2007 Library News

Oklahoma Folklore Collection Available Online from Metropolitan Library System

After over 50 years of compiling, hundreds of Oklahoma memories are now available in the Oklahoma Folklore Collection of the Metropolitan Library System’s website, www.metrolibrary.org.

The Oklahoma Folklore Collection is the result of an effort by the Metropolitan Library System in the late 1940's and early 1950's to collect and preserve the stories, memories, and songs that make up Oklahoma's rich folk tradition.

MLS Researcher Stuart Williamson has been working with the Folklore Collection as his contribution to Oklahoma’s centennial celebration.

“Clarence Paine, who was an avid historian and director of the library system in the late 1940s, contacted Bob Duncan, a radio folk singer and song writer, and they collected folklore from around the state,” Williamson said. 

“Many of the Oklahoma Images, which constitute a photographic record of early day central Oklahoma and are also housed in the Downtown Library and are available for viewing through the library website, were gathered at the same time”

The Folklore Collection was filed away until the early 1980s when Alvin Turner cataloged most of the material in paper form.  Then, once more, the stories, letters and poems were filed away, this time for 20 years.

“Then,” Williamson added, “the Inasmuch Foundation looked for a special project with which they could help the library and it was decided to try to get the collection online by Oklahoma’s centennial year.  Librarian Larry Johnson, who has since published the book ‘Historic Photos of Oklahoma City,’ cataloged the photo collection, which had never been done before, and put everyone online at our website.”

Some of the most interesting pieces in the collection are the cowboy songs that were written by range riders and homesteaders and have never been professionally printed or recorded.

“Right after our wedding we started homesteading,
And raising the golden grain,
But then this young lassie got wicked and sassy
And traded our sunshine for rain.

Now I'm an old father with children to bother,
And still I sing this refrain.
The years they keep dragging and the missus keeps nagging
And I wish I was back on the range.”

The person who submitted this lyric said of it that it “was written in Texas by a cowpoke who seemed to be in trouble with the law, and that s about the only history I know of."

“The collection,” Williamson concluded, “is up and available on the MLS website at www.metrolibrary.org.  Everything in the files can be read there, but if someone needs to see the original documents they are available for viewing by special request.”

And how can anyone fail to heed good old Oklahoma country advice like this:               

   “I’m a good old honest farmer and I just came to town--

    Raised three bales of cotton that I saved the whole year round. 
    Oh, I put my team in the wagon yard, went out to get same gin,
    Went out to see them electric lights and to watch them cars come in--

    And it’s listen to me Farmers, I'm here to talk you sense,
    If you want to see them electric lights, look right over the fence. 
    Don’t you monkey with those City Ducks for they are slick as lard-- 
    It’s best go out in the day time, but at night stay in the yard.”

The Metropolitan Library System of Oklahoma County includes 12 libraries and five extension libraries.  Libraries include Belle Isle, Capitol Hill, Ralph Ellison, Ronald J. Norick Downtown Library and Southern Oaks in Oklahoma City, as well as Bethany, Choctaw, Del City, Edmond, Midwest City, Village and Warr Acres.  Extensions are located in the communities of Harrah, Jones, Luther and Nicoma Park and include Wright Library in Oklahoma City.  You can also reach us at www.metrolibrary.org.