Thursday, January 07, 2010

Picher, Oklahoma

ALL Of The Following Photos
In This Post By
Ruth Rader

I spent quite a bit of time on the road this past summer. And at one point, I reached the City of Miami. Not the one in Florida, but the one that is located in the far northeastern corner of Oklahoma.

It was late evening by the time that I walked into a convenience store to get information. I was looking for shelter for the night.

I ended up with a cop who drove me up a lonely dark road to another cop. I got into the second cop's cruiser and he drove me up to what he called "the local shelter."

But what I didn't know was that he actually brought me to a Superfund clean-up site known as Picher, Oklahoma.

(Click on the post headline above to access Wikipedia's information about Picher's demise.)

And it was there that my questions...were slowly...answered. But NOT by any cop.

Video of Picher, Oklahoma's slow death (filmed in November 2007).:

"The Creek Runs Red"



Since I arrived in what was left of Picher at night, I was unaware, at first, of the situation.

And since I was so tired, I slept inside the so-called "shelter" for most of the next day.

After I woke up, I checked the history of Picher via Google on my cell phone. I still had not walked outside. After I read the notes about Picher and called a friend who used to live there...I really didn't want to wander too far outside. At least, not in the local vicinity!!

And I was outraged.

I couldn't understand why an organization was still running a shelter facility in a place that was largely condemned! When I asked questions, I got few answers. And that is when I decided to take some photos and then get the hell out of there.

After I left, I sent emails to a number of entities. And I have never received a clear response.

When I asked the resident homies why they stayed there, they just shrugged and said that it was better than being homeless in Miami. When I asked them what they planned to do when the remaining utilities shut down they said that they'd just move on. When I asked them where they planned to go, they mentioned cities in surrounding States.

When I asked who was funding the so-called "shelter", I was told to mind my own business.

When I got back to Miami (I was driven there by a lady who staffed the shelter and couldn't wait to get rid of me)I made a list of people that I wanted to talk to. I still have that list. I plan to follow-up on what happened to me in Picher after I'm settled in my new home here in Pennsylvania next month.

In the meantime, I will share the following images of Picher, Oklahoma with you:

[I stand in front of what was once the City Hall building in Picher, Oklahoma. The City suspended all of its services in September 2009.]

[Eventually all of the buildings in Picher, Oklahoma will look like this.]

[A stop sign on a locked gate warns people to stay out of the lead/zinc contaminated area. Another reminder of the serious situation that destroyed Picher, Oklahoma.]

[A child's drawing is reproduced on a sign that forwarned the doom of Picher, Oklahoma.]

[A mural on the side of an abandoned building illustrates the story of success and ultimate failure in Picher, Oklahoma.]

[The word "Miner" is taped on the window of an abandoned store in Picher, Oklahoma. Miners worked and brought money into that community. But in the end, what they brought to the surface caused that town's downfall.]

[A Boys and Girls Club building stands abandoned in the weeds in what was once the City of Picher, Oklahoma.]

[A pile of contamination stands watch over what was once the healthy, thriving community of Picher, Oklahoma.]

[An ATM machine sits alone in the parking lot beside an abandoned bank. Such is the fate of the SuperFund clean-up site that was once known as Picher, Oklahoma.]

[This is part of what was once the commercial district of Picher, Oklahoma.]

[Houses are empty and the neighborhoods are silent in the condemned former City of Picher, Oklahoma.]

[An attractive-looking ranch house is left abandoned in a grove of dead trees in Picher, Oklahoma.]

WHY did anyone think it was okay to send me to what is left of Picher, Oklahoma?


Anonymous said...

Looks just like it did when I graduated from school there in 1975I don't see any difference other than the kids sign and the gate that blocks off part of the town. Hell it was always run down and looked like it was ready to fall.
Larry Mahurin

Anonymous said...

I played on those chat piles as a child. I'm Fine. You are not going to get lead poisoning just walking through Picher. I know you won't understand but we love picher. The town was home to wonderful people that helped each other. And you can bet I will be driving through there this summer to relive some of those memories.
Dolores Reeves Chamberlain

Sarah Tomlin said...

I have visited there once a few months back and actually cannot wait to go back. I'm planning a trip within the next few weeks.

As a photographer it is a wonderful opportunity to capture where people lived their entire lives.

In certain homes it seems like peoples entire belongings were just left really was amazing to see.

Ruthie In The Sky said...

The interest in Picher, Oklahoma right now is incredible. People are fascinated with it. It's strange to walk around there. It reminded me of a scene from "The Day After." You be careful when you go there, Sarah. Remember, Livermore Labs, whether they want to admit it or not, has taken an interest in Picher, too.

Anonymous said...

The picture you have that says MINER is actually an old restaurant that was once ran by Tom Sharbutt back in the later 1980's.I really miss Picher and all its residents.Yo0u may not have felt safe while you were there for one night but i spent my entire life there and i can tell you that when you walked down the road there was always someone somewhere looking out for your well being and always had a smile to make you feel at home. The FFATC helped alot of people.I miss and love everything about picher. You can take us out of picher but you will NEVER take picher out of me.

Ruthie In The Sky said...

Thank you for your comments. I really am fascinated by the reactions that I'm getting from the former residents of Picher. And the hits continue to come in for this post about Picher, Oklahoma. No, I didn't feel right when I was there. The place felt wrong and I think it has a curse on it. But at the same time, many people still retain that Picher pride. Go figure. The shelter is a mystery to me. Why is it still there? I'm sure that the Feds don't want it to remain they?

Anonymous said...

