The Norman Transcript

Columns

January 7, 2006

Beloved lump Mount Williams will be coming down soon

The days of Mount Williams, the dirt knob along Interstate 35, are numbered. The commercial development on that corner is proceeding and the familiar mound will soon be gone.

The university plans to install a monument there honoring the thousands of sailors who passed through Norman. It will tell visitors the role the two Norman bases played in the training of sailors.

A grass fire near the hill last week brought lots of attention from I-35 motorists. The fire department snuffed it out quickly but not before some serious rubbernecking slowed down interstate traffic.

About once a week, the newsroom gets a call from someone claiming the bulldozers are lined up getting ready to reduce the Norman landmark to a pile of brown fill dirt placed in a farmer's ravine.

The hill served as a backstop for a Navy firing range and was a familiar landmark for pilots coming back to Max Westheimer field. The dirt reportedly came from dirt work on the nearby runways.

The Williams was an early day Naval base leader.

Time has taken its toll on the mound. It has survived more than 60 years of rain and wind, fraternity letters and high school dates. As a kid, we dug lead out of the hill. A friend recently celebrated the anniversary of his first date with a return to the mount. It was a little harder to climb 30 years after high school but they still did it.

Norman residents have shown their creative side with suggestions to me as to how it should be preserved.

One man wanted to mount replicas of the planes flown here atop tall steel spikes to remind I-35 motorists of the thousands of pilots who trained at Norman in the 1940s.

Another suggested the mound be re-shaped as a dinosaur to direct tourists to the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History. Still another wanted to shape the hill like a gorilla, calling attention to the nearby "Mile of Cars."

As a child the mountain reminded me that we were home from car trips. We'd see the hill and know that our travels were soon over. Our parents would wake us up and point to the hill as a sign that our own familiar beds couldn't be far away.

Andy Rieger 366-3543 editor@normantranscript.com

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