Community Corner (259)

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By Darla Welchel

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When Newcastle resident and history lover Alan Klein took his family on a trip to Alaska, a tour bus trip to an obscure desert led to the creation of a new app for mobil devices.

"My family and I were on a tour bus trip in the Yukon, when we came to the site of the World's Smallest Desert," Klein said. "I asked myself, 'why is this not on my phone?' The tour guy was telling all these interesting stories and no one knew about them."

This simple question led the retired military man with a degree in computer technology to begin work on Roundabout, the first app that allows people to share old stories they enjoy telling by putting them on a map based on where the story happened.

Klein launched his new app on iTunes on May 9 of this year, and he has already garnered nearly 3,000 users. 

 Essentially, Roundabout creates an entirely unique way for people to discover and engage others with the stories that have passed down for generations. It contains unique categories that allow users to sort points of interest based on their individual preference: Attractions, Folklore, Historic Sites, Landmarks, Local History, Monuments and Oddities.

The free app allows users to put a "pin" in an online Google map and attach stories, photos, audio recordings and videos to the point. This informational history lesson is then available to all users, thus passing on legacies and folklore, Klein said. 

"There are so many interesting things around Newcastle that people don't know about," he said. "It is a great way to record stories that have been passed down from grandparents or parents before they die. This app is good for use in education, newspaper or town history." 

The Roundabout App uses the GPS in a phone or tablet to locate the user within a 150-mile radius. The user can zoom in to pinpoint their exact location and begin telling their story.

"Using audio or video options makes it more real when you can see the movement or hear the sounds," Klein said. "I took a video of the Old Mill in Little Rock, Arkansas, and it was nothing but the image and sound of the water wheel." 

"It is so close to I-40, but people drive by and don’t even know its there. This app helps them locate points of interest."

Klein realizes that not all of the stories and historical data might be 100 percent accurate, but he feels that all stories have a place in history.

"Sometimes, the best stories might not be the most accurate, but they are funny and draw you in," he said. 

Every user of Roundabout is allowed one story and one review per point, but they can go back in and edit and add to their previous story, he said. But, you cannot edit anyone else's story lending protection to the app. 

Another interesting feature is the Virtual Trip maker allowing users to create a "bucket list" of sorts for either a real or imagined trip pinpointing all the interesting (to them) features along the way, Klein said. 

Klein and his wife Monique live in Newcastle with their two sons. Their oldest son, Nathan is a 3013 graduate and Keegan is in sixth grade at Newcastle Middle School. Monique is a 1982 graduate of Newcastle High School. Klein co-owns the Roundabout App with his parents and sister, George, Clara and Shelia Klein who live in Iowa.

"I believe this app will help history be discovered," he said.  


Tuesday, 16 September 2014 21:41

A nod to history

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By Darla Welchel

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Ever since The Newcastle Pacer published Newcastle: Looking Back at Looking Forward, the history book about Newcastle, it has needed to be updated.

That is what happens with history; everyday new things happen, thus outdating itself all the time.

The arduous task of compiling a book of a town's history gets more difficult as each founding father (and mother) passes. It is difficult to get all the stories, and get them correctly. 

We at the Pacer have talked ever since the first book came out about updating or adding to it, both to advance the history or to correct misinformation.

Unfortunately, in a town where there is very limited written records, word of mouth is all we have to go by – and sometimes memories fail or contradict.

That is why I, as the writer of the first history book am excited about Alan Klein’s new history app for iPhones and tablets – Roundabout – that allows anyone to contribute to recording the history of our town. (See: A Point in History on pg. 1)

If everyone would download the app and start recording what they know about the history of Newcastle – even if it just happened like last Friday’s stupendous win over Tuttle – it would make compiling an update so much easier. 

Currently, there are no additional copies of the current history book. 

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By Darla Welchel

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Are you the type of person who jumps in whenever a need arises? Do you have the desire to help out your neighbors or community in an emergency?

