In the 1980's alternatives to traditional jail sentences for sex predators were gaining popularity. It was a process of slowly accepting new ideas in psychology, social systems and behavior modifications.  It was clear that the old way of sentencing, early releases or even counseling were not totally successful in every case. So much was still unknown...
Drugs seeking to achieve a form of chemical castration were popular at first. The time was ripe for kinder and gentler treatment of prisoners, mental patients, and the handicapped. There was a groundswell call for re-examining the way sexual predators were sentenced, treated, and handled.
It was a time of sexual revolution and that meant there was   still a great confusion existing about the motivations and stimuli for sexual assaults. 
It was still a time when women were fighting for acceptance in male dominated professions, men felt threatened and a hyper masculinity often emerged in attitudes called 'macho'.  Women were no seen, treated, and understood to be equal.  Courts and public opinion were most likely to judge a crime on the basis of the victim's life, choices, or accidental presence than on the willful acts of a man acting in a criminal fashion.
Sexual assault was commonly thought of as "the woman's fault".  She was "asking for it" and various other common tags.  The court of popular opinion could never get beyond that first word to the vicious actions of the second.  Any action using the sexual organs was immediately confused with acts of sexual pleasure.  The understanding, and wide-spread acceptance, of sexual assault and rape as actions of violent dominance and control were still a long way off.
Compounding this was a "good old boy" atmosphere that ran a "boys will be boys" world and allowed male criminals to get off easy.   Rape victims, unlike other victims, had to prove they were above reproach to be taken seriously.  This would be akin to someone who had a television stolen needing to prove they had never had a television before for the crime to be logged and investigated. The ability to distinguish between willful and consenting participation in sexual behaviors and the forced and violent use of sexual means to inflict unwanted pain were hard for some to understand. The world had too long believed that when a girl said "no" she really meant "yes" to ever hear the voice of the girl screaming 'No!"
In the early 1960's one popular drug being suggested for this patient control was Depo Provera. Over the years its use as a chemical castration treatment created many controversies.  Some wondered if it might simply force aggressive patients to replace sexual assault with assault with a deadly weapon instead because the motivating factor was a search for dominance and power rather than sexual gratification. It was the topic of many studies and seen as a possible treatment in pedophilia.

As a result, there is a great deal of disparity between cases of sexual predators from the 1980's through the 1990's (and maybe still today).  The issue was too confused with the mystery of human sexual behaviors, social mores, and social control to clearly see the intentional victimization of women (and children) at the hands of people seeking , not sex, but control.


Crime Wheels

For a automobile that did not have a long initial life the 1982 Grand Marquis apparently was a popular car then - and now - for criminal elements and for authors and movie makers portraying criminals.  The older vehicle reflected that whole 'land yacht' days of cheap gasoline and long road trips on low speed roads.  It was roomy, comfy  and just looked perfectly designed to haul crime friends, stolen goods or dead bodies.   Author  Giles Blunt in 2011 included such an item in his 'Crime Machine' novel featuring the fictitious character of ‎Cardinal, John.  True life criminals often were reported driving such autos as well.  Among them are the fact that  when Timothy McVeigh, was caught he was driving a beat up yellow Mercury Grand Marquis and numerous such vehicles crop up over the years, just as it did in this murder in Texas.

Older version from early 1980's (Public Domain Image)

Newer version is nice but lacks the sinister aspect of the earlier model - intentional?
(Public Domain Image)
Do such vehicles reflect certain drives (no pun intended), mindset, or motivations to meet some social expectation?  Cars are often the extension of a man's masculinity and sometimes men will equate their own 'prowess' with that of high speed engines, powerful transmissions, and unrestricted speed.  Perhaps a new field of criminal research will explore the pathology of the automobile selection by the criminally inclined.
Do you know of such cars used in unsolved crimes in your area of the world over the last forty years? Leave a comment with place, date range and as many details as known.


