NORMAN — The 1970s were tough times for Norman’s youth. The drug culture that filtered down from college students into the high schools scared parents stiff. Something, they said, must be done.
That something was construction of a place for teens to just “hang out.” A drug-free zone where kids could relax, away from their parents, far from the police and their teachers.
The “Teen Center” concept had been tried in other communities. Churches and YMCA’s had experimented with the concept but it never really took hold. But that didn’t stop the Norman’s City Council from building one on the south side of Reaves Park.
The building, designed by RGDC, Inc., was built at the corner of Jenkins Avenue and Constitution Street. It included pool and ping pong tables and had an “early cave” design, meaning there were few windows. It’s now used as a garden center.
It was next door to the old “Building 92” recreational hall left by the Navy. Now that was a teen hangout. It had a gym floor and a cavernous design that included crawl spaces, hidden closets, stored Navy leftovers and lots of equipment, books and photos that no one knew what to do with when the base shut down.
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Keith Parman has a treasure trove of similar artifacts, albeit these are family ones. He is going through photos, 8mm movies, newspaper clippings, old advertisements and other such memorabilia left behind by his late mother, longtime Oklahoma school teacher Lauretta Parman who died in 2010 at age 96.
“I’ve got pictures, pictures and more pictures,” Parman said.
A homemade movie, “Super Keith,” made with Parman and a sister made it to Youtube. A play script, “Oklahoma town,” was adapted by his brother Frank Parman and performed at the Renegade Theater on Main Street in 1976. His father, the photographer and educator, loved to incorporate visual aids in his teaching. His mother taught in western Oklahoma before coming to Norman in the late 1950s.
She taught at Lincoln and Monroe Elementary schools and kept boxes of school photos, most lacking names on the backs.
“She loved children,” he said of his mother. “She devoted her life to children.”
Parman, a veteran of the same Army unit as Elvis Presley, stays busy sorting through the memorabilia. “I’m just a hoarder,” he said. “I come from a whole family of photographers.”
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Some newer photographs, hundreds of them, caught my eye Thursday at the Cleveland County Fair. Photojournalist Kyle Phillips and I were invited to judge the adult and youth categories of this year’s fair.
There’s a lot of talent out there. My favorites were still life and the insects photographed in the wild. We were promised Indian tacos from the concession stand if we came back after lunch. It didn’t happen but the smell carried me through the day.
County fairs are a staple of life in middle America. This is the first year in many that my mother-in-law didn’t enter quilts and bring home a ribbon. Perhaps she’ll enter one in her new home, two states away.
Andy Rieger firstname.lastname@example.org 366-3543