The Town that Built Me

Yesterday I finished the line-edits for my novel, The Edge of Nowhere.  Phew!  I can’t tell you what a relief that was to finally send that document back to the editor!  This process is seriously moving along!

Of all the edits I’ve done up to this point, this one was the most fun, as well as the most heartbreaking.  Why?  It was fun because I was aided in my journey by a new friend from El Reno.  Her mother is widely accepted as the “expert on all things historical in El Reno,” and so Lea (my new friend) helped me to get last-minute answers from her very busy mother regarding El Reno landmarks.  I just can’t thank her and her mother enough.  The changes I  made to clarify specific landmarks have left me enormously pleased with the finished novel and I can’t wait for people to read it!

So why was it heartbreaking?  I guess because — while I knew I was homesick — I didn’t realize the level of homesick I was.  While I enjoy Minnesota I miss Oklahoma and, specifically, El Reno.  It’s the town that built me.

I was home in June, but it just wasn’t “enough.”  As I was working with Lea on the El Reno landmarks, my heart began to ache.  All of those places I’d taken for granted so many years before are now almost painful to remember.

      • My Aunt Gerry’s house on South Ellison, across from the Methodist Church.  I wonder who lives there now.
      • Going to Ellen Delana’s grandmother’s beautiful home to perform with the vocal music class — though it may be larger and more epic in my memory, at the time it seemed like a mansion.
    • Dragging Sunset on a Friday or Saturday night — I’m told the kids don’t do that anymore.
    • The Goff House — I remember how beautiful it was, even before it was restored.  I always wanted to live there.

      “Goff House” by MisterBadmoon – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons –
    • The old El Reno Hotel — I remember when they moved it from its original location near downtown to its current location (near the history center?).  If memory serves, I think it was originally owned and run by Mrs. Catherine Lemon’s mother.  I can still see Mrs. Lemon in my mind — surely in her 90s and stooped with age.  She was so proud when they moved that building and declared it an historic site!

      “El Reno Hotel” by Crimsonedge34 – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons –
    • The old Rock Island Railroad — before it went defunct, I remember my middle brother working for them.  They’d call the house when they needed him to work, so we always had to keep the phone lines open.  OH THE FIGHTS over my pre-teen need to use the phone while he was waiting for a phone call that would send him to work. 
Old Rock Island Train, circa 1880
Old Rock Island Train, circa 1880
    • The Carnegie Library — Oh how I miss that building!  Not only is it beautiful and historic, but I spent many long hours there and have fond memories.  Remember Mrs. Diane Costin?  She saved my butt my freshman summer of college when I waited until the 11th hour to complete a huge research paper.  I told her what I was looking for, she showed me where the information was, and then continued to pile reference material on the table I was working throughout that long day.  That woman was a saint, and I made an A on that research paper!

      “Carnegie Library El Reno Oklahoma” by MisterBadmoon – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons –
  • El Reno High School — even today I find the building to be the most beautiful of any high school I’ve ever seen.

    “ElRenoHighSchool” by MisterBadmoon – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

So many memories, and they all leave a huge hole in my heart.

Working with Lea, all of these landmarks came flashing back.  And then I thought about the people — I’d almost forgotten how wonderful the people can be.  I put a simple shout-out on an El Reno-based message board on Facebook and, within minutes, I had dozens of responses and a half dozen new friend requests.  It was awesome!  El Reno people seldom see a stranger, and a person in need quickly goes from acquaintance to friend.  Just one more reason I’m once again thrilled with my decision to base my novel in my hometown.  El Reno residents represent the best of Oklahoma.

I’m excited about the release of my novel, and I hope I’ve done justice to the people and places in El Reno.  I’ve been gone for nearly thirty years, but I think I’d go back tomorrow if given the chance.

