Julie

Preston, Oklahoma USA

Who are you and what do you do?
'I work at Green Country Technology Center in Okmulgee as Marketing Director. I graduated from Okmulgee High which is 6 miles to the south, but I married a Preston boy so that's how I ended up living here. Also, my mother, grandparents, and great-grandparents lived and were raised in Preston so I have a long history of family with this town, as well.

So, the town of Preston started off as a Railroad stop called Hamilton Switch. Really just a small stop in the middle of nowhere 30 miles south of Tulsa, Oklahoma. During around 1909 oil was discovered in Preston and overnight it became an oil boom town with bars, hotels, banks, shops. They renamed the town Preston for Okmulgee oilman Harry Preston. My great-grandparents (Jenks and Effie Rhodes) came to Preston from Yellville Arkansas in the early 1900s to capitalize on the oil business. My grandfather worked wells and later opened up a service station in town. Unfortunately the oil boom was short-lived and just as soon as they came, everyone left and by the late 1900s Preston was mostly a ghost town.

Today Preston is a small unincorporated community that has a highly acclaimed school system in our county, several churches, a small convenience store, a post office, our rural water department to pay our water bills, and a feed store. And that is all. During my lifetime there never has really been any businesses in Preston. However, when my son was in high school, someone renovated the old church into a restaurant called the 'Dug Out'. He worked there for a bit. It lasted a few years and then closed.

The community of Preston is about three blocks by three blocks in size. There is no mail delivery in town so you have to go get your mail at the Post Office. I live across the highway in a more rural area of Preston, as do many people. Lots of people have moved here for the schools and for the quiet country living, so there are a lot of people who live in the surrounding area.'

Why do you choose to live in Preston?
'Those of us who remain here do so because our ancestors lived here and also because it's a nice quiet little country place to live. It's close to Okmulgee (six miles) and Tulsa (thirty miles) for commuters.

My brother and I recently purchased the house that my mother and grandparents lived in growing up in Preston. When my grandmother passed away twenty years ago the home was sold. There was a big rock in the front yard that we called the Easter Rock because every Easter we would take family pictures there. After the house was sold my husband moved that big boulder to our house east of town so we could carry on the Easter photo tradition. I have pictures of my mother (who is eighty-five) sitting on that rock as a baby.'

What's your favourite place in Preston and why?
'It's probably my grandmother's house (that we own now). Sitting in the backyard, I remember the men playing horseshoes there, not being able to hear each other as the train went by. I can also remember lots of Easters and holidays with lots of family.'

What is Preston proud of?
'Everyone knows each other here. The town revolves around the activities and sports of Preston School. They are renowned across the state for small school basketball championships. People from all over the county try to get their kids transferred to Preston because of their successful sports programmes. All, while making students follow the rules and say 'yes sir' and 'yes ma'am'.'

Tell us something about Preston that people won't know?
'I guess our claim to fame is that we are the home of actor Will Sampson, who was the very large Native American in 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" with Jack Nicholson. He was also in Poltergeist and several westerns. I actually live on Will Sampson Road in Preston. He went to school with my mom in the 50s.'