Shortly after 9 p.m. Sept. 24, 1947 an Interurban Street car left downtown Oklahoma City headed for Norman. Except for a few dignitaries on board, it would have been a normal, 20-mile trip to the university city.
However, that night's coach piloted by E.L. Hodge, was the final ride for the Interurban car between Oklahoma City and Norman. As the passengers sang "Auld Lang Syne," the driver gave a final toot-toot on the horn and the cart ground to a halt.
The electric street cars began carrying students and commuter workers back and forth from Oklahoma City in 1913. It was an extension of the Oklahoma Railway Company that began in 1905.
The company extended its Capitol Hill line to Moore in 1910. Other extensions took travelers to Guthrie and El Reno, but the Norman line was the busiest, according to a detailed account by author Bonnie Speer, writing in "Cleveland County Pride of the Promised Land."
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Speer writes that the line officially opened in November 1913 when three cars carrying 139 Oklahoma City businessmen arrived to a big celebration at the Norman terminal on West Main Street, just west of the railroad tracks. Cars ran every half hour to and from Oklahoma City.
At one time, the company operated nearly 140 miles of track. Power came from the Belle Isle power plant. An advertisement published in 1920 encouraged state fairgoers to take a "Fair Grounds" car to the fair's front gate. The ad encouraged riders to visit the University of Oklahoma at Norman, Central State Normal at Edmond, Wheeler Park and the zoo, the new state Capitol, Belle Isle Park and lake and the stockyards.
During World War II, the Interurban was the preferred transportation method for the sailors and airmen stationed at the two Naval bases here. A round-trip ticket to Oklahoma City cost 77 cents.
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Tragedy struck the line in 1944 when two trains collided south of the Oklahoma City terminal. Three sailors and the engineer were killed, and 35 passengers were injured.
The end of the line, which followed the end of the war, was protested by Norman and Moore businesses and the university's president, George L. Cross. Hundreds of students rode the Interurban from their homes in Oklahoma City. Cross argued that Norman didn't have enough housing to handle the returning soldiers and many would have to live in Oklahoma City.
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The railway company won that argument and abandoned the lines. Thirty-nine round-trip bus routes were scheduled, but that novelty soon wore off. Gasoline and tires were no longer rationed, and more families owned automobiles. There was talk of an interstate and business leaders turned their attention to routing the highway through the middle of Norman, instead of out west where the state wanted it.
The state transportation commission won and located the interstate west of the city. The interstate between Norman and Oklahoma City was finally completed in 1959 and highway travel has grown ever since.
The Interurban terminal building, constructed in 1917, became the bus station. Later, it was remodeled and became home to a popular downtown restaurant by the same name, then an art studio and another popular restaurant.