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February 25, 2013

Bob Goins truly helped to build city

NORMAN — Bob Goins’ footprints can be traced in Norman and beyond. In addition to the careers of hundreds of students he has mentored over the years, there are many points of interest and organizations in Norman that have benefited from his talents and his interests not only in history, but in the generations that lie ahead.

A resident of Norman for more than 80 years, his earliest memories are of the family home on Gray Street, where the library is located now. The areas surrounding the railroad tracks were good play areas, he recalls, “The sidings were well used then. There were gondolas of sand and gravel. Cotton gins. I remember seeing boxcars roll through town with young men sitting in the open doorways. Headed for California, I suppose, because there were no jobs in Oklahoma.”

It was more than 60 years later that he played a key role in the design and implementation of Legacy Park and the plazas that tell the story of Norman’s founding and growth, of the statue of his boyhood playmate James (Bumgarner) Garner, and of a memorial to the men and women from the Norman area who have served in the armed forces.

But first, there was the railroad.

“Norman wouldn’t be here without the railroad,” he said. “Not only did they carry passengers and goods, they made it possible for many students to get to OU. I still get excited if I am nearby when a train goes through.”

He also points to the importance of the Navy pilot training and aircraft mechanic training center to Norman’s development. During the war years the Navy established what is referred to as the North Base, and used the area to train pilots. Goins recalls seeing the sky swarming with yellow biplanes as the pilots practiced.

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