Rolling and bouncing; remembering Bartlesville

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Our little one is now six and a half months old. At his six-month checkup back on July 11, he was 17 lbs. 6.5 oz., 26" long, and a 45 1/2 cm. head circumference.

It was about that time that we started him on some solid food: oatmeal and rice baby cereal, applesauce, squash, and today for the first time green beans. There has been the expected change in diaper contents. The baby is a good eater, and my wife is happy that she is no longer his sole source for calories.

He can roll now, too -- both directions and for quite a distance. Strings are very entertaining. He occasionally makes a "ba" sound, although the consonant is about halfway between a b and a v, a consonantal compromise made famous by Amy Grant in her hit single "Baby, Baby" (aka "Vavy, Vavy"). Mostly he utters these happy squawks, like a parrot or a grackle. (All three kids went through this squawking phase, and it always reminds me of a fraternity brother who would emit loud squawks to startle people.)

He loves drinking water. He will sip it out of a cup or a bottle. I opened a bottle of Ozarka the other day while I was holding him: He grabbed it with both hands and latched his mouth onto the opening.

Our oldest had his first violin lesson with his Mom today. He's been anxious to start learning.

The nearly-six-year-old has mixed up baby food and fed the baby several times, and she is deservedly proud of being such a helpful big sister.

A week ago, the whole family made our annual trek with friends to the Bartlesville Playground, aka the Kiddie Park. This little collection of two dozen rides, mainly for kids ages 1 to 10, has been around for over fifty years. It was there when my family lived in Bartlesville in the late '60s, and it is fun to see my kids on the same rides -- the train (and the tunnel that everyone screams in), the carousel, the biplanes that you can make go up and down, the little ferris wheel where everyone sits in a kind of painted cage, the little boats, the little cars.

Here's a picture of me (left foreground) and my sister (just behind me, looking directly at the camera), in the summer of 1968. I am not positive, but I think that is my Uncle Robert -- six years my senior -- in the background, just above my head. In the left background, I believe, is my grandmother, my Aunt Connie, and my Aunt Gerry (pregnant with my cousin Mandy). Mom must have been taking the picture.


This year was a little awkward. The baby can't sit up for long by himself, so he was too small for the rides, while my almost-10-year-old was too tall for all but about six rides. The almost-six-year-old was the right size for everything, including being big enough to reach the bumper car pedals and to steer without getting stuck in a corner or in a circle. We did take the baby on the carousel, and I held him on a horse for a few seconds, which he loved, before I handed him back to nervous Mommy.

To keep the big boy from getting too bored, I took him for a walk. I led him under the Highway 123 bridge to Delaware Street, the path my mom used to take me to walk to the playground at Johnstone Park. I showed him the vacant lot on the east side of Delaware between 1st and 2nd, where my first house in Bartlesville had been. We lived in that house from May '65 to sometime in the spring of '67, when we moved to Rogers St. near Jane Phillips Elementary. My earliest memories are in that house: Watching Ed Sullivan and space missions on TV, having a cut-out cake for my birthday (one I wouldn't let Mom cut), having my first dog, a beagle named Easy, and -- my very earliest memory -- on Easter Sunday looking out the kitchen window with my Grandma Bates at a rainbow.

From that house, we could walk to our church, the library, the grocery store, the park, the doctor's office (right across the street), the Sani-Pool, and all of the downtown shops, and Dad could walk to work. That was a good thing because our family's Ford -- the last one we ever owned -- wasn't a very reliable vehicle. This early experience obviously warped my impressionable mind into believing that getting around on foot was normal.

So I told my son all about this. I pointed out where the Thunderbird Cafe had been -- they had the jukebox buttons at each booth. (The building's still there at 2nd and Cherokee.) We walked down Frank Phillips toward the old Santa Fe depot. (It now houses the local Chamber of Commerce HQ.) I'm told that when my family lived in Lawrence, Kansas, Mom and I would take the AT&SF to visit her parents in Dewey, but I don't remember that at all. We did ride the train on my fifth birthday, just as far as Copan, just because I wanted to. (Dad met us in the car and brought us home.)

My son and I walked back to the Kiddie Park past Doenges Stadium, the 76-year-old ballpark that hosted Western Association and K-O-M League teams (Class D minor league) in the '30s and '40s, and is now home to American Legion baseball and national tournaments.

Back at Kiddie Park, we stayed until the place closed, as we always do. We always have a great time there.

(Here's an account of an earlier visit to Bartlesville. And OCPA pundit Brandon Dutcher, another former Bartian, took his family to the Kiddie Park earlier this summer, and has pictures.)

UPDATE: Tom Elmore writes in the comments on this entry:

Seems to me Bartlesville's reverent preservation of a tradition as gentle and wonderful as the Kiddie Park is worthy of the thanks and praise of anybody who still cares about what we used to call "civilization."


Tom Elmore said:

Thanks for the Kiddie Park story.

Imagine a thing like that lasting so long in Oklahoma!

In OKC the State Fair board destroyed the Monorail last year. They paid $100,000 to dismantle it. When I asked one of the fellows if they ever considered what $100,000 might have done to upgrade and modernize it, he gave me a look like you might expect from Alfred E. Neumann after slamming his hand in a door.

I asked the State Fair bosses to consider giving the families of Oklahoma an opportunity to raise funds for upgrading the Monorail, using the story of the OKC Zoo's Judy the Elephant as an example of the good will passed on through generations of parents and children that such a thing might create. I asked them to consider whether they should think THEY owned it, with the right to capriciously destroy it, or if perhaps it doesn't rightly belong to the children and families of the state.

Naaah. All they could see was the big dollar signs they imagine when they think of "horse shows." To understand why the old monorail, once among the most iconic images associated with OKC State Fair marketing, would have been dismissed in such a way, you'd just have to understand what passes for leadership in Oklahoma City. (I call it the "better to rule in hell than serve in heaven syndrome...")

Maybe they didn't think of all those photos we and families like ours shot of the kids in the very back seats of the trains each year. More likely they just don't give a hoot.

It called to mind the darker side of the OKC Zoo Elephant saga, the absurd killing of Judy's mate, Tusko, at the hands of OU faculty member Louis Jolyon West > with LSD!

(Check, also, this fairly amazing report in a publication from, of all places, the Church of Scientology... )

Makes you wonder if any of these jerks -- including whoever was boss at the zoo at the time -- are still around anywhere (for purposes of slapping the living snot out of them.)

Seems to me Bartlesville's reverent preservation of a tradition as gentle and wonderful as the Kiddie Park is worthy of the thanks and praise of anybody who still cares about what we used to call "civilization."


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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on July 22, 2006 12:15 AM.

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