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Grain Castles in the Air: Remembering Oklahoma's Rural Skyscrapers

When you typically think of Oklahoma skyscrapers, buildings such as Devon Tower in Oklahoma City or the BOK headquarters in Tulsa may be front of mind. But there’s another kind of skyscraper that rises up along the horizon line of hundreds of smaller towns across Oklahoma. The grain elevators of America’s breadbasket have served as an important connecting point for the transportation of grain from the fields to the rest of the world.

A lot of these reinforced concrete behemoths were built across the plains from the late 1930s to the early 1950s, by Reginald Tillotson, whose work is being remembered by his grandson, Ronald Ahrens, through his blog posts at OurGrandfathersGrainElevators.com.

KOSU visited recently with Ahrens about his blog and a recent road trip through western Oklahoma, which is the home of his grandfather’s very first grain elevator project. Listen below.

Kelly Burley served as KOSU Director from September 2007 to May 2019. In 2007, Burley returned to public radio after more than four years as Associate State Director for AARP Oklahoma. Burley first joined KOSU in 1990, first as a reporter, then news director and eventually program director. During that time, he won three Edward R. Murrow awards from the Radio Television News Directors Association, the National Journalism Award from the Scripps Howard Foundation, and two national awards from Public Radio News Directors, Inc. Kelly lives in Stillwater with his wife, Lisa. He has two grown children, Clint and Kara.
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