By Faith L. Wylie, Co-publisher
We published our first issue of the Oologah Lake Leader 30 years ago on May 3, 1984. We thought we knew everything needed to publish a weekly newspaper. Boy, were we wrong.
We were right, though, that Oologah would be a great place to raise our son and publish a newspaper.
Oklahoma was not on the list of possible states we gave the newspaper broker. He called. “I’ve got a newspaper that doesn’t match your list but is absolutely perfect for you.”
After he raved about the wonderful schools, we decided to take a look. We drove into town and found the old east campus with the cement block building. We swallowed our disappointment and stopped at the Mustang Cafe before heading home. We asked about the school.
“No, that’s not the school. It’s north of town on the highway,” the waitress said.
Ahh, now that’s a school.
Here are 30 things I’ve come to love about the Oologah-Talala area.
1. The schools. Bigger schools may offer more high level classes and sophisticated programs. But we have a great mix of personal attention, good programs and great teachers.
2. Jennifer Denslow. Speech and debate caught my son’s heart and set his career path.
3. Scarlett Sellmeyer. Gifted and talented class with Mrs. Sellmeyer was the highlight of our son’s middle school years.
4. Jeri Criger Williams. We have many special teachers. But Miss Criger was James’ favorite.
5. High school sports. I’m a total non-athletic klutz. But I enjoy sports photography. On the sidelines, I’m up close, feeling the kids’ energy and passion.
6. Oologah Lake. Sure, it’s not the bluest lake around. In fact, the lake is fed by the Verdigris River—and Verdigris means green-gray in French. But it’s our lake.
7. The deer. I have a love/hate relationship with the deer. My parents gave me a salt block for Christmas one year. We awakened the next morning to dozens of deer competing for the treat. But the hungry critters also love my salad bar, aka my garden.
8. The birds. Bird-watching has become one of my hobbies.
9. Bald eagles. In my back yard.
10. Sailboats. Watching sailboats. Sailing in sailboats. And friends who are willing to take me for a ride.
11. Diamonds on the lake. When the moon rises, the lake puts her diamonds on.
12. Will Rogers. I had no idea who Will Rogers was when we moved to town. I learned quickly. Every little town has some famous or infamous person who was born there. I’m so glad we have a compassionate populist instead of someone like Al Capone or Lady Gaga.
12. Will Rogers Birthplace. The house is fascinating, and the setting is quiet and peaceful.
13. The Amish barn at the birthplace. The weekend of the barn-raising (in 1993, I think) was amazing to watch.
14. The Will Rogers Memorial. The archives and displays are amazing.
15. The folks at the Memorial. Each of the directors has been amazing in their own way. We’ve enjoyed working with all the staff over the years.
17. Wanda Sanders changed that by restoring the Bank of Oolagah and inspiring the rebirth of our historic downtown.
18. The old brick sidewalks. Volunteers dug up the bricks from under the turf, laid a bed of sand, then reinstalled the old bricks. I enjoy them every time I walk across the street.
19. The folks we work with downtown.
20. Lakeside State Bank. We literally wouldn’t be here without Paul Kolman and Lakeside State Bank. We quit our jobs in Kansas City and moved to Oologah. Then, we hit a snafu at closing. Paul stepped in and worked things out. The bank has provided financing through the years.
21. Apple Market. I could not get through my current health challenge without the new grocery. When I’m too tired to cook, I just swing by the store and pick up something from the deli or freezer.
22. Dr. Stauffer and his staff. Sam has been our family doctor since we came to town 30 years ago. Tod Estes, who works with Sam as a physician assistant, is the one who caught that I had cancer instead of a sore throat.
23. Carolyn Estes. John arrived in Oologah with his card table, folding chair, sleeping bag and typewriter in 1984. A short lady with a cold six-pack of beer knocked on the door. It was Carolyn Estes. She’s been a great friend and co-worker.
24. The Maltsbergers. James spent countless nights at the Maltsberger home sleeping over with Micah.
25. Tulsa. Moving from an area of two million people to a town of 800 was a shock. But we escape to Tulsa and enjoy the Tulsa Opera when we need a change of pace.
26. Local cafes with nosy customers. I remember one of our first meals at Cliff’s Cafe. Someone I didn’t even know started talking to us. It was Jean Ann Fawcett. And other folks gave us suggestions on what to order. It seemed really rude and strange to me. Now, I do those same things myself.
27. The Chamber of Commerce. Through the years, I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to work with others and achieve our community’s goals.
28. The Oolagah Historical Society. One of my favorite times was being president of the historical society. We completed the addition to the museum and announced The Cherokee Kid statue project downtown. Being a part of that team is my proudest civic accomplishment.
29. Learning to write. I didn’t write when we bought the newspaper. I’m the paste up person. But when deadlines hit, a person pitches in. My husband has been a great editor and writing teacher.
30. All the wonderful people. I was worried about finding 30 things for this list. But I’ve left out so many great people and businesses that we’ve worked and played with over the years.