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Oklahoma Journeys

Fort Gibson Abandoned, 1871

2010-09-25

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Saying hello and goodbye to a grand old piece of Oklahoma's history this week on Oklahoma Journeys. It protected thousands of American Indians, served as a home to hundreds of soldiers and helped bring peace and order to the Oklahoma frontier, but after six decades of hard work, Fort Gibson called it quits this week on Oklahoma Journeys from the Oklahoma History Center.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Journeys. I'm Michael Dean.

In the 1820s when the eastern tribes of American Indians began their migration into what is now Arkansas and Oklahoma, conflict erupted between the tribes that were already here, mainly the Osage and the various eastern nations. To keep the peace and to provide protection to the new arrivals, the U.S. Army initially relied on troops stationed at Fort Smith. It soon became apparent, however, that as the number of Americans Indian tribes moving into the area increased a fort would be needed that was further west of Fort Smith. To achieve that objective Colonel Matthew Arbuckle, along with several companies from the 7th Infantry, established Cantonment Gibson on the Neosho or Grand River several miles above the point that it flows into the Arkansas. Within a few years the name was changed to Fort Gibson, and Fort Gibson became the headquarters of the 7th Infantry and the Mounted Rangers in 1832.

The nation's first dragoon regiment called the fort home beginning in1833, and in 1834 Fort Gibson was designated as Headquarters of the Southwestern Frontier. For the massive waves of American Indians being forced to move into the region during the mid- to late-1830s, Fort Gibson was often the first stop in the Indian Territory and provided a distribution point for rations and supplies. By the 1840s the role of the fort as a protector from and for various tribes was largely over, and in 1857 the post was abandoned with the buildings and land being turned over to the Cherokee Nation.

Indian Territory experienced the destructive nature of the Civil War just as much as any other region of the country, if not more so, and the fort was reactivated in 1863. During the war the fort became a key defensive point for the Union in the Indian Territory. The fort continued on redesignated as a supply post until 1872 when it was reactivated to combat the rampant gangs of outlaws roaming the region. The fort remained active through the 1870s and 1880s, helping officials to keep the peace and maintain order in the territories, both Oklahoma and Indian. In 1890, with the winding down of the frontier era, a military outpost in eastern Oklahoma simply was no longer needed. It was in this week of 1890 that the U.S. Army officially and for the last time abandoned Fort Gibson, the one-time bastion of peace and stability on the American Frontier.

This spring the Oklahoma Historical Society announced plans to begin a million-dollar renovation of the fort, replacing roofs, rotten timber, chinking, and creating a drainage system for the fort. Today, the fort in a mixture of rebuilt and original components still stands. A fall encampment will take place the weekend of October 8th and 9th, with an education day for on October 8th and re-enactors from the 6th Infantry Division reliving the fort during the 1846 war with Mexico. Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma Historical Society, dedicated to the collection, preservation, and sharing of our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Journeys

Al Jennings

2009-09-26

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Only in Oklahoma could a lawyer become a train robber, go to jail then to prison, and then run for governor, but that's what Al Jennings did and in the process was almost elected. Notorious Al Jennings...his story is our Oklahoma Journeys this week from the Oklahoma History Center.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Journeys. I'm Michael Dean.

Al Jennings' life story sounds like one of the dime novels he allegedly enjoyed reading. He was born in Virginia in 1863, studied law there, then in 1889 came to the territory to practice law when his father was appointed probate judge in Woodward. Al settled in El Reno and in 1892 was elected county attorney of Canadian County. In 1894 he was defeated for re-election then moved to Woodward to practice law with his brothers Ed and John. On October 8, 1895, the Jennings brothers were in court defending several young men charged with stealing a keg of dynamite from a Santa Fe train. Assisting in the prosecution was Temple Houston. The proceedings turned into an argument in which the hot tempered Jennings shouted "You're a liar!" That evening Temple Houston, who was as handy with a guns as he was with the law, along with Jack Love, confronted Ed and John Jennings; Ed was killed, and John was seriously wounded. When Al learned what happened he vowed to kill Houston and Love and later said "All of the ambition of life went out of me, the future, which had seemed so bright to me as a young lawyer in a new country, died there with my brother."

Jennings actual outlaw career officially spanned only four months. It was on October 1, 1897, that he and his gang flagged down a Rock Island train north of Chickasha, collected about 300 dollars from passengers, then dynamited the express car and stole a jug of whiskey and a bunch of bananas. For two months they eluded a posse, then finally in November Deputy Marshal Bud Ledbetter and his men surrounded the gang in a farm house in eastern Oklahoma. In February 1899 Al Jennings was sentenced to life in prison, but a year later President McKinley commuted his sentence to five years, and in 1902 he was released and returned to Oklahoma. In 1907 President Roosevelt issued a full pardon. Jennings opened a law practice in Oklahoma City and by 1912 was making about $5,000 a year. That year he entered politics again, running for county attorney in Oklahoma County. He lost, but then decided to run for governor in 1914. Running as a Democrat, he was in a race with J.B.A. Robertson, an attorney from Chandler, and Robert L. Williams, the Chief Justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court. When the campaigning was done and the votes were counted, Williams had won and Jennings had finished third.

During the campaign, one newspaper editor wrote "It is the general expression that if Jennings could talk to all of the voters of the state, he would unquestionably be the nominee." Another editor wrote, however, that if he won the nomination youngsters would say "Papa, I'm going to be a train robber, and then I may get elected governor of Oklahoma."

You can learn more about the fascinating political history of our state and how it is intertwined with our criminal justice system by the visiting the Oklahoma History Center, NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Journeys

Cherokee Strip Land Run

2009-09-19

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When we think of land runs, we automatically think of the ‘89 run that opened central Oklahoma, but the largest run occurred four years later on September 16, 1893. That was the run that opened the Cherokee Outlet and more than a hundred thousand people are estimated to have participated. We’ll remember the land run of 1893 on Oklahoma Journeys from the Oklahoma History Center.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Journeys. I’m Michael Dean.

Oklahoma was the only state to have parts of its land opened by land run. That’s one of the things that makes our state unique. When we think of land runs, we automatically think of the ’89 land run that opened Central Oklahoma, but the biggest run was the one that occurred on September 16, 1893, that opened what had been the Cherokee Outlet in northwest Oklahoma. An estimated 130,000 people lined up on the Kansas border that morning waiting for the guns to sound ready to make the run.

The run was immortalized in the movie Far and Away. Director Ron Howard was born in Duncan and grew up listening to his grandfather tell stories about how he made that run. When Howard was directing the movie, he said he tried very hard to try to make the land run scenes as accurate as possible, because for him it was a part of his family story.

Tens of thousands gathered at registration booths located on the prairie with neither shelter nor immediate access to water and other necessities. Only forty-five clerks staffed the nine locations, so the lines often reached a mile long with people four abreast. Many held their places for days without water. Dry weather, choking dust, and smoke from nearby prairie fires afflicted the shuffling crowds. At least ten people died of heat stroke and similar problems. The newspaper in Arkansas City, Kansas, reported fifty cases of sunstroke in one day; six victims died that night.

Still more suffering and chaos faced home seekers. Drunkenness, fighting, and worse crimes increased markedly while federal officials delayed answers to two pressing questions until the last week. To restrain enthusiastic crowds, the president's proclamation opening the lands provided for a one-hundred-foot buffer zone around and immediately within the Outlet. Fearing damage to Indian lands, Indian agents and tribal spokesmen opposed applying those rules for entries at the eastern border. In response authorities issued contradictory instructions that caused widespread confusion.

Central and Western Oklahoma lands were opened using a variety of mechanisms. There were five runs altogether of which the Cherokee Strip run was the largest; six areas were opened by allotment; and there was one opening by lottery and one by sealed bid.

The only remaining sod house from the land run is now a museum, owned by the Oklahoma Historical Society, located in Aline. It is open Tuesday through Friday from 9am to 5pm and Saturdays and Sundays from 2pm to 5pm. The Oklahoma Historical Society is building a new Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center in Enid and operates the Cherokee Strip Museum in Perry. The Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City features a large exhibit on the land runs including an actual wagon that made both major land runs, in ’89 and in ‘93.

Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving and sharing our state’s past. I’m Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Journeys

Robert S. Kerr

2009-09-12

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Today we remember Robert S. Kerr for having served as both governor and U.S. senator, but his crowning achievement before his death in 1963 was funding for the Arkansas River navigation project that connects Tulsa and the rest of Oklahoma to the Gulf of Mexico. We celebrate Robert S. Kerr's birthday this week on Oklahoma Journeys from the Oklahoma History Center.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Journeys. I'm Michael Dean.

113 years ago, on September 11, 1896, Robert S. Kerr was born in a log cabin near Ada, Oklahoma. When he was elected governor, he was the first governor of Oklahoma to have actually been born in our state. Kerr and his brother-in-law, James Anderson, started an oil company, and by 1929, the Anderson-Kerr Drilling Company had become so prosperous that Kerr abandoned his law practice to focus on oil. Anderson retired in 1936, and Dean McGee, former chief geologist for the Phillips Petroleum Company, joined the firm. In the 1930s Kerr became a force in the state Democratic Party, then in 1942 he ran for governor. For many years Kerr focused on the protection of Oklahoma's natural resources. In nearly every speech he gave, he talked about three things: land, wood and water.

But it was water conservation for which we remember Kerr. He focused on that subject saying that future prosperity and economic growth would be dependent upon water. He often recalled that growing up on a small farm outside of Ada, his dad recognized the effects of water pollution. He said his Dad was drilling a water well and told young Kerr that he drilling on the side of a hill above the barnyard and away from the livestock, because when it rained the runoff from the livestock would flow downhill away from the water well.

Kerr frequently talked about the importance of water in his speeches. He told countless audiences that the key to future prosperity was adequate water supplies. In one speech shortly before his death he said "the value of water to Oklahoma over the next fifty years would far outweigh the value of all the oil and gas produced in Oklahoma in the last fifty years."

Kerr's chief legacy for the state of Oklahoma is the series of water projects and dams that made the Arkansas River into a navigable inland waterway system. During his term as governor, Kerr witnessed the devastation caused by flooding of the Arkansas River and its tributaries due to the river's shallowness, which prevented river traffic from reaching Oklahoma. His first bill in Congress created the Arkansas, White and Red River Study Commission, which planned the water and land development in the region. He died before he saw the commission's work come to fruition as the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System, a series of 17 locks and dams making the waterway navigable from the Tulsa Port of Catoosa to the Gulf of Mexico.

Kerr left another legacy beside natural resource conservation. He served as chairman of the Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences. He helped create NASA, then had a vice president of Kerr-McGee, James Webb, appointed the director of NASA.

Kerr didn't live to see the Arkansas River opened for navigation, nor did he see Americans on the moon. He died of a heart attack on January 1, 1963. The Associated Press obituary called Kerr the uncrowned king of the senate.

Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Journeys

Cherokee Strip Land Run, September 16, 1893

2010-09-18

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When you mention land runs, everyone automatically thinks of the first land run, the one in 1889 that opened up what is today Oklahoma City. Actually there were five land runs, a land lottery, a land auction, and a Supreme Court decision that combined to create what is today the state of Oklahoma. The Land Run of 1893 actually opened more land for settlement than did the one in 1889. That's our story on Oklahoma Journeys from the Oklahoma History Center.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Journeys. I'm Michael Dean.

The Federal Government granted seven million acres of land to the Cherokee Nation in treaties in 1828 and 1835. The government guaranteed to the Cherokee Nation that this land would be a perpetual outlet west for tribal hunting grounds; it measured 58 miles wide and extended 220 miles along the northern border.

After the Civil War, because the Cherokee Nation had supported and fought for the Confederacy, the federal government demanded a new treaty made. They reduced the original reservation lands and permitted "friendly tribes" to be moved to eastern end of the Outlet. With the start of the cattle drives following the Civil War, the Cherokee used their western land to make a profit. Cattlemen wanted to fatten their cattle on the rich grasses before taking them to railheads in Kansas, so they leased the land from the Cherokee. Land hungry settlers viewed the cattlemen's use of the area as a waste of fertile farmland and pressured the government to purchase the Cherokee land from the Cherokee. Congress eventually paid more than 8-and-a-half-million dollars, or $1.40 per acre, and announced the opening of the Outlet to homesteaders.

President Grover Cleveland designated September 16, 1893, as the date for the "run" on 6,000,000 acres. The day of the run was hot and dry. Dust, whipped by wind and thousands of feet, made it unbearable. To add to the misery, soldiers were doing their best to keep order and see that no one "jumped the gun." The run was to begin only when troopers fired their pistols into the air at high noon, but there were several reports of persons shooting guns crowds, and man homesteaders excitedly took off on hearing any gun shot.

Finally, at noon September 16, 1893, a shot rang out and more than 100,000 determined settlers raced for 42,000 claims. By sunset, farms were being established, and the cities of Enid, Perry, Alva, and Woodward had risen out of what had been virgin prairie the day before. Making the race and staking a claim must have seemed simple when compared to establishing a home in the sometimes formidable Cherokee Strip. Some settlers carved sod homes and dugouts from the prairie while others lived in their covered wagons. The first winters were harsh as the land tested the endurance and character of its new inhabitants. Many of the settlers could not endure the harsh conditions, and after weeks or months, gave up their dream. Hard times gave way to better days as crops flourished and communities, schools and churches rose from the wind-swept plains.

The Oklahoma Historical Society will open the new Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center in Enid this November 5. The only remaining sod house from the land run is now a museum owned by the Oklahoma Historical Society in Aline. The Oklahoma History Center, NE 23rd Street just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City, features a large exhibit on the land runs including an actual wagon that made both major land runs in 1889 and in 1893. Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Journeys

Benny Owen

2009-10-17

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In 1905 the University of Oklahoma hired Benny Owen to coach their football team. Then in the fall of 1907, he lost his right arm when the shotgun he was carrying while hunting discharged. Some thought that was the end of his coaching career, but it wasn't, and today he is remembered as one of the greatest coaches of all time. That's our story on Oklahoma Journeys from the Oklahoma History Center.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Journeys. I'm Michael Dean.

Benny Owen was born in Chicago in 1874. His family moved to St. Louis when he was twelve, and after he finished school, the family moved again, this time to Arkansas City, Kansas. Owen served as an apprentice to a local doctor for three years then enrolled in the University of Kansas in 1897 to pursue medical studies but soon discovered a knack for football.

Owen was the star quarterback on the undefeated 1899 Kansas Jayhawks team. Upon graduation, he took his first head coaching job at Washburn College in Topeka. Following a one year stint there, he spent another year as an assistant at the University of Michigan. While at Michigan, he helped develop the famous point-a-minute team built around the great Willie Heston. He got his first exposure to the Oklahoma team while head was the coach at Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas. His Bethany Swedes met and defeated two Sooner teams in 1903 and 1904.

Owen was hired to take over the Sooner football team the following year in 1905, succeeding one-year coach Fred Ewing. He stepped in and immediately turned the fledgling team around, giving Oklahoma its first win over southern rival Texas. Owen was loved by his players as he regularly would involve himself in scrimmages when he felt his players were lagging. Owen's first two years at Oklahoma were spent back and forth between Norman and Arkansas City, Kansas. Due to a reduced financial budget, Owen only remained on campus during the football season.

In 1907, on October 18th Owen lost his right arm in a hunting accident.

Early in the administration of Dr. Stanton Brooks, Owen was fired by the Oklahoma legislature. They believed his salary of $3,500 was far too great for an athletics coach. They then would use the loss of his arm as an excuse for dismissal. It was recommended he be terminated, and shortly thereafter, he was. However, when President Brooks heard about the news, he quickly got the decision rescinded. Owens did not learn of his "dismissal" until a week after his "re-hiring."

Early in Owen's tenure as head coach, funding for athletic teams were very much an issue. Due to costs involved in travel, Owen's team would regularly go out on long, grueling road trips. For example, his 1905 team played three games in five days, and in 1909 they played three games in six days.

In addition to his immortality as a football coach, Owen also spent 13 seasons as the Oklahoma men's basketball coach, and in those 13 years, he won nearly 70% of his games and had two undefeated seasons, while he only had two losing seasons. Along with Bud Wilkinson, Barry Switzer and Bob Stoops, he is one of four coaches to win over 100 games at the University of Oklahoma. No other college football program has more than three coaches to accomplish that feat. He died in February 1970 in Houston at the age of 94. You can learn more about athletics in Oklahoma by visiting the Oklahoma History Center, NE 23rd Street just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Journeys

Cordell German Newspaper Threatened

2009-10-31

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It's patriotism versus heritage this week on Oklahoma Journeys. The global conflict that was the First World War didn't really have any clear good or bad guys in the beginning, and for the US it was difficult to determine if we should become involved or remain neutral. For German-Americans in Oklahoma that decision was especially difficult, and that story is the topic of this week's Oklahoma Journeys from the Oklahoma History Center.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Journeys. I'm Michael Dean.

As World War One broke out in 1914 between the large powers of Europe, the population of the United States was divided fairly equally into those who supported England and France and those that supported Germany. While the US under President Wilson tried to remain neutral, England's dominance in the Atlantic Ocean slowly shifted our trade and then our allegiance to the side of England and France against the Germans. For the many German-Americans in Oklahoma, this shifting loyalty made for an increasingly difficult existence. These Oklahomans, mostly wheat farmers in the north-central portion of the state, considered themselves Americans foremost but saw no need to abandon their German heritage. For a large number of families business and home life was conducted entirely in German, and many older immigrants never learned English.

As the US began to take on a pro-English anti-German stance in the war, pressure was applied to these German-Americans to forsake their roots and discard their history. Tactics used to persuade these German Oklahomans varied from polite requests to brutal intimidation. People overheard speaking German were at various times physically attacked. Being a small minority, the German-Oklahomans usually complied with the various requests and in several cases entire towns changed their names. Bismark in McCurtain County became Wright City; in Kingfisher County, Kiel became Loyal; and Korn changed their name to Corn.

One of the strongest and loudest voices of Germanic culture in Oklahoma came through the German press, and of these the Oklahoma Vorwarts, published by Julius Hussy, was one of the largest. While other German language papers were closing down throughout the state, Hussy and Vorwarts continued to promote German culture and heritage and defend German wartime actions. With the official entry of the United States into the war in 1917 the pressure on German-Americans intensified and Hussy's paper came under constant attack.

It was in this week of 1918 that 50 armed men stormed the Vorwarts office in Bessie, Oklahoma, and effectively shut it down under threat of death. Germanic culture in large part was erased from Oklahoma by World War One, but the history and struggle of these people is preserved for posterity in the collection of German language papers available for public use in the Research Library at the Oklahoma History Center on NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. The Oklahoma History Center is open Monday through Saturday from 10am to 5pm. Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to the collection, preservation, and sharing of our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Journeys

Anton Classen's Birthday

2009-10-24

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He was a lawyer, edited a newspaper, donated land for the first normal school in Oklahoma Territory in Edmond, and became one of the busiest home builders in building Oklahoma City when that city was growing by leaps and bounds. We say happy birthday to Anton Classen on Oklahoma Journeys from the Oklahoma History Center.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Journeys. I'm Michael Dean.

In Oklahoma City there is Classen Drive, Classen Boulevard, Classen High School and Northwest Classen High School. But over time, we seem to have forgotten just who Classen was.

He was Anton Classen, and he was born on October 8, 1861, in Illinois. Named for his German-born father, Classen received a common school education in Illinois then studied law at the University of Michigan. Two years after graduating from law school, he made the 1889 land run into the Unassigned Lands, living for a brief period of time in Guthrie. That town had too many lawyers, so he moved to nearby Edmond. While practicing law, Classen edited of the Edmond Sun newspaper and donated the land for Oklahoma Territory's first normal school to be located at Edmond.

