The Cowan home, beautiful for its time,was inhabited by a Catholic family. Dad was the high school principal, mom was the neighborhood angel, the teenagers were funny, and the yard was always full of cars. My childhood playmate would sit at night on the hood of a car in his neat little shorts, and we would look up into the sky together, and wonder why we were born. He would always put up a great fight, or argument, over any subject. In our own special way we were bosses over the block. At night, we moved around freely, and our parents called for us from front porches decorated with shrubs, southern flowers, and painted swings. On 12th street, lived another huge family. Our friend Linda occupied a small shotgun house with three brothers and sisters, and a huge yard. I was safe and happy living between my childhood friends.
By the time we all started school, everyone had moved into other places. Jimmy and I were separated by a year; but Linda and I were torn by a divorce. She moved to a country school, and Jimmy started to hang with the guys. Later, the Cowan house was empty, and I started to see it as I do now: lonely, unkempt, and completely gutted.
Sometimes I go to the picture window and I look inside. I can still see the fabulous Christmas tree, the huge dining room table, and Mary at her housework. But in reality, nothing is left of the Cowan home. No one has lived on the property for at least 20 years. The house is infested with mold, and the structure is unsafe. Most of the time the grass is never mowed. The people in my neighborhood have politely suggested it be demolished. We have sent one code enforcement officer after another into the Cowan place, yet nothing is ever resolved. Several people have taken on the challenge of rebuilding what was once a great family home, only to abandon the project. Now it is nothing but a magnet for crime, and a drag on property values. Yet, the city of Chickasha does nothing.
At Linda's old house, a family moved in. This year we painted the home for the people who live there. It means a lot to us to have beauty in our neighborhood. We are disappointed by the officials who do nothing for our part of town.
The fascinating history of Chickasha, Oklahoma, is in the Westhill neighborhood. The Ross family, among many others, made their money, and raised their children, in this older area. Our family operated a small business. Linda's mom worked for Safeway just down the street. West School, only one block from our home, was highly respected. Before the apartment buildings, and duplexes, along Minnesota, we enjoyed the convenience of a small grocery store on 12th, owned by Pastor Long, a respected clergyman. The Oklahoma College for Women, and later OCLA, was attended by many of our older siblings. Many of us have graduated from that same school, now known as The University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma.
With all of this fascinating history, these family stories, and strong connections between us, it is almost horrific to suffer the disrespect of the City of Chickasha Code Enforcement. I know that everyone who owns, or has a historic and emotional attachment to the city's older neighborhoods, would like to see a more interested council. Because the University is in our neighborhood, and because our history is so complex, many eyes are upon the old Westhill neighborhood.
Maybe it is time to clean up downtown.