The Most Notorius Oklahoma Murder: 1920's Style

The post WWI years were wild, frenzied, and tended to flaunt social conventions in response, no doubt, to the combustion of war, the loss of life, and the shattering of a generation's illusions of innocence.
When a 47 year old millionaire, leader in politics at the state level and on speaking terms with a presidential candidate, dies after being shot by a woman not his wife, well heads turned.
Late in the evening of November 20, 1920, young Clara Barton Smith, who shared connecting suites with Jake L. Hamon at the Randol Hotel in Ardmore, Oklahoma, was greeted by an inebriated Hamon.  He seemed disturbed by her going out 'automobiling' with someone.  The story becomes a little murky as to details at this point, but apparently they went to the suite of rooms where the argument continued.  At one point he allegedly choked her and lifted a chair to hit her (this action seen in profile by a witness on the street below) .  A gun materialized and she either threatened to use it and it went off accidentally or she intentionally withdrew it intent on stopping her older 'companion' in mid-assault.  Which version depended on whose side a person was on in the matter.
Wounded in the liver, Hamon walked approximately five blocks to a nearby hospital for treatment. There he gave the statement he had been shot by Smith.  One heard him denounce the woman with a statement suggesting she had intentionally tried to kill him and others heard him say no such thing. He was on record as saying it had been accidental.
Local police, despite the victim's assurances that it was an accident seemed determined to hunt down the young woman and arrest her for attempted murder and then later after Hamon died, for murder. Hamon's lawyer would report in court that his client had told him to write a check for $5000 to the girl and send her away to safety.
Witnesses saw Hamon kiss the girl in the hospital and would testify that there seemed nothing but fondness between the two.
Yet, local and state law seemed abnormally determined to hunt her down as a murderess. She successfully disappeared, as instructed by the victim, and was actively tracked for nearly a month all around the country. Her luggage was confiscated and searched in Kansas City.  Leads and tips followed and dead ends exhausted.   Crack reporters from around the country swept into the state, swept out and located information the police seemed unable to find.  The woman had been in Mexico.  Soon, she was meeting with local police and lawyers to ensure a safe and protected return to the 'scene of the crime.'
The case, as is often the situation, brought into focus a growing trend in American society.  Relationships were often fluid and did not adhere to a previous generations more strict Victorian mores about marriage, sex, and what constituted a family.  Although married, the wife spent most of her time in Chicago and not in Ardmore.  A young son, Jake Jr. was 18 at the time of the shooting and his sister Olive Belle only 11.  Reading between the lines in some stories there was the tantalizing scent of scandal kept unacknowledged and hidden while being in plain sight.  The social clothing of the railroad emperor Hamon were distinctly see through.  Everyone 'knew' about the affair of the man with the pretty young girl he had first met when she was 17 tending shop in Ardmore.  She was his companion and secretary but he was obviously jealous of her seeing other men and shared (as they did at the Randol Hotel) adjoining rooms.
The scent was sometimes even fetid as it was found in 1917 she had married Frank Louis Hamon, the nephew of Jake L. Hamon, in El Paso and three months later divorcing him.  The second wife of  Frank muddied the tabloid waters when she hinted that the millionaire had paid his nephew to marry the girl and given him a monthly salary for the deed.  Frank Hamon denied she had been bribed to provide the girl with a name she could use to travel without question with the millionaire uncle.
In 1922, the notorious woman was acquitted of murder by a jury who had listened to a great deal of testimony.  Included was that of the widow of the dead man who said it had been an accident.  The lawyers were skilled but it does seem that the Oklahoma delegation were bull dog determined to ignore the faults of the man and create a callous killer in Smith.
As Oklahoma columnist Edith C. Johnson noted in an essay Smith was apparently just a young girl who had made a series of poor choices in her life.  The image emerges from Johnson's profile of vain, perhaps silly, girl who fond it easier to enjoy the pleasures her looks might bring than to safeguard her innocence and acquire a finer caliber of man. For Johnson, she might have had a good, solid man taking care of her rather than being a punching bag for an older and meaner man. Johnson's interviews with Smith apparently uncovered an elephant in the room of 1920's domestic reality.  Hamon was a controlling man with abusive tendencies ranging possibly from emotional to physical (the chair raised to hit Smith as an example).
In 1920, however, men were men and women were...less. Men with money, status, political connections and the ability to benefit individual and state coffers were definitely more valued than silly young women who became companion mistresses to such men. Oklahoma was on the verge of a decade to be noted by corruption, racism as the KKK took positions in government, socialism's growth in society and in every level of society power-mad deals as well as vast economic growth. The escape of the post WWI era would led to increased social problems, a frenzied focus on money, and a tendency to shake off the restrictions of the past with no idea of what to put in its place.
In terms of out of the state press coverage the case was definitely notorious. It was dramatic, shocking, and titillating.  In fact, there appears more detailed information on the case in the papers of other cities than in major news sources of Oklahoma City. 
Is it, however, the most notorious?  We will have to see about that...
Some sources:
Johnson, Edith C. "The Might-Have-Been In Clara Smith's Career". Oklahoman (Dec. 29, 1920)6.
Stewart, Ray. " Spectacular Murder Case Brought Swarm of Writers to State." Oklahoman (Sept.8, 1966)8.
"Hamon Death A Mystery." Los Angeles Times (Nov. 27, 1920)11.
"Girl Near Collapse." Los Angeles Times (March 16, 1921)1.
"Hamon's Widow Testifies." New York Times (March 15, 1921)6.