In 1897 Classen was appointed by President William McKinley as receiver in the U.S. Land Office in Oklahoma City. Classen quickly involved himself in the development and beautification of the Oklahoma City. Speculating in land, he bought farm land next to the city limits and organized numerous housing additions, the first being Highland Park Addition (now Heritage Hills) established in 1900. To enhance the lots he planted trees and set aside land for parks. In 1902 he and John Shartel organized the Metropolitan Railway Company (later the Oklahoma City Railway Company), the city's first street car system that benefitted their real estate interests because the lines connected their additions to downtown Oklahoma City.

In 1899 Classen served as president of the Oklahoma City Commercial Club (later the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce), was instrumental in getting city streets paved, and in promoting Oklahoma City as the location for Theodore Roosevelt's Rough Riders annual reunion in 1900. A Methodist, he helped organize the University Development Company, through which the building of Epworth University (now Oklahoma City University) was financed. He also served on the university's board of trustees. His many real estate interests were transferred to the Classen Company in 1902, the same year that he opened the University and Marquette additions. In association with the Oklahoma Industrial Company, Classen promoted the establishment of a meat-packing firm in the stockyards and enticed a Chicago meat packing company to locate in Oklahoma City. That was the beginning of what became known as "Packingtown."

At the turn of the twenty-first century Classen Boulevard and Classen School of Advanced Studies (the former Classen High School) in Oklahoma City remained as tributes to one of the city's first prominent developers. During the years his company was building homes and running the streetcar system, Oklahoma City's population grew by over a two hundred percent. Oklahoma City just wouldn't be what it is today had it not been for Anton Classen, born on October 8, 1861.

You can learn more about the early history of Oklahoma City by visiting the Research Library at the Oklahoma History Center, NE 23rd just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Journeys

Death of Henry G. Bennett

2009-12-12

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He warned of potential problems with the governments of Iran, Egypt, the Arabian Peninsula, then he died in a plane crash near Tehran. Henry G. Bennett was the long-time president of Oklahoma A&M College, and was on a mission, sent by President Truman, when he died. That's our story on Oklahoma Journeys from the Oklahoma History Center.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Journeys. I'm Michael Dean.

Dr. Henry G. Bennett was named president of Oklahoma A&M College in 1928 after serving as president of Southeastern State Teachers College in Durant for 9 years. From 1928 to 1950 when he took a leave of absence, what would become Oklahoma State University underwent an unparalleled period of growth. There is a family story that in 1928 he drafted a vision of what he thought the college would look like, and today the campus of OSU bears a striking resemblance to Dr. Bennett's vision.

Bennett was particularly interested in the area of adult education. He believed that adults could benefit from educational opportunities as well as children and teenagers could. As the nation's leading expert in that field, President Harry Truman turned to Dr. Bennett to help in his administration. A part of Truman's inaugural speech focused on foreign affairs, and his fourth point outlined a program of aid to foreign countries, much as the Marshall plan was helping Europe recover from the effects of World War Two. Bennett was named Assistant Secretary of State in charge of the Point Four Program. This was his opportunity to take his message of adult education to the world.

In 1951, he was back in Oklahoma for a short visit. In November 1951 he gave what would be his last speech, and in that speech he talked about the countries he was about to visit: Iran, Egypt, and other nations in the Persian Gulf Region. He told his audience that when he looked at Iran, for example, and all of the problems with the people and the government, he believed that trouble for the world was brewing, and he believed a key to preventing trouble there was in education, providing educational opportunities for the people of those countries.

That speech was given in November 1951. On December 22, 1951, the plane in which was riding crashed in Iran, killing everyone aboard. Dr. Bennett, his wife, and three assistants were among the victims. He left a legacy at Oklahoma State University that continues through today.

You can see an exhibit on education in the territories and Oklahoma, including the story of Dr. Henry G. Bennett, at the Oklahoma History Center NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. The History Center is open from 10am to 5pm Monday through Saturdays. Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Journeys

Admission Day in Oklahoma

2009-11-14

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"Oklahoma Becomes a State! Carpetbag Rule Ends Finally!" screamed banner headlines across the brand new state on November 16, 1907, announcing with pride and pleasure that Theodore Roosevelt signed the statehood proclamation and we were now the 46th state. There was no bigger news in the third week of November in 1907, one hundred years ago this week. That's the story on Oklahoma Journeys from the Oklahoma History Center.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Journeys. I'm Michael Dean.

One hundred two years ago President Theodore Roosevelt signed the proclamation making Oklahoma the 46th state. For weeks Oklahomans had known that President Theodore Roosevelt was planning to sign that proclamation on Saturday, November 16th; thus, the final week of territorial rule was filled with announcements about the new government that would take office the morning of the 16th at the state capitol of Guthrie.

All week the Santa Fe railroad announced special trains would carry people from Oklahoma City to Guthrie on Saturday the 16th to witness the events taking place on what was called "Admission Day." The round trip fare was $1.30. More than a thousand citizens boarded special trains the morning of the 16th to watch history in the making. On Friday the 15th newspaper accounts reported that everything was in readiness for the inauguration of the first state officers of the new state. Guthrie officials reported thousands were arriving, hotels were crowded, and private homes were thrown open to accommodate the visitors. Also being reported was that Territorial Governor Frank Frantz would not take part in the ceremonies as a result of bitterness engendered during the campaign for governor in which he was defeated by Charles N. Haskell. The strained situation was all the more noticeable because it is unprecedented.

Also on Friday, November 15th, it was reported that two elected officials would miss the ceremony. Secretary of State William H. Cross fell ill Thursday evening, stricken by an attack of auto-intoxication of the heart (or today what we call a heart attack) while he and his wife were staying at the Saratoga Hotel in downtown Oklahoma City. J. J. McAlester, founder of the town named for him, was one of three Corporation Commissioners scheduled to take office. He also was too ill to attend.

The morning of the 16th, across the new state, train whistles shrilled, bells rang and people celebrated Statehood for Oklahoma. Newspapers reported that Carpetbag rule was over; now, the people controlled the destiny of the new 46th state. That evening the inaugural ball was the big event. The scene described this way by a reporter there:

"The City Hall of Guthrie was the scene this evening of a brilliant and auspicious event, the first inaugural ball of the State of Oklahoma. The perfumed air was radiant with happiness. Every face was expressive of joy, and softened laughter filled the big ball room. Brilliantly lighted by myriads of electric globes half hidden in encircling vines and filled with gaily gowned women and conventionally garbed men, the ball scene was on of movement and of beauty."

That was the scene 102 years ago this week. You can learn more about how these two territories became one state by visiting the Oklahoma History Center on NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Journeys

Battle of Round Mountain

2009-11-07

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The Civil War came to Oklahoma or Indian Territory relatively early in the time frame of the war. Less than eight months after it began, the lives of territorial residents were in chaos. Most historians agree that the first Civil War battle to occur in Indian Territory was at Round Mountain, and that's the topic of this week's Oklahoma Journeys from the Oklahoma History Center.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Journeys. I'm Michael Dean.

Although they were technically not a part of the United States at the time, the residents of Indian Territory in the 1860s were just as affected by the US Civil War as anyone else in the country. The nations of the Creeks, Cherokees, Chickasaws and others divided and split themselves between choices of the northern and southern causes. Most of the larger tribes in Indian Territory were splintered from the conflict and their homes and lives were thrown into chaotic state of anarchy, death and destruction. The first Civil War battle to occur in what is today Oklahoma took place as a band of Creeks and Seminoles remaining loyal to the union and under the command of a Creek Chief attempted to make their way to Kansas and safety. As the Creeks and their federal forces made their way north, they were pursued by a Confederate Cavalry force made up of members of the various tribes and Texans, led by Confederate Colonel Douglas Cooper. The two groups played a cat and mouse game until November 19, 1861.

It was in this week of 1861 that Southern forces finally caught up with the Creeks, engaging them in a skirmish near Round Mountain. The fighting started late in the afternoon of November 19th and ended at nightfall. In the morning the pursuing Confederates found the northern faction had vanished during the night making their way further north. The two groups fled and chased their way north engaging in two other fights, none, however, as large or substantial as the action at Round Mountain. In an interesting side note, after the war, Oklahoma historians attempted to relocate the site of the Battle of Round Mountain but never could reach a consensus. Two groups emerged from this investigation, one claiming that the Round Mountain Site lay a few miles east of Stillwater; the other emphatically arguing for a site closer to Tulsa and the present-day Lake Keystone dam. This debate raged through the fifties and sixties and a number of friendships ended because of it. Archaeological evidence emerged from both sites and the official war records leave the issue in an inconclusive state. Eventually it appeared the majority of opinions sided with the location near Stillwater; however, the issue to this day still raises a bit of contention.

Most of the material relating to the Battle of Round Mountain resides within the collections of the Oklahoma Historical Society research division and is open to the public. You can do the investigating yourself and perhaps you can unravel the mystery of Round Mountain. This is one of the many stories of the Civil War we tell at the Oklahoma History Center, located just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to the collection, preservation, and sharing of our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Journeys

OKC Discovery Well

2009-11-28

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E. K. Gaylord called it the greatest Christmas gift in the history of Oklahoma City when on Dec. 4, 1928, the ITIO Discovery Well Number One hit oil. That brought about the opening of the Oklahoma City Oil field, the largest oil field ever discovered in our state, and that's out story this week on Oklahoma Journeys from the Oklahoma History Center.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Journeys. I'm Michael Dean.

Less than a year after Oklahoma City came into being in April of 1889, a wildcatter began drilling the first oil well in the new city. It was near what is today NE 4th Street and the Santa Fe tracks. A local minister held a prayer service for him; the minister asked for blessings on the well. The wildcatter drilled to about 600 feet then abandoned the project. In 1919 two geologists observed what they thought were favorable geological features, and over the next several years more geologists mapped out what would become the Oklahoma City field. More test wells were drilled in the Capitol Hill area, and one just north of the state capitol went to a depth of more than 7,000 feet. But all the wildcatters found were traces of oil but no large amounts of oil.

Meanwhile the chief geologist for the Phillips Brothers in Bartlesville left that company to form his own oil company. H.V. Foster named his new enterprise the Indian Territory Illuminating Oil Company, or ITIO for short. He was successful. He drilled some of the first wells in the Glen Pool, south of Tulsa. ITIO opened the Seminole Field, the largest oil field to that date in Oklahoma.

H.V. Foster, and his partner Burdette Blue, were aware of all the activity around Oklahoma City, and as were other oil men, they were convinced there was oil under Oklahoma County. It was just a matter of finding where it was, and Foster thought he knew. That location was what is today Southeast 59th and Bryant in far southeast Oklahoma City.

Drilling began on June 12, 1928. In late November the drilling crew encountered some Arbuckle limestone. It was saturated with oil, a casing was set. While drilling the plug with cable tools, gas pressure sent the tools up in the hole where they became lodged. Work continued for two weeks, and at 3 p.m. on December 4, 1928, gas pressure broke through sending everything up into the derrick followed by a massive flow of oil proving H.V. Foster and his ITIO crew were correct. There was oil under Oklahoma County. In the first 27 days the Number One produced more than 110-thousand barrels at a $1.56 a barrel. The mother lode was tapped.

Many city leaders at the time credited the discovery of the Oklahoma City oil field for shielding Central Oklahoma from the worst effects of the great depression. The Oklahoma Oil field was the largest oil field ever discovered in Oklahoma.

It was 81 years ago December 4, 1928, that the ITIO Oklahoma City Discovery Well Number One hit oil and opened the Oklahoma City oil field, the largest oil field ever discovered in Oklahoma. You can learn more about the natural resources of Oklahoma and their part in the history of our state by visiting the Oklahoma History Center on NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Journeys

Birth of Jelly Bryce

2009-12-05

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Oklahoma law enforcement gets a "shot" in the arm this week on Oklahoma Journeys. Bryce, or "Jelly," Delf as he was called was one of the most famous law enforcement officers to serve in Oklahoma and perhaps one of the least known. His fast draw even made Life magazine. His story is the subject of this week's Oklahoma Journeys from the Oklahoma History Center.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Journeys. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma, both as a territory and as a state, has had a fair share of famous law enforcement officials. The very nature of this region left it vulnerable to criminal element and in constant need of law enforcement. First, as Indian Territory, the land that is now Oklahoma provided a convenient hide away for criminals on the run. The various Native American nations had little resources for police or patrolmen and definitely did not have enough manpower to oversee all of their land holdings. Oklahoma territory in the west had vast expanses of open plains and the existence of the panhandle as a true "no mans land" that allowed many criminal elements to hide out in the area with little fear of being discovered.

With the settlement of the area by whites in the late 1800s, a distinguished group of individuals began to emerge. These were the various police officers, sheriffs, and marshals who proved unusually adept at catching criminals, gave their life in the line of duty, or were a part of some heroic effort to apprehend criminals or stop criminal activity. Included in this role call was Delf Bryce. Delf, or Jelly as he was more commonly known, had a remarkable history as a sharpshooter, a quick draw expert and Oklahoma City policeman.

Jelly was born on December 6, 1906, in Mountain View. Jelly Bryce knew that he had a gift for shooting from the time that he was a small child. As an infant he preferred teething on an unloaded handgun and often said that it was from that that he gained his ability with firearms. On his way to enroll in the University of Oklahoma Bryce was distracted by the news of a sharpshooting contest that was being held nearby. After winning the contest, both as an individual and as a hurriedly recruited member of the University of Oklahoma shooting team, Bryce was offered a job with the Oklahoma City Police Department. While working for the Oklahoma City Police Department, and later as an agent for the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, Bryce frustrated criminals and delighted spectators with his demonstrations of quick draw and sharp shooting expertise.

Some of the tricks performed by Bryce included dropping a coin from shoulder height and then with the same hand drawing and shooting the coin before it fell below his waist. So quick and accurate was his draw and aim that Life magazine ran a feature story on Bryce. The magazine photographed Bryce with a strobe flash to capture in slow motion the action rated by scientists as occurring at an incredible speed.

You can learn more about Jelly Bryce in the law and order exhibit at the Oklahoma History Center on NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Journeys

Bernard de la Harpe Enters Oklahoma, February 27, 1719

2010-01-30

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French invaders make the news this week on Oklahoma Journeys. After many centuries of isolation the native residents of what is now Oklahoma were rudely interrupted by the sudden and unannounced appearance of European explorers. Bernard de la Harpe was one such explorer. His story is the topic of this week's Oklahoma Journeys from the Oklahoma History Center.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Journeys. I'm Michael Dean.

For many centuries, the native inhabitants of North America lived undisturbed by outside influence or intrusion. This situation, of course, all changed with the entry of Europeans into the American continent. Less than fifty years after Columbus landed on the island of Hispaniola and called it India, European countries began swarming over to these new found lands. The initial explorers were Spanish who dominated the southern portions of the current United States, moving through and charting the vast open expanses of Texas, western Oklahoma, and Kansas. The other major players on this invasion front were the French and to a lesser extent the English.

While Spain dominated the southwestern part of the country, the English managed to grab a toe hold on the east coast, most of the province of Canada and Mississippi River Valley was the dominion of the French. Rejecting the Spanish method of travel using large trains of mules and horses, the French, using canoes plied the waterways of the interior lands. From Canada, French fur traders, trappers, and priests began to make their way south down the Mississippi River intent on expanding their ever developing network of trade. The ultimate goal for the French was to not just trade with Native Americans but to develop those relationships with the indigenous tribes so they would have some legitimacy to their claim of ownership over the region.

Spanish explorers were simultaneously doing the same thing as they moved up from the south to the north so the event became kind of a race for the middle with the land that is now Oklahoma becoming a major prize. Spain had already laid claim to the western panhandle section of the state with the travels of Coronado, and it was in this week of 1719 that the French officially made their entry into Oklahoma as well. Earlier in the year 1719 French explorer Bernard de la Harpe, along with a small military contingent, made their way up the Arkansas River passing through what is today the Kerr-McClellan waterway. This move was important to the French because it helped solidify their claim to the area and their right to trade with the regional native tribes. The French presence in Oklahoma really beginning in this week of 1719 was long lasting and important. The French influence can be seen in the names of geographical features and towns. Verdigris, Kiamichi, Boggy, Canadian, LeFlore, Poteau, and Chouteau are all common place names that came about because of de la Harpe's expedition.

Many explorers of various nationalities made adventurous treks through Oklahoma, and you can walk in their footsteps at the Oklahoma History Center, NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to the collection, preservation, and sharing of our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Journeys

Alice Mary Robertson

2010-01-02

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She was a teacher, social worker, public official, and politician. This week we celebrate the birthday of Alice Mary Robertson, the first woman elected to Congress from Oklahoma and only the second woman ever elected to Congress. She championed American Indian issues, opposed women's issues and the League of Nations. Alice Mary Robertson this week on Oklahoma Journeys from the Oklahoma History Center.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Journeys. I'm Michael Dean.

Some 350 women were invited to hear Oklahoma's newly elected congresswoman speak on the important issues of the time at the Tulsa Town Club on February 8, 1921, and they were not disappointed to hear Alice Mary Robertson. She was a Republican and had just defeated a Democrat in Oklahoma's second district who was a Cherokee Indian. She was 66 years old when elected to Congress. Her campaign speeches included this statement "I cannot be bought, I cannot be sold, and I cannot be intimidated."

Alice Mary Robertson had already asserted herself in the public eye. She helped Theodore Roosevelt recruit soldiers for Troops L and M of the First Volunteer Cavalry, Roosevelt's Roughriders. Her parents were missionaries in the Creek Nation when she was born, and in her early years, she was self-taught and attended college in Elmira, New York, then taught school in Tullahassee, then at the Carlisle Indian School. She worked as a clerk at the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington. She returned to the Indian Territory and taught at Okmulgee, started a mission, then headed a Presbyterian Boarding School for Indian girls. During World War One she founded the Muskogee chapter of the American Red Cross and ran a canteen service for soldiers passing through the area. She also was the Postmaster in Muskogee.

This would be for most women at the time a busy fulfilling life. But Alice wanted more. In 1920 she ran for Congress from Muskogee. By 1920, she was operating a cafeteria and the only political ads she ran were ads for her cafeteria buried in the classified section of the Muskogee newspapers. In all, she spent less than $3,000. During the campaign her cafeteria newspaper ads were must reading in Muskogee.

Arriving in Washington she immediately began to make her mark. She said that she would concentrate on legislation for Indians, women, farmers, soldiers, and working people, and no one else. Her first fight was against the Sheppard-Towner Bill or maternity bill, a bill she called "paternalistic" and said it "threatened to overthrow the American family." Supporters said it would save the lives of 12,000 mothers and 100,000 babies, but Miss Alice, as she was now known, refused to budge. The list of organizations supporting the bill read like a who's who groups, but Alice said "they are trying to scare me into support for the bill, but I can't be scared." Another issue that drew her attention was the proposed League of Nations. She spoke against the League saying that in the form Woodrow Wilson proposed it, the League was un-American. During her one term in Congress she stayed in controversy, then when she ran for reelection in 1922, she lost, but this week we remember her birth on January 2, 1854, in the Creek Nation. Alice Mary Robertson, the first woman from Oklahoma to serve in Congress.

You can learn more about the interesting personalities who have served in public office in Oklahoma by visiting the Oklahoma History Center on NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Journeys

Babbs Switch Revisted

2009-12-19

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Grace Reynolds grew up in Southern California, but in 1957 she decided she was a survivor of the Babbs Switch School fire in 1924 in Oklahoma. In 1957 the newspaper in Hobart had conclusive proof that she was an imposter, but withheld that story until 1999, the 75th anniversary of the fire. That's our story on Oklahoma Journeys from the Oklahoma History Center.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Journeys. I'm Michael Dean.

