National Geographic : 1971 Aug
"That's the vault. It's the only thing left. Why the hole? Bank robbers made it." By 1920 Shamrock's oil boom had burst, and the roughnecks headed for a strike at Whizbang, over in Osage County. Whizbang soon fizzled out. A gentle melancholy tugs at one in ghost towns, like the haunting peace of ancient battlefields. Let Oklahoma's motto-Labor Omnia Vincit-serve as their benediction: "Labor Conquers All Things." I drove away, glad to be transient, wanting to watch today's Sooners at today's work. In Sapulpa, at Frankoma Pottery, I discovered more than a hundred craftsmen handily turn ing out nearly 30,000 pieces a week. White-haired, jovial John Frank escorted me through his pottery, as proud of it as a man should be whose business succeeds on the fifth try. "Any piece of pottery is merely the right mud in the right shape," Mr. Frank declared. "Its value lies in what it's worth to live with, for this is the true value of art." Last year 120,000 passersby turned off Interstate 44 to tour the plant. John Frank sometimes puzzles over the influx. "I guess they just want to come," he muses. "My daughter Joniece and I design every piece; my wife Grace Lee runs the show room. We are Frankoma. People come be cause they like what we create. It's our greatest compliment." Ardmore Caters to Western Craze All over Oklahoma I saw this story re peated. In the south, at Ardmore, I caught up with the Western-clothing boom. "It's the only kind of apparel that is Ameri ca's own," said shirt-sleeved John C. Simpler, general manager of Corral Sportswear. "My father and mother formed this business in 1953, and it's been growing ever since. People are identifying with the West, with the old, solid, traditional values. Demand for leather wear is fantastic. We've been operating nine hours a day, six days a week, for months." A family man in his mid-thirties whose hobby is flying, John Simpler often visits New York City on business. He said, "Some young sters there have never seen open country." A frown. "They've never seen a cow or ridden a horse. I'm always glad to get home." His face brightened. "You can't beat Oklahoma." As we walked to my car, a small boy gal loping a large pony suddenly bore down on us, and we leaped from the sidewalk. "See what I mean?" demanded my host happily. 178 You can bump into enterprising business men and horses elsewhere, too. On a cool cloudy morning I drove through the undu lating green country of the east, a hunter's and fisherman's paradise, and onto the north east's Ozark Plateau. In Commerce, where baseball's Mickey Mantle grew up, I found George Newman busily building the fine boats that bear his name, and I knew better why Oklahoma highways are thronged with cars towing sleek inboards and outboards. "We're making about 1,500 runabouts a year now," Mr. Newman said, "and I can't see anything but growth ahead. Boating's great for families, especially fathers. No traffic lanes. No traffic lights. No traffic jams. They can unwind and relax."