A Scream Rang Out!

July 11, 1942 a young waitress in Oklahoma City, Norma J. Cowan, ended her shift, put away her apron and decided to walk the five blocks to her home. It was clear and so she decided against a taxi and set off on foot. The restaurant was located on NE 23 and so she headed toward Broadway and cut through Winan's Park.  Broadway was a busy street, the other streets were well-lit and the only dark patch was the stretch through the park. 
A youth emerged from the shadows and attacked the young woman and a tense struggle ensued. She cried out gaining the attention of a security guard from the nearby Braum's plant to note the sound.  Assuming it was mere horseplay, it was not until the girl scrambled out of her attacker's grasp, hair ornaments falling away and loosing one shoe, that it sank in that someone was wrong.
A Oklahoma Highway Police officer James Long passed, heard the commotion, and pulled in to see what was wrong.
The girl hobbling away in one shoe, sobbing, bruised and afraid.
The onlooker still not sure what was going on.
The assailant screams out after the fleeing girl,, "I'll get you!"  He pulls up short as he sees the patrolman stopping and getting out of his patrol car.

 He turns. He fires.  The officer is struck in the chest and goes down. The youth sprints away.
Although desperately wounded, the officer returns fire with the youthful assailant who now ducks and dodges among parked cars near the plant.  The security guard now leaps into the fray and chases the youth but looses him in the dark streets.
The officer will be able to only briefly state events, before he is whisked away and will die later at a local hospital.   As dawn broke that morning in 1942, dozens of police and special units from local police and state law enforcement were searching for clues, witnesses, and suspects.

Eventually the search would include 38 states and several false leads but, by 1959, it remained unsolved.  The would be victim had moved away  and things had changed.  One thing remained for local officers and the family of a slain officer.  That was the mystery of just who had been responsible for the attack and the shooting.

About six months after Pearl Harbor, young men joining up or being drafted, made locating and identifying the mysterious attacker an impossible task.  Did justice catch up with him and he died on some foreign battle field or did he remain free and mobile walking the bright streets and shadowy corners of Oklahoma City?

 "A Scream in the Park Brings Murder to Trooper, Mystery to Investigators". Oklahoman (Jan. 18,1959) 13.
"Police to Quiz Three in City Park Slaying." Oklahoman (July 15, 1942)9.
"Youth Insists he shot Long Despite Record." Oklahoman (Oct. 18, 1942)5.


Ada Curnutt: A First Woman U.S. Marshall

In 1893, Ada Curnutt (or Carnutt) as a deputy U.S. Marshall for a brief time in 1893 as she arrested a couple of forgers.  Normally the District Court Clerk in Norman, when a wire came in calling for the arrest of two men no male officers were on duty, she did the job.
This daughter of Methodist minister had a high degree of ethics regarding the work of the law and the courts. She took the train to Oklahoma City, confronted the men in a local saloon and convinced the men and the people in the bar to recognize her authority. 
Ron Owens writing about it in Oklahoma Justice indicates she seemed willing to enforce all she said and that, along with many willing would-be deputies among the spectators, caused the two bad men to give in and go with her peacefully.
Local newspapers could not resist the temptation to note she finished her task and then went back to her favorite hobby...china painting.  It was only one of many eruptions of dynamic womanhood to emerge in Oklahoma - and around the country - as the new century loomed.
Soon would come Lucy Mulhall as one of the first professional 'cow girls', women in politics, and local female doctors. 