It was Christmas Eve 1924, Mrs. Florence Hill, the teacher at the tiny school at Babbs Switch in Kiowa County, South of Hobart, greeted her students and their families for the school's annual special Christmas Eve program. A tree in the rear corner of the room was decorated with paper cut outs and candles while wall-mounted kerosene lamps provided the main source of light. As the program was winding down and Santa was passing out his gifts to the kids, tragedy struck. The paper decorations on the tree caught fire from the candles and the entire tree, a dry cedar, burst into flame. People near the door hurriedly ran outside to open windows trying to provide another means of escape, but heavy security screens were bolted on and locked from the inside. As the fire spread, the kerosene lamps exploded engulfing the entire structure in flames. The entire process took only seconds to unfold and before it was over 36 people, mostly children, lost their lives.

Local news reports were that 37 were counted as missing, but only 36 bodies were recovered. Three-year-old Mary Edens was missing, but her body was never found. In 1956 The Oklahoman ran a story titled "Is Mary Edens Still Living?" In San Bernardino, California, an accountant who was also a member of the local Lions Club somehow saw that article. He contacted the president of the Hobart Lions Club and told him that one of his clients, a young woman, believed that she might be the missing girl. The apparent happy end to this part of the story is that Mary Edens Grossnickle wrote a book of her life story titled Mary, A Child of Tragedy. She and her parents were reunited on the Art Linkletter House Party TV Show in 1957.

But at the same time, the newspaper in Stockton, California, contact the newspaper in Hobart, the Democrat Chief, with information that Mary Edens was in fact Grace Reynolds, and she was an imposter. The two newspapers conducted an extensive investigation, concluding that Mary's story was a hoax. As the Hobart newspaper was preparing to publish the story, Louis Edens begged the publisher not to run it. His wife was absolutely convinced that little Mary Edens, her long lost daughter, had returned. To learn she was an imposter would truly break her heart. Ransom Hancock the publisher of the newspaper agreed to withhold the story, and he did until Christmas Eve 1999, the 75th anniversary of the Babbs Switch fire. It was then that The Hobart Democrat Chief and The Oklahoman ran the true story. Joe Hancock said he was proud of the decision his father made back in 1957 to spare Mrs. Edens the agony of twice losing the daughter she had so desperately believed had survived the fire. Now on the 85th anniversary of the fire we know the whole story.

The newspaper collection in the research library of the Oklahoma History Center contains these and many other stories. The Oklahoma History Center is just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Journeys

US Marshal Sent to Pond Creek, 1894

2010-06-19

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From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Journeys. I’m Michael Dean.

Before the Cherokee Outlet was opened for settlement in 1893, the railroad already ran through the region for seven years and had set up a number of water and fuel stops. When the land was surveyed for the opening, the government ignored the railroad stops and set up separate areas for town development; therefore, on the day of the run, participants didn’t know which town they should go for. At the end of the opening day there were at least four confused towns in existence. Pond Creek Station, the railroad town, and three miles south Pond Creek, the government town; North Enid, the railroad town, and three miles south, South Enid, the government town.

The railroad claimed that it already had depots set up and had been using its stops for almost seven years now so why should they have to change because the government chose to set up towns elsewhere? The railroad ordered its trains not to stop in the government towns, and the engines thundered through the middle of these places at top speed. When trains respected speed limits and ran slowly through the towns, residents attempted to grab and pull the crewmen off the train. In other cases warning shots were fired at, over and through the various train cars.

Despite the fact that the government towns were obviously the popular, growing towns, the railroad wouldn’t stop. Efforts to force the trains to stop in Enid and Pond Creek resulted in the appearance of U.S. Marshals in the area to investigate. It was in this week of 1894 that at least one U.S. Marshall arrived on the scene and began questioning locals.

While the people claimed that they were being deprived of rail service, the railroad accused the locals of disrupting shipments. In a one-month period, in an attempt to force the trains to stop in their towns, the residents of Pond Creek and Enid placed on the tracks, a wagon, a stuffed dummy complete with hat, explosives, and at one point, a small house. In all cases the trains smashed through the obstacles sending many pieces, according to the local press, to reside in the heavens. Pond Creek resorted to tearing out one hundred yards of track and derailing an entire freight train, and in Enid residents in desperation partially sawed through a trestle. Such actions brought the attention of the Federal Government to the area and the visit of the U.S. Marshals in June of 1894 resulted in the intervention of the U.S. Army.

By the end of 1894 the railroad had given up on their two town sites and agreed to furnish service to Enid and Pond Creek. Happy now with mail and freight service, citizens all along the line celebrated the beginning of a new peace and the end of the railroad war. The story of transportation weaves through the history of our state and is a major exhibit in one of the galleries at the Oklahoma History Center, NE 23rd Street in Oklahoma City just east of the State Capitol. Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to the collection, preservation, and sharing of our state’s past. I’m Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Journeys

July the 4th, 100 Years Ago

2010-07-03

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The 4th of July in 1910 was described as the grand and glorious holiday celebrated around our state with vaudeville, fireworks, bands and picnics, and some tragedy as well; the great American holiday one hundred years ago on Oklahoma Journeys from the Oklahoma History Center.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Journeys. I'm Michael Dean.

One hundred years ago, July 4, 1910, was on a Monday. It was as, maybe even bigger than, the event that we celebrate today. The Oklahoman listed a number of events in the new Capitol city; Oklahoma City had just become the state capitol only three weeks earlier. For most residents of Oklahoma City there was plenty to do. The headline read "Holiday Offers Great Opportunity...Various Forms of Sport and Many Picnics are Planned." The Oklahoma City baseball team had a doubleheader against Shreveport at Colcord Park, first game at 10:30 a.m., second game at 4 p.m. In the words of the Oklahoman, "The grand and glorious American holiday, the fourth of July, will be celebrated by the people of Oklahoma Monday, much as in former years. Parks, summer resorts and different societies have added special attractions to the usual allurements, and those who spend the day at any one of the picnics given by organizations or at the local parks is assured of a good time."

More than two hundred members of the Grand Army of the Republic, Union veterans from the Civil War, gathered at Wheeler Park where they read the Declaration of Independence, enjoyed music, and had a big basket lunch. Meanwhile the state's Confederate veterans were spending the 4th of July making final preparations for their state convention that began a day later on July 5th. More than 6,000 were expected in Oklahoma City for the annual convention of the United Confederate Veterans.

Tragedy struck Edmond on the 4th; a section of a grandstand with about 300 people seated watching vaudeville collapsed, resulting in two people being seriously injured. Scores more escaped with minor injuries. In Muskogee, an assistant cashier at Muskogee National Bank and a young society woman drowned in the Grand River. The young woman stepped in to what she thought was shallow water only to plunge in over her head. The young man jumped in to save her. Witnesses said the woman grabbed the man, then both went under and were not seen again.

Governor Charles Haskell spent the day in Clinton and Elk City where he was delivering orations in the interest of his party. Other state officials, according to the Oklahoman, were spending the day quietly at home. A day after the 4th, Oklahoma Commissioner of Charities and Corrections, Miss Kate Barnard, returned from Colorado and immediately was asked about the Women's Suffrage movement. Her response: "I don't consider the women's suffrage question within the jurisdiction of my office; however if the gallantry of Oklahoma were to grant the women of Oklahoma the right to vote, you can bet that Kate Barnard will do her best to cast an intelligent vote."

Those articles in the Daily Oklahoma from July 4 & 5, 1910, are part of the newspaper collection at the Oklahoma History Center, NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Journeys

First Parking Meter, 1935

2010-07-17

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This week on Oklahoma Journeys we're talking about something that's a common sight, generally disliked wherever you go, and was involved in sending Cool Hand Luke to prison. It's the parking meter, of course, an Oklahoma City invention, and the topic of this week's Oklahoma Journeys from the Oklahoma History Center Society.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Journeys. I'm Michael Dean.

In the 1930s many large cities around the country were encountering the growing problems of traffic and parking congestion, but it was Oklahoma City who took the lead in finding a solution. In 1933 Carl Magee was Chairman of the Oklahoma City Traffic Committee. The committee sponsored a design contest for students at Oklahoma A & M College in Stillwater. The object was to come up with a workable prototype of what today we call a parking meter. McGee and others felt that the lack of regulated parking was hurting downtown business. In many cases employees who worked downtown took up all the parking spaces, leaving no room for customers or patrons. Cars occupied parking spaces all day every day and sometimes never moved for weeks.

Coming up with a device to regulate parking was complicated in several ways. It had to be vandal and tamper proof, there had to be a way to stop people from using slugs and washers instead of coins, it had to be durable enough to withstand constant use in all types of weather, and it had to be affordable. Utilizing and building upon the winning designs from Oklahoma State, McGee and two engineering faculty members from the college, Gerald Hale and H.B. Theusen, began construction of a working model. A year and a half and several rejected prototypes later, a satisfactory meter emerged and plans for a test installation began.

It was on July 16, 1935, that hundreds of people gathered in the heat and humidity of downtown Oklahoma City to watch 150 of the new meters put into operation. According to local papers initial reactions were not favorable, and newsboys within minutes figured out a way to jam the machines so they would work without using any money. Stores without meters in front began advertising free parking as a gimmick but quickly changed their tune. Business and profit increased significantly for stores located on blocks containing the parking meters, and soon every downtown business demanded meters on their block. The legal issues of making someone pay for parking on a public street were averted by claiming that the money made from the meters actually went to pay for the policing of the parking and not the actual parking itself. A court case contesting the legality of meters was quickly settled in favor of the city. Within months of the initial installation cities around the country were requesting meters beginning a trend that continues to this day.

You can see the original meter and learn more about the history of the parking meter at the Oklahoma History Center, just east of the state capitol on N.E. 23rd Street in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to the collection, preservation, and sharing of our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Journeys

Birth of Ralph Blane, 1914

2010-07-24

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This week on Oklahoma Journeys we attempt to take our minds off the summer heat and drift off to the cooler temperatures of the Christmas holidays. Ralph Uriah Hunsecker entered this world in 1914 in Broken Arrow. Twenty years later, he would create something that most of us hold near and dear today. We're saying happy birthday to little Ralphy this week on Oklahoma Journeys from the Oklahoma History Center

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Journeys. I'm Michael Dean.

Although unfortunately not a household name, Ralph Blane remains one of America's most prolific and successful composers. It was in of this week in 1914, on July 26 in Broken Arrow, that Ralph Blane was born to Tracy and Florence Hunsecker. Young Ralph would later change his name to Blane in order to better fit on theater marquees. After attending school in Broken Arrow and Tulsa Central High School, Blane went on to Northwestern University and studied music in New York City.

Following his schooling Blane began collaborating with a number of composers and lyricists. The first well-known tune composed by Blane, a collaboration with Harry Warren, was the football tune "Buckle Down Winsocki." For years Blane along with various lyricists cranked out timeless tin-pan alley tunes and music for dozens of musicals. "Clang, Clang Clang Went the Trolley," is a well known number of Blane's, as is music from Broadway, musicals, movies, and television including Meet Me in St. Louis, Sugar Babies, My Dream is Yours, and The Girl Most Likely. Blane spent most of his professional life in New York and worked continuously with such people as Richard Rodgers, Harry Warren, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Mickey Rooney, Doris Day, and Judy Garland.
At the time of his death in 1995 Blane had more than five hundred songs registered to his name. His last professional work was as the lyricist for the music for the movie Home Alone in 1990. Of all the songs and lyrics written by Blane perhaps none is more famous than the Christmas classic, "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." Originally written as a part of the score for Meet Me in St. Louis and sung for the first time by Judy Garland, the song has since taken on a life of its own. The song has an innocence about it that sets it apart from other holiday songs. It's not talking about presents or gift-giving, and it's not blaring out religious messages, it's just saying, have a merry little Christmas.

The song, as simple as it is, has gone through some controversial changes over the years. Frank Sinatra on his version changed the original line, "We'll muddle through somehow," to "High upon the highest bow," while James Taylor's version remains true to Blane's original creation. Regardless of how you sing it, it's hard to deny the fact that "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" has embedded itself in the various layers of our popular culture. The next time you hear it, give a little thanks to Ralph Blane of Broken Arrow. It's his birthday this week.

You can learn more about Oklahomans in the arts by visiting the Oklahoma History Center, NE 23rd Street just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. The Oklahoma History Center is open Monday thru Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to the collection, preservation, and sharing of our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Journeys

Tulsa Race Riot, 1921

2010-05-29

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This week on Oklahoma Journeys we take a look at Tulsa in 1921. Following the Civil War, a number of African-Americans moved into the Indian Territory establishing a number of unique all-black towns. By the end of World War One, Greenwood, the main business street in North Tulsa, had become known as Oklahoma's Black Wall Street. But in 1921 an incident in Tulsa led to the start of one of the worst race riots in the history of our country. That's the story this week on Oklahoma Journeys from the Oklahoma History Center.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Journeys. I'm Michael Dean.

In 1921 the black community in Tulsa was thriving. The section of north Tulsa known as Greenwood was a buzzing enclave of successful businesses and residential areas. In fact, Greenwood was known by the nickname the Black Wall Street, an indication of its wealth, success and far-reaching reputation. At this time Tulsa, as well as the rest of the country, was segregated. Black and white sections of town were quite well known, and each group knew where the boundaries were. In this week of 1921, an encounter between a white woman and a black man in an elevator - no one knows what really happened - led to accusations of rape and assault against the black man, Dick Rowland.

Taken to the county jail, a lynch mob soon formed demanding that the young man be turned over to them. A group of African-Americans intent on protecting Rowland from the mob drove to the jail; a shot was fired and the scene soon disintegrated into mob violence. For a day and a half crowds of whites used the situation as an excuse to rampage through Greenwood shooting, looting, and burning. To prevent Greenwood residents from protecting their property, most blacks were rounded up and held against their will. For hundreds of black Tulsans May 30, 1921, was the day that all of their hopes and dreams literally went up in smoke. Along with their houses, some lost family members and loved ones to the murderous actions of the white crowds. Blacks of all ages and gender were subjected to horrific brutalities and offenses. It took over 72 hours for the National Guard to arrive and even then order was slow to return. After the day and a half of rioting was over, more than 35 city blocks of Tulsa lay in smoking charred ruins. No one knows exactly how many people died in the affair; the estimates range from as low as 38 upwards into hundreds.

You can learn more about the Tulsa Race Riot by visiting the Oklahoma History Center. You'll learn more about the African-American experience in the territory and the state in the exhibit "Realizing the Dream," an exhibit that focuses on the black experience and tells the stories of many Oklahoma African-Americans and their accomplishments and contributions to our state and our country. The Oklahoma History Center is located on NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to the collection, preservation, and sharing of our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Journeys

Battleship USS Oklahoma Commissioned 1917

2010-05-22

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Battleships and naval superiority are probably not the first things you think of when you hear the word Oklahoma, yet in 1917 those ideas and words were on the minds of many Oklahomans. In 1917, the United State’s Navy commissioned, what was for that time, the most modern and powerful warship ever built. It’s the USS Oklahoma this week on Oklahoma Journeys from the Oklahoma History Center.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Journeys. I’m Michael Dean.

In 1914 thoughts of naval power and warfare on the high seas probably did not cross the minds of many Oklahomans, yet those concepts were household topics in March of that year. In March 1914 the daughter of then governor Lee Cruce, Lorena, stood on a high scaffold in New York City and christened the newest of the U.S. battleships, the USS Oklahoma. After assurance that the champagne used for the christening wouldn’t be consumed by humans (Oklahoma, after all, was a dry state at the time), Lorena Cruce smashed the bottle on the ship’s bow, and it slid gracefully into the water.

It was to be three years later, however, before the Oklahoma was fully outfitted and ready for duty. The USS Oklahoma along with her sister ship the USS Nevada sported the latest in U.S. Navy technology; they were the first battleships in the U.S. fleet to use fuel oil instead of coal, and they both held technologically-advanced engine designs. Following completion in 1917 the ship underwent its shakedown cruise, and with the exception of a few minor glitches, passed the test with flying colors. It was in this week of 1917 that the USS Oklahoma became a fully commissioned vessel in the United States Navy. During World War One, the ship was held up for repairs and served as escort for only one Atlantic convoy. Following the Great War, the Oklahoma went on to a variety of important tasks. Under President Wilson, the mere presence of the Oklahoma at places like Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Vera Cruz, Mexico, and the Panama Canal, helped to enforce and strengthen the influence of the United States.

Throughout most of the ‘20s and ‘30s the battleship served in the Pacific fleet and remained there until 1936 when she was sent to Spain to rescue civilians caught in the middle of the Spanish Civil War. By 1940 threats of a new war brewing sent the Oklahoma into battle mode and back to the Pacific fleet. As the now aging ship sat, moored at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, Japanese forces made their now infamous strike on Sunday, December 7, 1941. One of the dozens of naval victims of that assault, the USS Oklahoma was hit by seven torpedoes and capsized shortly thereafter. The ship lost 448 men, the second largest loss of life the Navy suffered in the Pearl Harbor attack. The USS Oklahoma proudly served the United States for 24 years and did so, as various crewmembers have pointed out, without ever firing a shot in anger.

The story of the USS Oklahoma is just a part of the military history of Oklahoma. The research library at the Oklahoma History Center holds extensive interviews with a number of crewmen who served aboard the Oklahoma, from the original commissioning crew in 1917 to the survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor; all are available for you to read. The Oklahoma History Center is located just east of the state capitol on NE 23rd Street in Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state’s past. I’m Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Journeys

Apollo 10

2010-05-15

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On May 25, 1961, President Kennedy asked Congress for tens of millions of dollars for NASA to send men to the Moon and back in that decade. Eight years later, almost to the day on May 18, 1969, Apollo 10 commanded by Oklahoman Thomas Stafford launched from Cape Kennedy to fly within five miles of the Moon's surface. That's our story on Oklahoma Journeys from the Oklahoma History Center.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Journeys. I'm Michael Dean.

On May 25, 1961, President Kennedy announced that America would send men to the Moon in the 1960s; a goal that seemed right out of a science fiction movie. Just two weeks before Kennedy's speech Allan Sheppard had flown the first sub-orbital flight traveling only 303 miles from Cape Canaveral to a landing in the Atlantic Ocean. An American had not yet even orbited the Earth, and now the president was declaring that we send men to the Moon and back.

Over the next eight years a lot would happen, and America would take the commanding lead in space exploration leading to the Unites States accomplishing the President's goal. On May 18, 1969, eight years almost to the day after Kennedy's announced goal, NASA launched Apollo 10 commanded by Weatherford, Oklahoma's Tom Stafford. Interestingly, another Oklahoman, Shawnee's Gordon Cooper, was his back up on the number two crew. Eugene Cernan was the Lunar Module pilot, and John Young was the Command Module pilot. The mission included everything necessary to complete the goal President Kennedy had set years earlier, everything except actually landing on the Moon.

This spacecraft was the second Apollo mission to orbit the Moon, but the first to travel to the Moon with the full gear needed. That consisted of a Command and Service Module, named the "Charlie Brown," and the Lunar Module, named "Snoopy." The mission was a full dry run or dress rehearsal in which all operations except the actual lunar landing were performed for the Apollo 11 mission, which would be the first landing on the Moon.

On May 22, Thomas Stafford and Eugene Cernan entered the Lunar Module and fired the reaction control thrusters to separate the Lunar Module from the Command Module. The Lunar Module was then put into an orbit to allow low-altitude passes over the lunar surface, the closest approach bringing it to within five-and-a-half miles of the Moon. They flew 31 orbits around the Moon.

The afternoon of May 26, the Apollo splashed down in the Pacific Ocean near American Samoa. The crew had been space for just over eight days, traveling to within five miles of the Moon. That set the stage for Apollo 11 a month and a half later, the mission we of course all remember.

