Continuing my ongoing series about the “Easter Eggs” contained in The Edge of Nowhere, I’d like to talk a bit about the landmarks found within the novel. For today’s post, I’ll focus on those landmarks found within the city of El Reno, and tomorrow I’ll continue this train of thought with the farms “East of Town” that are located in what locals should know as the community of Banner.
I think it’s no surprise by now that the town of El Reno holds a special place in my heart. When I sat down to write The Edge of Nowhere, there was simply never any other place that ever entered my mind for the setting. El Reno was where my father grew up, and where many of the actual events would’ve taken place. So, for the “in town” scenes of this book, El Reno was always the only choice.
Though this book was inspired by several actual events, most of the supporting characters in this book are are a product of my imagination. Certainly the characters of Mother Elizabeth and Father Caleb, Dr. Heusman, Victoria’s parents, Earl and Juliane (Kirk) Stanley, Atticus and Veronica Harrison, Imogene and Walter Harrison, Gene Blanchard, the Delaney Sisters, and Dale Greene were all a figment of my imagination. As a result, their homes didn’t exist. With that said, I absolutely had specific homes and landmarks in mind when I wrote this book. So, while none of the homes or landmarks are truly significant in a “real” way to the story, most of them do exist.
THE HOME OF DR. HEUSMAN
The home of Dr. Heusman was, in my mind, the old Judge Fogg home in El Reno. This stately mansion, located on South Hoff in El Reno, is what I think of first when I think of an old Southern Mansion. This two-story (multi-story?) home includes the beautiful columns that remind me of true Southern architecture. Somewhere in the basement is a tunnel that, I’ve heard, leads to the home next door. The current owners, Charlotte and Jim Murphy (Mrs. Murphy, the granddaughter of the home’s namesake) purchased it several years ago after it had fallen into terrible disrepair, but they have painstakingly returned it to its once former grandeur. It’s a home that I’d give anything to have an opportunity to see inside. This beautiful home — maybe the most beautiful in El Reno — could only be the home of the town’s most respected and affluent citizen in my novel, Dr. Heusman.
Take a look at the lovely images of this home below. They come courtesy of El Reno resident, Traci Tucker, who graciously answered my request for images that I could use for this blog. If you’d like to know more about this home and the renovation by the Murphys, you can use THIS LINK to a YouTube video that shows the home, talks about its history, and the beautiful renovations.
THE HOME OF THE DELANEY SISTERS
Sadly, I don’t have a photo of the home that was the inspiration for the Delaney Sisters. It’s actually the the home where a high school classmate’s grandmother resided during my youth. I only visited the home once or twice, but I remember being awestruck by its beauty. Each year, this classmate’s grandmother hosted an afternoon Christmas party in her home and would invite one of the vocal music classes from nearby El Reno High School to perform as entertainment. As a teen, I remember being awed by the beauty of this home, and it’s something I’ve never been able to get out of my head. I remember it having a “great room” that was large enough for the lady’s guests (maybe twenty or so friends that may’ve been members of her ladies group) and the additional twenty or thirty of us from the vocal music class. It was decorated elegantly, yet “warmly,” and — at that time — was the largest home I’d ever entered. For that reason, this home made an appearance as the home of the Sisters Delaney and, as tribute to the original owners, I borrowed part of their last name in the naming of the Delaney Sisters. The Easter Egg in this is for anyone in El Reno who knows who I’m referring to…if you grew up in El Reno during the 80s, it shouldn’t be too difficult.
THE SOUTHERN HOTEL
The Southern Hotel in El Reno really does exist and, though I’m told it’s not in the best condition today, was truly one of the nicest and most modern in the state when constructed. Below is an image of the Southern Hotel taken in the last thirty years. Though I can’t find an image to confirm, I’m told that there are currently efforts under way to restore this structure to its previous grandeur.
Incidentally, I found this really interesting article on NewsOk that talks about The Southern Hotel at its construction. You can find out more through THIS LINK.
Though I don’t have permission to “reprint” an image of the hotel in it’s grandeur, here’s a LINK to a postcard which shows what the hotel looked like in its heyday.
