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September 14, 2005

There was an interesting feature in the Oklahoma City paper the other day, focusing on the number of interesting people who have spent a night or so at the distinguished Skirvin Hotel. Made me think of some other times and other folks, most of them now departed.

For one thing, Laura's uncle used to be in charge of large meetings at the grand old hotel, and he could tell some fascinating stories. Nothing went wrong, exactly, but it was interesting to hear how some of those things took shape. Now, Uncle R.C. is gone and the old hotel is shuttered, although showing signs of resuscitation.

Years ago, Oklahoma City was quite the hub for celebrities. How or why that changed, I don't know, but the big names no longer seem to visit O.C. as they once did. I can remember the Big Band era in the late 1930s and early 1940s, hearing Benny Goodman and his band at Springlake Amusement Park, Sammy Kaye at Blossom Heath, and the king of them all -- Glenn Miller and the Moonlight Serenaders at the Skirvin Tower's Persian Room, a dance palace if there ever was one.

The Miller band and its phalanx of singers and other gifted people were bigger than anything we see and hear today. They were GOOD. One summer night, when I was about a junior in high school here. They played a dance date in OKC. Along with two friends, Bob Elliott and Charles Lamb, we hitchhiked to hear them. None of us had a car. We saw and heard the band and the vocalists, then hustled out to old U.S. 77 and hitched rides to Perry. They don't make fun like that any more. The next day, we were in our places in the classrooms and everyone wanted to hear about the Serenaders. They were wonderful, I still remember. That's all there is to the story, except some minor little recollections I still have. It was a fun night.