Freddie’s BBQ in Sapulpa might not seem like the kind of place with a direct connection to UCO, but owner Ed Slyman (’66) traces so much of his success in the restaurant industry to his days at Central when he was studying Health & Physical Education and English.
“UCO, or Central State as I knew it, fit me,” Slyman said. “As a kid from a small town, I went to OSU for a semester and was just lost.”
Slyman spent one semester in Stillwater before relocating to UCO. He and his wife lived in an apartment house just off campus, behind what is now Textbook Brokers.
Each Saturday, Slyman’s wife would drop him off on the interstate so that he could hitchhike to Tulsa to work at Jamil’s. He’d work the dinner shift there, something he did for a few years before he helped the owner start the Oklahoma City location.
Slyman spent his weekdays going to class, but noted that he and many of his classmates were able to get jobs in Oklahoma City working for the Health Department or tax agencies to help with their income.
During his time as a student, he saw much growth at Central.
“It was a time where nobody had anything,” Slyman recalls. “Credit hours were only $5. When I started, there were about 3,000 students. By the time we graduated, there were more than 10,000.”
After graduating, Slyman taught for seven years at Richard Byrd Junior High School, which he helped open. In 1972, he joined his uncle in the restaurant business, beginning with the Freddie’s BBQ in Drumright.
“It only had seats for 50 people,” Slyman said. “It became a big landing place for oilfield folks.”
The original location burned down in 1977, giving Slyman an opportunity to either rebuild where it was or relocate the restaurant. In 1979, Freddie’s opened the doors of the Sapulpa location, the same place it resides today.
In 1992, a banquet area was added behind the building, expanding the business into the event hosting and catering sector.
Slyman says some of the techniques he used as a junior high teacher are techniques he still uses with his employees today, some of who have been working for him since the doors opened in 1979.
Slyman’s granddaughter now attends UCO as a freshman, something he is very proud of.
“I’m a big advocate of Central,” he explained. “It’s so welcoming to students. I don’t want to knock the bigger schools, but they’re just not the same. Everywhere on Central’s campus is easily accessible, even as it continues to grow.”
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