Have you ever considered joining the Newcastle Community Emergency Response Team – or CERT for short? Then now is the time to get involved. 

The City of Newcastle will be holding a CERT training course over three consecutive Saturdays in September, said Emergency Manager Jon Tankersley.  On Sept. 13, 20 and 27, citizens looking to become part of the Newcastle CERT team can receive training free of charge. Classes start at 9 a.m. and last until 5 p.m. each Saturday except the last one, which will end around 1 p.m.

Space is limited, so people need to register online at the Oklahoma Homeland Security website by Sept. 10, he said. That website is Click on the Training Calendar at the top center of the page; find Newcastle and select that link.

"We already have eight signed up, but we can take up to 30," Tankersley said. "If they miss the online deadline, we will accept and register them at the first class."

In order to become a certified member of the team, participants must complete all the classes. Some of the topics that will be covered will be: 

Introduction, Disaster Awareness

Disaster Fire Safety Techniques

Disaster Medical Operations

Light Search and Rescue Operations

Team Organization and Management

Terrorism and CERT

"Participants can learn how to take care of themselves, their families, their neighbors and their neighborhoods in case of an emergency," Tankersley said. "It is a very good course, free of charge and they will receive approximately $80 worth of equipment when they complete the course."

The class is open to ages 12 years old and up, but a parent or guardian must accompany all minors, he said. 

The Oklahoma Department of Homeland Security CERT program was developed because of the need for a well-trained civilian emergency work force. These teams assist the government by responding during disaster situations where the number and scope of incidents have overwhelmed the conventional emergency services. 

For more information, contact Jon Tankersley or Johnny Wingate at 387-2922 or visit

Tuesday, 09 September 2014 22:04

New virus threatens children

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By Darla Welchel

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Everyone dreads cold and flu season, but when you have a particular virus that targets children, that becomes a parent's worst nightmare.

A rare respiratory virus called human Entrovirus D68 or EV-D68, which has sent hundreds of children to hospitals in Colorado, Missouri and Kansas is causing alarm across the Midwest. 

And although there are no confirmed cases of EV-D68 in Oklahoma, yet, officials for the Oklahoma State Department of Health said they suspect it is here.

"We are suspecting the virus is circulating in Oklahoma based on increased admissions of children with sudden onset of respiratory diseases and on some screening lab test results that suggest an infection with an entrovirus," said Kristy Bradley, DVM, State Epidemiologist. "And, the testing to actually type the entrovirus as D68 is very sophisticated and can only be done at a laboratory like the CDC."

Bradley said this strain of the entrovirus is very rare, mostly because it is hard to identify. 

"In most instances of respiratory infections, there are no tests done. However, I expect with the increased awareness, many more doctors will be testing," she said.

Doctors can test for the entrovirus with a swab test of the nose and throat, Bradley said. They would need to send the swab to a commercial lab to confirm it as an entrovirus, but only the CDC has the equipment necessary to identify it as EV-D68.

What is it

The virus is related to rhinovirus, which causes the common cold, health officials said. Enteroviruses, which bring on symptoms like a very intense cold, aren't unusual. There are more than 100 types of enteroviruses causing about 10 to 15 million infections in the United States each year, according to the CDC. They are carried in the intestinal tract and often spread to other parts of the body.

The enterovirus season usually hits its peak in September, but what's unusual at the moment is the high number of hospitalizations. Already, close to 1,000 children have been sent to hospitals in Missouri and Colorado, where about 15 percent of them were placed in intensive care, officials said.

The virus can start as just a cold. Signs include coughing, difficulty breathing and in some cases a rash. Sometimes it can be accompanied by fever, wheezing and low blood oxygen levels (also known as hypoxemia). Respiratory problems appear to the hallmark of EV-D68, and in some cases, however, the symptoms can be severe — particularly for children who already suffer from asthma or other respiratory problems, officals said.

