotal stories and/or photographs will be credited as you'd prefer, either by real or fictitious name.
Research took longer than I expected but it did get done. A draft of Springlake Amusement Park was in the hands of Arcadia in June 2008. Once again, I thank those who have helped me with completing this project.

First, here's the formal "Acknowledgments" page in the book:
Acknowledgments

First, this book could not possibly have been produced without Norman Thompson (he declined my request to co-author this book). Without his unselfish interest in Oklahoma City history, this photographic story would not have been possible – quite simply, the depth of Springlake images existed nowhere else.

For many years, Norman's family has owned and operated Bellevue Health & Rehabilitation Center on North Portland Avenue, Oklahoma City. From Springlake's 1922-1924 beginnings until he died in 1957, Roy Staton owned Springlake. After his death, Springlake's reigns passed to Roy's son, Marvin. Eventually Marvin suffered ill health and came to reside at Bellevue where he lived until his death in 1990. During that time, the photographs caused to be taken by Springlake owners from the 1920s through the 1970s came to be entrusted to Norman and his family.

By 2007, Norman wanted those photographs to be available to everyone. He inquired of my interest in including them in my Oklahoma City history blog, and, of course, I jumped at the chance, even though spatial limitations precluded including them all. Later, after I was contacted by Arcadia Publishing about putting this book together, Norman unhesitatingly agreed to that the images could be used here without reservation.

Secondly, the Oklahoma City Metropolitan Library System is due great credit for the quality of many images contained in this book, most particularly, Larry (Buddy) Johnson, author of Historic Photos of Oklahoma City (Turner Publishing Company 2007), and here's why: After Norman allowed my use of the Springlake scans he'd caused to be made, he and his family made a gift of the Springlake Collection to the Oklahoma City Metropolitan Library System, the present repository of all original photographs. Although the scans provided by Norman were good, some were not quite up to Arcadia's specifications – but – Mr. Johnson unhesitatingly permitted me to re-scan as many photographs as desired, sans charge. More than 100 of the images here are the result of that courtesy. I know of no other repository of Oklahoma historic images that would have been as gracious. Not one.
And, that's an understatement – Buddy allowed me to revisit the Springlake portfolio on many occasions during the past couple of months when I had the need.

I also extend special thanks to Steve Lackmeyer of the Oklahoman who was kindly willing to write the "Foreword" in the book and also critiqued its content. For that, and for his great research tips which proved invaluable in finding places to sniff out good historic facts, I am incredibly indebted.

Others, some anonymously, greatly contributed to the flavor of much of the book, particularly in Chapter 4: The HeyDay Years and Chapter 6: The Final Years. Their anecdotal comments were supplied e-mail or by comments posted in my Springlake blog article. They are:
  • Judi Jones Kemler. Judi, from Midwest City, identified herself in a 1962 or 1963 Big Dipper photo which became the book's cover photo, and it bears showing again, here:


    Judi is the girl in sunglasses, 4th row from the back. She said,
    My memories of Springlake are truly an important part of my childhood and years growing up. It was exciting when I was tall enough to ride the Big Dipper with my Dad. That was one important thing that we did together. He and I, riding the Big Dipper over, and over, and over.
  • Carla Williams Noffsinger. Carla's comments are on the book's back cover:
    I grew up in Moore. We spent many a happy hour at Spring Lake. We always heard bad stories about the Big Dipper, but that was the first ride we would hit. I remember my cousin wetting her pants once on the Tilt-A-Whirl, we laugh about that to this day. As far as my family was concerned it was just good clean old fashioned fun. My cousins would come up in the summer from Southeast Oklahoma and Spring Lake was the top of the list of places to go.
  • Kathy Spivey. Taken from the Springlake blog article's comments, Kathy, from Chickasha, said:
    Oh my gosh – Foreman Scotty – and the pic of the elderly couple with the skillet – the parking lot full of vintage cars – the big dipper – through the 40s into the civil rights era. I took a very long journey through each and every photo, I laughed (out loud) at some of them and shed tears over others (April 11, 1971). Just that sight, alone, depicted generations of life in Oklahoma. Actually, it depicts Life in America. Growing up in rural Oklahoma, a once-a- year class trip to Springlake was really something to look forward to, and I can recall when the racial issue happened and we were no longer allowed to go there. Amazing sitting here, today, laughing and crying over those photos and feeling equally proud and heartbroken over what foolishness people are compelled to exhibit, is stunning.
  • Roger Harris. From Ada, Roger wrote:
    My dad ran the train for many years at Springlake. As a result, I practically spent all my summers there. So many memories. I still love looking at photos and trying to find things on E-Bay related to the park. I even got to pet "Lassie" when she appeared at the amphitheater!
  • Cherastina. A Staton family member, she wrote:
    My great grandpa was John Thomas Staton, he was the brother of Roy Staton. My grandma Joyce Staton was born in a house in the park. I grew up with stories of trips to the park. My favorite is the one of my mom going to Spring Lake on a school field trip. She had told the kids it was her grandpa and uncles park, but they didn't believe her. When they got there, my mom was greeted by her uncle Roy and all the kids jaws dropped!
  • Papajack. He identified himself this way when asked how he preferred to be quoted in the book: "You can call me Papajack. I gave myself permission to have a cool nickname when I turned 55. Papajack is also what my grandkids call me." His remarks, below, are peppered through parts of Chapter 4: The Heyday Years:
    I grew up in Midwest City and spent many wonderful hours at Springlake.

