I recently finished reading Boom Town, Sam Anderson’s new book chronicling the history of Oklahoma City.
It starts in the beginning with the land run and moves through the boom of the oil industry. It tell stories of how OKC quickly jumped back and from periods of scarcity to abundance.
I learned the stories behind the people whose names adorn our roads, lakes1, and football stadiums; names like Draper, Couch, and Gaylord.
I learned how, through a misguided program called urban renewal, OKC demolished many of its historic builds only to let their lots sit undeveloped for decades until the new MAPS programs that started in the 90s finally started to fix that mistake. I learned about a complicated history of racism that led to over a year of sit-ins led by Clara Luper that eventually ended segregation across businesses downtown.
In addition to self-inflicted setbacks like urban renewal, I learned about external tragedies that hit the state. The sections that covered the OKC bombing and the tornados of May 3rd, 1999 and those of May 20th and 31st, 2013 were especially hard to read.
Fortunately, the books ends on a happier note: the city is currently thriving due to the success of the MAPS program and the OKC Thunder. The city is still far from perfect, but it is heading in the right direction.
If you want to get a taste of what the book is like without reading the whole thing, check out the episode of 99% Invisible featuring the author Sam Anderson. It covers the land run and Operation Bongo, the daily testing of sonic booms over OKC for 6 months in the late 60s.
After reading this, it left me wanting to learn more about the history of OKC, so I have added Funny Money by Mark Singer, The Next American City by former OKC mayor Mick Cornett, Big League City by current OKC mayor David Hold, and My Life, My Fight by OKC Thunder’s Steven Adams to my reading list.
Even if you are not from OKC, Boom Town was a great read. OKC has one of the strangest histories of any city in the work, and Sam does a great just telling it’s story.
- For the longest time, the only thing that I new about Stanley Draper is that I saw an EF-4 tornado form on the west side of the lake named after him before crossing the lake on May 10th, 2010. It is easily the best tornado I have ever seen. ↩