"Most enteroviruses cause either a little bit of a cold or a diarrheal illness -- a few cause meningitis," said William Schaffner, head of the Department of Preventive Medicine at Vanderbilt University. "This one is the, if you will, odd cousin. It causes prominent respiratory symptoms. Why it does that, we’re really not sure."

The good news is that enteroviruses usually aren't deadly.

"All of these folks are going to get better," he said. "Some of them have more severe illness, such as these children who have developed asthma and are hospitalized. But they should all get better."

How to prevent

Like other enteroviruses, EV-D68 appears to spread through close contact with infected people. That makes children more susceptible, because of their contact with multiple people in public schools and their reduced hygiene skills.

There's not a great deal you can do, health officials say, beyond taking commonsense steps to reduce the risk, Schaffner said. Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds -- particularly after going to the bathroom and changing diapers. 

Clean and disinfect surfaces that are regularly touched by different people, such as toys and doorknobs. Avoid shaking hands, kissing, hugging and sharing cups or eating utensils with people who are sick. And stay home if you feel unwell.

"Parents should not become too anxious about this because persons who are infected will be able to recover as if they were recovering from the classic cold," Bradley said. "Awareness is needed to watch for any signs of difficulty breathing, such a wheezing or a rapid respiratory rate."


To date, there is no vaccine for EV-D68.


Tuesday, 09 September 2014 21:54

Golden Spotlight

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Cody Johnson

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Phillip Hanson is the Golden Spotlight for the month of August. Hanson was born in 1955 in Bloomington, Indiana. 

Having a typical Indiana childhood, Hanson grew up playing basketball. With eyes wide, he said at 18 years old, he walked onto Bob Knight's team and was good enough to start. 

"They didn’t have a scholarship for me," Hanson said "and I was a dumb 18-year-old kid, so I walked away." 

Before leaving though, Hanson taught Kent Benson, who was a freshman at the time, how to hit a hook shot. Hanson said he liked Indiana growing up despite the northern weather. 

"Winter-times are a little bit tougher up there than they are down here," he chuckled. 

In 1976, he moved to Ada, Okla.; Hanson soon met his future wife Gayle in McAlister at a church meeting. The two started dating and were soon married. The couple had their 38th Anniversary last August 21. 

Hanson started throwing papers for the Daily Oklahoman. Sometimes he would start at 11 p.m. and would continue throwing until halfway through the next day. Hanson worked his way up to District Manager with the Daily Oklahoman and is currently retired. 

Phillip and Gayle have lived in Newcastle for 11 years; Gayle teaches music classes at Bridge Creek Public Schools. They have two sons, Mikel and Steve, which live in Oklahoma City and a daughter that lives at home and attends college in Chickasha. Hanson enjoys the Newcastle area except for the occasional bad weather. 

After some bad storms a couple years ago the one tree he wanted gone, a cottonwood, was left standing, he said laughing behind his wide smile. Hanson has 25 pecan trees and a walnut tree but has never had a single pie from them, a fact he seems to find ironic. 

Hanson likes to travel and has a trip planned for Thanksgiving break. He and his family are going to Indiana to visit and then will spend a weekend at Grand Lake on their way back. 


Tuesday, 09 September 2014 21:23

Wesnidge completes tour as Tomb Guard

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By Darla Welchel

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If there is one thing Specialist Josh Wesnidge understands is honor, that and dedication to his job.

These are qualities the 2011 Newcastle graduate hopes to take with him as he pursues a degree in criminal justice at Montgomery College in Maryland.

Wesnidge enlisted in the Army at the end of his junior year at the age of 17 and headed off to Fort Benning, Georgia immediately after he graduated for 13 weeks of basic training. 

It was during this time that the young man was approached by recruiters for a very special tour of duty – being part of an elite group of soldiers known as the Old Guard. 

"After the first couple of weeks of basic training, they pulled about 20 of us out for a briefing to listen to a recruiter talking about the Old Guard," said Wesnidge. "You can either apply or be recruited. Most don’t want to join the Old Guard [because of the strict rules of conduct.]"