I just read about this "ghost town". I can't believe people are still living there...but, on the other hand, they might be better off there when things start to get real bad in the rest of America!

Ruthie In The Sky said...

If you stood in the middle of what is left of that'd likely change your mind about that. It's a spooky, creepy, Dead Zone with leafless trees, orange glowing water in the creek and a wind that whispers, "Get Out."
Thank you for your comment, Anonymous. I have a feeling that despite everything, Picher will remain a source of interest for years to come.

Anonymous said...

I hate it that when I google my hometown your blog comes up. You spent one night there and have all these feelings and opinions, as does everyone else who didn't grow up there. I have wonderful memories of Picher and everything in it. All the "lead contamination" was blown out of proportion by one money hungry loud man. The tornado that went through destroyed normal homes and lives.
It hurts to go back there and see what was taken away from us in many ways. There is no "curse" on the town, and if you think there is you need to add many more towns, states, and countries to your list.

Ruthie In The Sky said...

I pity your steadfast case of denial. It is deluded and very unfortunate. For you.

No "loudmouth" man made Picher what it is now. And if you want to deal with what really happened there, then this would be a moot point.

You can disagree with the Federal Government who moved people out of there. You can disagree with the EPA who declared the town toxic. You can disagree with the fact that the lead and zinc levels there are off the scale. You can disagree that the bank, and the Boys And Girls Club (whose buildings are still standing there) didn't know what they were doing when they abandoned everything there. You can disagree that the creek doesn't run orange-red and glows in the dark. You can disagree that the tornadoes and the sink holes were just a coincidence. But you can't disagree that Picher, with the exception of some freaky hangers-on, is gone. Deal with it. And don't blame me.

Anonymous said...

I grew up there and although it never felt like home to (couldn't wait to get away from there), it was safe back in the day. But that was before the government had to admit the lead was in fact a huge problem. I visit my friends yearly and I driven past there in Sept 2010 and it does look like 28 days later. I don't think that shelter was there while I was living there in 98 it could be but I am not for sure. I've heard it was a "rehab"kinda place not funded by the government. I think it was ran by random people to help people out.
I understand why you feel like the town is creepy. I was scared just to drive through it. It doesn't look like anything I remember.
I don't understand people's undying love of their hometown Picher.

Ruthie In The Sky said...

Thank you for your comment about Picher, Oklahoma.

I was just thinking about that place recently...mainly because I keep racking up hits on my tracker related to this particular post.

Perhaps people from there are still amazed that Picher went down. Then again, I am convinced that the Feds have an interest in interest that goes way beyond its status as a Superfund cleanup site.

But they won't own up to it or talk about it.

Ruthie Rader said...

Response to Anonymous:

You didn't even have the nerve to sign your name. Pitiful.

I hope you're still living there.

Angel Santa Ana said...

Does anybody could get access to the town? Do you need a permission to get access?

Ruth Rader said... is the scoop on Picher, Oklahoma:

Follow highway 69 from the north or the south, and you will run into Picher, Oklahoma.

Picher smells like something that has long-since rotted and a cemetery.

It is surrounded by gnarled, dead trees and huge chat piles.

The last time that I was in Picher, I was watched the entire time by locals who drove very slowly by me in aging vehicles or watched me from a distance in two pickup trucks.

The pickup trucks appeared to be waiting for me to cross an invisible line back into the abandoned neighborhoods. The two women and the man at the pharmacy (which, oddly enough, is the only remaining business that is open in that town) acted nervous and didn't easily answer my questions. They didn't answer some of my questions, at all. A cop (or he said he is one) came by and we talked. He wanted to know what I was planning on doing while I was in Picher.
All in all, the locals seemed to be if they are hiding something.

I think they are.

Maybe you will find it.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ruth, A little info into your visit in Picher: Without going into great detail it had been a booming mining town for lead and zinc. Producing a lion's share of the lead used in WWII. As one person had said, The Building with "miner" on the front was a café which was last called the Miner's café. It was Vicki's café before that and had been under different names etc. The mural which posed two miners around an ore can was painted on the side of Koronis' Drug store. The place you stayed the night at was previously called the "Ark". Later named FFATC (Freedom from addiction through Christ). Before being that, it was a second hand store and for many years it was called the "Fireman's Hall" Every Wednesday and on the weekends it hosted Bingo Games. They served food and it was always a good time. Picher was all about community. I know by looking at it now, it's hard to imagine what life may have been like there, but it was the best place to grow up. Everyone helped everyone else, even strangers. I'm sorry you may have had an unpleasant time during your brief stay. Things were definitely not as they would have been when I lived there. As for those that may have been watching you, During the latter part of the town's existence, looters were going through houses taking copper wiring or anything of value or just vandalizing. I would venture to guess they were just being over protective. As of this writing, the gentleman who owned the last remaining business Ole Miner's Pharmacy has passed on and the business is no more. The building you stood in front of which was the last location for the city hall is now the county maintenance barn and offices. So much has changed over the years. There were many kinds of stores; grocery, convenience, auto parts, flowers, resale, Bars, Pharmacies, nursing home, funeral home, cafe's and the list goes on. Before my time there had been three hospitals, Coca Cola plant, and too many to name. The mention of Livermore Labs is very interesting.

Ruth Rader said...

I visited Picher last Summer and the pharmacy (and the man who runs the business along with two ladies) was still there. I take exception to your explanation of why the people in the pickups watched me so hard. They were just like that last Summer and it gave me a real creepy feeling. Like they're hiding something there. What's left of Picher has something very wrong with evil with no limit. That is what I believe.

Ruth Rader said...

This is link to the post about my return to Picher last Summer: