NORMAN — The brisk walk from our Norman grade school near the hospital to the OU Field House never seemed to take very long for two boys intent on learning how to wrestle. Cheap lessons were taught there after school, but with two working parents, it fell to kids to make their own travel arrangements.
We were a little young to hitchhike. Our bicycles might get stolen. So, mother said to walk. We made a map. Stay on Ponca Avenue, as far as it would go, walk west across Classen Boulevard and look south for Brooks Street.
“Just get on Brooks Street and don’t venture off of it,” she told us.
It’s been more than 45 years since I was formally introduced to Norman’s Brooks Street, and I can’t seem to get away from it. It runs through the middle of the campus. Cars used to be able to drive from Jenkins Avenue to Elm Street without having to navigate barricades.
Today, Brooks Street has just about all the bases covered. Homes and apartments on the east and west. Academics with OU, McKinley Elementary and Whittier Middle School, an armory, a mobile home park, the duck pond, a football stadium, field house and walking parkway. It’s a favorite among walkers and cyclists who come to campus in the early-morning or late-night hours. ROTC students work out there early.
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In college, Brooks Street was where we would (sometimes) go to the campus library. Basketball games were played at the Field House on Brooks. The football stadium, where we sold Cokes and programs and then waited in line to buy student tickets, fronts on Brooks. There are churches, apartments and even a bed and breakfast.
It was where I first saw real college students, war protesters, football crowds and even a few streakers. Later, my kids’ Volkswagen convertible door would always swing open when they left the safety of Brooks Street and went north on Berry Road to the high school.