Published July 2019
By Karlie Ybarra | 5 min read
A sign at the city limits of Bethany welcomes visitors. Photo by Megan Rossman.
Since I started at Oklahoma Today nine years ago, I’ve discovered some fascinating things about my home state:
- There’s a sanctuary for elephants in Hugo started by circus owners.
- We elected a woman as commissioner to the Department of Charities and Corrections thirteen years before women even had the right to vote (her name is Kate Barnard, and her fascinating story is one of the best we’ve ever published).
- We have festivals dedicated entirely to kolache, tabbouleh, peaches, ice cream, and even oysters.
And the list goes on. I’ve written dozens of stories and interviewed three times as many people, and each one of them taught me something new about my home state.
My amazement stems, at least in part, from my previous twenty years of willful ignorance. In all honesty, I hated this place for its unpredictable and extreme weather, for its flatness, and for the fact that there still isn’t an Ikea. For those in shock, please step outside into the blistering heat/humidity combo we’re currently swimming in and tell me you can’t understand.
The Gloss Mountains near Fairview. Photo by Shane Bevel.
I planned to get out of here and move to a more agreeable climate as soon as I was able. But then I became Oklahoma Today’s editorial assistant and just kind of stuck around. For the first few years, I was sold on the magazine, the staff, and their mission, but I still wasn’t sold on our state. Slowly but surely, I took a closer look at Oklahoma and realized there are places where it’s anything but flat, like the Gloss Mountains and Black Mesa. You can get great meatballs from the Saucy Sicilian food truck, which are better than Ikea’s anyway.
The weather is still pretty awful around this time of year, but there’s a lot to love about our weird little state.
So, when I realized I had lived in Bethany for five years and knew basically nothing about my town, I decided to remedy that.
Classic car shows are a regular sight in Bethany. Photo provided by Northwest Oklahoma City Chamber.
Bethany has been around since 1909, when members of the Church of the Nazarene founded the town and the Oklahoma Holiness College (now Southern Nazarene University). They also established the Nazarene Rescue Home for unwed mothers. Even before the town’s establishment, the Oklahoma Orphanage—now The Children’s Center Rehabilitation Hospital, the largest free-standing children’s rehab facility in the country—moved from Oklahoma City to the area in 1903.
The town grew steadily over the years, first as a Nazarene enclave then as a bedroom community for those who worked in the city. In 1930, a rare November tornado tore through Bethany, killing more than twenty people. People rebuilt, as they do.
An employee at Papa Angelo's Pizzaria in Bethany holds two Empire-sized pies aloft before putting them in the oven. Photo by Lori Duckworth.
In recent years, the population has remained steady at about 20,000. But all that consistency belies the growing crop of great area restaurants. There’s MOB Grill for burgers, Pho 3Nine for Vietnamese fare, Birrieria Diaz for Mexican, Ding Asian Fusion for sushi, Papa Angelo’s for pizza, and Olde Orchard for pretty much anything else (especially waffles), among many others. There are also plenty of interesting non-food things, from the antique stores on Thirty-ninth Expressway to the American Pinto Horse Association headquarters.
Families enjoy the Library Complex All Abilities Playground, 6700 Northwest Thirty-fifth Street, in Bethany. Photo provided by Northwest Oklahoma City Chamber.
There’s still a lot I don’t know about Bethany, places I haven’t eaten, parks I haven’t explored, but I’m excited to investigate every nook and cranny. With time, I’m sure I’ll love my town as much as I came to love my state.
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