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A Chickasha
Story

Why does Chickasha have a fifty-foot leg lamp, exactly? In part, it's an homage to a longtime resident, the late Noland James.

Noland James (1931-2020) was born in Chickasha and made it his home for most of his life.

While serving in the Air Force, Noland discovered his passion for education, and after his honorable discharge, he went to the University of Oklahoma. After earning degrees in Mechanical Engineering, Painting, and Design, he began his thirty-year teaching career at OU Art School. He was voted Teacher of the Year in 2001.

 

original lamp.jpg

"The Art School required teachers to also produce their own art. Early in his career, Noland used an old mannequin that had been lying around the Art School to make a project: from the bottom half he made a leg lamp and from the torso he made a waste basket. They were on view in his fourth-floor office until he retired. A man seeking employment at the school became tantalized with the lamp and came by Noland's office many times to look at it and ask about how it was put together—he nearly took it apart to see how it was made. A few years later, this same man was on the production team that produced the leg lamp from a hosiery leg for a 1983 movie. Noland always felt his lamp was the prototype for the one in the movie—A Christmas Story."

Noland James' obituary, The Chickasha Express-Star, 7-30-2020

 

Noland was an active member of the Chickasha community and one of the creative minds behind the Festival of Lights. He created many of its large, major elements still in use today. He also made projects for downtown Chickasha and First Baptist Church.

 

An inflatable leg lamp lit up against the night sky

The first Chickasha Leg Lamp debuted in the 2020 holiday season at the end of Chickasha Avenue. The 40-foot inflatable drew nationwide and even international attention, with coverage from content creators, to national news networks, to business conferences. With the lamp driving tourism, sales in Chickasha increased sharply, even compared to previous holiday seasons.

The temporary attraction won two awards the following June at the Oklahoma Travel Industry Association's Redbud Awards, earning the Redbud Award for Outstanding Media Coverage and the Merit Award for Outstanding New Attraction (both of which it would win again in 2023). The lamp returned for Christmas in July in 2021 and the 2021 holiday season.

 

The new Leg Lamp completed construction in October 2022 and officially opened November 5. stands over 50 feet tall and is the centerpiece of Phase One of the new downtown park, maintained by the Chickasha Community Foundation and funded by private donors. It was designed by local company Midwest Cooling Towers and made of fiberglass. Planning for Phase 2 of the park, a multi-million dollar project, is complete, and construction set to begin soon.

The Leg Lamp has appeared in dozens of news stories nationwide, including USA Today, the New York Post, and the Cleveland Scene. Several new businesses have opened downtown and attribute their success to the sculpture. In the 12 months since opening, downtown foot traffic has increased 26.8%, and retail sales citywide have grown by over $27 million.

 

"​[T]he leg lamp is a good example of why towns build these sorts of items [roadside attractions]: the storytelling, the monument reflecting community and the sincere work on something that may seem like a one-liner but, upon further exploration, goes much deeper."

Smithsonian Magazine, 1-18-2024

Photo of a crane lowering the "shade" onto the leg lamp sculpture
Map highlighting Chickasha Leg Lamp, Grady County Historical Society

See the original!

Noland's sculpture is on display at the Grady County Historical Society, located at 415 W. Chickasha Avenue.

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