HODGEN, Okla. – The stories are as plentiful as the evergreens that encompass this Oklahoma prison. Those stories live in boxes that rarely come out of storage. In the midst of the day-to-day hustle, it’s easy to let the milestones slip by unnoticed. “As you can see on the table, there are pictures of people I don’t even know,” Warden’s Assistance David Tamplin said.
It was 50 years ago Jim E. Hamilton became a minimum security prison in Hodgen, Oklahoma. On this day, former and current staff took a moment to reflect on the vibrant history here. Retiree John Wilson said, “Not until now have we gotten together. I haven’t seen many of them in years. It’s fun to talk about old times.”
The faces and uniforms have changed over the years. “I started when I was 21, “Marty Hinds recalled. “I retired in my 40’s with a a lot of experience and a whole new outlook on life.”
Lessons learned, lives shaped and still mindful of those who are no longer here. Retiree Gary Steelman said “The only place we usually see everyone is funerals. This is so much better.”
Five full decades of history are chronicled on this table -- artifacts and photographs. Retired Chief, Jackie Linville said, “It’s fun to reminisce. I had a lot of good people working for me. They made me look good.”
Folklore creates some of the most colorful accounts of this prison, hidden deep in the woods of southeast Oklahoma. Retired Officer Leslie Pierce said, “One guy came smokin’ in there and said he seen Sasquatch. He said he was 8 feet tall, big, long, hairy and shaggy. I said that’s somebody playing with you. You didn’t see no Sasquatch.
After all, this team of bloodhounds with an exceptional capture record, would have located the elusive beast by now? Warden’s Assistant David Tamplin joked “No. But we do have a guy here we call Sasquatch.”
There have been good times and bad. But through it all, lifetime friendships were forged here. Marty Hinds said, “They are all still family. When we see each other, no matter how long it has been, it is like we just seen each other yesterday.”