After basic, Wesnidge spent his first four months in the Old Guard as a member of the Escort Platoon who pay homage to members of the military who receive full honors funerals, he said. From there, he went on to apply for the arduous duty of being a soldier guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. 

While in training, a trainee has no free time as countless hours can be spent on even the simplest tasks such as shining your shoes, he said. While in training, it can take a solider 6-8 hours to achieve the desired shine on a pair of boots.

Also, trainees have to adhere to a very strict rule on talking, Wesnidge said - specifically, no cursing by trainees. In fact, the young men are not allowed to show emotion or acknowledge any conversation or show interest in any other outside stimuli such as television.

Being able to follow the rules isn’t the only thing the military looks for in this elite group of men, he said. They look for a standard height and weight amongst applicants, as well as no criminal background and good scores on their military ASVAB tests. 

These almost archaic rules and standards are set to hone the soldiers into unwavering guards with the staunchest level of composure. A guard, while on duty, cannot become distracted by what is happening around him – it is all about honor, Wesnidge said. 

After a trainee receives his badge, he starts his duty as a tomb guard with 26 hour a day shifts, he said. In the summer months (April through the end of Sept.), a guard takes a 30-minute "walk" to guard the tomb; during the winter, the walks last one hour each. 

"When you are on Guard Duty, you can’t answer questions or talk to the public," Wesnidge said. "The only time you will speak is when you are passing on orders, or if you are addressing a noisy crowd."

What the guard says to visitors if they are becoming too loud is: "It is requested that all visitors maintain an atmosphere of silence and respect at all times," he said.

A new phase in life

Wesnidge began his life at the Old Guard on February 1, 2012 he recently took his last walk during the traditional rose ceremony July of this year, he said. 

"I had my last walk and Rose Laying Ceremony on July 18," he said. "It was like a normal walk; the only difference is it was attended by the Chain of Command, other platoon guards and members of my family."
After his final walk the guard changer walked back to the center of the Plaza of the Unknown Soldier and explained to visitors what just took place. Wesnidge then walked back to the Plaza and met his family, which consisted of his mom and girlfriend. He then presented them with red roses and took off his sunglasses and white gloves and handed them to the escort.

Next, he proceeded to lay one red rose on each of the four crypts where an unknown soldier is laid representing each of the four major conflicts that had unidentified dead: WWI, WWII, Korea and Viet Nam. 

After the roses are laid, a bugler played Taps and then Wesnidge rejoined his family and walked back down to Tomb Headquarters where he was presented with an Army Commendation Medal for 29 months of service to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier – a period of time that was higher than the norm.

"One reason I wanted to do the tomb guard is it is the hardest thing to do – it was a personal challenge," he said. "It’s the biggest honor to serve as a guard, not many people can do it. There is an 80 percent drop out rate at the tomb."

Since his Rose Laying Ceremony, Wesnidge has finished his military service and is "basically a civilian" as he has 50 days of leave saved up, he said. He started full-time college last Monday majoring in Criminal Justice and hopes to join the FBI upon completion.

He was able to finish one semester while he was serving in the Old Guard, and will be attending Montgomery College. He will later be transferring to the University of Maryland; Wesnidge is attending college using his GI Bill. 

Although he has traded in his uniform and shiny boots of a Tomb Guard for the garb of a college student, by joining the FBI, Wesnidge will demonstrate that in his heart his desire is still to serve and protect his country. 


Tuesday, 09 September 2014 21:18

Be a Scout for a day at Mini-Caporee

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By Scoutmaster Mike Fullerton

Join Boy Scout Troop 231 of Newcastle, Cub Scout Pack 234 of Blanchard and Cub Scout Pack 338 of Tuttle this Saturday, September 13th, at Veteran’s Park in Newcastle (next to the Library). We will have a mini-camporee with several events to participate in. 

