Why Claremore is Home, Even When It’s Not

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Photo credit: Jacob Krumwiede

Recently, on a very pleasant summer evening, I found myself in Claremore, again. I was there to deliver, of all things, a backpack on which I’d embroidered my nephew’s name. School was to start in only a few days, and my contribution was the last item on my sister’s checklist of sending her ‘short person’ to commence his education. How can he be in school already? When last I looked, he was barely old enough to walk much less carry his own backpack full of books. But that’s a story for another day.

This story is about how far we’ve come from the first time I came to Claremore, or “little C”, as we fondly refer to this gem in the center of Rogers County.

I first came to Claremore on a cold January day in 1982. I’d flown up from my hometown of Dallas to visit the new town my dad, step-mother and little sister were to call home. How they’d chosen this little berg in Oklahoma was beyond my comprehension. Of course, the priorities of a 19-year-old are vastly different from those of my family-man father. He saw a safe, quiet town where he could make a home and provide for his family. I saw a place that was void of all the fun things a big city 19-year-old could ever want to do. In my eyes, there was nothing for me in this sleepy town.

Less than a year later, I came for another visit and was surprised to feel that “little C” had found a soft place in this big city girl’s heart. During that same visit, I found myself standing beside my father at the flag pole atop College Hill. While enjoying the lovely view of Claremore seemingly spreading out below our feet, Dad posed a question that would ultimately change the course of my life. “Do you think you could live in a small town like this?” I mulled his question around for a minute or two, which looking back, must have been an agonizingly long wait for a parent. Dallas held all the memories of growing up and the rest of my family was there. Claremore was new, uncharted and filled with strangers. Only the tiniest branch of my family was there. Dallas held the promise of a free education as well as the upward potential of a stable job I already had with a large corporation. Claremore offered two years of Rogers State and then a slim chance to get my foot in the door of, at best, a small, local company. No, Claremore didn’t appear terribly promising when I looked at the sensible facts. But something stirred in my heart as Dad & I stood there that evening looking over the valley that cradles Claremore. Maybe it was the way the south wind caressed my face. Maybe it was the way the rolling hills of Green Country beckoned to me of a life that could be. Maybe it was the sound of one of those train horns yelling for me to stay-stay, staaaaaaaaaay! I finally answered. “Yes. I believe I would like to stay here.” I think Dad must have been holding his breath in anticipation of my answer. He hugged me close and told me that he thought I’d made the best decision.

A few weeks later, I left my job, bade Mom a tearful goodbye and in my car filled with things important to a big city 19 year-old girl, sped north towards my future. Dad had enrolled me in Rogers State for the full summer session. I carried the maximum hours a student could for the summer and by August could proudly boast of a 3.75 g.p.a. It was during that time that I drove a thousand miles up and down Will Rogers Blvd on Friday nights, met a few life-long friends, and learned I had a bit of a knack for weaving words, thus this little tale.

The years passed, college ended, friends came and went, addresses changed, last names changed, pain & happiness molded my life, loved ones were buried, married, and suddenly the next generation came over the horizon, career paths forked and curved, then doubled back to ultimately run straight & true. Through all of this, no matter where I called home, I would always come back to Claremore. There were many trips to visit family and friends but sometimes, it was nothing more than a trip there to simply stand on familiar ground and regain my bearings.

Three separate times, my sweet husband and I have tried to move back and call Claremore home, but something would always happen to cause us to settle elsewhere. To me, Claremore will forever be like visiting a favorite Aunt’s house where in the past I spent wonderful summers. I may never again call it home, but it will always be my safe place.

This particular evening, I drove up the hill towards Rogers State. I parked my car near the very spot where my life changed so many years ago and took a moment to gaze down upon the little town of which I’ve grown so fond. As the sun slipped lower on the horizon, I looked toward the shiny gold dome capping Prep Hall. I looked across the rolling terrain of the Memorial, where Will Rogers sleeps peacefully surrounded by his family. At the old park, I saw the shiny new splash pad playing peek-a-boo under the shade of a hundred trees. I looked further down Will Rogers Blvd towards a town that, like me, has changed quite a bit over all these years. Among all the downtown buildings, stood the new courthouse tall and proud with its big clock counting the minutes of this lovely summer evening. While Claremore isn’t my original hometown, nor is it even the town we live in, it will always hold the feeling of home base. My “safe” place in this life’s game of tag. Of course, in the distance I heard the reoccurring song of Claremore: a train blew its horn as it chugged towards Chelsea and points north. “Stay-stay, staaaaaaaaaay!” it called to me. Sorry, not this time. But I’ll always come back for a visit.

-by Alicia May Fisher,
Ashley’s older and wiser sister


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18 Comments

  1. Great story. I became a ”transplanted” Claremorian nearly 3 decades ago; however, it was my husband’s ”hometown”. A lot of his growing up years was spent in the CA bay area, but circumstances brought about a situation where he and his brother just under him, came to stay with their maternal grandparents who were long time merchants downtown. They remained here all thru their high school days until they graduated CHS, went on off to college in Okmulgee, served in the military, married and moved away. For my husband however, Claremore always called him back. Fast forwarding several years and raising 4 kids, we ended up buying property here and eventually moved back here. Not only was he born in that old hospital (He’s pointed out which window many times, that was the room where he was born a 7 mo. preemie) Both his parents were also CHS grads, and he followed in that tradition and then so did all 4 of our kids…..and 9 1/2 yrs ago, he was laid to rest at Woodlawn…. where both his grandparents who finished raising him, are laid to rest as well. This was his home, a soft place in his heart always…. and now that I’ve been here for this many years, it’s home to me as well. I’ve also seen a LOT of changes in this town since I moved here permanently in early ’91. Some were good, some a disappointment to me (like losing JCP, my last place of employment before retiring a few yrs ago) There is a lot of family roots and history here in this small town, among the Talley’s and Casey’s. I cannot imagine moving away. 🙂

  2. Such a lovely story, and writing. You’ve absolutely captured the allure of our sweet Claremore in your captivating story.
    We moved here from Phoenix in 1984 with three small children, talk about culture shock!! And feel the same as you do ☺️

  3. We moved here almost 7 years ago- Claremore is Home to us!!!! Though hubby and I are transplants, this is the only home our children know and remember ❤. I hope they live here as adults!

  4. Moved to Claremore from Tulsa when I was 13… felt like the end of the world. My dad told me, “just give me 1 year.” It will always be one of the best things that happened to me, even if I didn’t realize it at the time. I’ve built lifelong friendships, found love, & created a family of my own here in this sleepy little town. It’s my home in every sense of the word.

  5. Lived in Claremore as a child and all through high school. Left to go to college in Texas. Married a boy from Texas and we traveled a lot because he was a minister. When we decided to have children and settle someplace, I brought him to Claremore and he loved it. Been here most of our life and would never want to go anywhere else. Awesome place to raise children and grandchildren.

  6. I’ve been here since 1977. My mother born and raised in Claremore, married my dad from Tahlequah and moved to LA, Ca. That’s where me, my sister, and brother were born. Then we moved to Washington state. Parents divorced so we moved back Claremore to be close to moms family. Been here ever since, except for a few times I worked and lived out of town. This town welcomed us with open arms, and even though we had a new home, new schools, and a new life we are the better for it.
    My husband and I have 5 children and 10 grands, most live in the area.
    I now promote my hometown as a destination to visitors. I am proud to be from Claremore and can’t see myself anywhere but here.