I am the oldest of a small group of Lawtonians affectionately known as the 7 Kecks or the Original 7 or the Keck Siblings. Starting with the 1964-65 school year, we all went through Sullivan Village Elementary and then MacArthur High School. I graduated from Big Mac in 1972. The last of us, in 1982. To protect the innocent, I won’t mention names of the other six. (This establishes where I’m from.)
It was the early 1970s. I was an insolent, know-it-all, borderline radical. I had a quick wit, but also had a quicker temper, which didn’t go over so well with the Saturday night beer-drinkers and Sunday church-going crowd. After a couple run-ins with the law, I decided to “Exit, stage left.” I moved to Pennsylvania three days after graduating high school. I volunteered to look after/help my grandparents. My other motivation was to just get away from Lawton.
It didn’t take too long before these “Yankees” were asking me, “Hey, where you from anyways?” Part of it was because I was one of the “most-tanned” individuals in a (then) not-so-culturally-diverse area of Pennsylvania. The other part was because I had not realized that I had picked up a very distinctive Southwest Oklahoma Southern twang! I didn’t think I sounded like an Okie, however, it did sorta start to come out of me after five or nine beers.
This was often pointed out to me, back then when someone would finally say, “Hey George, you talk funny!” After a few parties, I was usually asked to say something in “Okie.” It usually entailed me saying just about anything because I sounded like I wasn’t from around those parts. Oh well… (This supports the title.)
I moved around the most as an Army Brat (a VERY proud Army Brat.) As a soldier, the Army moved me around every three years for 21 years. In no time at all, I learned to adjust very easily to big changes on a regular basis. In other countries, it is quickly noticed when YOU don’t sound like everyone else. “Hey, where you from?” is often the first question asked of you. That’s pretty much when I started to notice accents and dialects when people spoke. Though I could usually pick up when a “U.S. Southerner” was speaking, I still didn’t think I sounded “Okie.” (This also supports the title/theme.)
Born-and-raised Lawtonians have it over me in several areas. I don’t have any concept of growing up in one place. I cannot fathom the deep attachments people form with life-long friends. I was in my late 40s before I finally “put down roots.” It has been an interesting learning experience, a very rewarding experience.
One of the greatest advantages of moving around so often was the fact that I had the pleasure of making/playing music with over 80 musicians on four continents. These days, I’m just hoping the elderly, er, I mean seasoned guys I play with will stay alive long enough for us to be “…on the cover of the Rolling Stone…” or to at least be able to complete one more gig.
George Keck is an Army retiree, a drummer, and Lawton resident, off and on, since 1964.