Be part of an actual Pack Meeting, build a fire and race a car or sailboat this weekend. It will be a lot of fun and there will be people there who can answer questions, show you the ropes or just hang out with us. The events will run from 9:00 a.m. until noon. Come see what Scouting has to offer your family.

Cub Scouts can be a vital part in teaching young boys citizenship, leadership and values that will last throughout his lifetime. In Cub Scouts, a boy will have opportunities to be creative, become more physically active, learn to work with others, use his entire body, including his mind, to accomplish fun and exciting tasks. 

Tying knots, making a pinewood car, carving an animal from a soap bar, shooting off a rocket in to the outer hemisphere (OK, I kind of pushed it with that one!) are just a few of the weekly activities a boy can be involved in. Each summer he can attend Cub Scout Day Camp at one of the many Council Camps where he will hike, swim, shoot B-B guns, learn about the great out-of-doors and just have an incredible opportunity to be a boy!

The Last Frontier Council is celebrating 100 years of involvement in Scouting this year. There is no better time to join than right now. Join now and you can attend the Council-wide Camporee in October. This is promising to be a huge event. It will be held in North OKC with activities that will be out of this world and more fun than a boy should have in one weekend.


Tuesday, 09 September 2014 21:10

Old General Store brings back nostalgia

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By Darla Welchel

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Nostalgia warms you from the top of your head to the tips of your toes. Perhaps its because it hints of a simpler, gentler time. 

The Old General Store, Tri-City's newest business, gives customer a quaint blast from the past with its home canned goods, jams and jellies, old fashioned meat counter, slow churned homemade ice cream, apothecary jars full of candies, over 100 unique soda pops and a complete line of Watkins’ products.

The canned goods are largely Amish fares including jams, cheeses, ciders, chocolates, pickles, fruit, beef jerky and noodles. All of the canned goods are 100 percent natural and for the health conscience, there is a line of gluten free items. The other canned items are all Made in Oklahoma products including a salsa made in Tuttle.

But the Old General Store is not just a Five and Dime, customers can also get a meal after they browse the store, said co-owner Gerald Morgan. The establishment can seat around 40 people inside and another 30 outside on picnic tables to enjoy a variety of foods centered around grass-fed Angus beef and free-range chickens.

The menu features hamburgers, cheeseburgers, chicken salad and deli sandwiches, steaks and even buffalo meat burgers, he said. Sides include salad, fried okra, French fries, cowboy beans and of course fried pies and homemade ice cream for dessert.

 "Customers can even pick out their steak in the meat market and bring it over to the grill for us to cook for them," he said. "Also, if anyone requests gluten free hamburger buns, our cooks will clean the grill and change their gloves, so there is no cross contamination."

The OGS features Roger's Meat Market, which has been in Oklahoma since 1974 and prides itself on providing certified Oklahoma Angus beef. Morgan bought the market in 2013 with partner Mark Scarberry, and the two have worked hard to continue the same reputation and quality. 

Also, in addition to a hot meal, the Old General Store provides ready to eat sides for those who want to take their hamburger, steak or chicken home to cook. With selections like loaded baked potatoes, macaroni and cheese, cold slaw or cowboy beans, the OGS has the makings for a complete meal, Morgan said.

The OGS also offers large party packs of meat at discounted prices, he said. And daily specials are offered such as the one half smoked chicken and two sides for $8.99 on sale last week.  

The Old General Store is located at 117 NW 32nd St. on the NW I-44 service road; its hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday, he said. 

"We are starting off with these hours, but we will be adding breakfast pretty soon and possibly staying open later for supper," Morgan said. 


Thursday, 04 September 2014 20:24

Bridge project delayed, new finish date confirmed

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After what appeared to be a lull in work on the Highway 37 Overpass construction, workers moved barricades to direct traffic into the westbound last Tuesday.