Stafford's first space flight was in December 1965 in the Gemini 6 capsule, and that capsule, his flight suit and other artifacts from Oklahomans in space are on display at the Oklahoma History Center, just east of the state capitol on NE 23rd Street in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to the collection, preservation, and sharing of our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Journeys

Turner Turnpike Officially Opens as Toll Road, May 17, 1953

2010-05-08

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This week on Oklahoma Journeys, a change in transportation takes a toll from the state. Today most of us, it seems, take our roads and highways for granted, but Oklahoma didn’t always have the large network of roads we have today. This week marks the anniversary of a big change in Oklahoma’s highway system, and that’s the topic of this week’s Oklahoma Journeys from the Oklahoma History Center.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Journeys. I’m Michael Dean.

Many of us don’t think much about how we get to where we’re going to where we want to go; we just hop in the car and take the quickest route to our destination. But such convenience wasn’t always available to most Oklahomans. Roads in the early days of statehood, especially in the western half of the state, were poor if they existed at all.

After World War II, Oklahomans began buying automobiles and traveling in record numbers. Unfortunately, even by 1955, only 20 percent of the state's highways were paved. Economic expansion was fueled by a boom in the petroleum industry and an increased federal defense presence. Oklahoma City and Tulsa businessmen encouraged state officials to think in terms of expanding the highway system, this time using the concept of toll roads as a means to overcome the need to spend state-appropriated money for construction and maintenance.

Tolls have been part of Oklahoma transportation history since the early nineteenth century. The Indian nations empowered their citizens to build turnpikes and toll bridges, and the tradition continued into the statehood era. The state allowed private companies to construct toll bridges across creeks and major waterways. This cost-effective method resulted in many bridges and facilitated travel. Nevertheless, citizens resented paying, and toll bridges became an issue in the 1928 election.

The toll idea became more reasonable during World War II. After the war, in April 1947, at the urging of Governor Roy Turner, the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority came into being. The Authority was authorized to issue bonds, construct and operate and maintain the highway, and then return it to the Highway Commission when the cost was recouped.

Today, the Turnpike Authority operates ten turnpikes comprising 612 miles. But, it was in this week of 1953 that Oklahoma made a big leap in its transportation system with the official opening of the state’s first toll road, the Turner Turnpike connecting Tulsa and Oklahoma City. It took almost six years and 38 million dollars to complete and, according to newspaper reports, was eagerly anticipated. Opening day ceremonies took place on Saturday, May 16, 1953, beginning at 9:00am in Tulsa and Oklahoma City, with dignitaries and crowds meeting in the middle at Stroud for the big opening event. Then, at 3 o’clock that afternoon, the toll gates closed and operators began charging the $1.40 that it would cost to drive the final route.

The original toll gate from the Oklahoma City end of the turnpike is on display at the Oklahoma History Center on NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to the collection, preservation, and sharing of our state’s past. I’m Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Journeys

No Man's Land Becomes Oklahoma's Land - May, 1890

2010-05-01

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This week on Oklahoma Journeys, No Man’s Land finally gets a home. The panhandle of Oklahoma is an interesting part of our state. It juts out into the west all by itself, stoically going about its day-to-day business with seemingly little concern for the rest of the state. The panhandle not only looks interesting, but it has a very interesting history as well, and that’s our story on this week’s Oklahoma Journeys from the Oklahoma History Center.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Journeys. I’m Michael Dean.

For those of us who have lived in Oklahoma all of our lives, at least for a long time, the shape of our state doesn’t seem odd to us, yet if you take the time to really examine it, it does have a rather unusual character about it. The skinny little panhandle juts out into the western lands not only providing a distinctive shape for the state but also helping to secure a record for the state of Oklahoma of being the state that touches more borders on more states than any other, seven in all. Oklahoma’s panhandle, however, wasn’t always a part of Oklahoma.

What is today the panhandle really just appeared out of the blue one day as the various borders of other states and territories formed around it. France, Mexico, Spain, and the United States all surveyed, plotted, and argued over this chunk of land but when the lands and territories of Kansas, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, and the Indian Territory were surveyed and made official, government workers didn’t realize that they had inadvertently created a rectangular chunk of land that now didn’t belong to any state or territory. It was truly a no man’s land. No rules or regulations affected this area, and without territorial status, very few settlers were willing to take the gamble of setting up house in the region. No homestead laws applied and land was virtually free if you could take it and hold onto it.

Between 1850 and the mid 1880s No Man’s Land played host to travelers on the Santa Fe Trail, witnessed a large number of cattle drives, harbored unknown numbers of law breakers, and well that was about it. By the late 1880s, however, interest was taken in the land around the present-day town of Beaver, Oklahoma. A small sod general store appeared there to re-supply cattle drivers, and the area eventually took on the appearance of a settlement. By 1886, people settled near Beaver had formed their own government. They created the Territory of Cimarron and applied for statehood. If granted, this new state would have been about the size of Connecticut, about four-and-a-half times larger than the state of Rhode Island, but Congress felt the area was too small to sustain itself on agriculture and cattle and rejected statehood and territorial status for this lonesome land. It was only after the first land run opening up Oklahoma Territory in 1889 that definite action was taken on the matter of No Man’s Land.

It was in this week of 1890 that a bill was put through Congress making the panhandle officially a part of the territory of Oklahoma. The area was added on as one block officially titled Beaver County. You can visit the No Man’s Land Museum in Goodwell to learn more about this fascinating part of our state. And by visiting the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City you’ll find exhibits spotlighting the history of all the parts of Oklahoma. Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to the collection, preservation, and sharing of our state’s past. I’m Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Journeys

Abernathy Boys Ride to the Big Apple

2010-04-24

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April seemed to be a busy month for the Abernathy family. It was in April 1905 that Jack Abernathy hosted President Theodore Roosevelt on a wolf hunt near Frederick, and in April 19010 his sons Bud and Temple, ages five and nine, took a long horseback to New York to meet their friend Roosevelt. The Abernathy's this week on Oklahoma Journeys from the Oklahoma History Center.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Journeys. I'm Michael Dean.

Jack Abernathy was born in Texas and began riding and working cattle at an early age. At 15 he was hired as a “First Saddle,” a cowboy whose job it is to break the roughest and meanest horses on the ranch. In 1905 President Theodore Roosevelt heard about Abernathy's unique hunting skills. Roosevelt requested that Jack demonstrate his technique of capturing wolves with his bare hands. Roosevelt met jack in Frederick and began the Great Salt Plains Wolf Hunt. Roosevelt then named Abernathy U.S. Marshall for the Western District of the Oklahoma Territory. In 1908, he sent a Thomas Edison film crew out to film Abernathy catching prairie wolves as he had on the hunting trip. The wolf hunt took place in April 1905.

Abernathy and his wife had a total of six children before she died in 1908. Two of them were boys, Bud and Temple. In 1909, Bud and Temple convinced their father to let them ride from near Woodward to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the family knew the governor of that territory. Shortly after their return, Jack received a letter; it was from some outlaws. They had escorted the boys for days, protecting them from harm. The boys didn't know who they were. They wrote to Jack that while they didn't respect him as a federal marshal, they “liked what those boys were made of.”

The next year, April 1910, Roosevelt was returning from a safari in Africa and began his campaign for reelection. Roosevelt invited the boys to ride in his welcome home parade in New York. The boys, Bud and Temple, now ages 10 and 6, decided to ride 2,000 miles to New York to greet their friend Roosevelt on his return from Africa. That began one of their greatest adventure.

Every town along the way welcomed the boys as they were becoming heroes. Newspapers in every town along the way printed stories about the boys from Oklahoma.
Wilbur Wright gave them a tour of his airplane factory in Dayton, Ohio. A conductor in another town allowed them to drive a train. Upon arriving in New York, they met Roosevelt and rode in his parade. Jack met them in the Big Apple. They boys urged their father to try “that new mode of transportation”…an automobile. The Brush Automobile Company of Detroit, Michigan, underwrote the return trip to Oklahoma providing the boys and Jack with two of their autos.

Back to Oklahoma they chugged along in their cars - 2,512 miles in 23 days - Temple so small that he had to sit on the edge of the seat and lean against the steering wheel just to reach the pedals. They set the cross-country record at the time. While the boys' car ran OK, Jack was not so lucky his car caught fire and was destroyed.

Bud later graduated from the University of Oklahoma law school and became a judge; Temple was an oil wildcatter. Their adventures became a book and a movie, Bud and Me. You can learn more about their amazing adventures by visiting the research library at the Oklahoma History Center, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Journeys

Oklahoma Land Run - April 22, 1889

2010-04-17

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This week, making a run from the border. One of the unique components of Oklahoma was the method of using land runs to open up various sections of our state. The first of these runs, perhaps the first such event in the known history of the world, occurred 121 years ago this week, and that's the topic of this week's Oklahoma Journeys from the Oklahoma History Center.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Journeys. I'm Michael Dean.

Most Oklahomans know about the land runs that helped open up various parts of our state. These wild events can be and are viewed as wonderful adventures. Those settlers involved themselves in a race for what some might call their last chance at making it. This week marks the 121st anniversary of the largest Oklahoma land run. Following the Civil War a somewhat rectangular chunk of land in approximately the center of present day Oklahoma was vacant until a constant campaign to open those lands finally proved effective. David L. Payne was a one-man boomer campaign fighting for years to open up these now unoccupied lands for settlement. Although Payne didn't live to see it, the land was indeed eventually opened and done so via the land run system. No other known part of the world has ever been settled in this manner and probably for good reason.

Beginning weeks before the opening date hopeful settlers gathered in border towns in Kansas all massing to prepare themselves for the great run. Horses were trained and hardened up in order to make the run as fast as possible while people stockpiled as many supplies as they could. On the celebrated day, Monday, April 22, 1889, the crowd of thousands now surrounded the border of the unassigned lands waiting for the alarm. At exactly 12:00 noon cannons along the line boomed, and the crowd surged forward as one. A mass of humanity riding horses, carriages, bicycles, even running and walking, swarmed into the area. Trains carrying hopefuls to town lots were allowed to move forward only as fast as a horse could travel, stopping in Guthrie, Edmond, and other town sites along the way. The hated Sooners quickly made their appearance, having illegally entered the land earlier than allowed, some soaping up their horses to make them appear foamy with sweat and some getting shot for their illegal actions. As a method of settlement the land run was spectacular to watch, but it proved to not be very practical at all as great numbers of complications occurred during every step of the process. From participating in the actual run, finding land, and more importantly keeping it, to filing for claims afterward, the process was full of fraud, hazards and entanglements. The chaotic nature of the event, however, apparently didn't faze officials as four other land runs took place over the next ten years.

The first Oklahoma land run was 121 years ago this week in 1889. You can learn more about the land runs and see an actual wagon that made the Land Run in 1889 on display at the Oklahoma History Center, just east of the state capitol on NE 23rd Street in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to the collection, preservation, and sharing of our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Journeys

Zeke Proctor Murder Trial April 15, 1872

2010-04-10

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This week, blood, bullets and revenge! The popular image of Indian Territory is one of American Indians, pioneering lifestyles, and occasionally violent outlaw behavior. Sometimes the popular image isn't always correct, but in the case of Indian Territory, it's usually more right than wrong. The trial of Zeke Proctor combines all of these elements, and that's the topic of this week's Oklahoma Journeys from the Oklahoma History Center.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Journeys. I'm Michael Dean.

The Hildebrand, or Beck's Mill, in the Cherokee Nation, near present day Flint,Oklahoma, was the focal point for the various nearby residents. It was a large structure with high quality millstones imported from France. It was also the site where Zeke Proctor in 1872 attempted to shoot a person but instead shot and killed Polly Beck Hildebrand. The death was accidental, or so Zeke Proctor claimed, but that didn't stop the Beck family from setting out to avenge the death of Polly. The situation quickly escalated into a feud between the Proctor and Beck clans, two of the largest families in the area.

The dispute came to embody not only revenge for the shooting but also the conflict between Cherokees wishing to retain more of a traditional lifestyle and those wishing to move into the contemporary white society. Involved in the dispute as well were some lingering grudges from the Civil War era that had never completely died down. Regardless of Zeke's intentions, the shooting and death of Polly Beck put him on the run from the Beck family. Zeke Proctor was often described as a outlaw type, always armed and dangerous, and was known to have been responsible for the death of more than a few people. It was assumed that this situation would result at some point into gunplay, but no one knew exactly when or where.

Zeke Proctor's trial was set for April 15, 1872, and to reduce the possibility of foul play, the trial was moved to a small one room school house near Christie in the IndianTerritory. The single room of the school was packed with the public there to watch the proceedings and then surrounding the school were various members of both the Proctor and Beck families all armed and awaiting the verdict. Into this mix came a posse of heavily-armed Beck family supporters. They shoved their way into the schoolroom and opened fire on Zeke Proctor.

What occurred next in this week of April 1872 can only be described as a bloodbath. In the small one-room building with only a single window and one door, more than a dozen people simultaneously began shooting at each other. Miraculously Zeke Proctor survived but eleven others didn't. Members of the court met quickly the next day to find Proctor innocent of all charges before hurriedly leaving for safer locations. Due to the Beck family's desire for revenge and some vaguely worded legal issues, Zeke Proctor remained on the run for several years but later received a full pardon from President U.S. Grant.

You'll find this story and plenty more just as interesting in the research library of the Oklahoma History Center on NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to the collection, preservation, and sharing of our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Journeys

Cherokee Bill Meets His Maker

2010-03-20

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A hangman's noose ended the life of Cherokee Bill at the age of twenty, ending the life of one of the most notorious outlaws to roam the Indian Territory and perhaps the entire Western Frontier. It was in March 1896 that Cherokee Bill was hanged at Fort Smith. His story this week on Oklahoma Journeys from the Oklahoma History Center.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Journeys. I'm Michael Dean.

In February 1876 Crawford Goldsby was born at Fort Concho near San Angelo, Texas. By the time he was twenty, he was dead, having been hung at Fort Smith, Arkansas. He left behind a two-year trail of crime unlike any in the history of the territory.

Crawford came from a broken home...his father a Sergeant in the 10th Cavalry, the Buffalo Soldiers; his mother, a Cherokee freedman. At the age of fifteen Crawford moved in with his sister and her husband near the present-day Nowata, but they didn't get along, so he moved on to Fort Gibson where his recently remarried mother lived. At the age of 18 Crawford was at a dance when Jake Lewis got into an argument with one of his brothers. A couple of days later Crawford took a six shooter and found Lewis and shot him. That began his short-lived crime spree. Crawford hit the trail, joined the Cook Brothers.

That same summer of 1894, the federal government purchased the Cherokee Strip form the Cherokee Nation and offered over $265 to each person who had settled in the Strip. Crawford Golsby and the Cook bothers were entitled to the money, but they couldn't ride into Tahlequah to collect it because they were all wanted men. The three stayed at a hotel outside Tahlequah and persuaded the lady who ran it to go into town to get their money. As she was returning to the hotel the sheriff was following her. That led to a gun battle between the sheriff and the three outlaws. One deputy was killed, and one of the Cook brothers was wounded. The lady from the hotel told the sheriff it wasn't Crawford Goldsby, it was Cherokee Bill who shot the deputy.

On July 18th, they held up the Frisco train at Red Fork, then two weeks later they robbed the Lincoln County Bank in Chandler. Between August and October, Crawford and the Cooks went on a crime spree, robbing and killing those who stood in their way. In September of that same year, Goldsby shot and killed his brother-in-law, Mose Brown, over an argument over some hogs. On November 8, 1894, when the men robbed the Shufeldt & Son General Store, Cherokee Bill shot and killed Ernest Melton, who happened to enter the store during the robbery. When the authorities offered a $1300 reward for the capture of Cherokee Bill, some of his acquaintances came forward and agreed to help. On January 30, 1895, Crawford was captured and taken to Fort Smith, Arkansas, to wait for his trial. On April 13, 1895, he was sentenced to death after being tried and convicted for the murder of Ernest Melton.

Judge Isaac Parker described Cherokee Bill as a "bloodthirsty mad dog who killed for the love of killing" and was "the most vicious" of all the outlaws in the Oklahoma Territory. He sentenced him to die by hanging on March 17, 1896. Reportedly, when he was asked if he had any words, he said: "I came here to die, not make a speech."

You can learn more about outlaws before statehood by visiting the Oklahoma History Center on NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Journeys

Roy Hoffman and Chitto Harjo

2010-03-06

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Roy Hoffman and Chitto Harjo first met each other in March 1910. Hoffman was a Colonel in the Oklahoma Army National Guard, and Harjo was also known as Crazy Snake. Hoffman was ordered to put down the rebellion Crazy Snake was responsible for. The Crazy Snake Rebellion the story this week on Oklahoma Journeys from the Oklahoma History Center.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Journeys. I'm Michael Dean.

Roy V. Hoffman, with his family, came to the territory in 1889, first settling in the Sac and Fox reservation. He then moved to Guthrie where he founded the Guthrie Daily Leader, the first daily newspaper in the Oklahoma Territory. During the Spanish American War, he joined the Oklahoma Territory Battalion of the First Territorial Volunteer Infantry Regiment as a private but was soon commissioned as a Captain.

Meanwhile Chitto Harjo, it is believed, was born around 1854 in the Creek Nation. Nothing is known of his early life except that he was a follower of the leader of the federal element of the Creeks during the Civil War.
In 1892 the long-feared specter of division of tribal lands took tangible form when the Congress created the Dawes Commission for the purpose of inducing Indians to agree to the allotment of their lands. Harjo at once became the acknowledged leader of the dissenting faction, continually warned his people that allotment of lands would lead to the final step in the white man's domination over the Indian.

Harjo was most widely known as Crazy Snake. Chitto is a Creek word meaning snake, and Harjo signifies one who is brave beyond description, foolhardy, or in a loose sense, crazy. Thus Chitto Harjo became known to the whites as Crazy Snake.

From 1900 to 1909 Harjo led and coordinated resistance to the federal government's interference in Creek tribal affairs. The Snakes, as the group was called, formed their own break-away Creek government and abided by their own laws and rulings. The headquarters for this insurgent group was the Creek ceremonial site known as the Hickory Grounds in present-day Okmulgee County, and it was there that Harjo and Hoffman would meet. Governor Charles Haskell ordered Hoffman to take his guardsmen to quell the Crazy Snake Uprising near Henryetta in 1910. The militia found no armed resistance nor any evidence of a Snake uprising for the full-bloods were still in their hill-country homes.
Meanwhile, the sheriff had secured a warrant for the arrest of Crazy Snake, whom he considered to be the cause of the trouble. The old Snake at this time lived in McIntosh County at the base of Tiger Mountain. The sheriff and several deputies went there to arrest him. They fired at him without warning. Crazy Snake was shot in the hip, and Charles Coker, his lieutenant, was shot through the chest.

Chitto Harjo lived with his friend, Daniel Bob, for the last several years of his life. He died in distress from the gunshot wound on April 11, 1911. Hoffman, meanwhile, went on to a distinguished career in the Army and Oklahoma National Guard, eventually commanding a division in World War One.

The Oklahoma Historical Society holds thousands of documents, artifacts and resource materials on the history of the Creek Nation in the Indian Territory as well as on the allotment process, and you are invited to investigate the story of our wonderful state by visiting the Oklahoma History Center on NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City.Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to the collection, preservation and sharing of our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Journeys

The End of the CCC in Oklahoma March 7, 1942

2010-02-27

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The CCC says "see-ya" this week on Oklahoma Journeys. President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal programs helped many Oklahomans out of a difficult situation during the Dustbowl and Depression era of the 1930s. The Civilian Conservation Corp was one such program, and that's the topic of this week's Oklahoma Journeys from the Oklahoma History Center.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Journeys. I'm Michael Dean.

