The Legacy of Dean Mac

Dean Clarence H. McElroy

Story by Roger Moore, Image courtesy of Stillwater History Museum Photo Collection

We do not always pay much attention to the names of the roads, streets, avenues, and highways we drive on. A sudden jolt from a pot-hole or a low-lying area during floods might make us remember a particular location, but, for the most part, we drive from one location to another without much thought. Locals remember the city’s layout and main thoroughfares different from those who became residents over the last twenty to thirty years.

A growing community means new additions to already-existing streets to the north, south, east, and west. New roads and streets are added to the infrastructure, added to the foundational streets that have been a part of Stillwater, some since the early 1900s. Of course, there is Main Street—every town, small and large, has a Main Street. Stillwater’s early development was centered on Main from 7th to 12th. When Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical College opened in 1891, the area between Main heading north and west toward the campus was obviously set for continued growth.

Duck Street, which runs north and south, does not actually include any part of the college campus but is named after Frank E. Duck, who, following his participation in the Land Run of 1889, donated the northwest 50 acres of his original homestead for the development of what would become OAMC. Four years after Duck’s graduation in 1896, a young student enrolled at OAMC, Clarence H. McElroy.

Depending on who you ask, pronounced “Mack-El-Roy” or “Mackel-roy” Road, is one of Stillwater’s oldest roads and has a history that continues to change with the expansion of the community. Prior to 1949 anything north of where Hall of Fame Avenue and Main Street intersect can almost be considered rural. The Moonlite Drive-in theater occupied 515 North Main beginning in 1949 and McElroy was barely a dirt path, a shell of its well-traveled life today. With the development of the Veteran’s Village following World War II, McElroy, the northern edge of the Village, began to expand and add structures heading east. Many of those structures were family homes that stretched from what is now Monroe Avenue to Duck Street. Now part of Oklahoma State’s expansion north, McElroy and Washington includes a state-of-the-art tennis facility. A few blocks north, a modern track and field facility sits where duplexes and Hester Street met McElroy. The expansion of OSU’s campus has taken away all of those homes, but McElroy’s life remains lively from Duck heading east.

For the better part of five decades, McDonald’s and Chuck’s Paint and Paper dominated the corner of Main and McElroy. Long before there was Wal-Mart and Hobby Lobby, there was Aurvil “Chuck” Ketch’s vast array of arts and crafts supplies for all ages. A 1946 Stillwater High graduate, Chuck and wife Victoria “Vicki” Lamb opened Chuck’s Paint and Paper in 1955 at 302 N. Main before moving to Main and McElroy in 1968. It became the home for Stillwater builders, crafters, decorators, artists, and woodworkers.

When Chuck’s opened at its new location in 1968, McElroy, from Main to Perkins, had limited activity. In the late 1970s, however, that changed significantly. Much like the downtown merchants expanded to meet the OAMC campus, Perkins and McElroy began to expand north to meet the needs of developing neighborhoods and apartment complexes originally built to service Stillwater’s industrial sector that sprouted in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Today, Perkins and McElroy is as busy a location as there is in the community. Pioneer Square, now the home to multiple restaurants, was a hub of shopping and dining as Stillwater moved to the east. Lakeview Pointe has not replaced Pioneer Square, but it has extended much of that hub from Perkins and McElroy to Lakeview and Perkins.

So, who was C.H. McElroy and why is he worthy of a street name in the Stillwater community?

McElroy enrolled at OAMC in 1900 in the college preparatory school. While earning a B.S. in general science he worked as a janitor at Old Central earning 10 cents an hour; he slept in the attic of the building. After graduating, McElroy returned home to Tulsa and worked at a general store in Jennings before returning to OAMC in 1909 as an assistant to Dr. Lowery L. Lewis, namesake to OSU’s original football stadium. McElroy worked toward becoming a veterinarian and entered the St. Joseph Veterinary College in Missouri where he received his D.V.M. in 1919. He returned to OAMC and became dean of the School of Science and Literature in 1925 and professor of veterinary medicine and bacteriology. In 1935, he became chairman of the Biological Sciences Group. The OAMC School of Veterinary Medicine opened its doors in 1948 with Dr. Clarence H. McElroy, “Dean Mac,” serving as the first dean of the college. During his time in Stillwater, he also served as president of the Stillwater Lions Club and Chamber of Commerce, as a member of the First Christian Church, YMCA, Masonic Lodge, and the Isaak Walton League. McElroy was also a charter member of the Sigma Nu fraternity.

At the end of the day, names of streets and roads, avenues and boulevards might not be a part of the daily conversation of communities past and present; but for any historical narrative about a community, a good place to begin is with those old streets. McElroy is one such street and name.