Construction began on June 30 to upgrade and repair the bridge transporting drivers to and from Oklahoma City and Newcastle. The overpass has been shut down to one lane only allowing traffic leaving Tri-City use of the bridge.

The traffic lanes were switched last Tuesday to allow drivers to drive on the newly finished westbound lane; this switch did not change any detours currently in place. The northbound ramp on I-44 is still closed requiring anyone driving into Tri-City to either take NW 24th St. to the west I-44 service road or to drive to 149th St. and double back.

To the average person, it would have appeared that crews had pulled off the project, but in fact, they were letting the new concrete time to cure, said ODOT Division 3 Construction Engineer Ron Brown.

"The new material that we used had to cure, so we had to pull off the job for 14 days," he said.

Originally, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation intended to use traffic lights at either side of the overpass to regulate traffic over the bridge.

"The site conditions kept us from using the traffic lights," he said. "There was not enough room to use the lights because of the [existing lights at the intersection] - it was a safety concern."

Because of the snafu with traffic lights, ODOT had an almost two-week delay in starting the project that was slated to be completed by Sept. 2. They contracted PBx Construction to resurface the deck of the overpass, as well as repairing the concrete slope walls underneath the bridge, he said. The guard and traffic rails are also being repaired and or replaced.

According to Bruce Valley, ODOT Resident Manager at Purcell Residency for District 3, there will be some additional down time due to scheduling of the hydro-jetting process. PBx has subcontracted this phase, and because there are very few companies that do this particular work, there is a waiting list.

"Hydro-jetting removes a small portion of the existing concrete to allow the new concrete to adhere," he said. "Once the hydro-jetting is finished, it will take two days to do the overlay and then 14 days to cure the pavement."

Workers are on a tight schedule due to the delays, so they will be working nights to get the work completed, Valley said. ODOT received conformation that the hydro-jetting will begin on Sept. 11.

"I anticipate the project should open to traffic both was by Sept. 30 or before," he said. 

Thursday, 04 September 2014 15:40

A big heart for all creatures

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By Darla Welchel

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 Justin Wigley has a big heart when it comes to the well-being of animals.

Wigley, 24, is the City of Newcastle's new Animal Control Officer, and he says he works for the welfare and state of all animals - whether it be a dog or a cow.

"Animals are not a nuisance; to me they’re an addition to your family," Wigley said. "I want to find as many fur-ever homes for these [animals] as I can."

Wigley has worked for the Newcastle Police Department for the past two years as a dispatch officer, but before that, he spent four years at the Blanchard PD as both a dispatcher and an animal control officer.

"I have a passion to help people and animals. I love animals and I love people; animals can brighten your day," he said. "I'm hoping to improve the image of the animal control officer."

Born and raised in Blanchard, Wigley came to Newcastle, because he felt it was a bigger community in which to serve.The young ACO has received certification from the Oklahoma Animal Control Association and considers this to be his career job. He began his duties for the City on Aug. 1. 

A classic animal lover, he owns five dogs of his own, and has to fight the urge to not bring home more from the City's animal shelter. Currently the Newcastle Animal Shelter has 6 dogs of various ages and sizes that Wigley wants to see adopted. The "E" word is one he hopes to be able to avoid, he said. 

He is also currently enrolled full time in Mid-America Christian University majoring in business. Dedicated to his "day job," Wigley attends all his classes online in the evening. When he is not caring for the welfare of the communities strays or studying, he says he enjoys working in his yard or improving his home in Cole, Okla.

Wigley is serious when he says he wants to show the Animal Control Office in a positive image. He has started a Facebook page, updated the City’s website, and he participates in community events showcasing his adoptable animals. In fact, he recently took several of his charges to the Red Dirt for Big Blue fundraising event in Bridge Creek. 

To learn more about adopting an animal from the Newcastle Animal Control, visit or the City of Newcastle Animal Control on Facebook. If anyone has an animal control issue or would like to make an appointment to select an animal for adoption, contact Wigley at 301-6038.


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