The Old Water Tower
By Linda Boles
Bixby’s old water tower was located just south of the business district on West 5th Street, approximately 11 West 5th, across from the city water well. It was built in 1916-17 as part of the town’s new water system. Water was pumped to the 55,000 gallon tank to be stored until needed. When the tank was filled, the pump was turned off. Gravity supplied the force to drop water into the city lines and to maintain pressure in the lines.
Andy Jones, who ran the city’s water department in the 1920s and 30s, sometimes let the tank overflow on a hot summer day. Children flocked to the tower to cool off in the gently falling man-made rain.
The tower was the Bixby sentinel for almost sixty years, standing watch over the town. In her youth, she was dressed in silver and black with a giant DX Oil Company logo painted on belly. In her latter years, she declared, to all within a mile, that Bixby’s status was “Garden Spot of Oklahoma.”
Very few adventurers climbed up the zig-zag metal strips on her legs to the walkway circling the tank. Some who did, painted their names or the names of their current ‘love’ on her tank. Even a few senior classes proclaimed themselves on the tower’s tank over the years. The tower shrugged off these minor blemishes with a touch-up and an occasional new coat of paint.
In the 1950s the 50,000 gallon tank was supplemented by a 100,000 gallon reservoir just south of her legs. Increased demand for water created by the growing town population brought on several water supply and pressure problems during the early 1960s. Lake Bixhoma on Leonard Mountain, was created in 1963. With the gravity feed of the lake water into the town’s water supply, the tower’s role diminished until she was finally abandoned. Some folks thought of her as an eye-sore that had outlived her usefulness. In 1975, she was sold to Liberty, OK for $1.
She stood her ground through floods, droughts, rain, sleet and winds. Now, she was leaving the town she had served for so many years. On the day the wrecking crew came to tear her down, a small crowd gathered to watch. The crew had calculated exactly how and where to have her fall, however the tower had a mind of her own. As the crowd looked on, the crew cut one of her legs from beneath her and pulled. She protested. She slowly twisted as if to take one last look at the town she had stood watch over for sixty years. Then, using one of her still standing legs, she looked down at the crowd and curtsied. Still watching the crowd, she chose her own landing site and smashed down onto the garage of Zella and Dee Mose.
Within a few days the tower was trucked away. The rubble was cleared. Soon, it was hard to find much to show that one of the town’s landmarks, it’s old water tower, had ever existed.