This Fort Sill Film From the Early 1950’s Is A Trip
Living in the present, it's often hard to remember or even imagine what life was like in a place long ago. Take Lawton for instance. There was a time The Vaska was the cutting edge of moving picture technology in town. Before there was a taxpayer-subsidized dying mall, it was a thriving and historic downtown area. Before the original "ghetto" Walmart was built, mom-and-pop grocery stores and small chain stores served each neighborhood in the neighborhoods. This also extends to the reason Lawton exists in the first place, Fort Sill.
We've talked about and shared the history of Fort Sill in the past. Originally it was a wild military post composed of tents. Soon after it was built into a full-blown fort. As the years passed by, it became the 94,000-acre behemoth it is today. It has served in every major military action since 1869, has passed millions of military members through the gates.
It has served as a flight school for the Army Aviation School for airplane flight, but a special emphasis was put on the newly developed helicopter in those early days. Still the home of field artillery for the US Army, the storied past of a military post most take for granted is rich and full of fascination. Case and point, look at these stills from an old military film about our local military installation.
There is no reason why you should be familiar with The Big Picture or the military documentaries they used to film and air on television back in the 1950s. Being a product of the US Army Signal Corps - AKA - filmmaker soldiers, it wasn't something that ever aired in syndication, nor did it ever replay a single episode.
In a visit to showcase Fort Sill, the show opens with a bus traveling down a highway out towards the mountains. It could be Highway 49, they built it in the late 1930s... but with no landmarks in either direction of the shot, it could very well be US-62, Highway 281, US Route 277, etc... This is what almost all highway travel looked like prior to Eisenhower's Interstate ambitions later that same decade.
This was a simpler time when a hand-painted and often manually maintained welcome sign was completely acceptable on the outskirts of every town, city, military post, fort, base, and corporation in America.
Even then, some of the more historic buildings have been preserved for all to enjoy as they arrive to Fort Sill. Mcnair Hall...
But it's the wide shots that get me. It's hard to drive anywhere on post that offers a vista view of anything, but Fort Sill was a much different place in the early 1950s. Buildings have grown out of the land like weeds within those fences.
Of course, Fort Sill is forever famous for being the Army's home for field artillery. The sound of active training is often enough to make someone new to the area raise an eyebrow and ask "What was that?"
Some of the hardware has changed, others stay affectionately the same.
Coming off back-to-back World War victories, the idea after WWII was often "Bigger is Better."
The shot at Henry Post Airfield and information about the Army Training Department of the Field Artillery School is what really allows a solid date range to when this is. Fort Sill was the home of the Army Aviation School before it was moved in 1954.
Learning to fly planes was a leftover skill from the Army Air Corps days of WWII prior to the creation of the US Air Force, but the aviation interest and emphasis was really put on developing pilots and uses for the newest flight technology, helicopters.
That's certainly a historically different take on the birds we see flying off the airfield these days over Lawton.
Even the view from the Henry Post Army Airfield control tower is a trip. Look as hard as you want, it's impossible to determine there was ever post housing or a city lurking just along the horizon. It's astonishing just how much has changed in some 70-ish years.
Take a few minutes of your day and soak up this vintage Lawton/Fort Sill goodness. Try to pick out the places you recognize. Try to make sense of it. And especially notice the reporters flinch when they fire off that huge 280mm gun.