OKC to Amarillo in 8 hours: That was a record time in 1917 driving on the Ozark Trail

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MANGUM, OKLAHOMA -- They started on a June morning in 1917 heading from Oklahoma City to Amarillo, Texas.

Mangum boys Clay Hall and Dick Merryman had a brand new Buick and a new road to travel, The Ozark Trail.

They made the trip in less than 8 hours at an unheard of speed for the time.

"They averaged over 40MPH over gravel roads," says historian Stephen Dock.

Dock is the director of the Old Greer County Museum in Mangum.

He's done a lot of research on the movement in the early 1900's to build good roads for cars.

An association calling itself the Ozark Trail convinced towns and cities to compete, each building their own sections of reliable, gravel roads.

"You couldn't say, 'I'm gonna do it," says Dock. "You had to have your road built and then they would come out in competition."

If your section of road won out the OT association would place markers along your route and granite monoliths at some of the crossroads.

In late June of 1917 organizers held a big convention in Amarillo to award the western routes.

Clay Hall and Dick Merryman, and two other friends they'd picked up in Mangum, made the most of their trip.

Dock figures they were all pretty hung over by the time this picture was taken with their OT hats on crooked.

"15,000 people," says Dock. "And then they all got up and gave their speeches about why they should have the route for them."

The good times lasted until the federal and state highway departments started numbering highways.

Route 66, Highway 9, they used the Ozark Trail route.

There are remnants of course, a bridge to nowhere buried in brush near Arcadia, one of the old crossroads markers near Stroud, and a dusty road paved with stories of how the car became king.

The big OT convention held in Amarillo in 1917 took place June 27 - 29 of that year.

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