See more on U.S. Marshalls at http://www.usmarshals.gov/history/loyal_community.htm


Some Early Chinese Business Men of 1905 OKC

The city directory of Oklahoma City for 1905 lists several business men. These may not be the only ones - others may have been in the community but simply not recorded in the directory or may have been in other business fields.
The men all operated laundries and in a city bursting with single men, traveling business people, numerous hotels and boarding houses they no doubt did well. Laundry was a labor intensive work and not everyone could afford the new up-to-date hand crank wringers and still had to use a serious of wash tubs for cleaning and rinsing soiled clothes and bedding.  Once cleaned they had to be hung and then steam iron and folded. 

In 1905, at 230 West Second (modern Kerr) was John Chee and there is no mistake as to ethnic origins because it states after the name '(Chinese)'.  Almost center in the wildest part of town was Sam Lung at 124 1/2 W. California.  John Lee was found at 209 W. California, also just at the west edge of the notorious Hell's Half Acre.  At 306 W. Main was the establishment of Sam Fong or Sam Lee Fong or Sam Fong Lee.  All three were listed so there may have been some confusion as to his name.  Sing Lee was at 110 W. Reno and Wah Hop was at 7 N. Harvey.
Shortly after this period, however, governmental regulations and openness to oriental immigrants cooled and many of the Chinese in Oklahoma went back to the west coast in order to connect with communities there and to find passage back home.  Some appear to have possibly stayed in OKC but adopted a less politically volatile ethnicity by the time of the next census as similar names appear but cite Japan as their place of birth.

Some are still in Oklahoma City in 1908 and 1910 as ads for laundries and cafes can be found. Also, apparently there was a crackdown of standards of hygiene in various Chinese and Japanese restaurants ca 1910 that noted the presence of the odor of opium as well and unclean kitchen standards. Most, however, 'cleaned' up their act in response to state investigations.
One of the issue facing many Orientals in this time period was the issue of acculturation.  Many had come to earn money to acquire wives and property at home but became mired in social attitudes and manipulating employers in mines and railroads.  Others became westernized in dress, attitudes and skills alienating them, and in some cases violating rules laid down in China and Japan.  Many thus 'burned their bridges' to remain in America. 

Entertainments, social centers, businesses, libraries and religious houses all developed in response to the Asians in the Oklahoma City society. Unfortunately, by the 1960's when proof positive was found for the underground world of rumor-it was too late to save any of it.

Select Sources:

Urban Archaeologist, Slice
U.S. Federal Census
Encyclopedia of Oklahoma, Asians
"No Celebration Held by Chinese". Oklahoman (Feb.2, 1908)13. Noted there were 22 Chinese residents of Oklahoma City.


Urban Renewal Victim: The Buckhorn Saloon

I remember when I first learned of this thing called 'Urban Renewal' that left in its wake the slaughtered bodies of the past, that allowed what had been to be set on the wind, and overlaid the fine and historic with the smooth surface of asphalt for parking lots or high rise soulless mid century modern blocks inspired by prisons more than palaces.  It was when I first read Oklahoma history.
In the mid-to-late 1960's the government program misnamed Urban Renewal made possible the destruction of areas of cityscape in order to build new cityscapes.  It was a vast experiment in social engineering but it also coincided with an era seduced by the idea that the past was not something to be remembered unless it memorialized some mighty person, deed, or act.  The era of common history was only then emerging. That was a philosophy of history, archaeology, and anthropology that realized history is made by the person who was living it everyday and the rich, the well known and the lionized might not be the best expression of life in the past and that learning more about everyday life and common people might be valuable.
In 1968, a building was torn down to make way for the parking lots and new convention center to be known as the Myriad in Oklahoma City.  A starkly modern block building it epitomized the futuristic bent of the time period.  Old buildings, especially buildings from the wild and reckless and sometimes roguish childhood of the city could not stand in the way of Urban Renewal (insert dramatic echo here).
The Buckhorn Saloon, Sheridan and Santa Fe (now Gaylord), was one such building.  It was recognized as probably the first stone constructed building of the new city after the 1889 land run birth.  While all around were still the flapping tents and wood buildings, this one rose up and took a solid stand hinting at a future of similar construction.  Sheridan had been known first as Clark and then Grand Ave. before it became Sheridan.  Santa Fe had been Front, Santa Fe and then most recently Gaylord.
The problem was that the earliest buildings of the new city were often ones used for drinking, gambling, 'socializing', and similar rough entertainments. The early hotels were usually simple wooden structures or resembled Victorian homes.  The first 'grand' hotel was the Lee Hotel and it would be several years before the Skirvin was built as a competitor.
At 1972 meeting of the city Historical Preservation Commission, former mayor George Shirk said plans were made to remove the historic plaques from the razed buildings (placed there in the 1930's by the '89'ers', survivors of the original run) and set them in the sidewalks around the Myriad as a memorial and reminder. He said the building memorial should say: "On this corner was located one of the city's first permanent buildings. Erected in 1890, until statehood it housed many saloons and gambling houses of which one of the most famous was The Buckhorn." (Oklahoman, June 2, 1972, pg. 20).  Did this ever happen? 

