View Full Version : Springlake

Doug Loudenback
04-03-2007, 04:49 AM
These are some of the images (larger view are at my blog post). The post is not "done" (as if any of them ever are) but the following gives the drift ... All Images (except the last) were supplied by Norman Thompson if you copy any of the images, please give him credit.

The Intro begins ...


This is as yet an incomplete post but I've been tardy about getting it started after Norman Thompson generously sent me a whole CD full of Springlake images (more than 300) that had come his/his family's way following the deaths of Roy Staton, and, later, his son, Marvin Staton. As will be more properly descirbed when this post is more complete, Roy Staton was the founder of Springlake in the 1920s. Although the much-more-than-an-amusement-park no longer exists, its memory is honored by the presence of the Metro-Tech educatonal facility in its stead on Martin Luther King Boulevard around NE 36th Street and thereabouts and, as well, in the memory of some of us old geezers.

A snippet from an article at Oklahoma Historical Society ( gives this overview:

Oklahoma City boasted three amusement parks in the mid-twentieth century: Wedgewood, Springlake, and Frontier City. In 1924, after his spring-fed pond in northeast Oklahoma City had been open to swimming and picnicking for six years, Roy Staton built a swimming pool there. Later expanding his park, he bought many of the rides from the defunct Belle Isle Park, built a ballroom, and in 1929 added the Big Dipper roller coaster, a fixture in the park for almost fifty years. The height of Springlake's popularity extended from the 1950s into the 1960s, and the park attracted top entertainers of the era including Johnny Cash, the Righteous Brothers, Roy Acuff, and Conway Twitty. A large riot that erupted in 1971 in the park, between whites and blacks, frightened away potential customers and hastened Springlake's demise. A change of ownership, poor maintenance, and fire led to the park's 1981 sale to the Oklahoma City Vo-Tech Board, which closed Springlake for good.

Some of the pics in the post are ...

Aerial Views From Days Gone By

Babes In The Mirror

In The Pool ... Little Girls ...

... Hunks ...

... Wanna Be Hunks ...

... And Big Girls ...

Of Course, There Was The BIG Dipper

Concerts & Famous People

Local TV Personalities Were There

3-D Danny (Williams)

Tom Paxton


People Just Having Fun

Bumper Cars


Merry Go Round

The Pool Again and Sun Bathing Areas

Sad to say, even after 1964, the swimming pool was for Whites only. That fact naturally led to protests, as rightly it should. William Boone, Springlake Park: An Oklahoma City Playground Remembered, Volume 69 1991, No. 1, Chronicles of Oklahoma, pp. 4 ~ 25., describes the sad days which are part of our lore:

Springlake was affected not only by the legal an social changes of the time, but also by a particular change in the city's demography. Once located in an all-white section of the city, the park figuratively became a white island in a black sea. Prior to the 1950s, Oklahoma City's black residents lived mainly on the city's near northeast side, south of Twenty-third Street. By the mid-1950s black families had moved northward into the immediate vicinity of Springlake park. Ruthie Forshee, a black woman residing on Springlake Drive in the mid-1950s, remembered watching the park's Independence Day fireworks display from her yard. She was not welcome to participate in a celebration to commemorate her nation's freedom.

No longer reluctant to enter the park after 1964, blacks began to enjoy the same attractions white had enjoyed for decades. However, there remained an area of the park where blaks still were not welcome. Although many whites were willing to share the park's midway with blacks, sharing the swimming pool was quite another matter. Clearly, Staton could not lawfully deny blacks access to the pool, but if he let blacks in, he risked losing many whte patrons. Faced with a dilemma, his choice of action did not come easy.

To avoid a clash between whites and blacks over the pool issue, Staton closed the pool to everyone except the members of an exclusive Aquatic Club, an evasive policy he soon abandoned. When Wedgewood Park opened its pool to everyone, Staton had little choice but to lift the membership requirement. Finally integrated, Springlake's pool, open since 1924, closed forever after the 1967 season. It became a Sea-Acquarium, where dolphins frolicked in water once reserved for humans. The lost revenue from the swimming pool would be sorely missed in the years to come.

With racial integration of the swimming pool no longer an issue, Springlake's management hoped that black and white patrons wold learn to enjoy the park together. Their hopes were in vain. After only a few years, the unwillingness of the races to mix peacefully spelled disaster for the park. The headlines of the city's newspapaers told the story.

Springlake's gates swung open on April 11, 1971, admitting visitors to the park's annual opening on Easter Sunday, just as they had done for the previous forty-five seasons. Park officials had no reason to believe that the crowd would be anything other than pecaceful and orderly. According to one newspaper account, trouble began late in the evening when a rumor spread through the racially-mixed crowd that a white youth had been pushed by a black youth off the Big Dipper. The rumor triggered one of the worst civil disturbances in Oklhaoma City's history.

This being the lone graphic in this post not supplied by Norman Thompson, it tells all that needs to be said or seen about once happy, then sad, days gone by:

Oklahoman Front Page 4/11/1971

As said in the beginning, the park was sold to the City in 1981. It is now the the premises of of a fine Metro-Tech education facility.

04-03-2007, 04:53 AM
Cool pictures, Doug!

04-03-2007, 07:16 AM

My mom told stories of this park when she was young... what a cool read..

Thanks, as always Doug!

04-03-2007, 02:09 PM
Man, my mom will go nuts when I tell her about this thread.

When I was a kid, my dad worked for Western Electric (nee AT&T/Lucent Technologies in the now empty building at 7725 W Reno), and they had their company picnics at Springlake at least once. I remember going there on a beautiful summer day, and my mom had won a small hand-held vacuum cleaner in a bingo game played that day. While I have vague recollections of being there other times, that one sticks out; sadly, it's the only truly vivid one other than the park closing.


04-03-2007, 02:44 PM
I had two or three aunts (moms sisters) that worked at Springlake. I went there regularly as a kid. They got me in and onto everything I could ride at my age. My favorite of everything was the funhouse. Especially the slide. I was 12 when the park closed and I don't remember the pool at all.

Funny though, I remember the pool at Wedgewood but don't remember the park at all.

04-03-2007, 02:49 PM
where was this located at? also, does anyone know what happened to the big dipper?

04-03-2007, 03:54 PM
It was on MLK a little south of the Omniplex, but on the west side.

Doug Loudenback
04-03-2007, 06:28 PM
These aerials show the location of Metrotech which should be the same as Springlake, immediately West of ML King north of NE 38 and south of NE 44, per the aerial maps of Metrotech below.

Doug Loudenback
04-05-2007, 11:40 AM
The blog post has been updated with 10-12 new pics and more text. Importantly, toward the end, following the "Riot" headline in the Oklahoman, this is added:

Since writing the original post a few days ago, it has come to my attention that The Oklahoman's account, above, may have been seriously exaggerated and, perhaps, some parts imagined and not true. If I learn more about that possibility, I'll certainly state what I learn here, but it certainly is true that our market contained only one newspaper at the time and that it was very powerful.

In June 1971, the following ad was run in The Oklahoman 3 times that I saw this morning (4/5/07), similar ads in June 1972 and July and August 1974, and perhaps other occasions that I did not notice.

Whether the Oklahoman article was true, false, or something in-between, its impact was done.