By James Beaty
Wayne and Marilyn Grogan had a simple reason for creating a display that includes crosses and the Ten Commandments.
“Sometimes, you have to take a stand,” Wayne Grogan said.
The Grogans had the display constructed near their store, Papa’s Country Market, at 1411 E. Carl Albert Parkway.
In addition to three metallic crosses and a sign with the Ten Commandments written on it, the display includes another metallic depiction of a soldier and a cowboy kneeling beside a grave, which is marked by a cross.
The display also includes wooden beams and a stone and concrete planter. It’s still a work in progress because Wayne Grogan intends to plant flowers, probably marigolds, in it once the weather warms enough.
The Grogans, who attend Central Christian Church in McAlester, have heard from a number of individuals about the display over the past few weeks.
“We’ve had a lot of feedback,” Wayne Grogan said. “Every comment has been supportive.
“They say they appreciate it. They’re very appreciative of the stand we’ve made.”
One man drove by, saw the display and phoned his wife, who soon drove over to take a look for herself, Grogan said.
Not all of the feedback has come from the McAlester area.
“I’ve had people from out of town driving through, who turned around and came back to see who put it up,” Grogan said.
Phyllis Collins, an employee at the store, has heard from individuals herself regarding the display.
“Quite a few people come in and say how glad they are to see it,” she said.
And yes, the Grogans had the display constructed in response to a vote by a majority of the McAlester City Council last year. Councilors had voted to uphold a decision by City Manager Pete Stasiak to have metal figurines that depicted crosses removed from atop street signs in the city.
The figurines with the crosses had been among more than 100 which had been a gift from McAlester businessman Bob Wallace. He had them designed to represent the McAlester area’s culture and history.
All of the black, metallic figurines were initially installed atop street signs across the city.
However, Stasiak had subsequently ordered nine of the figurines that depicted crosses removed, after he said he received a single complaint.
That brought protests from a number of individuals and churches in the McAlester area, with individuals packing the council chambers at City Hall during several meetings last year to speak in support of having the figurines with the crosses placed back on top of the street signs.
Ward 1 Councilor Weldon Smith and City Attorney Joe Ervin said they checked with several attorneys with various organizations, but in the end, could find no consensus that the city would prevail if the matter went to court.
When the matter came before the council for a final decision, the majority of the council declined to take any action that would have reversed Stasiak’s decision.
“I watched when the city council voted against it,” Grogan said, adding that’s when he had the idea of having the display with the crosses created near his store.
He said he hopes other businesses in McAlester area will be inspired to take a similar stand. Grogan believes most people in McAlester were supportive of keeping the figurines with the crosses atop the street signs.
“The 99 percent have sat back and let the other 1 percent take over,” he said.
He said his wife, Marilyn, had the idea of including the Ten Commandments.
Building the display has been a cooperative effort. Wayne Grogan said Signs by Jade created the sign with the Ten Commandments. Standard Machine created the three metallic crosses, as well as the work depicting the soldier and cowboy kneeling at a cross near a grave. A friend of Grogan’s did the woodwork and another individual created the stone and concrete planter.
So is Wayne Grogan satisfied with the way the display turned out?
“I’m really pleased,” he said. “I’m really pleased.”
Contact James Beaty at email@example.com.