    For several years our family would meet on a Sunday after noon for a picnic at Lincoln Park. When the sun started to set we would drive across Eastern Avenue to Springlake. The adults would usually play Ski-Ball or congregate in the penny arcade. We youngsters would have the run of the park, and spend all of our money on the rides. In 1956 about three dollars could keep us happy until the fireworks show by the lake at 10:00 pm.

    The carousel had an honest to goodness brass ring on a pole. There were also many black wooden rings which you could grab by leaning off the outside horses. If you got the brass ring you turned it into the operator and got a free ride.

    The Rock-O-Plane ride was more fun to stand by than to ride, because money would fall out of rider’s pockets and you could grab the money and run before the ride stopped. You had to be careful lest someone’s expelled lunch fell on you.

    I remember most fondly the Fun House. It was old fashioned fun, complete with “blow holes” in the floor. If a girl or woman walked near the hole with a skirt on, a man in the observation booth would flip a switch and compressed air would blow the skirt. Great fun for men and boys, but hardly consistent with the NOW movement.

    The fun house had two slides, both finished in polished wood. The short slide was only two floors high, and you could slide down on your jeans, shorts or whatever. The large slide was three floors high and you had to slide on “gunny sacks.” The bug slide was faster but you had to climb more stairs. Both slides ended in the basement with near the spinning wheel.

    Built into the floor, the wheel was about eight feet across, with an elliptical hump in the center. Every body would pile onto the wheel and the operator would start it spinning, slowly building up speed. The object was to be the last one on. If you made a tripod of your palms and buttocks exactly on the center you could stay on until the operator hit the “hot button.” Buried in the center of the wheel was a wire with enough electric current to zap your ass and you would go flying.

    Live entertainment was offered almost every weekend at the Amphitheater. Past the “Wishing Well” and down a winding path between large cedar trees, the amphitheater was made of native sandstone blocks. Conway Twitty, a native Okie, and Brenda Lee were regular performers, but big name acts also made Springlake the Ford Center of the fifties. I remember especially The Everly Brothers, Jan and Dean and The Beach Boys. It was reported that Jan of Jan and Dean was a “RollerCoaster-holic,” and that he spent every non-performing minute riding “The Big Dipper.”

    The Beach Boys gave a concert I attended that is burned into my teenage memories. Midwest City and Putnam City were fierce rivals in the sixties. I don’t remember the hit the Beach Boys were playing when a fist fight broke out between MCHS and PCHS students in the front row. Every member of the Beach Boys, except the drummer, moved to the edge of the stage and looked down with glee at the melee below. And they never missed a note. True professionals.

    The decline of Springlake began when the owners converted the swimming pool into an Aquarium rather than admit blacks into the crystal blue waters. My memories of meeting girls at the pool, sunning on the grass underneath the piers of “The Big Dipper” are Norman Rockwell moments from my teenage years.

    I truly regret my children and grandchildren have been denied those pleasures.
  • Joan Ivers. Last, Joan, a Springlake employee on April 11, 1971, said this:
    I was 21 years old and was working one of the games that night with another girl. Everything was great as usual, but then we heard people screaming and the next thing we knew, there were hundreds of people running everywhere, carrying boards, hammers, everything they could pick up that wasn't nailed down. My co-worker and I were in shock. We tried to get our door down, and, of course it got stuck – we were terrified. Just at that moment a large black man jumped over our counter, never looked at us, shut down our door and went out the side door. The girl and I huddled as far back as possible, she with a claw hammer and me with a can of spray paint! We were going to do some damage to someone if they came in on us! We stayed there until someone came to get us. I will never forget the sounds of those riot sirens as long as I live, nor will I ever forget the black man that closed our door for us. We were so scared – I don't think we even thanked him.

