Andy Rieger mug

Andy Rieger

Many of OU’s past presidents have Norman streets named after them.

Boyd Street, the campus’ northern border, honors OU’s first president David Ross Boyd. Another David, as in David L. Boren, has a street in the south Campus research park.

George L. Cross, OU’s longest serving president, has a street named after him in a residential area off of 24th Avenue SW. There’s Buchanan Street, honoring James S. Buchanan who served from 1923 to 1925.

My hands-down favorite is Brooks Street, named for Stratton D. Brooks, president from 1912 to 1923. It once traveled straight through the campus, separating the football field from the basketball field house.

One could drive from 12th Avenue SE westward past Classen, past Jenkins, past Elm, Chautauqua, Flood, and Berry all the way to Wylie Road. Like a dead section line, it stops for a few blocks, then picks back up from McGee Drive past 24th Avenue SW and dead-ends at the interstate.

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It’s hilly in parts and has large trees that form canopies in the summer.

It is home to schools, stately campus homes, athletic venues, student housing, a trailer park and a few churches. Legendary coach and athletic director Benny Owen built a 9-hole golf course with the starter house on Brooks.

The old WPA stone fence posts still stand in some spots.

My children went to elementary school on Brooks and my one-time favorite grocery store, Faculty Heights Grocery, once served me when I was newly married and living nearby in a duplex.

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There were no wrestling programs at our Catholic school in the 1960s. Wrestling was a sport my brother and I enjoyed but we need some real coaching. OU wrestlers volunteered to teach kids their sport after school but we had to get ourselves there.

If you want to learn from the Sooner wrestlers, my parents told their elementary school sons, walk down Classen after school to Brooks Street then go west to the Field House where the wrestlers are waiting for you. Then when you’re done, walk another mile west to your grandmother’s house on Brooks, and someone will pick you up there.

We never felt safe until we made it to Brooks.

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President Brooks came to OU from Boston, where he was superintendent of schools.

He had formerly served as assistant superintendent there, and left to head schools in Cleveland, Ohio. University historian David Levy, writing in “The University of Oklahoma, A History, Volume 1,” said Brooks left Cleveland when Boston lost its superintendent.

“No sooner had he unpacked his bags, a short 10 weeks in Ohio, than the Boston School Board asked him to return to the city as superintendent, because his predecessor had died,” Levy wrote.

Brooks came from a restless pioneer family that moved west over several generations, according to Levy. He grew up in the middle of a Michigan forest, mostly hunting and fishing instead of going to school.

A special teacher converted the young teenager into a believer in education. He left college to become principal of a high school at age 18 then returned to finish his degree.

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The front door to OU’s Bizzell Memorial Library used to face Brooks Street. That’s where we entered and proceeded upstairs to the Great Reading Room.

The front of the football stadium and field house remain on Brooks Street. How many of us camped out on Brooks Street waiting in line to buy student football tickets?

Future presidents and coaches will have streets named for them. But it’ll be hard to match the history Brooks Street holds.

Emma Keith is the editor of The Transcript, where she covers Norman Public Schools and the University of Oklahoma. Reach her at ekeith@normantranscript.com or at @emma_ckeith.

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