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August 7, 2001

Some folks in Oklahoma City have been. causing a bit of a stir because of the plan to tear down the geodesic dome at Northwest 23rd and Classen. It would be replaced by a building with more contemporary architecture, the present owners say. Most likely, it would be one of those mega-pharmacies that seem to be springing up everywhere, at least in the big cities. However, preservationists have been demonstrating and otherwise protesting to such an extent that the idea is being re-examined, with the possibility of converting the futuristic dome to use as an ice skating rink, an indoor playground, a shopping mall, and so forth. This is happening in Oklahoma City, where the municipal planners allowed their entire downtown area to be demolished a few decades ago and thus to effectively terminate that area as a retail center. It has never recovered from that stupendous blow. The Bricktown area, east of what used to be downtown Oklahoma City, is luring people back with entertainment, RedHawks baseball, canal rides and other gimmickry, but you won't find Rothschild's, Kerr's, Brown's, good movie theaters and all the other things that used to bring hundreds of people to Main Street in Oklahoma, City. They're all at the malls or scattered elsewhere in the municipality.

Personally, I hope the old dome comes safely through all this. It was considered a radical style when first erected nearly 50 years ago and most of us believe it is still too far out to appreciate. In that respect it is like the old Mummers Theater on Sheridan in downtown OKC-weird, but at the same time very serviceable. Most importantly, though, is the fact that both those buildings are symbols of the generation that gave birth to them. They are historically interesting for that reason.

Citizens of Perry can appreciate the battle now being waged in Oklahoma City, featuring those who think of progress as tearing down the old and building up the new versus those who yearn to retain as much of the past as possible. We have, for example, the Church on a Perch now rotting on its foundation in CCC Park. Our community spared the old wooden building from a wrecker's ball at Seventh and Grove streets, then swept the evidence under a carpet, figuratively, by hauling it out to the city park with no plans for restoring or preserving it. We still have the historic building but you can watch its decay daily by driving through the park. Makes you sad.

Oklahoma City already has lost the Bell Isle tower, its entire downtown retail center, and countless other buildings through lack of planing. Visitors from other countries, where buildings continue to be used for more than a century, are astonished that our public buildings are considered decrepit after such short periods of time. The Main Street program is doing a great deal to make our community conscious of its dramatic origin and dynamic creation. That philosophy should be retained and applied whenever someone talks about progress and new beginnings. Americans need to savor and preserve the past while there are still remnants worth keeping..

On another subject now, don't forget the opening of the Perry high school girls fast pitch softball season tonight. We have a team that's eager to begin competition and a new coach to lead them. Check the sports page for details as the season progresses.