A Look Back: Main Street “MAINiacs”
I especially enjoyed the article in last month’s WE ARE SAND SPRINGS entitled PRETTY. The photograph of the Inez Kirk Memorial Garden was gorgeous! It transported me back to some of the best days of my life. I firmly believe we all need to reflect and cherish those GOOD DAYS in life we’ve been privileged to enjoy as we close out one of the most trying years in not only our history, but also the history of our world.
The Inez Kirk Memorial Garden was formerly The Main Street Garden….not located on Main Street, but on Broadway at McKinley Avenue. Why Main Street Garden? Let me tell you a story.
Then City Manager Loy Calhoun called me on December 1, 1991 to see if I might consider working with one of the most brilliant men I have ever known, Public Works Director Vernon Smith, to write an application for Sand Springs to become an Oklahoma Main Street Town. The paperwork had to be delivered to the Oklahoma Department of Commerce for consideration on January 3, 1992. THIRTY DAYS to SELL A CITY!!!
February 1, 1992, Sand Springs was officially declared one of our state’s Main Street communities. Our goal: To revitalize our city’s Historic Central Business District…our Downtown. I was hired to direct the program. No human being was EVER more excited!
Our downtown was at a 47% occupancy rate. Problems consisted of empty buildings, businesses struggling to exist, deteriorating streets and sidewalks. Problems require solutions. The most powerful tool we possessed was the POSITIVITY of our people. The City made its commitment. The Chamber of Commerce made its commitment. The property owners (along with the business owners) made their commitment. Some of the most energetic and dedicated people I’ve ever met made their commitment and a volunteer force like no other was born. Those devoted volunteers became known as The Main Street MAINiacs because they were CRAZY ABOUT SAND SPRINGS. My job was made easy and was wonderful!!
Festivals, parades, tree plantings, flowers, colorful awnings, fresh paint, and exciting new businesses increased the excitement known statewide. Historic buildings were restored. Thank you to David and Jane Mick, The Sand Springs Home and Erwin Phillips’ family. Dr. James Rankin bought the historic Stricklen Building and brought it to be a showplace not only for his veterinary hospital, but also for his family home.
Business began to flourish once again. Beautiful street banners, lights, and decorations at each season made the view from the Keystone Expressway far more enticing.
A vacant lot on the corner of Broadway and McKinley was left badly scarred by a fire which consumed the Sand Springs Leader Newspaper office. This shell was not PRETTY – a new project was born.
The Sand Springs Herbal Affair and Festival was, and remains, a highlight each spring. Every April thousands of plant lovers, along with as many food lovers, come to enjoy beauty, entertainment, great food and fellowship in the heart of our city….our historic downtown. A “Pocket Park” seemed the perfect project. Thus began THE MAIN STREET GARDEN.
A committee consisting of Sandi Byerly, Mary Sue Overbey, Ruth Leib, Ed Everett, Lana Voss, Dr. Steve Fooshee, and Dr. James Rankin “began the plan.” The Sand Springs Home donated the land. Jim Parker, his crews and City workers started delivering the soil. More MAINiacs than imaginable worked night and day to bring the corner to life. Supportive citizens purchased personalized brick pavers to assist in this project. Many are in the center of the garden. Others donated trees, plants, statuary, even the gazebo to honor the memory of loved ones. Clyde Cabioc and his brother, Oakley Cabioc, built the beautiful fence and archway with materials donated by the local Armco Steel plant.
This “PRETTY” garden is now named as a memorial park to one of my best friends EVER and surely one of Sand Springs most successful, courageous, and truly beautiful City Managers, Inez Kirk.
A special Thank You to my MAINiacs.
May their love for our city be a constant encouragement to each of us to SUPPORT LOCAL BUSINESS. They’re counting on you.
I love Sand Springs…..FOREVER!!
– Ruth Ellen Henry, Main Street Director 1991 – 1997
Mike and Janice Trower
Mike and Janice Trower renovated the building just east of the Garden and built Michael’s Gallery of Fine Art.
Hank the Tank
Ruth Ellen Henry with her dog Hank the Tank
The Garden Trowel
Sandi Byerly’s “Garden Trowel” located in the Historic Sand Springs Railway Building
The Main Street Garden
The Main Street Garden in its early days. Clyde Cabioc and his brother, Oakley Cabioc built the beautiful fence and archway with materials donated by the local Armco Steel plant.