Do You Remember…Sugar Loaf Hill?
Even if you’ve never heard of Sugar Loaf hill, you’ve probably been there hundreds of times.
Sugar Loaf was an insignificant, bucolic hill between Cedar and Mounds Streets, with frontage on Lee Avenue. However, to a ten-year-old boy, it was a majestic mountain. It was Bogart’s Sierra Madre, full of treasure and adventure, and more importantly, it was “our” hill.
Sugar Loaf was the most wonderful source of outdoor adventure a young boy could even dream of. The possibilities were endless.
My best friend, Daryl, and I enjoyed the pursuit of paleontology. We spent countless hours hunting for fossils. We found a large number of fossils but not much diversity. For the most part, all we found were Crinoid stems. We knew that during the Paleozoic era, the Midwest was covered by an ocean. Crinoids were sea animals that looked like a Sea Lily. These plant-like animals covered the floor of the prehistoric sea, looking like underwater fields of wheat.
Sugar Loaf afforded a great view of the night sky above the city lights.
We spent many a night lying on a pie-shaped piece of cement that was dished out in the middle, gazing at the stars. We pondered the mysteries of the Universe and that age-old question, “Are we alone?” Occasionally, our esoteric discussions would digress to why girls had cooties.
For years, we wondered why the chunks of concrete, two cisterns, and a flagpole were up there. We always thought there had been a school at the site. I recently learned from Mike Jeffries, Director of Sapulpa’s Historical Museum, that once there had been a pavilion on top of the hill. After looking at a photo the Museum sent, I noticed it labeled the photo as being taken from
“water works hill”. I called Mike and he asked Pete Egan if Sugar Loaf had been a water storage site, and Pete said yes.
Being an amateur astronomer, I would lug my telescope up there and view the wonders of the heavens. In my ten-year-old world, it was Mt. Palomar Observatory. It was up on that hill that I first observed the rings of Saturn. It was a sight to behold.
When I was a little older, I decided to engage in amateur rocketry. I had purchased an Estes solid fuel rocket kit at the hobby store. I thought that launching the rocket from the hill would be much more spectacular than from my tree-filled backyard. In theory, it was a great idea, but there were high winds that day, and apparently, my small rocket did not have enough thrust, because it was immediately blown off its trajectory and landed on the roof of a house close to the hill. Fortunately, there was no fire involved, so I went home.
We had a great time lighting and launching fireworks atop the hill, especially at night. We gave the surrounding neighborhoods a fireworks show. The police, for the most part, never bothered us when it was during the Fourth of July season. The local constabulary, however, apparently frowned on pyrotechnics during the off-season. One day, my friend, Greg, and I were shooting fireworks on Sugar Loaf. I was getting ready to light an M-80. (You old timers will remember those.)
Greg shouted, “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”
I said, “Shut up. I know what I am doing.”
Just as I touched the match to the firecracker, a booming voice said, “Boys, hand over those fireworks!”
I turned around to see a large, out-of-breath, angry officer. He had run up the side of the hill and was not happy. We immediately complied, and after a lecture on firework laws and safety, he let us go home.
The grass side of the hill was where we engaged in the grass-sliding Olympics. We would “borrow” the fiberglass bread trays from Safeway and start at the top of the hill to see who could slide down the hill the fastest and furthest.
Sugar Loaf was actually an important part of Sapulpa’s economy. Frankoma Pottery mined Sugar Loaf Hill for its red clay after their source of clay in Ada was exhausted. Sapulpa Brick and Tile also obtained red clay from the hill. On that note, I used to bring clay home and after washing it, I would mold it into small objects and dry them on the sidewalk in the summer sun.
In later years, however, Sugar Loaf was being mined for fill dirt. The adjacent property owners went to court and made the company that was removing the dirt and shale .replace some of the soil to restore the natural repose of the hill.
Whenever you go into Reasor’s (which was the original Walmart building) you are literally standing on Sugar Loaf Hill. That was a floodplain, therefore, fill dirt had to be brought in to raise the elevation, using the soil from Sugar Loaf. Today, there is not much left of the hill, but the memories of that neighborhood attraction will not soon fade.
About the Author
Long-time Sapulpa resident, Charles Betzler, followed his father, Charlie, into the radio and TV repair business. At age 9, he fixed his first broken radio and his first love is vintage audio equipment. In his 50 + years of technical work, graduation from OSUIT, and years of Continuing Education, Charles, in his capacity as Emergency Management Director of nearby city, designed the Emergency Operations Center, and the radio-activation system for the sirens. In his long career, he has repaired every type of consumer electronics from black-and-white TVs to the latest lap-top.