    The police led us out of the park through two lines of blacks that had lined up. Some of us girls were shaken and crying, some of us were just still trying to figure out what had happened. We were later told some white kids had pushed a black kid from the roller coaster and that it had set the blacks off. I still don't know the truth, to this day. I just knew that was the final blow for my beloved Springlake which I had been visiting since I was five years old. I saw so many stars there as a young girl and teen. I still miss it so. I still cant understand WHY people just cant get along.
I hope that I've not left anyone out that I've quoted. For all who helped with this project, I say again that I'm sincerely grateful and I thank you all.

Related Article: Springlake


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11 comments:

Jason said...

This is great Doug! May I get my copy signed when it comes out?

Unfortunately, I am a bit too young to have any Springlake stories. I only got to go once, right before they closed.

Doug Dawg said...

Of course!

Judi said...

Doug, thank you for such the wonderful job you have done on this book. I really enjoyed other memories of the Fun House. It was second to the Big Dipper. You are the Best. Judi

Anonymous said...

I grew up going to Springlake. My favorite thing to do was putting my feet into the wishing well's running spring water next to the lake. I only got on a few rides and I once got to swim in the pool. I'll never forget my mom telling me they started charging admission to the park to keep the blacks out. It also kept us from going so often and thought that also was part of why the park closed up. I'd fish for a prize at the game both and won a china laced edge Springlake plate and a plaster duck which I still have.
My mom love watching the proformers,I'll never forget Jerry Lee Lewis at the pinao and others not on your list. I remember begging her to let me stay home so I wouldn't be bored to tears watching the Jackson 5. I'll never forget getting in the car and taking our friends out to Springlake only to find out it was gone and have the vo-tech there. I never heard a word that it had closed up what a surprise. Do you have any thing on the Redskin Theather another place I spent nearly every Sat for the years of my youth. Captial Hill was a fun place for me to hang out after school and a major stop for the City buses. sylvia

Doug Dawg said...

Thanks, Sylvia,

Yes, I think I have some images of the Redskin Theater that I could scan and e-mail to you. Send me an e-mail and I'll reply by the same. To send an e-mail, click on my "about me" area where my basketball icon is shown and you'll see how to do that.

Laurette said...

Doug,
This is a great blog. I have been looking at the photos of OKC, Wiley Post, the Wiley Post Airport, and Springlake Park for several hours. It's wonderful. Can I still get the book?

I want to know how you placed the background on your blog? I have a blog but didn't know this was possible. I like the look you've achieved. Thanks again.
Laurette

Doug Dawg said...

Thanks so much, Laurette. Sure, the book is available in lots of places ... locally in OKC bookstores and shops ... on-line at Amazon and Full Circle Bookstore & several other places. Google for the book title and you'll have no trouble finding it for sale.

As for the background, I found an image that I liked (in this case an old OKC downtown collage) and worked with the file graphically to get the look that I wanted. Actually, it contains 2 or 3 images for different parts of the template ... notice that the left pane part which contains links and the very top item above the blog which contain the words "Oklahoma City", and the general background are similar but different. This effect is done by editing your blog's template. I'm no expert at doing that, but I'll be glad to share more particularly about what I did. I'd rather do that in regular e-mail, though. My e-mail address is in my "about me" Profile.

Anonymous said...

I have not got a copy of the book but I will. I would also be interested in the theater picture. I remember it because my grandmother lived close to it and my mother and her brothers went there often. Gee those were the good old days. carlanoffsinger@yahoo.com

Anonymous said...

I started actually at Wedgewood, now an apartment complex. The pool is still there though. So I read in his book that Springlake had a swimming pool. But I didn't remember swimming out there. I do remember the dolphins though. So thanks to the book, I found out the pool was prior to integration. So I told my mom and even she didn't know they had a public pool. I remember so much about Springlake as it was our own Coney Island. The fun house was my favorite place. The nickel arcade (casino) was fun. I would love to have just one of those machines such as a mutoscope.

Anonymous said...

My Dad Duane(Smokey) Race worked at the park may summers and I went to work with him and rode the rides all day but was not allowed to ride the Big Dipper. Dad operated the alpine Skyway and I loved it. We would squeel when we went over the lake. I remember the first time I was so scared. I was so sad when I heard it had burnt. I had forgotten about the riot, I heard about it when I was in Georgia.

Anonymous said...

I did Springlake in the mid sixties and loved it! I went to Capitol Hill High School and this was a favorite summer hangout for me and my friends.
I saw the Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, Marty Robbins,Brenda Lee,and many more groups for a very small charge. I remember sitting on the grass knolls and just rockin out. Sorry it ended like it did, but I guess it was typical of the times. Good memories though.