Road Trip to Albany, Oklahoma, August 27
Headed out early from Norman, OK with Jeanetta & her son Michael
down I-35 for awhile then on to more local roads, into the area known
as "Little Dixie." We passed right through the area where the
Depression-era photo was taken of Jeanetta's family, the photo that was
used on the cover of her book, <i>Work is Love Made Visible</i> (West
End Press, 2009), the same ridge along the horizon.
Entering Albany, we paused for pictures beneath the sign proclaiming
Albany as "the boyhood home of state representative James Dunegan." Albany
is about 2 miles from the Red River, that separates Oklahoma from Texas.
Easily found the community center right along the road as it was gradually
filling up with local civilians. Alas, most were not here to see the poets
from Albany (& Chicago), but for "dinner" served 5 days
a week at noon. We were given dinner, too -- chicken-fried steak, mashed
potatoes, gravy, okra & tomotoes, also mac & cheese, beans, & peach
cobbler at the end, with plenty of iced tea, or sweet tea. Mary, who grew
up in the town, then went away for a while & moved back a number of
years ago to live in the house that is the former hotel, served as our
hostess, making us feel at home, even letting us into the lunch line (the
women got their food first, then the men at the back of the line).
About a dozen people hung around for the reading, including one woman
who is a student at Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant,
whose professor, Ron Wallace had set us up with this gig (thanks Ron!).
In our program we included a recording of Tom Nattell reading a poem,
then a few of favorites, such as Charlie's "I-74 Street Corners of
America" & "Manhattan Blue" & my poem about "Albany,
KY" & "The Wall." We ended with the 3-voice "O
Central Avenue," with Michael reading Tom's part. Actually, a quite
appropriate replacement since Michael was born in Albany, NY almost 20
years ago (& I even baby-sat for him back in his early years).
Wandering over to the Post Office next door we found the notice about
our reading posted on the wall, so we were literally on the wall of the
Post Office. We mailed our postcards to ourselves -- the clerk had to
look up the price since, as she told us, "I don't think I ever sold
a postcard before." Unfortunately, these days the mail is all cancelled
at regional processing centers & the clerk was not able to hand-cancel
our postcards. Jeanetta took the obligatory photos of us to show which
Albany it was.
A few more photos around town, such as it is, then the long road back.
5 more Albanys to go!
3 Guys from Albany visit Albany Wyoming -- May 4, 2009
We headed out to Albany #12, arrived there on May 4 -- Albany, Wyoming,
our highest Albany yet, & perhaps the smallest. Southern Wyoming is
desolate, windy & traffic-free. Albany is west of Laramie, up the
Snowy Range mountains, almost at the end of the line. But there was a
sign & the "Albany Lodge," & we read our poems there
under the sign. Poet Jared Smith was our driver (& our host in his
home in Lafayette, Colorado, with his wife Deborah & Heather, his
Our reading started with a recording of Tom Nattell reciting "Noreen
Kaleeba", Dan did "Where Were the Professors" to introduce
one Albany to another, then Charlie with "Growing up in Colorado..." & we
ended with the ur-Albany poem "O Central Avenue," the 3-voice
3 Guys poem, with Jared ably sight-reading Tom's parts. It was a glorious
moment in the muddy sunshine for another Albany on the all-Albany tour.
Back in the Albany Lodge we looked at historic pictures on the wall of
mountain men floating railroad ties down the the creek & at old pictures
of the Lodge in early years, as the Pine Bar. Our bartender, Lacy Langford,
was related to most of the 14 others in the town & filled us in on
the history as she knows it -- settled in 1886 as a railroad town, but
she didn't know why it was named "Albany" (few folks know why
their town is named what it is).
We checked this out the next day at the Albany County Public Library
in Laramie (the county seat) & a helpful staff person named Stephen
led us to a couple sources. The most useful was Wyoming Place Names by
Mae Urbanek, Mountain Press Publishing Company, 1988 which indicated that
the town of Albany was established in 1900 and named by railroad officials
for the county. Albany County was created in 1868 by the Dakota legislature
(which Wyoming was then a part of) from the larger Laramie County. Charles
D. Bradley, a member of the Dakota legislature from Wyoming, worked for
the new county, and named it for the capital city of New York, his native
Of particular note was that in 1910 Albany County elected Mary G. Bellamy
as the first woman to serve in a state legislature. She went to Washington,
D.C. in 1917 to represent Wyoming women in the national suffrage drive.
The account claims she was the first woman Justice of the Peace in the
world. It should also be noted that Wyoming was the first state in the
union to have a woman governor.