El Reno, Oklahoma has had many distinguished visitors and residents over the years. The first that comes to mind is Mr. Hub Reed, former pro basketball player who played center for the Lakers back in the 1950s. He served as El Reno High School Athletic Director and Dean of Boys for as far back in my childhood as I can remember and stood at nearly 7-feet tall. He was an imposing presence, often seen ducking to enter through doorways in our high school, and you can be sure that our students stayed in line to escape his wrath. Truthfully, he’s a gentle giant without a mean bone in his body. To this day, I’m sure every student who knew him will say the same thing: He’s a great man.
You’ve heard of the famous artist, Frederic Remington? In 1888, he spent three months in Fort Reno (located on the eastern edge of El Reno and dates back to the 1870s) working on images of the cavalry, buffalo soldiers and the Native American Indians and scouts.
In 1988, Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise visited El Reno for three days while filming the iconic movie, Rain Man. The hotel, located on Historic Route 66, has since been demolished; but I can remember a 17-year-old me standing across the street with a crowd of people waiting for a glimpse of Cruise and Hoffman. We weren’t disappointed.
And don’t forget Amelia Earheardt, Will Rogers, and even Elvis Presley. In the 1920s, Earheardt flew briefly into the Fort Reno airstrip. As an Oklahoma native, Rogers was known to visit Fort Reno to watch horse races and polo matches; and Elvis Presley is said to have driven through El Reno while taking Historic Route 66 that goes right through the town. Before the construction of I-40, pretty much everyone had to go through El Reno if traveling Route 66.
Yesterday, El Reno welcomed the most distinguished and famous visitor of all: The President of the United States, Barack Obama. In an effort to spread his reform message, Mr. Obama visited the Federal Corrections Facility, a medium-security prison, in El Reno. The entire town was abuzz! It doesn’t matter what your political leanings, there can be no doubt that the welcoming of a sitting president into a small town is nothing short of an honor.
Residents lined streets, flew flags and greeted our president in the only way El Reno knows how: with graciousness and respect. It’s just what we do, and I’m so proud of my small town for the pride and respect shown yesterday.
El Reno Mayor, Matt White, got an up-close-and-personal look at the president as he arrived. Unfortunately, the president’s schedule didn’t allow for a meet-and-greet with our mayor, but who can deny the excitement of being that close to a world leader in our own back yard?
I’m so excited for my hometown and proud to say that I grew up among some of the best people in the world. Though the names have changed and the times are better, they’re still the same people depicted in my novel, The Edge of Nowhere, and the way the residents represented our town yesterday makes me doubly proud to have set my novel in this wonderful town.