Favorite thing: There is a delightful "day" train that travels between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth, Texas. It is called the Heartland Flyer and is part of the AMTRAK system. The cars are new, the staff friendly and helpful and chatty, There are drinks and snacks availablel and an all in all wonderful train ride. It makes a stop in Norman. And the Fort Worth depot has public transportation to all sorts of places, including Dallas, the DFW airport, and just enjoying downtown Fort Worth, a different city from Dallas and a delightful place to spend a few nights.
Many years ago, one could drive the country roads east of Norman, and if eagle eyed, watching the drainage ditches or cuts alongside the roads, find something local called Rose Rocks. These are a red sandstone pebble of some size, some of them quite large actually, like a conglomeration of several smaller rocks, looking sort of like a bouquet. They are "petaled" like a rose, hence the name.
I got quite good at "feeling" what was a good spot to stop, get out, and look through the rock rubble and find these beautiful stones. I don't know anyplace else in the world where they exist. They sort of seemed unique to Cleveland County, Oklahoma, of which Norman, Oklahoma, is the county seat.
I moved away in the late 1970s with only a few visits back since then, and none roaming around looking for the rocks. I'd be interested in knowing whether anyone else can tell me if they are still even known about or if it is possible to find them still.
Favorite thing: In the Old World, celebrated gates used to guard the entrances to the inner citadel when "keys to the city" had a literal meaning. At the University of Oklahoma, graduating classes usually bestow a parting gift to the university in the form of a commemorative arch. From the teens of the past century to the present, graduating classes have left these nice ornaments all over campus, generally at street entrances and other walkways.
Favorite thing: In the 1990s when the UK utitlies wanted to dispense with a horde of their famous red phone booths, the University of Oklahoma purchased several. These stylish pay phones now adorn much of the University campus, but exist nowhere else in Norman. Foreign travelers (perhaps those coming here to visit their sons or daughters) might recognize these ornaments as authentic originals.
Favorite thing: Norman's historical district lies along East Main Street where the traffic begins to flow one-way. Now reduced to roughly three blocks in succession along the main drag, these historical facades have been essentially preserved, thanks in part to a revitalized interest and investment from an ever-conscious community. Though not comparable in any aspect to the historical district in Guthrie, you can still walk along these old blocks, look up the street at uniform facades, and if you can mentally block out the modern signs and the parked cars, you can visually transport yourself back to the 1890s when Norman was born.
Favorite thing: A casual look at this "leather and oak furniture gallery" at 209 E Main will reveal a modern proprietor's attempt to sustain interest and commercial traffic in Norman's historical district. Shops like these tend to find their niche by setting up in distinctive locations, where customer service seems more personalized than what shoppers experience in a larger mall. A closer look however at the second floor facade will reveal a bricked-up window and the building's former purpose - the Norman State Bank - carved in a mysterious rune.
Favorite thing: As stated previously, some of the older facades along Norman's historical district have been embellished since the 19th century. Even so, a closer look will often reveal the marks or carvings that tell of the original purpose. Others (such as the photo depicted) will show the original wooden doors, a little offset from the modern sidewalk, and protected further by a bricked enclosure. Not a fancy sight but unusual, fully revealing the evolution of this particular entrance.
Edwards Park in the downtown area was laid out in 1913 next to the train tracks. Although not particularly scenic, being now little more than an extended lawn alongside the railroad and the depot, the park roughly marks the epicenter of Norman's birth and evolution. From the park, some of Norman's historical buildings lie within a few yards. The statue depicted here is a very recent monument to the pioneers and educators in the area.
Fondest memory: Although Norman is growing in leaps and bounds, its historical center is fairly well preserved. Many of the 1890s facades are unchanged from their original design, while many others, defaced somewhat since their glory days, still preserve some traces of their original purpose.