The Civilian Conservation Corp was one of the most successful of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal programs in the 1930s. As the United States fell further and further into depression during the early years of the `30s, many were predicting the complete collapse of the country. The economy was already, for all intents and purposes, gone with more than 1,500 bank failures in 1932 alone and an unemployment rate that reached 25% nationally with some cities reporting up to 80% of their workforce unable to find jobs. Roosevelt realized that he must first take care of the most basic needs of the people, and the CCC was one way of doing this. The Civilian Conservation Corps enlisted young men usually from urban environments, who would otherwise be out of work, and put them to work on various projects usually of an ecological nature.

The CCC was divided into nine corps areas, Oklahoma along with Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, and Wyoming was in the eighth corps area. Within each state CCC camps were set up and run on a military-style basis. Oklahoma had at least sixteen camps scattered from the Panhandle to McCurtain County. The young men in these camps followed a strict regimen of work that included maintaining forest areas, building facilities and structures at public parks, digging and maintaining irrigation ditches and canals, as well as a seemingly limitless array of other work. For a month's worth of work each boy was given thirty dollars, the great majority of which was automatically sent home to his family. Each camp had showers, latrines, mess halls, bunk houses, and recreation areas. Off time was spent with sports, reading, or writing letters home.

Accounts from those enrolled in the Oklahoma camps mostly report a very positive atmosphere with many of the kids recalling that the CCC was the only place that they could receive hot meals on a regular basis and have a safe place to sleep. The physical requirements were hard and usually involved working with a shovel or a pick but given the alternative, complaints it seems were relatively few among the thousands of young men that cycled through the state's program. The arrival of World War Two lifted the economy enough to make such programs unnecessary, and it was in this week of 1942 on March 7th that the state's CCC program was officially terminated.

Many of the Oklahoma CCC projects are still in use today including facilities at Roman Nose, Beavers Bend, Robber's Cave, Sulphur, and Osage Hills just to name a few. The Oklahoma History Center features a statue of a CCC worker, Melvin Grant, near the front entrance. The Oklahoma History Center is located in Oklahoma City, just east of the State Capitol on NE 23rd Street. Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to the collection, preservation and sharing of our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Journeys

Kate Barnard Dies

2010-02-20

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Catherine Barnard was born in Nebraska in 1875. Her family moved to Kansas then two years later, tragedy struck. Her mother died. Her father left little Kate with relatives while he headed south to the Oklahoma Territory. She joined her father here in Oklahoma City in 1891. She attended St. Josephs Academy to prepare for a career as a teacher. In 1904 Kate was a hostess at the World's Fair in St. Louis. It was there that she discovered urban poverty and listened to speakers offering possible solutions. Young Kate found her cause.

Kate returned to Oklahoma and in 1906, as the state constitutional convention was being held; she came to believe that women had a place in politics particularly in the area of social justice. At her urging the convention adopted two major reform issues - the prohibition of child labor and the establishment of the office of commissioner of charities and corrections. Following the convention, state Democrats supported her for that office. This was the only position on the state ballot a woman was eligible to run for, and run she did. When the votes were counted, she won a greater plurality than any other candidate on the state ballot.

Her first term in office was remarkable. She was able to get votes in the legislature to make education compulsory, laws regulating child labor, and the establishment of a juvenile justice system.Oklahoma convicts were being held in the state penitentiary in Kansas; that penitentiary was in trouble for poor conditions. She sought funding for the construction of a new state penitentiary in McAlester. She also spent a great deal of time inspecting orphanages and the state's insane asylums.

In 1910, she was reelected again by a wide margin. But her second term in office was marked by turmoil. She supported the protection of property rights for Indian orphans, an unpopular cause at the time. The legislature slashed her budget, reducing the size of her agency. In 1915 she left office. Over the next 15 years she continued to work for Indian property rights and other causes, but she suffered from poor health and from depression. On February 23, 1930, she was found dead in her hotel room in downtown Oklahoma City. She was buried in Oklahoma City, yet her grave wasn't marked until the 1980s. There is now a statue of her in the State Capitol.

You can learn more about Kate Barnard in the research library of the Oklahoma History Center on NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City.Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Journeys

The Indian Raid That Never Was

2010-10-02

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It sounds like a really poor 1930s "B" western...a frontier city under attack by wild Indians. In reality that was the fear in the fall of 1890 that Cheyenne Indians from the western part of the territory were headed to Oklahoma City. It's the battle that never was on this week's Oklahoma Journeys from the Oklahoma History Center.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Journeys. I'm Michael Dean.

The idea of Indians attacking a town may sound like the plot of a very poor western movie, but in the fall of 1890 that was the fear. Oklahoma City was just a year and half old that fall when this rumor began. C. A. McNabb, who was an '89er, was in the flour and grain business in this new city of about 10,000. In an article in December 1924 in the Chronicles of Oklahoma, he wrote that he and his wife were in bed sound asleep one night in the fall of 1890, when their neighbor began banging on their front door. It was Judge Stanley, who told them that some Cheyenne Indians near El Reno had been dancing the ghost dance and then, in his words, had gone on the warpath, eluding troops at Fort Reno and were headed to Oklahoma City to massacre the population.

McNabb said that he told his wife of the dangerous situation, instructing her to remain in their home. C. G. "Gristmill" Jones, another neighbor, advised women and children to take refuge in the basement of his mill at what was then SW 1st Street and Robinson. McNabb wrote - and quoting again-"just why they should decide to annihilate a lot of peace-loving folks who never even wished them harm" was never even considered.

McNabb wrote that he headed to the center of downtown, just a couple of blocks from where he lived, to find hardware stores were doling out all sorts of ammunition. He found practically every able-bodied man and boy in Oklahoma City under arms or getting as much ammunition as they could. During all this time, a stream of farm wagons began pouring in to the city, laden with farm families and some bringing cows and pigs. The excited farmers all reported that they could plainly hear the Indians coming. McNabb added that everyone was on tiptoe awaiting the arrival of the Indian advance guard. With pockets bulging with ammunition, ready for duty at a moment's notice, the guard did their duty until about four o'clock in the morning.

It was then that a wagon arrived from the west, bearing a load of a dozen or more young folks. Why, they inquired, was the whole population of Oklahoma City awake and armed with rifles and pistols? It was then that the city learned that the real cause of all the excitement and commotion was a Charivari party...a hundred or more young people had gathered about ten miles west of Oklahoma City that evening and began partying. McNabb wrote that the noises they were making were such as only young minds could devise. He added that the variety and the number of partiers on this occasion convinced neighbors that it could be nothing short of a Cheyenne uprising.

But when the young people arrived at four in the morning after a night of hard partying, the true story was learned; the Indian raid that never was was over, and all the citizens of Oklahoma City and surrounding area were safe.

You can this and many other fascinating stories about our early days in the territory by visiting the research library at the Oklahoma History Center, NE 23rd Street just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Journeys

David Payne Arrested, 1884

2010-07-31

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This week on Oklahoma Journeys it's Boomers getting busted, territorial style. Indian Territory was meant to be the final home for many American Indian nations, but by the late 1800s, some whites felt that some of the unused land should be given up for settlement by non-Indians. It's David Payne and the boomers this week on Oklahoma Journeys from the Oklahoma History Center.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Journeys. I'm Michael Dean.

After the Civil War ended in 1865 the Federal Government used the fact that some American Indian tribes fought for the Confederacy as an excuse to renegotiate treaties and began to take part of the Indian Territory away from the Indians. In addition, they bought a large parcel of land from three tribes. This land, the unassigned lands, was a large rectangle in the middle of the territory, and it was the area that many whites felt should be opened up for settlement. The American Indians knew that if the unassigned lands were opened for settlement it would be just a matter of time before all their lands were gone.

It was illegal for anyone to enter Indian Territory without permission but that didn't stop groups of white settlers from trying to live there. The Boomers, as they were called, were colonists, sometimes numbering in the hundreds, who would illegally travel into Indian Territory and try to set up towns. The Boomer leader for the Indian Territory was David L. Payne, a Civil War veteran and part-time farmer. Payne led a number of trips into Indian Territory, all of them unsuccessful. He and other Boomers would gather in Kansas towns along the border, get fired up with speeches and rhetoric, and then head into the Indian Territory. They set up their towns in various places, once in present-day Oklahoma City, and another time near Stillwater and elsewhere. Regardless of where they encamped, the result was always the same. Federal troops from Fort Reno would arrive and either forcibly or peacefully escort the Boomers off of the land and usually into jail. Some of these encounters weren't friendly and some involved prolonged gun battles between troops and Boomers and other arrests were made without incident.

In August 1884 David Payne led what was to be his last Boomer movement into Oklahoma. Settling near Rock Falls, two miles southwest of the present-day Braman, Payne and his cohorts proceeded to lay out a town and began building structures, the first being the office of the Oklahoma War Chief newspaper. More than 300 people followed Payne to Rock Falls and started the process of settlement. It was in this week of 1884 on August 7th that soldiers from Fort Reno arrived at Rock Falls and ordered Payne and his followers to leave. Repeat offenders were arrested and first-time Boomers were escorted back to the Kansas line. The dozen or so primitive structure erected at Rock Falls were burned to the ground along with the printing press for the Oklahoma War Chief. Payne was taken to stand trial in Fort Smith but managed to get a change of venue to federal court in Topeka, which later ruled in his favor. Payne died from a heart attack the morning after the ruling was issued and didn't live to see the territory opened for settlement.

You can see some of his belongings on display and learn about him at the Oklahoma History Center on NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to the collection, preservation, and sharing of our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Journeys

The Birth of Pawnee Bill, February 14, 1860

2010-02-13

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This week saying hello and welcome to an Oklahoma legend. Oklahoma, both as a territory and a state, has always had a reputation as a "wild west" type of place. What better place then to serve as headquarters for one of the great wild west shows of all-time? It's Pawnee Bill's birthday this week, and that's the topic of this week's Oklahoma Journeys.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Journeys. I'm Michael Dean.

As the United States began in the mid to late 19th century to develop more of an urban metropolitan feel on both the east and west coasts, the middle portion of the country was increasingly seen, whether correctly or not, as the wild west, the last of the rugged cowboy's terrain. To capitalize on what was fast becoming a fond memory, various performers assembled rodeo and wild-west shows that highlighted and showcased what exemplified in the minds of many people what life must have been like on the wilds of the western frontier.

One of the greatest of these wild-west show persons was Gordon Lillie; it was in this week of 1860 that Lillie was born in Illinois. According to his own account, Lillie spent a lot of time reading about and dreaming of western heroes like Buffalo Bill. Lillie was born in Illinois, but the family moved to Wellington, Kansas, in the 1870s. At about the same time, the Pawnee Indians were being moved from Nebraska through Kansas into their new homelands in the northern part of the Indian Territory. Lillie met some of the Pawnees and learned their language. Ultimately he became a trusted friend of the Pawnees, so much so that they gave him the nickname Pawnee Bill. He moved with them to the territory and taught school for a time, but show business came calling. In 1883, Buffalo Bill wrote to the Pawnee Indian agent asking for six Pawnee Indians to join his Wild West show. Pawnee Bill was one of the applicants who Buffalo Bill hired. For the next five years he traveled the country learning the business of running a Wild West show. In 1888, he organized his own show.

But that same year he became leader of the Boomers who were trying to open the unassigned lands of central Oklahoma. David Payne, their original leader, died from a heart attack in 1884, and William Couch, who took over the movement, left to work for the Santa Fe Railroad. Pawnee Bill led the 3,000 or so Boomers into the territory on April 22, 1889, then returned to his Wild West show. His show expanded and enjoyed success through 1908. That year his mentor Buffalo Bill was in deep financial trouble. Pawnee Bill bought an interest in Buffalo Bill's show and combined the show with his own. The Two Bills Show traveled through 1913 when again there were financial problems. Pawnee Bill returned to his ranch, was involved in banking and oil. In 1936 he and his wife May celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. A year later she was killed in a traffic accident, and her husband was seriously injured. In 1942 Gordon Lillie, Pawnee Bill, died in his sleep.

However, we celebrate Gordon Lillie's 150th birthday on Valentine's Day. Today the Oklahoma Historical Society owns the Pawnee Bill Ranch and holds many functions there. You can visit the ranch or visit the Oklahoma History Center to learn more about Pawnee Bill and the Wild West shows. The Oklahoma History Center is located on NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Journeys

Henry Starr - Actor and Bank Robber

2010-02-06

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He was an author, a movie producer, and a star, and maybe because of genetics, he was an outlaw, a bank robber, and a murderer. Henry Starr, just before he died from gunshot wounds suffered in his last bank robbery, claimed to have robbed more banks than anyone else in America. Henry Starr, this week on Oklahoma Journeys from the Oklahoma History Center.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Journeys. I'm Michael Dean.

Around the turn of the last century, before we became a state, the eastern part of Indian Territory was a haven of outlaws and criminals. One of them was Henry Starr. Starr was born near Ft. Gibson in 1873. Early on he developed a liking for illegal activities and the lure of easy money. Starr maintained a lengthy streak as a bank robber and is considered one of the first transition outlaws, those that began on horseback but ended their careers using cars.

When he was 16 years old, Henry was working on a ranch near Nowata when he had his first run-in with the law. He was driving a wagon to town one day when two deputy marshals caught him with whiskey and arrested him for "introducing spirits into territory." He went to court and plead guilty to the offense, although he always maintained that he was innocent because he had borrowed the wagon and didn't know the whiskey was in it.

Back at Nowata, working as a cowboy, he had his next brush with the law. He was arrested for stealing horses, another charge he denied, and was thrown in jail at Fort Smith. His cousin paid his bail, but Henry jumped the bail. Now he turned to the life of an outlaw, joining with two other men, began robbing stores and railroad depots. Two U.S. Deputy Marshals were hot on the trail of Henry near Nowata again. In a shoot out with one of the marshals, Henry killed him and now was wanted for murder.

With the law on his trail, he started robbing banks, first in Caney, Kansas, then in Bentonville, Arkansas. Headed to California, Henry was captured in Colorado Springs and returned to Fort Smith to stand trail for killing the marshal. It was during this stay in jail in Fort Smith, awaiting trial, that one of the most amazing deeds was accomplished. A fellow prisoner, Cherokee Bill attempted a prison break with a gun smuggled him by a trustee. There was a gun battle in which one of the guards was killed. Henry was a friend of Bill's and offered to disarm him if guards would in turn promise not to kill Cherokee Bill. The promise was made, and Henry entered the cell where Bill was at and retrieved the weapon. Because of this, he was released.

A few years later, Starr, again in prison, wrote his autobiography. Again released from prison, in 1915 he and his gang went to Stroud and robbed both banks there at the same time, successfully. But Starr was wounded in a gun battle that ensued and was arrested. Again, he won parole. Starr moved to Tulsa, produced a movie about the Stroud bank robbery, and was offered a job in Hollywood. He seemed to have given up the life of crime, but he hadn't.

In February 1922, Starr drove into Harrison, Arkansas, to attempt to rob the bank there. He was shot, captured and died a few days later. It is believed that it was the first time a fast car was used in a robbery and the first time a machine gun was used in a robbery. Before he died, he boasted that no one had robbed more banks than him.

You can learn more about Henry Starr and crime in Oklahoma by visiting the Oklahoma History Center, on NE 23rd just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Journeys

Lynn Gerber and 9/11

2010-09-11

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9/11 or September 11th has taken on a meaning similar to December 7, but for an Alfalfa County man 9/11 has a different meaning than most of us might think. Lynn Gerber's 9/11 story is our story this week on Oklahoma Journeys from the Oklahoma History Center.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Journeys. I'm Michael Dean.

When we entered World War Two, the date December 7th became emblazoned in our national memory, and the same is true of the date 9/11. Lynne Gerber grew up in Alfalfa County, and in January 1941, almost a year before Pearl Harbor, he became the first man from that county drafted. Gerber wound up in the 45th Infantry Division of the Oklahoma National Guard and was assigned to the 179th Infantry Regiment as a foot solider.

On the morning of September 10, 1943, the U.S. Army invaded the boot heel of Italy to open that campaign. The morning of the 10th, the 36th Infantry Division stormed ashore near Salerno. The 179th Regiment was held in reserve until the afternoon of the invasion when they were called upon. At about 3:00 that afternoon a gap opened up between American lines, and the 179th with Lynne Gerber hit the beach.

In an article in the Enid News and Eagle, Gerber described what happened. They had expected the landing to be pretty much a pushover, but when they got ashore, they could tell from the large number of dead bodies and wrecked equipment the 36th had taken a pounding. They began moving inland in the darkness - walking. They were encountering no opposition. Where were the Germans? They wondered if they were walking into a trap, and, yes, they were. German forces just stepped aside and trapped the entire regiment - on the front, sides and rear. Gerber's platoon was pinned down in a ditch alongside a fence row and gravel road when four German 88-millimeter shells hit the fence about 8 to 10 feet from Gerber.

Gerber said as the afternoon moved on, they had nearly made it to a riverbank when he spotted a German tank firing with five Germans moving along behind it. Gerber said he was on his belly, just drawing down on them, when a machine gun blasted him from the right side. The whole burst was ricochets. He said he was hit in the right leg, left leg and the side. Right then, he said, three Germans came out of the trees on the right. He said he didn't see them coming at first, but they were on him before he could move.

"I remembered screaming and hollering and rolling over and over, and the Germans sticking bayonets in my belly and throat. One grabbed my rifle by the barrel and broke it against a tree, and said in broken English, 'Vor you ze var ist offer.'"

"I tried to get up," Gerber said, "but I couldn't. So they were correct - as of that moment the war was over for me." At nightfall, the prisoners were taken to a front-line hospital. On September 11, 1943...9/11...Gerber's 20 months as a prisoner of war began.

Gerber was liberated when a Russian tank, commanded by a large Russian woman, crashed through the front gates of the P.O.W. camp. He came home to a hero's welcome. That's why 9/11 holds a totally different meaning for Lynne Gerber, as he explained to the Enid News and Eagle.

His story is one of many you can find in the newspaper collection in the research library at the Oklahoma History Center, on NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Journeys

Opening of the Port of Muskogee, 1971

2010-01-23

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This week on Oklahoma Journeys we go rolling on the river. It was in this week of 1971 that residents throughout Oklahoma had reason to celebrate especially in the town of Muskogee. The most expensive government project in the history of the United States up to that time came into being 39 years ago this week. That's the topic on this week's Oklahoma Journeys from the Oklahoma History Center.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Journeys. I'm Michael Dean.

The hope of taming yearly floods and expanding commerce were the catalysts that brought about the beginning of what was to become the most expensive single government project in the history of the United States at that time. In 1946 Oklahoma Senator Robert S. Kerr saw the beginning of a dream. Kerr along with Arkansas Senator John McClellan, both visionaries, successfully pushed through Congress the necessary legislation and funding to connect both states with the ocean and therefore with maritime commerce. The plan was for barges and other commercial traffic to be able to travel from the Gulf of Mexico up the Mississippi, up the White River to the Arkansas River, eventually ending at the Port of Catoosa north of Tulsa. But before any of that could happen a monumental series of events had to occur, not the least of which was government funding.

The plan began in 1946 with a series of dams constructed creating lakes Keystone, Oologah, Eufaula and Tenkiller, as well as others in Arkansas. The massive work of constructing the dams continued into the 1950s before being completed in the early 1960s. Work then began on widening and deepening the Arkansas and Verdigris rivers to a uniform depth of nine feet and 300- to 150-feet wide respectively. In addition four locks along the Oklahoma system had to be constructed in order to allow river traffic to rise and lower. For a shipment to make the journey from the Atlantic Ocean to Oklahoma, it would have to be raised a total of 420 feet and the locks, completed in 1968, allowed that to happen. In 1969 construction was begun on the 4.2 million dollar port facility in Muskogee, the first of its kind ever in Oklahoma. On January 22, 1971, then-Governor David Hall officially opened Oklahoma's waterway to the ocean, forever changing commerce, trade and industry in our state. The Port of Catoosa near Tulsa opened shortly thereafter completing the project that began as a dream of Oklahoma Senator Robert S. Kerr in 1946.

