Sunday, March 08, 2009

Cruising the Oklahoma City Concourse

In writing about life in downtown Oklahoma City during the last oil boom, I mentioned the Concourse. The Concourse was a tunnel system connecting all the major buildings in downtown OKC, originally created to provide workers with a way of avoiding the city’s weather that is often inclement. It grew into much more than just an underground pathway.

During the oil boom, the city leaders decided there was room for retail development underground. Texas Oil and Gas, the company I worked for, had offices in the Midland Center and you could enter the Concourse from a stairway on the ground floor there.

The tunnel system was simply a dimly lit concrete pathway with a colorful carpet on the floor. The system of tunnels snaked in all directions and it was easy to lose your bearings – especially if you had just visited one of the many clubs and partaken of their liquor-by-the-wink. Purchasing alcohol, at the time, was illegal anywhere except a liquor store.

Retail clothing establishments, a jewelry store, a fast food kiosk, two barbershops and other businesses soon began to thrive. Several combination restaurants occupied space in the Concourse, among them the Bull and the Bear, the Brigadoon, and the most notorious underground establishment of them all, the Depot.

The Depot was a dark saloon masquerading as a restaurant and it is true that the place sold as much booze as it did chicken fries. Its main draw was the gorgeous and friendly waitresses dressed in skimpy outfits. The drinks were strong and at any time of the day or night, half the downtown Oklahoma City oil industry congregated there.

My former business partner, John and I had an engineer. Those days preceded the age of cell phones and we began noticing music and noise in the background when Nick called in a report. We soon realized that he was reporting from his “office” in the Depot rather than one of our oil wells out in the sticks.

The Depot was dark and loud and if I told you that I had witnessed a sex act performed on an adjacent table, I would be lying. I actually saw more than one, and I imagine they were a common occurrence in some of the back corner booths.

During the oil boom of the eighties, Oklahoma City emulated the wildest of any past boomtown, and the Oklahoma City Concourse the very epicenter of wildness.

This past oil boom saw none of the excesses of the eighties oil boom and there was no place, at least to my knowledge, as wild and crazy as the Depot. I am glad that I experienced the boom and all its excesses while it existed, but most of all I am glad that I survived the experience.

Eric's Website

No comments: