Okie from Muskogee: Dogs, cars, American Legion keep Chandler busy | Ways of life

Ronnie Chandler has held many jobs over the years – computer store owner, Muskogee Public Schools technology director, tire store owner.

However, he recalled a time when he was hanging out with a friend in high school, when he didn’t see much of a future.

“Neither of us were doing very well in high school, and college was the furthest thing from my mind,” Chandler said. “We knew we had to make a living.”

Chandler said he chose to join the US Navy, which he now says is the best decision he could have made.

“I grew up,” he said. “In high school I didn’t put anything into it. I didn’t work at it. I got bored. High school wasn’t fun. I joined the military and it added some structure.”

A day on an aircraft carrier helped instill that maturity, he said. A supervisor had told him he would work there.

“He pointed out that I was responsible for 12 $30 million airplanes, but more than that, I was responsible for 24 men who were irreplaceable, and that’s a big load,” Chandler said. “I went from an 18-year-old kid to an 18-year-old petty officer with people working under me and responsibility for equipment, overnight.”

Chandler was stationed at Naval Air Station Miramar in San Diego. He was an aviation plumbing technician, working on aircraft such as the F-14 Tomcat, the type of aircraft used in the original “Top Gun” movie. He said the film was shot at Miramar several years after he was stationed there.

He sold personal computers in the 1990s, when they were still a new thing.

“When I closed my business, that computer that you pay $500 for now was $3,500, $4,000 back then,” he said.

Chandler remains active in retirement. When he’s not working at American Legion Post 15, he’s working on restoring a 1975 Monza or training his German shepherd, Loki.

Being part of

American Legion

Ronnie Chandler says being involved with the American Legion has been an adventure since he joined in early 2021.

“I was talking to some friends of mine who were members here,” he said. “After I retired, I had some free time and decided to go see what it was all about.”

Part of that adventure came when the post office was damaged and flooded in February 2020. Chandler recalled helping restore and repaint the post office’s kitchen, stage, walls, ceilings and other areas.

Chandler said he feels a sense of camaraderie at the Legion.

“It’s nice to be able to work with other veterans who have been through what I’ve been through and give back mostly to the kids in the community,” he said. “Some people don’t realize that, when you’re in the military, you’re part of a team. When you get out (of the military), that goes away. It’s good to be a part of something again.”

The post is working to recruit members so it can be of more service to the community.

“We have scholarship programs,” he said. “We look forward to Boys and Girls State, which teaches young people about government and how government works.”

Chandler said he spends many hours at the post, contacting other members.

“I call the other members of the post,” he said. “We had one that we hadn’t seen in a couple of weeks, so I called him … I found out he was a little under the weather.”

Car restoration

an ongoing task

Chandler is also working on restoring a 1979 Chevy Monza with a 600 horsepower engine.

He said the car was just a shell when he first got it.

“There was nothing inside. It was rusted,” he said. “I put all new suspension under it, built a frame, put a roll cage in. I built the engine, the transmission. The whole train was built by me.”

He said he has been working on it for the past three years, with the help of his youngest son. An area cat also likes to crawl on the motorcycle sometimes, he said.

Instead of painting, Chandler chose to wrap the car in vinyl.

“It’s special automotive vinyl, but it’s basically adhesive plastic,” he said, adding that the project took about three days.

“It turned out to be more work than I thought,” he said. “It looks like you just put it on, but there’s really a technique to it,” Chandler said. “You have to stretch it, but you can’t stretch it too far, but you have to stretch it a certain amount. You have to warm it up, but you can’t overheat it. It’s a lot more technical than it looks on YouTube.”

The project ended up being significantly cheaper than the painting.

“To paint it would have been about $3,000 or $4,000, but I probably put in $400 to $500 to wrap it.”

Training dog

and the owners

Chandler said he doesn’t necessarily train dogs at House of K9.

“You train the owner,” Chandler said. “You start with treats. We actually use kibble with the dogs. You teach the owner how to tell the dog what you want him to do.”

The classes are usually an hour a week, focusing on showing dog owners how to train at home,” he said. “You really need to spend 10 to 15 minutes a day training each time.”

He is using that technique to train his dog, Loki. The dog’s parents were retired Oklahoma County law enforcement dogs.

“I’m working in what we call a place, or a station, as some people call it,” he said. “It’s teaching a dog to stay in a certain place and not leave it until you tell it to.”

He said he works with Loki two or three times a day.

“It’s like you have a few minutes working with the dog,” Chandler said. “Then let him be a dog, and love him, play with him, and go on. If you do that, and do that every day, you have a dog that you can go anywhere with.”

P and A

HOW DID YOU COME FROM MUSKOGEE TO OKIE?

“We were living in a suburb of Los Angeles. Our sons were in high school and it was very difficult. We moved to Oklahoma and, by a twist of fate, got a job in Muskogee. We loved it here, we raised our sons here and I never left. My whole family was from the Oklahoma area. My dad was from Roland, my mom was from Muldrow.”

WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT MUSKOGEE?

“Small town feeling. You know people. You know so many people they say hello and you don’t remember their names.”

WHAT WILL MAKE MUSKOGEE A BETTER PLACE TO LIVE?

“More functions to bring families together and go out. The city has a lot of functions, but they don’t promote them. I want to know when there are functions.”

WHO PERSON IN MUSKOGEE DO YOU ADMIRATE MOST?

“Dr. Eldon Gleichman, former head of schools. He was super intelligent, the nicest guy you’d ever want to meet. He taught me patience. He said ‘just keep doing your job and you’ll be fine.’ That was his thing.”

WHAT IS THE MOST MEMORABLE THING TO HAPPEN IN MUSKOGEE?

“I was baptized here. That’s probably the biggest thing. I was baptized at St. Joe’s. I was in my 40s, so it was a little different. My wife was raised Catholic.”

WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR FREE TIME?

“Playing with my race car. Working at the American Legion post. Working around the house. Trying to help people when I can.”

HOW WOULD YOU SUM UP MUSKOGEE IN 25 WORDS OR LESS?

“Big city with a small town heart.”

MEET Ronnie Chandler

AGE: 64.

HOMETOWN: Firebaugh, California.

EDUCATION: Aviation High School, Redondo Beach, California. Practical Schools, Anaheim, California.

MILITARY SERVICE: US Navy, 1975-1981. Petty Officer Second Class.

OCCUPATION: “I had a few, but retired as a tire salesman at Discount Tires.”

FAMILY: Wife of 44 years, Debra; sons, David and Michael; two grandchildren.

CHURCH: St. Joseph’s Catholic Church.

HOBBIES: Drag Racing, racing in general, fishing, American Legion.

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