Today millions of tons of goods enter and leave via Oklahoma ports with the first shipments entering the state in this week of 1971. The incredible success story of the Kerr-McClellan waterway, a project 25 years in the making, can be traced and followed through official governor's papers and newspaper holdings at the Oklahoma Historical Society research facility in the Oklahoma History Center on NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to the collection, preservation, and sharing of our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Journeys

World's Biggest Barbeque

2010-01-09

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One Oklahoma politician actually delivered what he promised. When Jack Walton was running for governor, he promised in every speech he would throw a big barbeque if he was elected. On January 9, 1923, he did just that, serving up more than 100,000 meals at the state fairgrounds. That's our story this week on Oklahoma Journeys from the Oklahoma History Center.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Journeys. I'm Michael Dean.

Jack C. Walton arrived in Oklahoma City in 1903. He was a civil engineer and opened a contracting business. Soon after the state capitol was moved from Guthrie to Oklahoma City, he became active in Democratic politics. In 1917, he was elected to his first public office, Oklahoma City Commissioner of Public Works, largely because of his engineering experience. Two years later, he won election as Mayor of Oklahoma City, then in 1922, he ran for governor. That fall he campaigned throughout the state. The Daily Oklahoman reported that he gave more than 400 campaign speeches and in every speech included this statement, "When I am elected governor there will not be an inaugural ball. I am going to give an old fashioned square dance and barbeque. It will be a party for all the people, and I want you all to come." He won, and he did.

On January 9, 1923, the day Walton was inaugurated as governor, he began delivering on that campaign promise. Dan Lackey was the chairman of the barbeque. He later said it was the biggest undertaking of his life. The newspapers estimated that 20,000 people worked in preparations for the dinner; they were serving fifteen plates a minute, and when it was over, an estimated 100,000 people had been served.

The menu that day was nothing short of incredible, including 289 head of cattle, 70 hogs, 36 sheep, 2,500 rabbits, 134 possums, and so on. Wood to fuel the fire was shipped in on 19 railroad cars. The Thursday the week before Oklahoma City bakers began baking 400,000 buns and loaves of bread.

All that food required a lot of coffee to accompany it. Four large percolators were constructed, each holding 8,800 gallons of water, fed by fire engines from the Fire Department. To make 8,000 gallons of coffee required more than 4,000 pounds of coffee grounds.

Ultimately 100,000 people were served. The story was big, making headlines across Oklahoma and even the New York Times sent a reporter to Oklahoma City to cover the festivities. Those festivities lasted into the wee hours of the morning. The Oklahoman reported it this way: "It was a big day, a big time, and it was the biggest barbeque." It is as the "biggest barbeque" that the story will be told in newspapers and magazines the world over.

Unfortunately for Walton that barbeque was the highlight of his term as governor. His term lasted less than a year when in the fall of 1923 he was impeached. Walton later ran for the Senate and lost, but then was elected to a six-year term on the Oklahoma Corporation Commission serving from 1933 to 1939. Jack Walton died at the age of 69 in 1949 and will be remembered for throwing the world's biggest barbeque.

You'll find this and many other interesting stories about Oklahoma in the newspaper archives at the Oklahoma History Center on NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Journeys

State's First Republican, Governor, 1963

2010-01-16

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This week on Oklahoma Journeys, a blue state turning red. When Oklahoma became a state in 1907 it began a decades-long streak of loyalty to the Democratic Party. Things changed, however, with the gubernatorial election of 1962, and that's the topic of this week's Oklahoma Journeys from the Oklahoma History Center.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Journeys. I'm Michael Dean.

Recent national elections seems to make especially clear the political differences between the various states dividing all fifty into either the red (Republican) or blue (Democrat) camps. Oklahoma in recent elections has landed squarely and unequivocally in the red sector and has done so for a number of years, but that wasn't always the case. In fact, when it comes to being a red or blue state, Oklahoma has been somewhat of a flip-flopper.

As a territory between 1890 and October 1907 Oklahoma was under the direct control of the U.S. president. The president appointed the territorial governor and the governor then appointed most of the other high-level territorial officials. So a Republican president would naturally mean a Republican territorial governor and so on down the line. With the coming of statehood in November of 1907 the appointive power of the president was removed and the new state immediately flipped to the blue zone becoming a democratic state thereby taking its place among the other states of the solidly democratic south.

Over the next fifty-five years Republicans in Oklahoma endured their position as a remotely distant, almost, inconsequential political force. Democrats controlled the state, ran the state, and seemed to be front-runners in every election. Only for a brief time in the 19-teens was the Democrat's control of the state challenged, and that was by the Socialist party. How then could a comparatively inexperienced wheat farmer from the town of Billings completely change the political landscape of the state?

That's what many people were asking in this week of 1963 when Henry Bellmon became the state's first Republican governor. The election turn-around caused Democrat leaders of the state to hold a mock funeral for the Democratic Party while almost at the same time actual elephants, the mascot of the Republicans, ran loose in downtown Oklahoma City. The reasons for such chaos lay in the fortuitous alignment of events as well as the slow but steady shifting of attitudes among the residents of Oklahoma. During the 1962 gubernatorial race, the Democrats were facing an uphill battle. The reputation of some leading Democrats was tarnished from scandal and questionable behavior while the Democratic candidate for Governor had made enemies of a powerful newspaper editor in Oklahoma City. The result was that on January 14, 1963, Oklahoma, for the first time in 55 years, was once again under a Republican leader. Although almost every other election in the state that year went Democrat, the tide was turning fast for Republicans and they became a dominant force in Oklahoma politics. It was on January 14, 1963, that Henry Bellmon became the first Republican governor of Oklahoma.

Oklahoma's political records are a fascinating blend of the mundane, inane, courageous, and outrageous, and they're all available to you at the Research Library of the Oklahoma History Center, NE 23rd Street just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to the collection, preservation, and sharing of our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Journeys

William Murray and the Red River Bridge War

2010-07-10

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One of our state's most colorful governors was William H. Murray, or Alfalfa Bill, and it was in this month of 1931 that Governor Murray declared war on Texas and won. It's the Red River Bridge War, and that's our story this week on Oklahoma Journeys from the Oklahoma History Center.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Journeys. I'm Michael Dean.

It is called the Red River Bridge War, and it occurred in July 1931. Alfalfa Bill Murray, William H. Murray, was the governor of Oklahoma, and Ross Sterling was governor of Texas. Until the late 1920s the only way to cross the Red River was by ferry. Then several companies in Texas constructed toll bridges to span the river then three public or "free" bridges were constructed, connecting Durant and Dennison, Terral and Ringgold, and Marietta and Gainesville. It was then that the Red River Bridge Company in Dennison, Texas, sued the state of Texas, asking for $150,000 dollars in damages because of the free bridge. A federal judge in Houston ordered the public bridges closed, and that was when the two governors entered the fray.

Governor Murray ordered the barricades erected by the Texas Highway Department torn down. Governor Sterling responded with a telegram saying that Murray had a lot of gall tearing down those barricades. Murray fired a telegram back to Sterling telling him to ask his attorney general to check the boundary, that the boundary was the high water mark on the south bank of the Red River, and that the bridges were in Oklahoma not in Texas. Murray, who came to the Chickasaw Nation as their attorney in the 1890s, knew the complete history of the boundary and that it was in the 1803 treaty between France and the United States that specified the border as the south high water mark of the Red River. Murray concluded his exchange of telegrams with Sterling with this threat - that if the Texas Rangers set foot in Oklahoma again, he would prosecute them for invasion of our state.

Murray then called out the Durant unit of the National Guard. He traveled to Durant and personally led the soldiers across the bridge, brandishing a rather large six shooter in his right hand. They tore down the toll booth on the south end of the bridge and then burned the lumber. The two Texas Rangers who had been in the booth got in their car and left the scene. The controversy ended on August 6 after the Texas Legislature, in special session, passed a law allowing the Red River Bridge Company to sue the state, and the federal court dissolved the injunction that touched off the "war" to begin with. That free bridge served the public well until 1995 when it was dynamited, and traffic was shifted to a new bridge -also free. Oklahoma won the war against Texas.

There is an interview with William H. Murray in the oral history collection of the archives of the Oklahoma History Center, NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Journeys

USS Tulsa

2010-10-16

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When you think of ships named for our state, the battleship USS Oklahoma immediately comes to mind. And, of course, the cruiser USS Oklahoma City, but Tulsa had a ship named for that city. The USS Tulsa served with distinction from 1923 to 1946, and her story is our story this week on Oklahoma Journeys from the Oklahoma History Center.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Journeys. I'm Michael Dean.

When we think of ships in the Navy named for our state, two immediately come to mind, the battleship USS Oklahoma sunk at Pearl Harbor and the USS Oklahoma City, the cruiser that served from 1944 to 1979. Unfortunately few remember another one, the USS Tulsa. She was launched in 1922 and following sea trails joined the fleet two years later. The Tulsa served with the Caribbean fleet for the next five years showing the flag in such ports as Vera Cruz, Mexico; our naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; Puerto Rico; and, of course, the Panama Canal zone. Hers was a quiet peaceful life until the late 1920s. That was when civil strife broke out in Nicaragua. The Tulsa was ordered there to land Marines and bluejackets on the coast to protect lives and preserve property. In late 1928, the Tulsa was ordered to the Pacific. She transited the Panama Canal, called at Honolulu and Guam then proceeded to Manila. From there she was sent to China and was designated Flagship of the south China patrol. Tulsaoperated out of Hong Kong, the British Crown Colony, and Canton, China, for cruises up the Pearl River and along the south China coast. At Canton in May 1929, she witnessed the bombing of Chinese naval vessels by airplanes of the opposing faction in the Chinese civil war flaring at the time. It was during these patrols along the south China coast that she was given the nickname the "Galloping Ghost of the South China Coast."

Through the 1930s she continued her work in and along China, but with the war approaching she was moved to the Philippines and stationed at the large US Navy port near Manila. On December 10, 1941, the Japanese bombed Manila and the US Naval base nearby; Tulsa landed her crew to pick up as many wounded sailors as could be rescued. From Manila, she steamed for Borneo then Australia.

On the night of January 20, 1943, six Japanese bombers attacked the USS Tulsa. In the short, sharp action which followed, Tulsa put up a spirited defense with her 3-inch and 20-millimeter antiaircraft battery, driving off the attackers with no damage to herself while dodging 12 bombs. The remainder of 1943 and into 1944, she continued patrol duty off the coast of Australia then in November, she returned to her last pre-war home in the Philippine Islands. Old and worn out, she was stricken from the navy list then sent to the breakers for scrap.

She never achieved the fame of other ships, but that was the case of most ships in World War Two; she served her country and her crew well, was loved by her crew, and properly took her place among the thousands of ships who saw service in the defense of freedom. She was the Galloping Ghost of the South China Coast, the USS Tulsa.

The story of the USS Tulsa is one of the many told in the military archives in the Oklahoma History Center, located on NE 23rd Street just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Journeys

Battle of Round Mountain, November 19, 1861

2010-11-05

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The Civil War came to Oklahoma or Indian Territory relatively early in the time frame of the war. Less than eighteen months after the war began, the lives of territorial residents were in chaos. Most historians agree that the first Civil War battle to occur in Indian Territory was at Round Mountain, and that's the topic of this week's Oklahoma Journeys from the Oklahoma History Center.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Journeys. I'm Michael Dean.

Although they were technically not a part of the United States at the time, the residents of the Indian Territory in the 1860s were just as affected by the Civil War as anyone else in the country. The nations of the Creeks, Cherokee, Chickasaws and others divided and split themselves between the choices of the northern or southern causes. Most of the larger tribes in Indian Territory were splintered from the conflict, and their homes and lives were thrown into a chaotic state of anarchy, death and destruction. The first Civil War battle to occur in Oklahoma took place as a band of Creeks and Seminoles remaining loyal to the Union and under the command of Creek Chief attempted to make their way to Kansas and safety. As the group and the federal forces made their way north, they were being pursued by a Confederate Cavalry force made up of members of the various tribes and Texans led by Confederate Colonel Douglas Cooper. The two groups played a cat-and-mouse game until the middle of November 1861.

It was in this week of 1861 that Southern forces finally caught up with the Creek group, engaging them in a skirmish near Round Mountain. That fight started late in the afternoon of November 19th and ended at nightfall. In the morning the pursuing Confederates found the northern faction had vanished in the night making their way further north. These two groups chased each other their way north, engaging in two other fights, none, however, as large or substantial as the action at Round Mountain.

In an interesting side note, not long after the war, Oklahoma historians attempted to locate the site of the Battle of Round Mountain, but they could never reach a consensus. Two groups emerged from this investigation; one claiming that the Round Mountain Site lay a few miles east of Stillwater, and the other group emphatically arguing for a site closer to Tulsa and the present-day Lake Keystone dam. This debate raged on through the 1950s and '60s, and a number of friendships were ended because of it. Archaeological evidence emerged from both sites, and the official war records leave the issue in an inconclusive state. Eventually it appeared that the majority of opinions sided with the location near Stillwater; however, the issue to this day still raises a bit of contention.

Most of the material relating to the Battle of Round Mountain resides in the collections of the Archives Division of the Oklahoma History Center and is open to the public to do the investigation. Perhaps you could look at the material and unravel the mystery of where Round Mountain really was. Next year the Oklahoma Historical Society will kick off the 150th anniversary of the first Civil War battle in Oklahoma with a number of events. Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma History Center dedicated to the collection, preservation, and sharing of our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Journeys

Battle of the Washita, November 27, 1868

2010-11-20

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The collision of two cultures this week. As white culture moved across the North American continent inevitably they ran into Native cultures already settled there for thousands of years. As always happens when two cultures meet, they either must meld together or battle for dominance. One such battle occurred in this week of 1868. That's the topic of this week's Oklahoma Journeys from the Oklahoma History Center.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Journeys. I'm Michael Dean.

It was in this week of 1868 that the U.S. Cavalry, under command of Lt. Colonel George Custer, engaged in a pre-dawn attack on the Cheyenne Camp of Chief Black Kettle. In the frozen blackness of November 27th, the country blanketed by over a foot of fresh snow, U.S. forces charged into the Cheyenne Camp, located on the banks of the Washita River near the present-day town of Cheyenne, Oklahoma, killing everyone and anything they could find. Between 50 and 100 Cheyenne were killed with 50 more captured while the cavalry suffered only two losses. To add further injury over 800 Indian horses and ponies were systematically slaughtered by U.S. troops, and all 51 lodges and contents were incinerated. Fearing retaliation from large bands of Arapahos, Kiowas, and Cheyennes camped further downstream. Custer gathered up the captives and headed back to his base at Fort Supply.

The events leading up to the Battle of Washita involved the collision of two cultures; the desire of whites to conquer and control every possible bit of land; and the nomadic wandering culture of the plains Indians. The plains tribes including Chief Black Kettle, also known as a Peace Chief, had signed a variety of treaties between 1864 and 1867 stating that they would accept life on reservations and stop their nomadic lifestyle. Under the provisions of the 1867 Medicine Lodge treaty the Cheyennes, Kiowas, Commanches, Arapahos and other plains tribes agreed to live peacefully on allotted reservation lands. In return the tribes were to receive from the government various food and equipment annuities. A problem occurred in that these treaties were obeyed by some of the tribal members but not by all. While most of the plains tribes quietly accepted the reservation life that was to be their fate, other "war parties" made up usually of younger members refused to abide by the laws and treaties and continued roaming and raiding.

It was in retaliation for these raids that the U.S. Army conducted the Washita attack. Although Black Kettle was flying the U.S. Flag at his Washita camp and thought that he was on good terms with the white government, the U.S. Army paid little attention to such details. By destroying one Cheyenne camp, whether or not it was guilty or innocent, a message was sent to all plains tribes: stay on the reservations or face harsh punishments.

The Washita Battle site is now a national historic site, and the National Park Service opened a new visitor's center recently to tell the story. The Oklahoma History Center features an exhibit on the battle that includes several artifacts from the area. The Oklahoma History Center is located on NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to the collection, preservation, and sharing of our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Journeys

Governors

2011-01-10

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When Mary Fallon was sworn in as governor of Oklahoma she became the latest in a line of women elected to public office in the Sooner State, including one elected in the first statewide election ever held in Oklahoma. That's the story this week on Oklahoma Journeys from the Oklahoma History Center.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Journeys. I'm Michael Dean.

When Mary Fallon took the oath of office, she will have sworn the same oath that her predecessors swore. Before Governor Fallon,twenty-four men served as governor, three of them twice, and one, George Nigh, served as governor on four different occasions.

Women running for public office dates back to our first statewide election in 1907.She was Kate Barnard who was born in Kansas but joined her father in Oklahoma City in 1891 and attended St. Joseph's Academy. She lived on her father's claim near Newalla until she moved to Oklahoma City in 1895 to continue preparations to become a teacher.

In 1904 while serving as a hostess for the Oklahoma exhibit at the St. Louis World's Fair, Barnard noticed urban poverty and listened to discussions by social science experts who suggested solutions. Returning to Oklahoma City, she discovered that her hometown also had developed an army of indigents, so she began a career in charity work. Believing that women had political potential, especially in the area of social justice reform, she entered politics in 1907 when Oklahoma statehood was imminent. During the Constitutional Convention she convinced delegates to adopt two reform measures: the prohibition of child labor and the establishment of the office of Commissioner of Charities and Corrections. After the convention the Democratic Party endorsed her candidacy for the position of commissioner, and she won that office by a greater plurality than any other candidate in Oklahoma's first general election, an election in which women could not vote.In 1910 she was reelection by a substantial margin, but her second term proved less successful.

Another woman who achieved early success as a politician in Oklahoma was Alice Mary Robertson. She was born in January 1854 at the Tullahassee Mission in the Creek Nation of the Indian Territory. At the age of eighteen she was sent to College in New York, where she graduated near the head of her class. Shethen worked as a clerk in the U.S. Indian Office in Washington. Returning to the Indian Territory, she taught school at Tullahassee and later at Carlisle Indian School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. In 1882 Miss Alice again returned to the territory and was placed in charge of an Indian girls' boarding school, an institution which developed into Henry Kendall College (now the University of Tulsa).

In 1920 Robertson rode the coattails of Republican President Warren G. Harding and was elected to Congress from the Second District as a Republican in the heavily Democratic eastern part of Oklahoma. She arrived in the nation's capital with much talk about her being a woman. Only the second woman elected to Congress, Miss Alice was the first woman to preside over the House of Representatives.

You can learn more about our colorful political history by visiting the Oklahoma History Center, NE 23rdStreet just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Journeys

Admiral Marc Mitscher Birthday

2011-01-22

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During World War Two, the victories in the Pacific theater were largely the result of Admiral Chester Nimitz and his so-called Carrier Admirals, the admirals who commanded the US fleets in action, a group that included two Oklahomans. This week we celebrate the birth of one of them, Admiral Marc Mitscher, on Oklahoma Journeys from the Oklahoma History Center.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Journeys. I'm Michael Dean.

