Ardmoreites will observe tradition by making their way to Mountain View Mall at 1 p.m. Saturday for the city's 126th birthday. Mayor Sheryl Ellis will read a proclamation, and officials will serve cake and punch.
The celebration is scaled down from last year, which was a landmark event of sorts. The city is committed to higher profile birthday celebrations every five years, making the 130th birthday celebration the next significant event.
One can't help but wonder if the forefathers of Ardmore understood what fruit would be borne from the seeds they planted when they first settled this patch of land in Indian Territory.
The city is established, and survives disasters
Ardmore's official birthday is cited as July 28, 1887, and a post office was established in October of the same year. The first building in Ardmore is recognized as a ranch house belonging to the Roff Brothers 700 Ranch. There is a story that credits a man named Jim Staples with marking off Main Street in 1887 by using a tongue plow to scratch a furrow into the prairie that measured a quarter of a mile.
People who have been on one of the downtown tours and listened to Tom Walker deliver one of his many presentations on the history of downtown Ardmore, can imagine how the city began to take shape over the years. But the development was not without its trials. In 1895, a fire reportedly destroyed 82 structures in the downtown area. An article from the time period credited insurance for saving the town, which would rise up from the ashes.
Many people are familiar with the gasoline explosion from Sept. 27, 1915, that killed 42 and injured hundreds while decimating the downtown area. A newspaper report during the time period indicated the heads of the Ardmore Refinery Company would not enter town after the explosion until they had been promised they would not be lynched.
The town also survived tornadoes and, through each challenging moment, resiliency was displayed as citizens rolled up their sleeves and rebuilt the town.
Throughout the 1890s, which were described in a July 21, 1937 edition of The Ardmoreite as the "Naughty, But Gay Nineties," the city continued to grow, boasting a population of 6,200, according to a centennial history of Ardmore by Mac McGalliard. Old newspaper articles referred to Ardmore as the Kingdom of Carter County, and a metropolis of Indian Territory. Businesses began to flourish throughout the community as the focus turned from cotton to oil.
In looking back over the history, it is eerie that the number of issues the town has faced throughout its history are the same basic issues that still make today's front pages. Tack Cornelius wrote a letter in the 1976 bi-centennial edition of The Ardmoreite to residents who would live in Ardmore in the year 2076. And nearly 40 years later, it appears the more things change, the more they remain the same.
"We, too, long for simpler times, times when people didn't have to face so many problems," Cornelius wrote. "Times when there weren't so many pressures. We long for those times when men were more honest, and there were more men of integrity. We long for the times when the country felt unified in its purpose. We long for the time when politicians were statesmen."
Weather and businesses impact the city
Water issues were as much a topic entering 1900 as they are now. The year 1903 was welcomed in a traditional manner during the time period, as The Ardmoreite reported, "The New Year came in with ringing of bells, shrieking of whistles and the bang, bang of deadly pistols."
No mention was made if anyone was injured. Three weeks later a call to arms was made.
"Mayor Dick says the work will commence within 10 days on the waterworks system. Labor will be furnished for many hundreds of people, and the idle will have no further excuse."
Drought has been an issue throughout the years for Ardmore as well. What has changed is the method of celebration when rain falls from the sky. When people give thanks for rain in this day and age, they simply post it on Facebook. In 1911, activity within Ardmore came to a halt.
The paper reported a string of 100-degree days was broken with rainfall. Businesses were adjourned for an hour for a song of praise service at the courthouse.
In 1963, droughts were extensive, carrying multiple headlines in the paper, as the city was facing water storage problems and lake levels were down.
In 1976, a number of businesses, such as TG&Y and Gibson's, carried full-page ads. Those businesses have departed, giving way to Walmart, Dollar General and Family Dollar stores.
Education was highlighted in the 1976 bi-centennial paper. An article was published with the headline, "Vo-Tech aims at Industrial Future." The Higher Education Center was described as a unique experiment. The center, which has since been renamed the University Center of Southern Oklahoma, faced some of the same challenges, as there was space limitation. During that time, 83 percent of the students lived within a 10-mile radius. That has changed as the world continues to get smaller.
Another unique perspective is the needs of the community. In 1917, there was a story about the oil boom and the diversity of Ardmore industry. To get an idea about the growth of the economy in Ardmore, as well as industrial advances, consider the automobile. In 1910, there were 12 automobiles reported in Ardmore. Seven years later, there were 2,000. There was one automobile for every 10 men, women and children, according to The Ardmoreite. In 2013, it seems like there are 2,000 automobiles at Walmart alone on the weekend.
In both 1917 and 1976, Ardmore's struggles included housing problems, expanding educational facilities and industrial expansion. And in 2013, those issues continue to be discussed.
Things change, and then again, they really don't.