CANADIAN COUNTY, Okla. (KFOR) – There are lots of old relics in Caleb Stevens’ rural backyard, all of which were fodder for his imagination as a kid.
“I grew up with an old dog named ‘Tex’ and we explored every crevice of this place,” recalled Stevens.
But there is one piece, in particular, that stands out.
“It was the highlight of the fair for me every year,” he smiles.
If you saw it, you might recognize it.
Thousands of people rode in it at the State Fair of Oklahoma from 1964 to 2004.
WKY-TV personality, Tom Paxton, and State Fair Manager, Sandy Saunders, told viewers monorails were the future when the attraction opened.
“We’ve thought about the possibilities of a monorail for urban transit systems in Oklahoma City,” he continued.
“Stanley Draper has talked about it very extensively,” says Saunders, just before the ride became operational.
That didn’t happen, of course, but the monorail did have a good run until the engines got old and replacement parts scarce.
Caleb remembers as a 9-year-old heading to the state fair auction in 2005.
His dad was high bidder and he got to choose passenger car or engine.
“I just had to run to that engine man,” he recalls. “It was the coolest thing. I thought it looked like a rocket ship.”
So the monorail became the ultimate kids playhouse, an engine for the imagination that hosted endless secret meetings and trips to outer space.
Caleb says, “All my friends would come out here and we would just play all sorts of games.”
He joined the Navy out of high school, but the monorail stayed put, part of the landscape, and part of the family too.
“I grew up with it,” he argues, “and at the end of the day it was something I did with my dad. You can’t put a price on that.”
People who visit the Stevens house still like to take pictures.
The old engine still drives interest because there are still so many people around who rode in it.
But in a strange twist of ‘fair fates,’ the monorail isn’t the only state fair relic to be found in this rural part of far west Oklahoma City.
There are probably fewer people would remember the giant steel and fiberglass arrow which made its fairgrounds debut in 1957 as part of Oklahoma’s Semi-centennial.
The owner of the construction company that put it up, and who tore it down in 1967, couldn’t part with it.
He re-installed it on his own property near Cimarron Road and SW 59th Street.
Both historical items are still attractions on the back roads, far away from the bright lights of the modern state fair.
The Oklahoma State Fair for 2023 begins its 10-day run Thursday, September 14.
Great State is sponsored by Oklahoma Proton Center