7 August 2004
Saturday spottings (with vegetables)
I was threading my way back from Sears' repair location, which is tucked away southwest of the Capitol complex, and eventually I found myself at 23rd and Classen, where Beverly's Restaurant had been bulldozed into oblivion to make way for the city's 726th Walgreens store.
Beverly's, of course, was an Oklahoma City staple for years, and their Chicken in the Rough was briefly franchised to other eateries. And while this location had been closed for some time, Beverly's Pancake Corner, west of Penn Square, still serves breakfast and lunch, so it's not the end of an era. Yet.
Besides, it could have been worse. Walgreens at first tried to get a different corner of this intersection: the one occupied by the Gold Dome.
North of 23rd, the new Asian District signage is in place, white on red in the sort of font one expects to find in ads for Chinese restaurants. A letter to The Oklahoman last week complained about the whole idea:
Since when can Oklahoma City Councilman Sam Bowman and his steering committee decide for the city to allow people to put up signs designating a certain district for a certain group of people? Will the Chamber of Commerce and other city leaders let Hispanics and any other group decide to put up signs on city property to claim a certain district?
The chamber's Drew Dugan says putting a brand on a district gives the business owners "pride." He may see it that way, but I don't think the majority of the citizens would agree. Why segregate an area for any group of people? I thought we were getting away from identifying any group of people from everyone else.
Which is a reasonable point, but identifying a mile of Classen Boulevard as an Asian District hardly constitutes segregation. For one thing, it's not a reflection of housing patterns; Americans of Asian descent live all over the city and in the suburbs, not just around this area. For another well, Tom Waken, who owns property on Classen and elsewhere, and who sits on the Asian District Commission, sent this to the Mid-City Advocate:
The Asian business people staked out Classen Blvd. in 1975.... they are responsible for bringing Classen from a dying area to a place where business is thriving and property owners and business owners are paying more taxes into the city's treasury than they were previously.
I am for any ethnic group who will build up our great city to proudly display their own district with their signs. It is good for everyone who lives in Oklahoma City.
And that initial arrival of Asian-owned businesses got this area, and the strip of 23rd just to its east, known informally as "Little Saigon," a name which has persisted all these years; it's not like anyone should be at all surprised by this.
Will we eventually see Latino (around, say, SW 29th and Western), African-American (NE 23rd and Martin Luther King), even gay (NW 39th and Pennsylvania) districts? I'm thinking we will, and I'm thinking it's just fine with me.Posted at 12:21 PM to City Scene