James Garner's "hometown": Denver school and Denver Corner near Norman

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Actor James Garner, born James Scott Bumgarner near Norman, Oklahoma, died this weekend at the age of 86.

Articles about James Garner and his brother Jack report that their parents ran a general store at Denver Corner. The area is now within the city limits of Norman, but it was eight miles east of downtown. The obituary of Jewel Green Bunch says her first teaching job was at Denver School, where she taught young James Bumgarner.

The 1940 Cleveland County highway map shows the community of Denver, with a church and a school, on what is now 108th Street SE, halfway between Alameda Drive, which was Highway 9 prior to the construction of Lake Thunderbird, and modern day Highway 9. Denver Cemetery is still at that location, on the east side of the street; the school is shown on the west side of the street and a bit further north. Highway 9 was gravel; 108th St. SE was dirt. (That map also shows Central State Hospital with more territory than the University of Oklahoma, which was outside the Norman city limits at the time.)

The 1936 USGS Norman quadrangle map shows Denver School and cemetery in the same locations.

Denver Corner is still a known landmark, at the corner of 108th Street SE and Alameda Drive. There's a grocery store and bait shop there that serves as the record keeper for fish caught in Lake Thunderbird.

It's not unheard of for the highway intersection nearest to a rural community to get the name of that community plus a suffix like "Corner" or "Junction." Denver Corner would have been where you'd turn off Highway 9 to get to Denver community, and it would have been the logical place to locate a general store to serve locals and motorists alike.

By the 1952 map, the school and church at Denver were gone, but Highway 9 was paved and the area at Denver Corner was more built up, with a church and a combined dwelling/business. By the 1963 map, Lake Thunderbird had been built and Norman's city limits had been expanded to include it. Denver community was no more.

Somewhere I once came across an interview with James Garner where he tells about growing up in rural eastern Cleveland County. If I can find it, I'll link it here.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on July 20, 2014 11:51 PM.

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