Stringtown GEAR UP Students Toured Local Community Historical Sites

Twenty-eight freshman and sophomore GEAR UP students from Stringtown Public Schools recently participated in an educational field trip that highlighted local historical events and places. Stringtown faculty members Matt Sandmann and Beth Murray, GEAR UP Education Coordinator Denise Lovell, and Atoka Museum Director Cindy Wallis guided the students during the excursion. Students began the day with a presentation covering the 1975 musical event 48 Hours in Atoka. The historical gathering was held at a local pastureland where more than 50,000 people met for a large outdoor concert. Music legends, such as Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, David Allan Coe, Jerry Lee Lewis, and a young Reba McEntire, performed for the weekend crowd. During a multi-media presentation, students learned about the beginnings of Outlaw music and how the event affected local businesses and economics. After discussing other local Stringtown history and a brief visit to the Atoka Veterans’ Memorial,  the students traveled to Atoka, Ok. where Wallis met them for a guided tour of downtown Atoka. The first stop was the newly renovated pedestrian underpass, which was originally built by the Works Progress Administration in 1939. As students walked downtown Atoka, Wallis highlighted many historically significant sites, such as First Baptist Church which was established in 1869 and is the oldest Baptist churches in continuous service in Oklahoma. Next, they visited the Land Office Building (1902) built for the Dawes Commission to register native Choctaw and Chickasaw tribal members and to make land allotments. The tour concluded at the former MK&T railroad service station where one of the most memorable events to occur at the station involved Stringtown local Clarence Carnes who committed murder after robbing the service station. He was eventually transferred to Alcatraz to complete his life sentence. Carnes was best known as the youngest inmate incarcerated at Alcatraz. Wallis encouraged students to explore their local history because the more you know about the past, the better prepared you are for the future. The field trip was sponsored by Eastern Oklahoma State College’s GEAR UP program. Eastern received a $17 million federal GEAR UP grant in 2017, and will serve more than 3,000 students in 39 area schools for seven years.

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