You wouldn't think of Oklahoma as being the home of several distinguished admirals in the Navy. Marc Mitscher was born on Jan. 26, 1887, in Wisconsin, the grandson of German immigrants. Two years after his birth in 1889, the family moved to the newly created town of Oklahoma City. Marc's father, O.A.Mitscher, hadbeen working in the dry goods business in Wisconsin and arriving in Oklahoma City, he opened Mitscher and Mitchell Dry Goods at 138 Main Street. O. A. Mitscher quickly became involved in politics, serving as the second mayor of Oklahoma City from 1892 to 1894. He was unsuccessful in a run for governor then in 1900 President William McKinley appointed him agent for the Osage Indian Reservation in Pawhuska. Unimpressed with local schools, his father sent young Marc Mitscher to Washington, D.C., for his education. Then, in 1904, U.S. Congressman Bird S. McGuire appointed him to the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis.
His first roommate was also from Oklahoma, Pete Cade, Jr. Cade failed as a midshipman, and when the upperclassmen returned from their summer cruise, they had Marc Mitscher repeat Cade's full name each time he was approached. Eventually they gave Mitscher the nickname "Oklahoma Pete," or simply called him Pete.Through his career in the Navy, his closest friends continued to callhim Pete not Marc.

In six years, in 1910, he graduated 113th out of 131 classmates. At Annapolis he developed a passion for aviation. He served in the fleet until 1915 when he found an opportunity for aviation training aboard the USS North Carolina. By 1933 Mitscher had logged more than 3,000 hours flying 50 different types of aircraft, and in 1941 he assumed command of the carrier USS Hornet, a part of the Pacific Fleet. In April 1942 the Hornet carried Col. Jimmy Doolittle's sixteen B-25 bombers that raided Tokyo and other Japanese cities. On May 30, 1942, Mitscher was promoted to flag rank, rear admiral and in June of that year was battle tested at Midway. He participated in most of the major battles in the Pacific, including the Philippine Sea, Leyte Gulf, the Marianas "Turkey Shoot," and the assaults on the islands of Iwo Jima and Okinawa, and in 1946 became commander of the Eighth Fleet. The Navy had awarded Marc A. Mitscher three Navy Crosses by the time he died of a heart attack in February of 1947.

Oklahoma Pete, the man who rode ponies on the plains of Oklahoma, is best remembered as World War Two's preeminent Fast Carrier Task Force Commander. We say Happybirthday to the son of the second mayor of Oklahoma City, Marc Mitscher, born on January 26, 1887.

You can learn more about our military heritage by visiting the Oklahoma History Center, just east of the state capitol on NE 23rd Street in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Journeys

Carl Magee Dies

2011-01-29

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He was a crusading lawyer in Tulsa, turned crusading newspaperman in Albuquerque and Oklahoma City, and inventor of the parking meter. It was on February 1, 1946, that he died following a career described as packing the experiences of several lifetimes into just one. Carl Magee, our subject this week onOklahoma Journeys from the Oklahoma History Center.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Journeys. I'm Michael Dean.

Carl Magee is a name not many are familiar with but his lasting legacy, a machine he helped develop, is something we all are very familiar with. Carlton Magee was born in Iowa in 1873, graduated from the State College of Iowa, served as a school superintendent in Iowa,then in 1903 moved to Tulsa and was admitted to the Oklahoma Bar as an attorney. Through 1920 he was described as a crusading attorney and perhaps that crusading spirit led him to another career, that of crusading newspaper editor.

He moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he edited three newspapers over the next seven years. In 1921 President Warren G. Harding named former New Mexico Senator Albert Fall Secretary of the Interior where, among other things, he soon gained jurisdiction over three oil fields that were part of the U.S. Navy's oil reserves. He then took bribes from various oil men to sell leases in the oil reserves. One of the reserves was in Wyoming at a place called Tea Pot dome. Tulsa oilman Harry Sinclair wound up with a lease there; meantime, Carl Magee discovered what was happening and began writing about it. That ultimately led the scandalto becoming a national news story. Albert Fall and Harry Sinclair among others went to prison, and Magee now had a nationwide reputation as a crusading newspaper editor. During his career in New Mexico, Magee exposed corruption in the state court system, and in a chance meeting in a hotel, one of the judges knocked Magee to the floor. Magee pulled a pistol and fired at the judge but missed and killed an innocent bystander. He was tried and acquitted of manslaughter but soon after left New Mexico for Oklahoma City.

About the same time, oil was discovered in South Oklahoma City, and soon the city was filled with drill rigs and roughnecks and downtown office spaces filled with accountants, attorneys, land men, and secretaries. By January 1933, people going downtown to shop couldn't find parking spaces anymore. The downtown retailers persuaded the city council to appoint a joint traffic study committee; Carl Magee was named chairman.

Magee had the idea of timing devise mounted on the curb to be set by the motorist after he parked; using coins, it also provided an economic deterrent to people abusing the parking rules. Magee worked with several engineering professors he knew at Oklahoma A & M College, and by the summer of 1935, his devise was ready for use. The Oklahoma City Council was split over the idea of charging people to park on public streets, but finally on July 16, 1935, the first parking meters were made operational.

Magee passed away on February 1, 1946, and is buried with his wife and son in Tulsa. Carl Magee, crusading attorney, newspaper editor, and father of the parking meter, Oklahoma City's gift to the world.

You can see the first parking meter on display at the Oklahoma History Center, NE 23rd Street just east of the state capitol. Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Journeys

John Hope Franklin

2011-02-19

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He was born in Rentiesville, a tiny all-black town north of Checotah. His father was a lawyer; his mother an elementary school teacher. He ultimately became the foremost historian of African American history in America, and the Tulsa Race Riot memorial is named for him. Dr. John Hope Franklin on Oklahoma Journeys this week from the Oklahoma History Center.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Journeys. I'm Michael Dean.

He was born in 1915 in Rentiesville, a tiny all-black town north of Checotah. John Hope Franklin's parents were well educated. His father B.C. Franklin was a lawyer; his mother was an elementary school teacher. He said that he was home schooled. As soon as he was big enough not to be carried, his mother took him to school with her. He sat in a corner of her classroom and listened and doodled, and eventually his mother realized he was actually writing and reading at the age of three. Education was important in the Franklin home.

In 1921, his father B.C. moved to Tulsa to establish a law practice there. He arrived in Tulsa the week the Tulsa Race Riot broke out. Back in home in Rentiesville, the Franklin family waited for word from B.C., and eventually they did hear from him. He survived the riot, opened his practice and bought a home. The Franklin family moved to Tulsa. John Hope Franklin graduated from Booker T. Washington High School then moved to Nashville to attend Fisk University. It was there that his history professor mentored him and encouraged him to go to Harvard for his graduate work.

John Hope Franklin earned both his master's degree and doctorate at Harvard. Franklin later said that there were no blacks in graduate school at Harvard, something that didn't bother him at all. One incident early in his teaching career stood out in his mind. One day after he had started a class, a young black woman walked in late; she searched the room for a seat, of which there were plenty, but eventually she chose to sit with some other black students. Franklin found that perplexing. He said when he was in graduate school, he just walked into a classroom and sat wherever he wanted.

In the early 1950s he served on the NAACP Legal Defense Fund Team with a young black attorney, Thurgood Marshall, and together they put together the arguments that Marshall used in the Brown vs. Board of Education discrimination case. Franklin's career took him to a number of colleges and universities, eventually to Duke University where he was named James B. Duke Professor of History and at the same time was a professor of legal history in the Duke University Law School.

In 2005, at the age of 90, Franklin published and lectured on his new autobiography, Mirror to America: The Autobiography of John Hope Franklin. In 2008, he made his last trip to Oklahoma and spent the better part of a day at the Oklahoma History Center speaking to student groups from around the state.Dr. John Hope Franklin died on March 25, 2009.

You can learn more about Dr. John Hope Franklin and the history of African Americans in the territory and the state of Oklahoma in the exhibit Realizing the Dreamat the Oklahoma History Center, NE 23rd Street just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Journeys

Passenger Trains Leaving Oklahoma

2011-03-12

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For twenty years from 1979 to 1999 Oklahoma had no passenger rail service. At its peak Oklahoma had more than 70 passenger trains each day making stops in the Sooner State. That was during world War Two, but by the late 1960s airlines were taking most of the passenger business away from the railroads and that meant big changes ahead for the traveling public. That's our story on Oklahoma Journeys from the Oklahoma History Center.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Journeys. I'm Michael Dean.

Following the Civil War, the westward expansion began in earnest. In 1871 the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad, or Katy for short, built a line into the territory to connect trains from Kansas City to Dallas. Later in the 1870s the Frisco entered the territory, though it took until 1898 before its lines were extended from Oklahoma City to Lawton. In 1888 the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe built a line from Arkansas City, Kansas, to Gainesville, Texas, running through what was then called Oklahoma Station. A year later in 1889, many of the people making the land run into the central part of the state arrived from both the north and the south on the Santa Fe Railroad. Also in 1888 the Rock Island followed the old Chisholm Trail running tracks to Pond Creek, El Reno and Minco, and by 1893 from Minco to Dallas. Those railroads played an extremely important part in the growth of Oklahoma. Our central location made it possible to take a train from Oklahoma to almost every major city in America.

By the 1940s Oklahoma had more than 70 daily passenger trains passing through the state. Not only did those trains carry passengers, but they also carried the U.S. mail. Following the war, a number of changes began taking place. Airlines began competing with the railroads for passenger service, and by the late 1950s and early '60s more people were flying than were riding the rails. The post office began shipping more and more mail on airplanes.

In 1968 there were just five passenger trains serving Oklahoma. The Kansas Citian that ran through Oklahoma City to Fort Worth and back; the Santa Fe's Chicagoan which left Oklahoma City every morning at 3:25 for Chicago; the Santa Fe's Texas Chief making a daily run from Kansas City to Dallas and back; and a Kansas City Southern train that ran through Sallisaw on its run from Kansas City to Shreveport then to New Orleans.

In 1971 the federal government created Amtrak and took over passenger service across the nation. By that time only the Santa Fe Texas Chief ran passenger service in Oklahoma, and in 1979, that train was discontinued. But in the fall of 1999, AMTRAK created the Heartland Flyer that makes a daily run from Oklahoma City to Fort Worth and back, with stops in Norman, Purcell, Pauls Valley, Ardmore and Gainsville, Texas. The Heartland Flyer has been very successful and many hope that that service will eventually be extended to Tulsa and eventually north to Kansas City.
You can learn more about transportation in Oklahoma by visiting the transportation gallery in the Oklahoma History Center, NE 23rd Street just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to the collection, preservation, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Journeys

Governor Walton Declares Statewide Martial Law, 1923

2011-09-10

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This week on Oklahoma Journeys we take a look at an Oklahoma governor who was at various times both adored and hated by many of his constituents. Governor Jack Walton was known for being a bit quirky at times, but the former Oklahoma City mayor is probably best remembered for his declaration of war on the KKK, the topic of this week's Oklahoma Journeys from the Oklahoma History Center.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Journeys. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma, in its short time as a state, has had its fair share of odd political celebrities. One of the elite members of Oklahoma's odd-squad is Jack Walton, one time Oklahoma City mayor and state governor for a total of 11 months, the shortest gubernatorial term in the history of our state. Flaunted as the candidate of choice for the working and common folks of the state, Governor Walton made good on his promise of a giant BBQ feast at his inauguration and began his term on ostensibly good footing; however, things began to decline at a rapid rate. Largely to blame for Walton's short time in office was his so-called "war" with the Ku Klux Klan.

The period of Walton's governorship was also a time of activity for the KKK. During the 1920s the Ku Klux Klan experienced a resurgence in both Oklahoma and in the Midwest. In this incarnation the Klan not only continued to hate African-Americans but also expanded to include hatred of Catholics, immigrants and anything and anyone that might be perceived as anti-American. The Klan was particularly strong in Oklahoma and in fact did control the politics in a number of towns. Thinking that opposition to his programs was organized by the Klan, Governor Walton took it upon himself to declare war on the group and began by declaring martial law in Okmulgee and in Tulsa. He also unconstitutionally suspended the right of habeas corpus for people in those towns. When a grand jury began investigating the legality of Walton's activities, the governor escalated the war.

It was in this week of 1923 that in his efforts to stifle Klan activity and prevent grand jury snooping, Governor Walton declared martial law over the entire state. He then placed the entire state capital complex under his direct command. Walton, by dropping this political atomic bomb on the state and through various other mishandlings, managed to alienate himself from everyone in the legislature and caused a complete reversal of opinion from his one-time supporters. The general feeling around the state was that, Klan or no Klan, Walton with his haphazard declarations of martial law, was going too far and by declaring it over the entire state he was setting himself up for trouble. Indeed, his actions did invoke the wrath of the legislature who began circulating demands for impeachment. Walton tried unsuccessfully several times to prevent the legislature from meeting, and when they did it was to suspend and then eventually remove him from office, replacing him with Lt. Governor Martin Trapp.

Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to the collection, preservation, and sharing of our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

45th Goes to Korea

2010-06-28

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"Of the nations of the world, Korea alone up to now is the sole one which has risked its all against Communism. The magnificence of the courage and fortitude of the Korean people defies description."

That was General of the Army Douglas McArthur addressing Congress after he had been removed from his command by President Harry Truman.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

Seems like current news - a field commander of U.S. troops oversteps his bounds and is relieved of his command by the commander in chief.

It was sixty years ago last week that troops of North Korea in the dark of the night crossed the 38th parallel invading the Republic of South Korea. It was a surprise attack catching the few U.S. troops in South Korea off guard. General Douglas McArthur was commander of U.S. Forces in the Far East. By March 1951, Oklahoma's 45th Infantry Division was mobilized for duty in the Far East.

Among the soldiers in the Oklahoma National Guard unit was Colonel George Fisher of Oklahoma City. He was the 45th Division's Civil Affairs Officer. Fisher said that when the 45th arrived in Japan they were short of all kinds of equipment.

"They couldn't supply us with anything. Oh, when we first got to the islands, they sent 40-some tanks. We didn't have any tanks for our tank battalions until those got there."

Following additional training on the island of Hokkaido in Japan, the 45th shipped out for Korea. Once there Fisher was given a group of South Korean police officers that no one seemed to know what to do with; Fisher had an idea.

"I found that I had 380-some odd Korean security police in two companies and about 100 Korean national police in another company. They had been gravely misused or not used at all, and we set to work creating a place where they could live and got them out on the lines in the night. We picked up enemy agents who came through."

The 45th Division was involved in a number of battles in the Korean War, including Pork Chop Hill among others, finally returning home in 1952 and '53. In April 1951 Truman relieved General McArthur of his command and for the first time in 15 years, since 1937, McArthur and his family set foot on American soil. Days after their return to the U.S., McArthur was invited to speak before Congress and closed with this famous line.

"...that old soldiers never die; they just fade away. And like the old soldier in that ballad, I now close my military career and just fade away, an old soldier who tried to do his duty as God gave him the light to see that duty. Goodbye."

It was 60 years ago this month the forgotten war began. The 45th Division continued their march into history. The interview with Colonel George Fisher is part of the oral history archives at the Oklahoma History Center, NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

A.C. Hamlin Born in February, 1881

2010-02-15

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A new recruit in the struggle for justice this week on Oklahoma Memories. Despite strong efforts to do so, early state legislatures of Oklahoma could not completely silence the voice of the state's black population. A.C. Hamlin was one such voice.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

Following the end of the Civil War in 1865 and for several decades afterwards, freed slaves migrated out of the Deep South toward places north and west. Known as the exodusters a large percentage of this migrating population moved initially towards Kansas then Oklahoma. With the beginning of the great land openings in Oklahoma in the late 1880s and early 1890s many of these exodusters began a "new exodus," hoping for a new start in the new territory. Among the hundreds of African-American families entering Oklahoma at that time was the Hamlin family originally from Tennessee. The Hamlins first settled in Kansas, then with the opening of Oklahoma Territory moved to a claim near Guthrie in Logan County. As a child in Guthrie Albert Comstock, or A.C. Hamlin, experienced the early death of his father and accepted the responsibility of helping hold the family together. Following the advice of his mother Hamlin stayed in school receiving the education that he began in Kansas. Hamlin, soon after graduation, married Katie Weaver and began a family of his own.

A.C. Hamlin as a young adult was active in local politics and church business, and it was these connections that helped him to make history in 1908. In 1908 Albert Comstock Hamlin became the first African-American elected to the state legislature. Remarkably enough, at the very same time as his election, white Oklahoma politicians were working hard to remove voting rights and political power from the African-American community. Despite the obvious prejudice against him, Hamlin not only served his term in the state legislature but also introduced a number of important bills and obtained passage of, among other things, the bill creating the state school for blind, deaf, and orphaned colored children at Taft. Hamlin also experienced moderate success in his fight for stricter observance of the Sabbath and for greater services on the state's segregated rail system. By 1910 the overwhelmingly white legislature had created laws prohibiting black voting, and Hamlin lost his bid for reelection.

As if being the first at anything wasn't enough, A.C. Hamlin endured being an African-American legislator in the very hostile prejudiced environment that was early-day politics in Oklahoma. It was in this week of February 1881 that the Hamlin family celebrated the arrival of young Albert Comstock into the world. Little did they know then the progress he would make or the paths to equality that he would struggle to open.

You can learn more about the African-American story by visiting our exhibit Realizing the Dream at the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City on NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol. Oklahoma Memories is produced by the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to the collection, preservation, and sharing of our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

Anton Classen's Birthday

2009-10-24

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"Classen had laid out the better part of Oklahoma City, went from 13th Street to 16th Street." That's the voice of E. K Gaylord, the long time owner of the Daily Oklahoman, describing what he saw the first day he was in Oklahoma City in late December 1902. He was talking about Anton Classen who was one of the early developers responsible for the incredible growth of Oklahoma City in the early part of the 20th century.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

In Oklahoma City there is Classen Drive, Classen Boulevard, Classen High School and Northwest Classen High. But over time we seem to have forgotten just who Classen was.

He was Anton Classen. He was born on October 8, 1861, in Illinois. Classen received a common school education in Illinois then studied law at the University of Michigan. Two years after he graduated from college, he made the 1889 land run into the Unassigned Lands of the Oklahoma Territory. He lived for a brief time in Guthrie but that town had too many lawyers, so he moved to nearby Edmond. While practicing law, Classen was editor of the Edmond Sun newspaper and donated the land for Oklahoma Territory's first normal school in Edmond.

In 1897 Classen was appointed by President William McKinley as receiver in the U.S. Land Office in Oklahoma City. Classen quickly involved himself in the development and beautification of the city. Speculating in land, he bought farm land next to the city limits and organized numerous housing additions, the first being the Highland Park Addition, now Heritage Hills, established in 1900.

"Classen had laid out the better part of Oklahoma City, went from 13th Street to 16th Street, but there were no houses there. Mr. Overholser was building a house, corner of 15th and Hudson, but there were no houses there so all the streets laid out, dirt streets of course, and all the blocks were platted to wheat so he was harvesting wheat there from what is now the old downtown part of Oklahoma City."

But it was young forward-looking men such as Classen that made Oklahoma City an attractive place to move to as Gaylord remembered:

"It was an interview with Carter Harrison, Mayor of Chicago, who had been down in Texas, and he came through Oklahoma, and he said that Oklahoma was going to be a future state, it was just a territory, that it could raise the crops of the south and raise the crops of the north, and he saw the fields were white with cotton as he went through. Said if he was a young man he'd locate in Oklahoma."

Gaylord arrived just after Christmas in 1902 and spent his first day looking over the city the Mayor of Chicago had described.

By 1907 Classen had developed the Highland Addition, the West Highland Addition, University Addition near Epworth College (now Oklahoma City University), Bell Vern, and the North Broadway Addition. The city was booming as Gaylord remembered.

