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Shawnee history: It happened in April

Clyde Wooldridge
The new facilities of BOB TOWNSEND FORD had its grand opening in April of 1971 on the intersection of Harrison and MacArthur streets.

125 YEARS AGO - Spring of 1895 meant city election time and it appeared that despite the controversy over the waterworks issue earlier, the politics of the city-wide election were relatively quiet.

In March, the local political parties met for their primary selections. The Democratic Central Committee met at the City Hall on March 16 and arrangements were made to hold the primary that afternoon. The Citizens Party met a couple of days later and chose their candidates. A mass meeting was held in the high school room in the Hesse Block.

The city election was held on April 4, and passed very quietly, with apparently little interest taken. Willard Johnston was selected as treasurer for the school board; while J.E. Porter, Robert Reed, F.L. Machen, A.F. Wayland and G.C. Story were selected as the new board. C.A. Scott won out for street commissioner. Charles T. Bushfield was selected as councilman for the First Ward; George Overstreet and W.N. Barker in the Second; D.N. McDonald in the Third and William S. Search won the post in the Fourth.

 100 YEARS AGO – “Unless present overcrowded conditions of the Shawnee Public Schools are remedied before next year, one-half of the grades will be run on half-day sessions in order to accommodate all the school children of the city,” was the statement of Superintendent Hugh G. Faust on April 1, 1920. “The immediate means of remedy is to vote for the $264,000 bond issue on April 23,” he said.

Explaining the growth of the schools, Faust gave figures showing the growth since 1918. In that year, the schools had an enrollment of 3,771. In 1919, the numbers increased to 4,284. In 1920, the total number rose to 4,914.

Faust said if the bond issue passed, it would lead to the erection of a central building in place of the old Central School, the 7th-9th grades would be taken from the other overcrowded grade schools to relieve the situation there.

75 YEARS AGO – Delores Keefe, SHS sophomore, was crowned 1945 Redbud Queen in the fifth annual Redbud celebration Saturday, April 4, citing Shawnee as the “Redbud City of Oklahoma.”

Mayor Herman Stout crowned Keefe, presenting her with an identification bracelet engraved with the inscription, “Redbud Queen, 1945.” She was seated on the grandstand with Mayor Stout, City Manager T.E. Thompson, Mrs. J.H. Brown, Mrs. Park Wyatt, Mrs. Joe Warren, and Mrs. W.T. Currie. Lee Burnett led the parade as the grand marshal.

50 YEARS AGO – OBU baseball coach Gene Wallace was named Monday, April 20, 1970, as the 12th basketball coach in the school’s history to replace “Red” Miller. The announcement was made at noon by OBU President Dr. Grady C. Cothen. Wallace would continue as the baseball coach as well.

Wallace, the 36-year-old native of St. Louis, MO, earned a BA degree from OBU and a MEd from the University of Oklahoma. He had led the baseball teams to five Collegiate Conference titles and one NAIA national championship in 1966. He was also an 11-year veteran of the Los Angeles Dodgers farm club system, that included a brief stint with the old Shawnee Hawks in 1953.

25 YEARS AGO – The president of the Shawnee Police Association said on Friday, April 7, 1995, that since the “no-confidence” vote for Shawnee Police Chief Hank Land on March 23, no significant progress was made between the association and city officials.

“It just appears that the city has all the power, they’re the employer, now it seems that they want to have all the rights and they just want to kind of leave us naked and exposed, and that’s not something that we really relish,” said Ken King, president of the Shawnee Police Association.

King said talks between the two sides broke down when City Manager Terry Powell ended a meeting between the union representatives and a federal mediator on April 5. “Basically, the message that we have gotten through this process is that they’re offended that we spoke out. They are going to do what they can to show us our proper place in line,” King said.

10 YEARS AGO - Kids First Coalition announced Associate District Judge John Gardner as the 2010 recipient of the Pottawatomie County “Child Advocate of the Year” award. The award was given each year to someone who evidenced true advocacy for abused and neglected children in the Pottawatomie County area.

Gardner was nominated by the entire Youth and Family staff and CASA volunteers. He was taken completely by surprise when the award was announced by Judge Glenn Dale Carter, retired judge and a former recipient himself.

The Kids First Coalition, formerly the District V Task Force on Child Abuse, had been around for more than 10 years.

FIVE YEARS AGO - Shawnee City Commission voted in favor of an appointment process to fill the recently vacated Ward 1 seat. Opposing that action, Citizen Potawatomi Nation offered to cover the estimated expenses of a special election.

In an advertisement in the Sunday, April 12, News-Star, CPN called for democracy. Commissioners responded to the tribe’s proposal. On April 6, Gary Vogel emailed his resignation to city commissioners, city officials and the News-Star. Vogel, who had served Ward 1 since September 2014, cited ongoing health issues.

City Clerk Phyllis Loftis, at the latest city commission meeting, detailed a special election to fill the vacancy would cost $10,000 to $12,000. City commission, with a sole vote of opposition from Commissioner Lesa Shaw, voted 5-1 to advertise for the position and utilize an online application.

Commissioner James Harrod had said he was against the election cost. Commissioner Linda Agee said Monday her concern was not so much cost, but the time it would take to fill the vacancy through an election. She noted the decision was difficult.

In the CPN advertisement, the tribe suggested hypocrisy within the commission. The commission generally agreed there was no need for an election and the cost of such.

One Year ago - The Oklahoma Association of School Administrators (OASA) announced Marty Lewis of Gordon Cooper Technology Center as the 2019 OASA District 20 Superintendent of the Year. Mr. Lewis was recognized at the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration (CCOSA) Summer Leadership Conference in June and was also eligible to submit an application for the State Superintendent of the Year that would be awarded in May.

OASA annually recognized outstanding administrators who: demonstrated successful experience in top level educational administration; had a sound, dynamic and realistic philosophy of education; could inspire and motivate people and give support and recognition for the contributions of others; had a record which evidenced continued professional and personal growth through appropriate training and experiences including skills in human relations and the stamina to cope with the pressures of the job; had the ability to speak for education on all levels with special emphasis on the district level; and had made contributions to educational administration.

During his 14 years at Gordon Cooper Technology Center, Marty Lewis had emphasized the importance of accountability, fostered excellence in customer service, and instituted data-driven decision- making throughout the school.

(These stories and hundreds more appear in the six-volume history of Shawnee, entitled “REDBUD CITY.” They could normally be purchased at the Pottawatomie County Historical Society. However, due to the current health crisis in the United States, they are closed. If you cannot obtain a copy, you may call me at (918) 470-3728, and I will mail you a copy. The first three volumes are currently available, and hopefully, the fourth is coming out this fall. The price is $30 per volume.)

Clyde Wooldridge is a local historian.