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Ponca City Information

Ponca City History

1979

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1979 — The Police Department purchased a Kawasaki police cycle to use for parades, funeral processions, and working traffic. They also received a grant from the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office for five moving radar units installed in patrol cars.

Ponca Playhouse presented “Once Upon A Mattress,” featuring Vikki Cordell, John Campbell, Doris Nesselrode, Rod Trant, Don Menasco, and Skip Ritcheson.

The Salvation Army moved into their new $420,000 Family Social Services Center. It has “family housing” rooms, housing for transients and men in rehabilitation, a thrift store, and offices.

The first shipment of vibrator trucks, manufactured by Mertz for a Chinese firm, left for Houston to then be shipped to China. The $14 million contract was for 76 trucks.

The Wildcat wrestling team won the eastern regional championship. Top award winners at the Take Down Club banquet were Todd Osborn and Karl Lynes. They shared the club’s Most Valuable Wrestler award for their performances over the past two years.

Construction began on Osage Cove at Kaw Lake, with 75 campsites planned.

East Junior High’s 8th grade basketball team won the Northern Jr. High Conference championship.

The terms of city commissioners Bonnie Phillips and Joe Dempewolf were up and both decided not to run again. Filing were George Schwarz Jr. and Howard Jennison for Dempewolf’s position. Jack Leighton, Nolan Horton Jr., and Judy McCurry filed for Phillips position. Leighton and Schwarz were elected.

In March, Howard Blauvelt retired as chairman and chief executive officer of Continental Oil. Ralph E. Bailey succeeded him.
Construction of a new Public Service Center began in July. It was to house a solid waste collection system, the city motor pool, car wash, body shop, machine shop, and gas station for city vehicles. The Sanitation Department, Street Department, and Traffic Engineering would have offices in the new building.

Commissioners Washecheck and Dempewolf met with the school board and the YMCA about the community pool. A fiscal arrangement was made with the YMCA to pay expenses and staff, and the YMCA agreed to run the pool.

April was the largest commercial construction month on record in Ponca City. Total valuation was $8,662,330.

Jack Leighton and George Schwarz Jr., newly elected city commissioners, were sworn in on May 7. They succeeded Joe Dempewolf and Bonnie Phillips.

National Building Center opened their new store at Union and Hartford in May.

Ponca City Youth Symphony, directed by Dan Larson, was selected as Outstanding Youth Symphony at the Tri-State Music Festival in Enid.

The second annual Marland Renaissance Ball at the Marland Mansion added $10,000 to the Restoration Fund.

The city annexed all of the land on the east side of Lake Ponca, including all of the boat docks and picnic area.

Gov. Nigh presented the “Radio Station of the Year Award” to Tom Muchmore, WBBZ news director. The station was honored for its support of programs involving the handicapped.

On June 5, citizens voted down a proposal to change the city charter. The recommended change had been to remove the mayoral power of yearly nomination of city department heads and make it a function of the entire commission.

Warning signs and lights were installed on the South Avenue underpass.

The wrecking ball began the demolition of the 1925 hospital building. It had been empty for eight years because it no longer met federal fire and safety codes.

The Attucks Community started a fund drive to save the Attucks School building, which had been severely damaged by fire. The group hoped to make the building into a community center for the south section of town.

Air Midwest began air carrier service to Ponca City on July 1, replacing Frontier Airlines.

Members of Ambucs built a shelter house at Lake Ponca Park to use as a concession stand for the annual Grand Prix Sports Car Races.

On June 13, the City Commission voted unanimously to terminate City Manager James Walker, effective immediately. The Board appointed Gene Thorpe, Walker’s administrative assistant, as acting city manager.

Cablecom began live broadcasts of city commission meetings in June.

The Po-Hi boys volleyball team won their 8th state championship in 11 years, and went to the national tournament in Los Angeles.

Mrs. Walter Mondale, wife of the vice-president, accepted a painting by Walt Harris, local artist. Titled “All at Once, There Were No More,” the artwork was hung at the White House. Harris described it as “an old man, with an eagle in the background, scowling with a look of question and bewilderment as he looks out into the sun at the empty pasture and realizes the buffalo and eagles are gone.”

The YMCA officially took over management of the Community Pool, with the city assisting in capital repairs.

Out of 60,000 entries, three Garfield students placed first in a nationwide Q-Tips Art Contest, Jean Dodge Lacy. Each received a $1500 U.S. Saving Bond. Winners were Marc Rafferty, Larry Young, and Robby Gentry. Ricky Collins won a second prize, and fourth place went to Deanne Holland, Chad Jones, Angela Witteman, Tammy Collins, David Haddix, Laura Boles, and Darin Kirchenbauer.

State Sen. Gene Stipe was indicted on federal charges in connection with a probe of a defaulted government loan to a McAlester food plant. When asked if he would appear in court, Stipe replied, “I dad-gummed sure will be there, because I haven’t anything to fear or hide.”

The Department of Industrial Development saluted two local firms, Continental Carbon Co. and Braudrick Printery, for their 50th year in business.

Dr. Gene Arrendell closed his office, marking the end of an era in medical history in Ponca City. His father, Dr. C.W., began practice in 1917, and Dr. Gene had been in practice since 1947.

