1960 began with the dedication of the Bruce G. Carter Student Union at NEO. In March, a comprehensive remodel of the First Christian Church was completed at 2nd and NE A. 50 years later, it would be shuttered because of toxic mold. The Masons bought the former site of Brandon’s Grocery at 425 NW H to use as a temple. The Sacred Heart Catholic Church opened up its new location on North Main, presenting a beautiful facade made of Miami Stone.
The Lions little league park was dedicated. L.K. Newell sold his Miami Products plant to Crane, and immediately set about starting another manufacturing facility, U.S. Metal Container Company. It would last until the next century. Frisco ceased passenger service to Miami.
On September 1, a meeting was held by the brand new Ottawa County Historical Society on the second floor of the former McWilliams Opera House. A lady by the name of Nellie Dobson provided them with generous backing. Their goal was to establish a historical museum. And the Miami Little Theater was reactivated after going dormant in the 50’s. They continue to put works on today.
1961 was marked by the formation of the local Urban Renewal Authority. Their first target was homes in the vicinity of East Central near NEO. The Artesian Project, as it was called, eventually resulted in the construction of apartment complexes as well as men’s and women’s dormitories.
So far so good. But stand by.
Additionally that year, the new little league park received lights. Conway Twitty played to a disappointingly small crowd at the American Legion Hall.
In 1962, the Elks dedicated their new lodge at 401 S Main, the former home of the Lacy Implement Co. 56 years later, they are still there.
The Tri-State Drive In Theater on North Main was renamed the Sooner, so that a nicer sign used at the Sooner’s former location could be used. And JR’s Donut Shop opened up just across from the high school.
1963 marked this historian’s first coherent memory: the scream his mother let out when she heard that John Kennedy had been shot. I was four years old, playing in the living room floor of my 826 NW K home while mom ironed and watched soaps.
The Ottawa County Historical Museum was opened at 2 1/2 S. Main, above Wiley-Cole Rexall. Raids were made at 11 clubs in the county, making it (very) temporarily difficult for a man to get a drink. The Jaycees and Jaynes provided polio vaccine to 11,255 county residents. And the Townsman Motel began construction over on SE 3rd.
Paul’s Barber Shop opened in the Moonwink Shopping Center, where this kid received many a haircut. The Coleman Ranch was sold, ending an era.
In 1964, a safety class at NEO introduced the concept of seat belts. Charles Banks Wilson had a portrait of Will Rogers put on display at the state capital. Jim Shoulders sponsored his first Jaycee rodeo. Virginia Lee Wilson held her 30th annual dance recital at the Coleman. And the Urban Renewal Authority formed a new plan called the Downtown Project. This plan was set up to “review, revitalize existing property, eliminating properties that are uneconomical to rehabilitate, and to provide parking facilities in the place of those properties to be eliminated.” SE and SW A would be turned into one-way streets as well.
In other words, it would systematically remove much of Miami’s history. By the end of the decade, it would end up creating more parking lots than the city would ever use, as well as turning Main Street into a cramped, sinuous throughway which would cause traffic to nosedive. The artificial curves would be removed early in the 21st century, to the disdain of Gen-X’ers and younger who had grown to love them. Most Boomers and older shed no tears, though.
3/4 of the money for the “improvements” came from the federal government, the rest was coughed up locally. Most buildings targeted for destruction were leveled, but thankfully a few held out, including the Wilson Paint and Wallpaper Building across from the Coleman, the former Modern Beauty Shop at 108 SE A, and the buildings from 128 to 134 N Main.
In 1965, the VFW at NW 2nd received an antitank gun for display. A multi-talented athlete named Steve Owens began his senior year at Miami High School. A variety store named Jeannie’s opened on South Main, and would still be there in the year 2018. Art Tucker’s Rainbow Restaurant would open in its new home on SE 3rd. The Thunderbird Inn would also open on that street. Crown Drug, open since 1929, would be renamed Zip Discount Drugs as a result of corporate shakeups. Don Hume Leathergoods would begin operations that year, eventually becoming the largest producer of police holsters in the country. Longtime Lion Jim Taylor would be honored with a park in his name. And Faulkenberry’s, in business as an independent store since 1919, was purchased by Hunt’s. It would remain open under its long-time name. And the Oklahoma Junior Miss pageant was held at the Civic Center.
In February, 1966, Steve Owens announced that he would be attending the University of Oklahoma, to the delight of most of the town, a few Cowboys fans notwithstanding. Miami began the use of Daylight Savings Time. The city celebrated its 75th anniversary, and a 75 cent coin was minted as legal tender in the city limits. The Mount Olive Lutheran Church was dedicated on North Main. Your historian attended a few sessions there, as well as at the Coleman, where they met temporarily during construction. The Kiwanis opened a beautiful new pavilion at Riverview Park. Gibson’s Discount Center opened on North Main, just in time for this kid to get a G.I. Joe. Millner-Berkey sold out to Belk’s, ending an amazing 65 year run of business for Ed Millner. Crane Corporation would close up their plant that year in an ugly fashion following an ugly strike.
Micom Cablevision began business, offering Miamians a dozen crystal-clear TV stations that didn’t involve realigning the antenna. “Hoppy” Pryor moved his grocery store from the corner of E D and Central to North Main. Pryor’s Ice House was renamed to John’s Ice House. Tandy’s Standard Station opened at the corner of N Main and 21st, its building would finally be demolished in 2018. And Woody’s Cafe would open on S Main, it would still be in business 30 years later. Oh, one other business opened that year, Miami’s well-loved Ku-Ku Drive In!
In 1967, Belk’s opened. While the store is no longer there, the chain is flourishing, unlike most other chains open in Miami at that time. They sold Cub and Boy Scout gear there, and my own outfit was supplied by them. On October 17 of that year, Miaman Eugene “Sonny” Sillaway was killed in Vietnam. While certainly not the only young man from here to perish over there, his death impacted me deeply, as his mother lived across the street from me. She was devastated for the remainder of her life.
1968 was a tough year in a lot of ways. We lost Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy to assassinations. Rioting and unrest were at an all time high across the nation. And the K.P Enderland family moved out of Miami. But clearly, the town remains a passion for his son.
In Miami, Leroy Ingram’s Deep Rock station opened up at 5th and S Main. Ken’s Truck Garage at NE D and 9th would be passed on to mechanic John Bowen. Wiley-Cole Rexall Drugs would be renamed Cole-Osborn, and the same store, opened in 1941, would still be in business 77 years later. TG&Y would open at 32-34 N Main, but would soon relocate to a new building behind the Ku-Ku.
In 1969, the grand old high school, built in 1939, was razed. For the first time since 1912, no school would occupy that lot. On a happier note, Steve Owens won college football’s highest honor that year, and the town practically drowned in joyous celebration. Not too many towns could boast of the winner of a Heisman trophy winner growing up there. The new high school went up near renamed Steve Owens Boulevard, the former SE 3rd.
How fortunate that Miami’s sports heroes, including Steve and his brother Tinker, are actual good folks, lacking bad behavior requiring apologies. But then again, native Miamians aren’t surprised.
Thus ends the 60’s, a poignant time for me, who had moved away from my hometown for good. But I hope this modest history site is payback for my favorite community in the world for giving me such a great place to grow up.