Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Commentary: Place of Checotah History, Memories Needs a Savior

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Commentary: Place of Checotah History, Memories Needs a Savior

Article excerpt

Carrie Underwood has a song about her hometown called I Ain't in Checotah Anymore.

The song mentions Checotah's one stoplight where State Highway 69 meets Interstate 40, but the arrival of a Wal-Mart Supercenter led to the installation of a second.

Head about 117 miles east of Oklahoma City on Interstate 40 and you'll run into Checotah.

If you grow up in a town of 3,481, you've already visited all the antique shops. And you know just about everyone's name, their birthday and what their children did at school that got them in trouble.

You've surely been to the Okrafest, held each year on the second Saturday of September. That's quickly followed by the Civil War Life Program, which was held Sept. 19 this year. It's always at the Honey Springs Battlefield Site. That battle, won by the Union, was fought on July 17, 1863. Troops on both sides included white, black and Native American soldiers.

The town was named for Samuel Checote, the first Creek Nation chief elected after the Civil War. The town is about nine square miles in size and women outnumber men about four to three.

Sleepy, some might call it.

Underwood's song includes a verse about loading up all the friends who would fit in her father's Ford pickup and rack up 100 miles driving back and forth from the Sonic to the grocery store, laughing all the while. It's the sort of Friday night that remains common in every small town in America.

Now and then those nights include a trip to the movie theater. In Checotah, that's been the Gentry Cinema since about the time Scarlett decided she'd think about that tomorrow.

There was a time when vaudeville acts entertained audiences on the stage in front of the screen and newsreels showed the Allies' progress. In those seats, older boys tried to slip unnoticed arms around the shoulders of would-be girlfriends, younger boys laughed at Dumbo and all gasped at Jane Russell in The Outlaw. …

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