The city received a $500,000 grant from HUD to upgrade housing in moderate and low-income neighborhoods.

American Legion baseball finished an astounding season with a record of 30 wins to 21 losses. Coach John Woody and members of the team accepted the second-place district trophy from Chuck McCollum.

The Conference Center on the Marland Estate opened on August 10. Three statewide conferences and one national were already scheduled.

The second annual Grand National Motocross Championship was held in August, with close to 1,000 riders competing.

St. Mary’s School began its 78th year, with Sister Margaret Clare Mathews in her fifth year as principal.

Grand Marshall Lucyle Richards led the 101 Ranch Rodeo parade. A former World Champion All-Around Cowgirl and women’s saddle bronc champion, she was also one of the original performers with the 101 Ranch Wild West Show.

Over 25 Ponca City physicians and nurses volunteered to give physical examinations to students planning to participate in athletics. The 307 male athletes and 143 female athletes received the physicals in the high school cafeteria.

In order to meet budget requirements, the City Commission scheduled a one-cent sales tax election for September 25. In the event that the sales tax did not pass, the city would need to increase electric rates by ten percent.

Theme for the 1980 United Way campaign was “You Can Be The Sunshine.” The overall goal was $384,896, with Carl Balcer, campaign chairman.

The Wildcats opened their football season against Bartlesville, led by head coach Keni Ray. His staff included Tommy Noles, James Hampton, John Lee, Rocky Yocam, Rusty Benson, and John Woody. The Cats won the game, 14-6.

In September, E. Lee Brown, immediate past president of the Ponca City Industrial Foundation, was named “Oklahoma Industrial Development Volunteer of the Year.” Brown had been instrumental in assisting Huffy Corporation and Precision Tool and Die Company to locate in Ponca City.

Herman J. (Smitty) Smith was awarded the National DAR Outstanding Citizen Award. Mrs. Gerald Sober, Ponca City Chapter Regent, presented the award.

Ponca Playhouse board members conducted their annual membership drive. Productions for the season were Thornton Wilder’s “The Matchmaker”, “Send Me No Flowers”, “The Diary of Anne Frank”, and “Beginner’s Luck.” Scottie Eatherly was in charge of the drive, and Phil Bandy was president of the board.

On September 25, voters overwhelmingly approved a proposal to raise the city sales tax by one cent rather than face a hike in electric bills. The final tally showed 80.2% for and 19.8% against.

In October, the new Huffy bicycle manufacturing plant was under construction on the west edge of Ponca City. Investment in the new facility was $16 million. They planned to employ 400, adding $5 million in payroll to the community.

Eagle Plating Corp. announced they were moving to Ponca City. The company purchased a 20,000 square foot building from Titus plus six acres in the Industrial Airport Park. The firm did nickel chrome plating for metal parts fabricated by Huffy Corp. They planned to employ 50 to 75 people.

In October, the Marland Mansion was officially named a National Historic Landmark. Application had been made in 1977.

Southwestern Bell changed over to a new electronic system in October, with an investment of $3.5 million. Customers could now use touch-tone telephones.

After a month of deliberation, the City Commission announced that Gene Thorpe would be named as city manager. He had been with the city for a year and had served as acting city manager since the board terminated James Walker. He was chosen from 45 applicants.

Gregg’s True Value Hardware combined the two hardware stores into one location on North First Street.

For the second straight year, Ponca Wildcats defeated the Enid Plainsmen and won a berth in the state football playoffs.

On November 20, the city received 11 inches of rain. It was the heaviest rain in 50 years. The downstream end of Lake Ponca spillway was torn to pieces by a volume of water measured at four feet above the structure.

Commissioner Bob Ferguson visited the regional headquarters of the Economic.

Development Administration, and was assured that a federal grant for construction of water and sewer lines to the Huffy Bicycle plant site was expected soon. The new plant expected to produce in excess of one million bicycles per year. Huffy was the largest manufacturer of bicycles in the U.S.

Ponca City’s Wildcat wrestlers started their season by battering 10th-ranked Blackwell 56-4 in the high school fieldhouse.

Grace Memorial Chapel observed its 25th anniversary in December.

The state civil defense director came in December to inspect the flood damaged Lake Ponca spillway and roads and bridges throughout the county. Damage estimates totaled $1.3 million.

John Crawford and William E.N. Doty were co-recipients of the Inventor of the Year award for the State of Oklahoma. They had developed the Vibroseis seismic exploration system while working in the Exploratory Research Division of Conoco.

The Wildcats produced one of their best records in the 1979 football season, finishing with 9 wins and 3 losses.

New construction at Mertz, Inc. increased the total square footage of the company to 325,000. The new addition was an assembly area for vibrators, which were shipped all over the world.

Gasohol, a mixture of 90% unleaded gasoline and 10% ethyl alcohol, went on sale in Ponca City in early December. Jeff Marks of Long’s Conoco, 301 N. First Street, said the gasohol would sell for two to three cents a gallon more than unleaded gasoline, but would burn cleaner and increase gas mileage.

The Wildcat wrestling team won their own Po-Hi Festival quadrangular meet by beating Putnam City West. The Poncans also beat Lawton 48-9 and Pawhuska 55-3. Chris Humble led the way with three falls at 178 pounds.