My grandparents lived on West Will Rogers, just about the location of the current Taco Bell. They lived in a stately old home with a wide front porch and a chicken yard in back. In the days I was growing up (fifties and sixties), Main Street went from “track to track” on Will Rogers and there was virtually no business and few houses from the Frisco (Burlington Northern) tracks west of downtown. No Pixley’s, no Ne-Mar, no Reasor’s.
Highway 20, as it was called then, was a two-lane road with a beautiful canopy of shade trees going up the Hill.
Cat Creek meandered through the area and flooded with some regularity. There was a Deep Rock filling station on the north side of the road (Reasor’s), selling gas for 29 cents a gallon, and it was a no-man’s land on the south side running back to Luther McNames’s junkyard and the old “Perriers Plunge” pool, which was rumored to be stocked with gators.
A long ribbon of sidewalk running along the highway was frequented by OMA Cadets walking to town, likely going to either the Yale or Cadet Theatre for a movie.
But two Claremore businesspeople, one an insurance agent and the other a dentist, looked at the land and saw possibilities.
Paul Neely and Dr. Jack Marlar saw that if Cat Creek could be straightened out, cleared and deepened, then that worthless flood plain could be usable. The location was perfect for Claremore’s growth. It would be a virtual extension of Main Street.
It would be difficult to imagine two people less likely to be partners than Neely and Marlar.
Neely had a disarming smile that had sold thousands of insurance policies in Claremore. Marlar literally talked faster than anyone in town. Ideas popped into his head and spewed from his mouth in a rat-tat-tat machine gun-style.
Both were friendly, successful. and well-liked in the community.
Both believed that Claremore was primed to grow and they were willing to put their money where their mouth was.
Claremore’s 1960s growth spurt had arrived.
Editor’s note: I was recently able to have a nice long interview with Paul, Jonnie and Steve Neely. They shared memories of the days when NeMar was being built and were gracious enough to share with me their family’s photos and memorabilia of that period. Since NeMar was such an integral part of Claremore’s history, I will be sharing a series of stories, photographs, and memories over the next few days. –Robby Melton