THE HOME OF MOTHER ELIZABETH AND FATHER CALEB
I never had an exact location or house consciously in my mind to represent the home of Father Caleb and Mother Elizabeth, but I find it interesting that my favorite home in El Reno happens to be in roughly the right spot and looks vaguely what I imagined in my head. To be honest, I’d actually forgotten that this house existed, since it’s been so long since I’ve been home; but, in my teen years, it was my favorite house in El Reno. It was quite a surprise, then, to “know” generally where the fictional home of the Kirks was located, vaguely what it looked like, but not have an exact home or street in my consciousness, and then to later stumble upon The Goff Home after I’d written the novel. Not only does it look similar to what I had in mind for the Kirks, but the location is spot-on for where I imagined it in my head. So, while it wasn’t premeditated, I think The Goff Home located on South Evans represents very well where they might’ve lived, and the style of home they might’ve had. In fact, I can’t help but wonder if it wasn’t somehow in my subconscious when I was writing.
In my childhood, The Goff House was in terrible disrepair with broken windows and peeling paint. And yet, it was still so beautiful and I wanted so badly to someday own that home and restore it. Sometime after I left El Reno, someone did just that and it was restored to its original beauty, as you can see from the image above.
ST. JOHN’S METHODIST EPICSCOPAL CHURCH
St. John’s Methodist Episcopal Church is actually the predecessor to what is today known as Wesley United Methodist Church. I don’t recall the details, but the church was located on a different spot in the first part of the 1900s, but right around 1920, the congregation built a new building at the corner of Barker and Woodson where the current Wesley United Methodist Church now stands. All of this information I found on the website for Wesley United Methodist Church, which has since been removed with the updating of their website. Sadly, I don’t know if the current structure is the same as it was in the 1920s, but you can follow THIS LINK to see an image of old part of the building as it appears today. From the architecture, I assume this part of the building is the part that was built in the very early 1920s, and may well look much like it did when Victoria married Will Harrison. I do not have permission to use the photographer’s image on my website.
THE ROCK ISLAND RAILROAD
The Rock Island Railroad did exist, and was a big part of what kept the economy in El Reno thriving. In fact, I can’t imagine an authentic period novel set in El Reno not including at a least a mention of the Rock Island Railroad. Sadly, the line went defunct in the early 1980s.
When I was a child, my older brother worked for the Rock Island. I remember how he’d wait all day for that phone call that would send him to work, and how frustrated he became at all of us who needed to use the phone while he waited. Many sibling fights were started between the two of us at my adolescent need to talk to my friends on the phone, versus his need to get a paycheck. Back in those days, we had a party line, which only exacerbated the situation. For those who don’t know, a party line is one where several homes each have their own distinct phone number but share the same “line.” If one of your neighbors on the party line is using the phone, then none of the homes on that same line can use it. A very antiquated way of having a phone line, and I’m not at all sorry at the development of private lines and then mobile phones!
Lincoln School did exist in the 1930s and, for locals, it was not in the location where many of my El Reno classmates went to school. In fact, it’s my understanding that the school underwent at least one transformation before its recent demolition by the city. The original Lincoln School was located, I believe, just north of Etta Dale Junior High on the same plot of land where the high school marching band used to practice. I believe this land has recently been used to build a tornado storm shelter for the school and community.
Though I was unable to find a reproducible image of Lincoln School, it appeared exactly as I described it in the book; and the architecture reminds me of El Reno High School, making me wonder if it might’ve had the same architect. Sadly, the original Lincoln School burned to the ground and was rebuilt at a different location. Because the architecture of Lincoln School is so similar to El Reno High School (though on a much smaller scale), I’m including an image of my favorite building in El Reno — The El Reno High School. If the story had continued into another five or six years, this is where Victoria’s children would’ve attended high school. They just don’t make buildings like this anymore!
A MAP OF THE LANDMARKS
Are you interested in the locations of some of the homes and landmarks mentioned in The Edge of Nowhere? Below is a map that can help you get a visual idea. The green squares for El Reno High School and Etta Dale Junior High School are simply identified to help locals get a better glimpse of where things were in history in relationship to where certain buildings are currently located.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into the landmarks that make up The Edge of Nowhere. If there’s something specific you’d like to know about the book or landmarks, leave me a comment below. If you’re just joining me and are interested in knowing more about this novel, you can use THIS LINK to find a synopsis. If you enjoyed today’s Easter Eggs and would like more, you can use THIS LINK to catch up on previous editions.
And don’t forget to come back tomorrow to learn about the landmarks found “East of Town.”
The Edge of Nowhere is now available in e-book and paperback formats, and will soon be available as an audiobook. To purchase a copy of this novel, select your favorite retailer from the list below. And Enjoy!