Joanne Reynolds is an Okie transplant who made her way to Muskogee from her home in California.
Reynolds was born in Los Angeles and lived the first few years of her life in an area known as Monterey Park. But she grew up in a small town of about 1,000 near Fresno, Calif., where her family relocated.
“Where I grew up was more remote than here,” Reynolds said. “It was kind of like Fort Gibson — it was a small town, so I was used to life in a small town.”
Reynolds, 72, was one among about 50 seniors who graduated in 1957 from the small-town high school she attended. From there, Reynolds married her husband, Joe Reynolds, a Muskogee native whose family had transferred to California.
The Reynolds moved to Arkansas, where they lived for about a year before moving to Coalinga, Calif., where she went to college and the couple started a family. In 1967, the family moved to Los Angeles.
“That was a shock — it was just different, lots of cars and lots of people and more crime,” Reynolds said. “We didn’t have crime like that at other places we had lived. Like here in Muskogee, if you don’t read the paper you really don’t know there is a lot of crime unless something really big happens.”
Reynolds said she and her husband divorced. She stayed behind in California with the children. He made his way back to Oklahoma, where — one-by-one — the entire family eventually ended up.
Meet Joanne Reynolds
HOMETOWN: Los Angeles.
CAREER: Snow cones and bakery.
FAMILY: Divorced, three children, six grandchildren, three great-grandchildren.
Tragedy led to
Joanne Reynolds’ move to the Muskogee area more than a dozen years ago was sparked by a tragic turn of events. She said her ex-husband’s move back to Oklahoma from California spurred the family’s slow migration east.
The couple’s youngest child, David Reynolds, later moved to Okay to live with his father. The Reynolds’ youngest daughter, Sandi Spiegel, joined them later in the Wagoner County community.
After a house fire claimed the lives of three grandchildren and a great-grandson in October 1998, Reynolds and her oldest daughter, Terri Mitchell, made the trek to Oklahoma a few months later.
“It was a hard way to get here,” Reynolds said about her move to Muskogee. “But you have to be near your kids when something like that happens.”
The business of
making a living
Reynolds went about the work of a mother, nurturing her family and “being there” for them in a time of need. Being a single woman, she also had to get to work doing something she enjoys.
An avid cook, Reynolds said she went to work at a doughnut shop in Glenpool. The commute became too costly when fuel prices began to spike at the turn of the century, so she started looking for something a little closer to home.
“It wasn’t as expensive as it is now, but it was getting too expensive to drive over there every day,” Reynolds said. “So, I bought a doughnut shop in Tahlequah that came up for sale for really cheap.”
Reynolds purchased the downtown Tahlequah shop in 2001. During the next three years, she did what most owners of doughnut shops do: wake up early and work hard.
“I didn’t have the backing I needed as far as money goes, and it was a lot of hard work,” Reynolds said. “I owned it for about three years — I couldn’t sell it, so I just had to close it and sell the equipment.”
Reynolds said she doesn’t make it to Tahlequah often anymore. When she does, the memories of her small shop come pouring back.
“It’s sort of depressing to drive down there past it,” Reynolds said.
A new business venture launched about a year ago brings Reynolds more joy these days.
She happened upon the idea about three years ago while searching Craigslist for ways to supplement her Social Security income. These days, Muskogee residents might find Reynolds peddling snow cones from the Jolly Trolley, a small, motorized vehicle that resembles an old-time trolley.
“I was looking at doughnut shops, but I knew I couldn’t really do that,” Reynolds said. “I saw this snow cone trolley they were selling in Tulsa — I thought this would be something to fill in the gaps.”
Reynolds said she and her son worked it this past summer, selling snow cones at the lake and setting it up for private events. Because her son’s health is failing, and she isn’t “up to driving,” Reynolds is working this year with her daughter, Sandi.
“We mainly drive up and down the streets like an ice-cream truck,” Reynolds said. “But we do apartments — we did CarMart last year — and just whoever needs us, like end-of-school events.”
Reynolds said finding the right spot helps sales. Although she “didn’t get out as often … as we should have” her first year out, she believes “this year we’re going to do better.”
“Once we go to a neighborhood, they expect us to come back around — one little boy has been calling us for two months asking us when we are coming back,” Reynolds said. “Kids are always happy to see us, and it’s always interesting — you meet a lot of nice people, and it gets me out of the house.”
While it can get “hotter than the dickens in the summer,” Reynolds plans to be out and about along with her daughter in the Jolly Trolley serving up snow cones in Muskogee.
How did you come to be an Okie from Muskogee?
“I followed my children when they moved here.”
What do you do with your free time?
How do you make a living in Muskogee?
“Selling snow cones on the Jolly Trolley.”
What would make Muskogee a better place to live?
“Fix some of the more worn-down roads.”
Is there an Okie from Muskogee who you admire?
What’s the most memorable thing that has happened to you since you have lived in Muskogee?
“Having my grandchildren and being part of their lives.”
How would you sum up Muskogee in 25 words or less?
“When I moved here I was amazed at how friendly the Muskogee people are and welcoming.”