Andy Rieger mug

Andy Rieger

Students in Norman’s McKinley and Lincoln Elementary schools and their parents should start preparing now for the centennial celebrations in fall 2022.

Those two elementary schools were opened in fall 1922 and were Norman’s third and fourth elementary schools, following Jefferson and Washington.

The original buildings were 70 feet wide and 200 feet long.

Both were tucked into neighborhoods, and kids could walk or bike there.

Walking to school was so important back then that the state highway department built an underpass for Lincoln students who lived west of Classen Boulevard.

There are several pedestrian underpasses along State Highway 77 south of Norman and on old Route 66 in western Oklahoma.

Lincoln alumni tell me the tunnel was rife with mischief.

It was finally filled in and replaced with a major crosswalk and crossing light.

• • •

After the Catholic school closed in 1967 (hopefully not because of anything I did, but the guilt is still there), we moved to Jefferson Elementary and Central Junior High.

Principals J.D. Risenhoover and Grover Bratcher warmly welcomed us to the public school team.

Jefferson held the distinction of being the site of the city’s first public elementary school, constructed in 1894 by School District 29, which was organized three years earlier.

Jefferson had a gritty reputation, and my first few weeks as an incoming sixth grader were tough. One kid muscled me for my lunch money a few times until I hired a larger kid I knew from church to protect me.

For 5 cents, I was able to save 35 cents. He wanted a dime, but I negotiated it to a nickel. Bargains came hard at that age.

• • •

Almost from the beginning of our town, a rift developed between parents on the east side and those on the west side.

So the settlers on the west side formed School District 64, and built a school on the site of the district’s current administration building on south Flood.

Eventually, the districts merged, and the west side school became Washington Elementary and the east side school became Jefferson.

• • •

For many years, new elementary schools were built within neighborhoods and not on the edge of them.

Wilson came about because US 77 was the state’s major north-south highway long before I-35 was completed through here in 1959.

Parents didn’t want students crossing the big road to get to Jefferson.

Cleveland, Monroe, Adams, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Madison and Jackson were neighborhood schools not so close to section line roads.

Later, schools were moved out of neighborhoods.

Roosevelt, Reagan and the new Washington are all built on busy streets, making it nearly impossible for youngsters to walk or bike to school even if parents would let them do so.


Trending Video