People of the 918 1

Steve Cluck, Ronnie and Steve Wilkins are just three people who make Tulsa an amazing city

It takes some courage to pick up a camera, ask a complete stranger a few questions and then post it online.

This exact idea is why I am obsessed with the Facebook page “Humans of New York.”

It’s the only page I follow on Facebook because I love getting to see what people think/do/hate/like on a daily basis in a city I have only visited twice in my life.

If you haven’t heard of “Humans of New York” you are definitely missing out. “Humans of New York” is an immensely popular photoblog created by former bond trader Brandon Stanton. With no formal photography training, Stanton makes documenting the everyday lives and thoughts of strangers he meets in New York City look easy.

According to the United States Census Bureau, there are about 398,000 people currently living in Tulsa. Everywhere I go in Tulsa, I always run into someone I know and it’s crazy to think that out of 398,000 people I always run into someone I know. There are a lot of faces that make Tulsa unique and I had the opportunity to interview several people who make Tulsa amazing.

STEVE CLUCK

I have always wanted to meet Tulsa artist Steve Cluck, the man behind the “Don’t Hate the 918” logo. Ever since I saw a girlfriend of mine post one of his shirts on Facebook, I was a fan.

A born and bred Tulsan, Cluck is a pop artist who focuses on fashion, love and Oklahoma. The creator of pro-Oklahoma campaigns that include “I Heart Tulsa” and “I Speak Okie” has always set out to make people love Tulsa as much as he does. With that notion in mind, Cluck hit the ground running 10 years ago and he made a name for himself.
“What makes Tulsa so great, to me, is the people,” Cluck says. “Tulsa has some of the most compassionate, creative and talented people in the world. One of my most satisfying projects has been the ‘Don’t Hate the 918’ project, which shines the spotlight on the people of the Tulsa area. I am individually photographing 918 people who call the 918 area code home. You can see the photo project at DontHatethe918.com.”

The jack of all trades hand prints each of his articles of clothing in addition to many of his other products, which include buttons, magnets, coasters, greeting cards and art.

“I do the photography, marketing, social media, accounting, sales. Like most independent business owners, I pretty much do it all,” Cluck says. “I’ve had my artwork exhibited in over 100 art exhibitions across the state. You can currently see my artwork at Aloft Hotel in downtown Tulsa. Another new endeavor I have started working on is Spexton, where I design wedding rings, assist customers, and help with marketing and branding.”

After graduating from the University of Tulsa in 2005, Cluck never thought of leaving Tulsa and embraced his love for the city he calls home and turn it into a fashion statement. Since then, Cluck’s clothing has been spotted on VH-1, NBC, in People magazine, and in The Los Angeles Times.

“What made me decide to open my business here in Tulsa was because ‘Don’t Hate the 918’ and ‘I Heart Tulsa’ are literally open love letters to Tulsa and it has been great that the community has embraced it,” Cluck says. “I have been doing it for over 10 years now and it is highly rewarding to celebrate our local community and all of the fine folks who live here.”

STEVE AND RONNIE WILKINS

There are couples out there that make marriage look fun and easy. One of those couples is Ronnie and Steve Wilkins. Having met Ronnie through a friend, who also happens to be Ronnie’s cousin, I can honestly say I haven’t seen a couple have as much fun together as the Wilkins do.

Long before the Wilkins’ love story took off, Ronnie has lived in Tulsa “off and on, but more on than off” for the past 39 years, with Steve calling Tulsa home for the past 40 years.

“I’m a Navy brat born in San Diego, born to parents who were high school sweethearts from Edison High School,” Ronnie says. “After graduating high school in 1974, my folks got married and my dad joined the Navy. I was born, but my parents wanted to move back to Tulsa because all our family was here.”

Steve’s road begins at St. Francis Hospital before his folks moved to Houston when he was little. He moved back to Tulsa just two years later.

“I’ve been pretty close to a Jenks lifer,” Steve says. “I graduated from Jenks in 1986, but I’ve seen the town change from a Dairy Queen, a community pool, a train that housed the Jenks chamber and the old rodeo grounds. Today, Jenks consists of a McDonald’s, River Walk, Creek Turnpike running through the town and now many small businesses.”

Ronnie and Steve met in 2001 and married a year and a half later in 2003. Since then, the Wilkins’ lives have been packed with working and raising four kids. Ronnie is the account manager at Fresh Point and Steve works for a contract facilities company at the University of Tulsa, where he directs the facility services department.

“Together, Ronnie and I have two daughters and two sons, all of whom went to Jenks,” Steve says. “We are a sports crazy family We are a sports crazy family that enjoys weekend sports tournaments for soccer, softball and baseball. Riley, Connor and Jen are all in college and we have a sixth-grader, Seth, at home.”

“We also love to go to the lake on the weekends,” Ronnie says.

The decision to live in Tulsa was a no-brainer for Steve and Ronnie.

“Although Tulsa has grown over the years, it still has its home town family feeling,” Steve says. “I like the attempt to enhance our river, and we have created a beautiful down town atmosphere. Tulsa is big enough to be one of the cities to watch for but still remains true to its roots of beautiful conservative family living town. Having been born here and rooted in its suburbs, you grown up so close to a city it becomes a part of you and the place you want your family to live. I like the fact I can get across town in 15 minutes and of course, there’s a golf course every 10 miles.  I truly love Tulsa, its culture, its people, its history and its recreation.”