According to contacts, the location of the markers have been identified. According to the fine people at the Visit OKC Office, the markers are located in Bicentennial Park (500 Couch Drive) in front of the Civic Center Music Hall. If you are standing on the steps of the Music Hall looking towards the park, they are on the right hand side about halfway down. All the monuments from bicentennial park are there and they include some of the history of OKC.  As this map shows, it is quite a distance from the building sites of old Hell's Half Acre. On foot from the old Santa Fe Depot and the current Amtrack depot it is about .7 miles or a brisk walk of about 15 minutes.
In the earliest newspaper and reports of the new city established at the location of the old 'Oklahoma Station' and settled by Land Run in 1889, there was the chorus of progress! Like a child rushing to those magical 'teenage' years or adulthood, OKC was not content to merely grow. It felt it had to 'catch up' to be just as grand, prosperous, cultured, and civilized as any city of substance in the country.  Instead of savoring its history, coming to appreciate what those old buildings meant, it sought to replace them with status symbols reflecting their personal and communal successes in ways competitive with Chicago, Kansas City, Dallas, New York or San Francisco.  The struggles of the Dust Bowl no doubt compounded these feelings and by the 1960's OKC would claim its frontier heritage but only through the rough and distorted lens of cinema and television portrayals. When it was popular to remember the wild old days then OKC added stereotype representations of the old west in jails, saloons, and outhouses in its 'Frontier City' (these are now gone being replaced by a modern and wonderful theme amusement park), artificial cowboys, and plastic badges recalling the U.S. Marshalls who once rode the streets keeping peace.  Caricature understandings of early day OKC might imagine it as wooden sidewalks and false front stores (ala the movies) but solid wooden and stone buildings were rapidly laid out along wide streets with cement walk ways.  If wood came on the first trains to the new town...crystal lights, fine drapes and polished woods came next.  An early history of the community remarked OKC was "born grown".  In truth it was born as a rough teen who had to have some wild oats sown and get some splintered edges worn smooth.
History is remembering everything...not just the parts that make us look or feel good. That is what makes it so very fascinating.
[I am exploring, with some partners, the possibility of doing some historic tours of downtown OKC in the coming year.  Haunted By History Tours will hope to offer stories of those rowdy days and later even some haunted tours.]
Where 'Hell's Half Acre' stood the current Cox Business Center now sits (Corner of Sheridan and Gaylord)


Updated "Tales of Hell's Half Acre" Coming Soon!

This work will be reissued soon with more stories and more maps for use with guided tours or individual walking tours.  The buildings may be gone, the streets are hidden under other names....but the stories remain.  Look for this soon!

Gothic Sanctuary Tours - Wesley UMC, OKC

During the Ruth Haddon Fine Arts Festival (Nov.2-3) there will be tours at:

Sat. Nov. 2 at 11 a.m., 1:00 and 2:00 p.m.
Sun. Nov. 3 at 12:20 and 1:30 and 2:00 p.m.

Guests can tour the booths for paintings, sculptures, jewelry, and other fine art gift ideas and then take one of the tours scheduled.
Then, a few weeks later, right before the OKC Tellabration event at Wesley UMC there will be another opportunity.
"I will be doing tours from 5:00 to 5:45 p.m. and then right after that will be the storytelling concert at 6 p.m." Notes local author and storyteller, Marilyn A. Hudson.  "Tickets for the great evening of storytelling are only $10 per person and will be available at the door."  The proceeds from that evening go to support the historic preservation of the lovely 1928 English Gothic Sanctuary.

Cameras are welcome. It is free to attend and donations will be accepted for historic preservation.

Questions?  Contact marilynahudson@yahoo.com

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