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Train kept a-rollin’

From the early 1920s until the mid- 1950s, my grandmother made her home at the intersection of N.W. 11th Street and Shartel Avenue. In the mid-1950s, she bought a new home in the 400 block of N.W. 43rd. As a child, I sometimes spent the night at her homes — as a very young boy on Shartel and later on N.W. 43rd Street.

It could be said that men my age have fleeting, and sometimes inaccurate, memories of themselves at those ages.

But I remember with complete clarity the nights in those homes when a haunting, mournful, yet beautifully rich sound issued across the dark night skies of Oklahoma City. The one I remember most clearly occurred at about 4:30 in the morning. It woke me, to be sure, but the sound passed quickly, and sleep once again dominated my mind. In the morning, I would get up and, while showering or shaving, remember that mournful sound with great affection.

It was, of course, the sound of a train’s whistle as it passed various crossings ranging from downtown to the northern limits of the metroplex.

I loved that sound, and still do. So I read, with some regret, that a movement was under way to eradicate that sound (News, Tim Farley, “Quiet, please,” June 5, Oklahoma Gazette). I knew that the movement would succeed, and that another minor, yet subtly pleasant, aspect of growing up and living in Oklahoma City would disappear.

I knew that after that sound disappeared, we would be one step closer to hearing nothing more than the sad and empty silence of a population that lived for nothing more than the real estate deal, the stock exchange transaction, the mineral lease rights agreement, the monthly board meeting, the weekly golf game ... and all the other silences that define the myopic and ultimately dull lives of the monetarily obsessed.

In the moments that this sound softly permeated the room in which I slept, I fantasized about traveling on that train to distant places and altogether unique spaces that existed where those rail lines led. And I fell asleep again to dream the dreams of voyagers to far, distant lands.

Go ahead; create a “quiet zone.” All you will truly be creating is a hole in the fabric of life.

—John Smelser Oklahoma City

Sour note

As feared, the Zoo Amphitheatre does not have a Summer/Fall lineup as of June 12. In past years, under the Zoo Amp’s previous management, I already could have planned what concerts I would attend over the next four to five months at the Zoo. Now the people of OKC have nothing?

So, now, instead of our beloved Zoo, we are being offered the Downtown Airpark; what the heck is that? Maybe they will drag out their rickety, worn-out Ferris wheel to attract attendees.

Shame on the zoo trustees for turning this over to casino promoters, who could not compete with the Zoo Amp, so they bought it — a classic business strategy.

OKC has never been a concert mecca, and losing the Zoo lineup brings us closer to being a musical wasteland. With all of the positive things happening in OKC, this loss is a real step backward.

Will the last person to leave the Zoo please turn out the lights?

—Blake Gibb Oklahoma City