So what’s next on the book front?  In the next few days, my publisher — Penner Publishing — should be revealing the final cover.  I can only tell you that it’s absolutely beautiful and I’m so happy with it!  After that, I expect it should go on pre-order fairly soon through major booksellers like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc.  If you’d like to be kept completely in the loop, sign up for my newsletter by following THIS LINK.  Subscribers to my newsletter will not only receive the information FIRST, but will also have first dibs on information about contests, release parties, book signings, etc. You can also follow my author page on Facebook by using THIS LINK.

January 19th is right around the corner!

Embedded Music:  The House That Built Me
Copyright by Miranda Lambert from her 2009 album, Revolution.
Click Image on left to purchase from iTunes

13 responses to “The Town that Built Me”

  1. ♡ for our hometown ! How exciting ! Cannot wait to get to read your book ! Good luck with all your endeavors !

    Liked by 1 person

  2. David Blanton EHS '68 Avatar
    David Blanton EHS ’68

    My mother, Greta Carter was born in El Reno in 1920. Family home was on Ellison, recently renovated. Greta married Bill Blanton. My brother, sister and I graduated from EHS. Many friends, some still there, DeLanas, Stevensons, Gibsons, Granthams, etc. Have onion fried burgers and conies from Johnny’s or Sid’s when home. Many nights dragging on Sunset between Jobes and bowling alley. Great place to grow up.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Are you still there, David? I’m almost certain that I’ve heard of your dad before. And Oh I recognize so many of the names you’ve mentioned.

      Funny story about Sid’s: I took my daughter there when I was home two years ago. Well, you know how it looks like a dive on the outside? I had to force them to eat there (well, my daughter, anyway. Her friend refused). The rest of the trip, my daughter was craving Sid’s food. When I returned last summer with my daughter in tow, it’s the only thing she wanted…Sids. LOL!


  3. Billy Jack Williams Avatar
    Billy Jack Williams

    I was born there and while I never got the pleasure of living there, that I can remember because I was so young, I do remember summers going back and visiting my grandma and aunts and uncles and cousins and eating at the little white building on the corner the hamburgers and conies are awesome and still are . Going to Hensley’s and listening to all the stories from my folks about them growing up there and since they are all mostly gone it brings happy tears and a longing for the past

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know the feeling!! There aren’t many towns like El Reno left, I don’t think!

      It’s hard losing people – we just have to keep them alive in our memories and pass their stories down so they aren’t forgotten.


  4. One grandfather was the warden at the Reformatory (the Institution Nation as I called it). I lived at the warden’s residence with my mom for the first two
    years of my life while my dad was in England in WWII. Other grandfather
    was born at Ft. Reno in 1892 and worked on the railroad from age 15 until
    age 65. Wonderful place. Still have mom, sister, aunts, uncles, and cousins
    there. The Blantons are also good friends. Bob and I were the state runner-up
    tennis champs in 1962. We also played basketball for the legendary Jenks Simmons.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re the second person to mention the Blantons to me, and I swear I know the name. I’ve been gone so long that I don’t remember who I actually knew, and who I knew because they were part of El Reno. If that makes sense.

      You played for Jenks Simmons??? That’s awesome!! Is the field house still named in his honor?


      1. Yes. Layton Perry also played on Jenk’s basketball team as well as the tennis team.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Great place to grow up. Many friends and memories.
    Don’t forget to mention Ann Garner or Leslie Roblyer. So much history.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh my gosh! Mr. Robyler! Don’t get me started on him!!! I could fill pages upon pages of how much I loved and admired that man!!!


  6. Cathy "Perkins" Roland Avatar
    Cathy “Perkins” Roland

    I grew up there and finished a year and a half of college at the JUCO….which it was called back then before it became Redlands! I often tell anyone that listens what a great place it was to grow up and I wish my kids could have experienced the atmosphere we had…..very fond memories of our little town!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I did some classes at the JUCO, too, back in the late ’80s.

      ER was a really good place to grow up. I’m just sad that I didn’t realize that when I was a kid.


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