By Cass Rains, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
Larry and Rick Simpson keep the Old West alive in Enid, helping families and children stay entertained with, and educated about their heritage.
The Simpsons co-own Simpson’s Old Time Museum on East Randolph, a mainstay of downtown Enid and a step back in time. As well as acting as historians with an encyclopedic knowledge of Western and cowboy lore, the two are accomplished filmmakers with their production company, Skeleton Creek Productions.
They are finalists for the 2012 Pillar of the Plains, presented annually to honor people for their contributions to the community. Other finalists are Gary Kirtley, Martie Oyler and Dr. David S. Russell. Nominees will be honored during a ceremony at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 10 at Convention Hall.
The Simpsons serve on Garfield County Crime Stoppers board of directors, and are dedicated to making the yearly Cherokee Strip Days celebration and activities held each year a success.
The brothers are the first pair to be nominated for Pillar of the Plains in the award’s history.
“It’s quite an honor,” Larry Simpson said. “Rick and I thought, ‘What are we doing with these other people.’”
“It really is a big honor for us,” Rick said.
The brothers decided in 2005 to close their retail business, and didn’t begin the museum until the next year.
“We never really had a set date for ending the mercantile and starting the museum,” Rick explained. “It just kind of happened.”
“With friends’ help, we stumbled through all of this,” Larry said. “We consider it a success if the walls don’t fall down.”
While closing the mercantile, Larry would be building sets for movies, Rick said.
“We used to do a lot of ‘Unsolved Mysteries,’” Larry said. “By the time we got ready for ours (projects), we really had the bug. We really enjoy it.”
“We’ve done five Westerns and three documentaries,” Rick said. “Our latest one, ‘Cactus Creek,’ had 170 cast members and about 80 had speaking parts.”
The brothers don’t hold cattle calls, or invite large groups of actors to fill just a few parts, because as Larry said, “Who wants to stand in line to talk to us?” Instead, they often draw from members of the community to act in their projects. Those wanting to be in movies fill out files.
“There is a lot of talent in Enid,” Rick said. “We usually try to use people from the area.”
Larry said when filming in Wichita, they had needed children for a few roles in their film.
“Nine were needed, but we had 30 show up,” Larry said. “They were so excited. We hired every one of them.”
“They were all dressed in period costume, some good — some not so much,” Rick said. “Those kids will remember that for the rest of their lives.”
The men also continue to work on projects their father, Kenneth P. Simpson, began. He founded Garfield County Crime Stoppers and also rekindled the Cherokee Strip Days celebration in Enid.
“Dad and Bill (Munn) got it going again, and we’d like to see it keep going,” Rick said.
“They worked really hard to get it going,” added Larry. “I was on the chamber board at the time. It was very interesting to see how hard they worked at it.”
Rick said the Cherokee Strip Days parade brings anywhere from 5,000 to 8,000 people downtown each year.
“That brings a lot of children and parents and grandparents,” Rick said. “We fight the weather sometimes, but you can’t fight Mother Nature and worry about it. You just have to go with what comes along.”
“It is very important for this community that it keeps on going,” Larry said. “If we slack off, it can disappear again.”
”Rick always puts us into the parade,” Larry said. “Of course, we wouldn’t miss it. He’s always whooping along the way so we have to, too, so people hear us coming from a block away.”
The brothers joined the board of Garfield County Crime Stoppers after their father passed away in 2000.
“They came down and asked if we wanted to be on the board,” Rick said. “It’s interesting to see what’s taken place. It’s very interesting, and we’ve got a bunch of good guys on the board.”
The men said their father founded the service in the early 1990s.
“He always kind of had an interest in it, and had a lot of friends through the years on the police force,” Larry said.
Erin McCoy said the Simpsons have been a part of her life as long as she can remember. They played football for her father, who coached at Longfellow Junior High School, and she’d go with her dad to practices.
“Boy, they were a handful, according to the stories my dad would tell,” she said.
McCoy said she admires the work the brothers do in the community, never expecting anything in return.
“There are very few true heroes in the right world now,” she said. “I believe Rick and Larry are very true heroes.
“They are some of the most genuine, selfless people I know,” McCoy said. “They do their volunteer work and business work and they never ask for accolades. I believe it’s high time they receive a few.”
McCoy said when her father was sick and in ICU, the elevator door on the floor opened up and out came two cowboy hats, and then the Simpsons.
“That entire floor lit up when they stepped off that elevator,” she said.
Both brothers said they are proud to call northwest Oklahoma and Enid their home.
“We’ve lived here all of our lives, but we are so proud of what’s going on in Enid the past four or five years with the building of the infrastructure and things to do in Enid,” Rick said. “This is a really exciting place to live.”
Previous Pillars of the Plains are Bert Mackie, Lee Thompson, Janet Cordell, Lew Ward, Dr. Charles Ogle, Becky Cummings, Dr. Jerry Blankenship, April Danahy and Doug Frantz.