"Teddy Roosevelt at the time, just before the Enabling Act, he had a special census taken, as most of you know, in 1907. We had 38,205 population in Oklahoma City. The regular census came along in April 1910 and we had 64,000 and one or two hundred. Almost exactly 100% growth in two years and eight months."

In 1919 he donated land for the school named in his honor. He had been an active member and director of the Oklahoma Historical Society. On December 30, 1922, Classen died at his home. Oklahoma City just wouldn't be what it is today had it not been for Anton Classen, born on October 8, 1861. You can learn more about the early history of Oklahoma City by visiting the Research Library at the Oklahoma History Center, NE 23rd just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

Apollo 10

2010-05-17

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"I believe that this Nation should commit itself to achieving the goal before this decade is out of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth."

That was President John F. Kennedy on May 25, 1961, announcing his goal for NASA and asking Congress for tens of millions of dollars to finance that goal.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

When, in May 1961, President Kennedy announced that America would send men to the Moon in the decade of the '60s, the goal seemed right out of a science fiction movie. In 1961 NASA could barley send satellites into orbit and at the time of that speech, NASA had only sent one man into space. Just two weeks before Kennedy's speech Allan Sheppard had flown the first manned sub-orbital flight. An American had not yet even orbited the earth, and now the president was declaring that we would send men to the moon and back.

"Ten…nine…we have ignition sequence start, engines on…five…four…three…two…all engines running…launch commit…Liftoff! We have liftoff 49 minutes past the hour. Stafford reports the clock has started. The tower is clear. ‘Okay pitch is tracking, looking good. Roger.'"

That was on May 18, 1969, eight years after Kennedy's announced goal, and that was the launch of Apollo 10 commanded by Weatherford, Oklahoma's Tom Stafford.

Interestingly, another Oklahoman, Shawnee's Gordon Cooper, was his back up on the number two crew. Eugene Cernan was the Lunar Module pilot, and John Young was the Command Module pilot. The mission included everything necessary to complete the goal President Kennedy had set years earlier, everything except actually landing on the Moon.

This spacecraft was the second Apollo mission to orbit the Moon, but the first to travel to the Moon with the full Apollo spacecraft, consisting of the Command and Service Module named the "Charlie Brown" and the Lunar Module named "Snoopy." The mission was a full dry run or dress rehearsal for the Apollo 11 mission, in which all operations except the actual lunar landing were performed.
"We're ready for what we're about to receive…:::Fly Me to the Moon music::: We don't need it all."

On May 22, Thomas Stafford and Eugene Cernan entered the Lunar Module and fired the Service Module reaction control thrusters to separate the Lunar Module from the Command Module.The Lunar Module was put into an orbit to allow low-altitude passes over the lunar surface, the closest approach bringing it to within 5-and-a-half miles of the surface of the Moon.

"How's the view, 10? We have our astute geologist here overlooking the surface and they'll report it in a minute. Roger, standing by, over. Okay we're just passing over the highlands into the mare area, and you can pass on to Jack we caught a couple of real pretty little volcanoes, there's no doubt about them, and we caught a couple of good high-resolution photos."
Then on the afternoon of May 26, the Apollo splashed down in the Pacific Ocean near American Samoa.

"First of all it's really great to be back from the Moon, and all of us feel in great shape, and I can't tell how much we appreciate all the support from the people around the world. If you can see us back in Houston, with Chris and Deke and George Low and all of them, and also how much we think we've increased the knowledge of man's involvement, we're going to press on here."

The crew had been space for just over eight days traveling to within five miles of the moon. That set the stage for Apollo 11 a month and a half later, the mission we all remember.

Stafford's first space flight was in December 1965 in the Gemini 6. That capsule, his flight suit, and other artifacts from Oklahomans in space are on display at the Oklahoma History Center, just east of the state capitol on NE 23rd Street in Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to the collection, preservation, and sharing of our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

World's Biggest Barbeque

2010-01-11

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"Oh this was a terrific thing. Of course they threw that big barbeque for him out there. Everybody, I don't know, there must have been 100,000 people at that barbeque."

That is the voice of Leon Hirsh, who on January 9, 1923, attended the world's largest barbeque on the State Fairgrounds in Oklahoma City.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

Jack C. Walton arrived in Oklahoma City in 1903. He was a civil engineer and opened a contracting business. Soon after the state capitol was moved from Guthrie to Oklahoma City, he became active in politics as a Democrat. In 1917, he was elected to his first public office, Oklahoma City Commissioner of Public Works, largely because of his engineering experience. Two years later, he won election as Mayor of Oklahoma City, then, in 1922, he ran for governor. That fall he campaigned throughout the state. The Daily Oklahoman reported that he gave more than 400 campaign speeches, and in every speech included this statement, "When elected governor there will be no inaugural ball. I am going to give an old fashioned square dance and barbeque. It will be a party for all the people, and I want you all to come." He won, and he did.

On January 9, 1923, the same day Walton was inaugurated as governor, a 21-year old lawyer, Leon Hirsh, was sworn in as a deputy attorney general. And later that day, Hirsh journeyed to the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds on NE 10th and Eastern where he witnessed Walton's barbeque.

"They had a dozen great big long pits and covered them with chicken wire and had built fires in those pits and let them go down to ashes till they had a tremendous bed of coals. They had every kind of an animal in the world, and they laid on top of this chicken wire and cooked them there, charcoal-broiled them on that. They had buffalo meat, bear meat, deer meat - every animal in the world that you could eat meat of."

The meat Hirsh saw that day included 289 head of cattle, 70 hogs, 36 head of sheep, 2,500 rabbits, 134 possums, 25 squirrels, 3 bears, 2,000 pounds of buffalo, 1,500 pounds of reindeer meat, 15 head of deer, 1,400 chickens, 210 turkeys, 14 geese and 34 ducks. Wood to fuel the fire was shipped in on 19 railroad cars. On Thursday the week before, bakers began baking 400,000 buns and loaves of bread.

All that food required a lot of coffee to accompany it as Hirsh explains.

"They had two huge wooden urns that they had lined with galvanized iron that they had filled with coffee, I don't know how many, and they had regular spigots on the bottom, and they passed out tin cups that you could go by and get all the coffee you wanted with your barbeque."

Those percolators Hirsh saw held 8,800 gallons of water, fed by fire engines from the Oklahoma City Fire Department. To make 8,000 gallons of coffee required more than 4,000 pounds of coffee grounds.

Dan Lackey was the chairman of the barbeque and later he said it was the biggest undertaking in his life. The newspapers estimated that 20,000 people worked in the preparation for the dinner, serving 15 plates a minute, and when it was finally over, an estimated crowd of 100,000 people were served.

Unfortunately for Walton, the barbeque was the highlight of his term as governor. His term lasted less than a year when in the fall of 1923 he was impeached. Walton, later run for U.S. Senate and lost, but was elected to a six year term on the Oklahoma Corporation Commission serving from 1933 to 1939. Jack Walton died at the age of 69 in 1949 and will be remembered for throwing the world's biggest barbeque.

You'll see this and many other interesting stories about Oklahoma in the newspaper archives at the Oklahoma History Center on NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

Bellmon Sworn in as Governor

2010-01-08

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"Our long-range solution to our problems is very simple. We must begin to develop a climate in Oklahoma that's favorable for the growth of the companies that now operate here, and it makes our state favorable as a location for new companies that are trying to come to the southwest and locate their plants in this area."

That's the voice of Henry Bellmon campaigning for Governor on June 8, 1962.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

Henry Bellmon was born in Tonkawa in 1921. He grew up in rural north central Oklahoma, graduating from Billings High School. He attended Oklahoma A&M College, majoring in agriculture. He started his freshman year with a twenty dollar bill in his pocket, money he thought would last a long time. It didn't, and he was forced to sell some prize-winning hogs and take campus jobs to pay for his education. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in agriculture in just seven semesters and made the dean's honor roll every semester. Upon his graduation in 1942 he was commissioned a Second Lt. in the Marine Corps, ultimately commanding a tank platoon in battles in Saipan, Tinian, and at Iwo Jima. For his actions at Saipan, he was awarded the Legion of Merit; for his actions at Iwo Jima, he was awarded the Silver Star. After the war, Henry returned to Billings, met a neighbor, Shirley, and married her. In 1946 he elected to the Oklahoma House then lost reelection two years later. He and Shirley were active for years in Republican politics culminating with Henry being selected state chairman of the Republican Party in 1960. At that point in his life, he was virtually unknown in Oklahoma. But that changed in 1962 when he was urged to run for governor.

It was a long and interesting campaign for governor. In the primary 12 Democrats ran for governor while one other Republican was running against Bellmon. William P. Atkinson of Midwest City won the Democratic nomination and Bellmon cruised to victory on the Republican side. That set up the campaign in the summer of 1962. Bellmon spoke often about the relationship between the governor and the legislature. In this speech on June 8, 1962, he talked about how outgoing governor J. Howard Edmondson had dealt with the legislature.

"Let me point out that Governor Edmondson tried to cooperate with the legislature. As you all realize, in 1961, the legislature organized without the cooperation or the advice of the governor, and Governor Edmondson reciprocated by saying to these men, 'If you thought you've organized without my counsel, so I will not bring in a program to the legislature. You go ahead and write the program for this day, and if I like it, I'll sign it.'"

Then he contrasted that with what he would do if he were elected governor.

"My belief is that we have enough fair-minded legislators of both parties who want to see the State of Oklahoma make the progress it should, that they will go along and pass a program which is plainly aimed at doing the best possible job for the State of Oklahoma. I believe that these men are more interested in progress than they are in partisan politics, and I feel certain that the fair-minded Democrats who serve up there will have no hesitancy to vote for bills which they recognize to be good for the State of Oklahoma, regardless of the political party which the governor happens to belong to."

Over the next four months Bellmon gave more than 400 campaign speeches. On Election Day, Bellmon swept Atkinson by more than 75,000 votes. On January 14, 1963, Henry Bellmon, wheat farmer from Billings, was sworn into office, the first Republican in Oklahoma history to be elected governor.

Last fall, the Oklahoma Gazette magazine put together a panel of political pundits who chose, in their opinion, the top 10 governors of Oklahoma. Henry Bellmon was ranked number one on that list. The panel cited Bellmon's ability to work with both parties in the state legislature in a bi-partisan manner for their selection as the number one governor in the state.

You can learn more about Bellmon and our other governors by visiting the political exhibit at the Oklahoma History Center, NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. The grounds of the Oklahoma History Center are named for Henry and Shirley Bellmon.

Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

Black Fox is Dead

2010-03-15

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"I will be surprised if the Public Service Company and their co-owners do not decide to cancel this project. That's my personal opinion."

That's the voice of a spokesman for Public Service Company of Oklahoma, the Tulsa-based electric utility that proposed building a nuclear power plant in Oklahoma.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

In May 1973, the Tulsa-based electric utility proposed building Oklahoma's first nuclear power plant. It was to be built near Inola, just east of Tulsa. They proposed using two General Electric boiling-water reactors. The first part of construction was approved, land was cleared, and the foundation for the plant was poured. At the same time, Carrie Dickerson organized the group Citizens Action for Safe Energy, and they began leading protests against the plant. The protests lead to nine years of hearings being held on the project. Finally in 1982, Public Service Company went before the Corporation Commission to cancel the project. A company spokesman at the time told reporters…

"I'm not too anxious to speculate about what Public Service Company might do. Public Service Company has two co-owners, as I mentioned earlier, that have an interest in this project, and they have an investment that they need to protect in addition to Public Service Company's investment. I will be surprised if the Public Service Company and their co-owners do not decide to cancel this project. That's my personal opinion."

At the same time that Carrie Dickerson organized her group, another group, the Sunbelt Alliance, joined her protests. A spokesman for that group told Oklahoma's News Channel Four of the group's reaction to the decision to cancel Black Fox.

"Sunbelt Alliance is obviously really happy that Public Service of Oklahoma has said that indeed Black Fox is going to collapse of its own economic weight. That's about what we've been saying all along, is it's going to collapse of its own economic weight. However, we knew, we're folks – look around, you see carpenters, you see pipefitters, you see plumbers, you see teachers, you even see some future lawyers – all we wanted to do was to do was to be carpenters and teachers and childcare workers and social workers. That's all we wanted to do. Our major goal, our major purpose, was to be able to go back home. Tonight we've accomplished our major goal and our major purpose. Black Fox is stopped. It's collapsed of its own economic weight, and we're done. The Sunbelt Alliance as of this moment is over."

According to the group SANE, the Black Fox plant was the only nuclear power plant in the United States to be canceled by a combination of legal and citizen action after construction had begun. The project began in 1973 and continued until its cancellation nine years later. After the protest, Dickerson founded the Carrie Dickerson Foundation, a nonprofit group designed to educate people about all aspects of nuclear energy. She died in 2006.

You can learn more about the Black Fox Project through the newspaper archives in the research library at the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City on NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. From the Oklahoma History Center, I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

Cordell German Paper Threatened

2009-11-02

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Song - "Over There" (written by George Cohan)

If there is one song associated with World War One, it is this one, the pronouncement that the Yanks were coming to the aid of France and England.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

As World War One broke out in 1914 between the large powers of Europe, the population of the United States was divided fairly equally into those who supported England and France and those who supported Germany. While the U.S. under President Wilson tried to remain neutral, England's dominance in the Atlantic Ocean slowly shifted our trade and our allegiance to the side of England and France and against the Germans. From 1913 to 1917, when the U.S. declared war on Germany, our ambassador to Berlin was James W. Gerard. In this speech Gerard spoke about the 500,000 plus Americans of German descent living here in the U.S. and how Germany thought they would help that country if war broke out between the United States and Germany. "The foreign minister of Germany once said to me 'Your country does not dare do anything against Germany because we have in your country 500,000 German reservists who will rise in arms against your government if you dare to make a move against Germany.' Well, I told him that that might be so, but that we have 501,000 lamp poles in our country, and that was where the reservists would be hanging the day after they tried to rise."

For the many German-Americans in Oklahoma this shifting loyalty made for an increasingly difficult existence. These Oklahomans, mostly wheat farmers in the north-central portion of the state, considered themselves Americans foremost but saw no need to abandon their heritage. For a large number of families business and home life were conducted entirely in German and many older immigrants never learned English. As the U.S. began to take on a pro-English and anti-German stance in the war pressure was applied to these German-Americans to forsake their roots and discard their history. Tactics used to persuade these German Oklahomans varied from polite requests to brutal intimidation. People overheard speaking in German were at various times physically attacked. Being a small minority, the German Oklahomans usually complied with the various requests and in several cases entire towns changed their names: Bismark in McCurtain County became Wright City, in Kingfisher County Kiel became Loyal, and Korn changed its name to Corn.

In France General John J. Pershing promised victory but said it would not be easy. "3,000 miles from home an American army is fighting for you. Everything you hold worthwhile is at stake. Only the hardest blows can win against the enemy we are fighting. Invoking the spirits of our forefathers, the army asks your unclenching support to the end that the high ideals for which America stands may endure upon the earth."

One of the strongest and loudest voices of Germanic culture in Oklahoma came through the German press, and of those Oklahoma Vorwarts, published by Julius Hussy, was one of the largest. While other German language papers were closing down throughout the state, Hussy and Vorwarts continued to promote German culture and heritage and defend German wartime actions. With the official entry of the U.S. into the war in 1917 the pressure on German-Americans intensified and Hussy's paper came under constant attack. It was in this week of 1918 that 50 armed men stormed the Vorwarts office in Bessie and effectively shut it down under threat of death.

Germanic culture in large part was erased from Oklahoma because of World War I, but the history and struggle of these people is preserved for posterity in the collection of German language papers available for public use in the Research Library at the Oklahoma History Center on NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to the collection, preservation, and sharing of our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

OKC Discovery Well Comes In

2009-11-30

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"A fabulous Christmas present came to the city on December 4, 1928, with its discovery of the oil field within the city limits. The financial panic covered the country in 1929 while our oil field boom helped carry us through the Depression years."

That's the voice of E. K. Gaylord explaining the significance of the oil being discovered in Oklahoma County.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

Almost from the beginning of oil and gas exploration in Oklahoma, geologists were convinced that there was oil under Oklahoma County. With Oklahoma City barely a year old in 1890, an unknown wildcatter started a test well near NE 4th and the Santa Fe tracks. A prayer service was held for him, a minister asked for blessings for his well. He drilled almost 600 feet and then abandoned the project. In 1919 two geologists observed what they thought were favorable features, and over the next several years more geologists mapped out what would become the Oklahoma City field. More test wells were drilled in the Capitol area, and one just north of the state capitol went to a depth of more than 7,000 feet. But all the wildcatters found were traces of oil but no large amounts of oil.

Meanwhile H.V. Foster had left the Phillips company there as their chief geologist and formed his own company, the Indian Territory Illuminating Oil Compnay, or I-T-I-O for short. An early employee of that company was Bud Harder,

"When I came out of school, I was offered a job with City Service which is the present company that took over ITIO. I elected not to go with them and went to Seminole on my own and went to work as a ditch digger for the Title Osage, and a couple months later I was working for ITIO, and I worked for them pert near a year before I found out I was working for City Service."

Foster was convinced that there was oil under Oklahoma County, and he thought he knew where to drill a test well at what is today about SE 59th and Bryant. Harder was assigned to that well.

"My company drilled the Discovery Well. Fact is, as a young engineer, I was the engineer on the pipe job on Oklahoma City #1 which came in on December 4, 1928."

Another ITIO Employee working on the Oklahoma City Discovery Well was Ed McCabe, who describes some of the dangers the roughnecks faced in their work.

"Yes, sir, I carried an even nitroglycerine across a swinging bridge, and I didn't know what I carrying, but I finally got across before it blew up. But I got it there. It was all right."

Drilling began on June 12, 1928. In late November the drilling crew encountered some Arbuckle limestone. It was saturated with oil, a casing was set. While drilling the plug with cable tools, gas pressure sent the tools up the hole where they became lodged. Work continued for two weeks, and at 3 p.m. on December 4, 1928, gas pressure broke thru sending everything up into the derrick followed by a massive flow of oil, proving H.V. Foster and his ITIO crew were correct. There was oil under Oklahoma County. In the first 27 days the Number One well produced more than 110-thousand barrels at $1.56 a barrel. The mother lode was tapped. E. K. Gaylord again.

"The Depression came on the oil discovery in 1928. That was a big thing. I was in London at the time. The office wired me that they struck forty million feet of gas out here."

Gaylord believed the Oklahoma City field would be big, but no one had any idea just how big. Gaylord and many others in the 1930s gave the Oklahoma City oil field credit for saving central Oklahoma from the worst ravages of the Great Depression.

It was 81 years ago December 4th that the ITIO Oklahoma City Discovery Well Number One hit oil and opened the Oklahoma City oil field, the largest oil field ever discovered in the state. You can learn more about the natural resources of Oklahoma and their part in the history of our state by visiting the Oklahoma History Center on NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memoriesis a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

E.K. Gaylord Comes to OKC

2009-12-21

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"...and I went back to St. Joe and told my brother I was coming down here to look for a paper. Lewis said "I can't spare you" and I said "You got to because this means something for my life. You can get somebody else to do this work."

That is the voice of E.K. Gaylord explaining the reaction of his brother to the idea of E.K. coming to Oklahoma City.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

Most people probably think that E.K. Gaylord was an 89er who came here during the land run of 1889, but he didn't. Edward King Gaylord was born in 1873 in eastern Kansas but grew up in Colorado. At the age of eighteen he attended Colorado College in Colorado Springs, where his older brother Lewis suggested they purchase the Colorado Springs Telegraph. The Gaylord brothers later sold the paper. Lewis Gaylord bought the St. Joseph (Missouri) Dispatch and convinced E.K. to work for him as business manager.

But Gaylord didn't care for St. Joseph, Missouri, and at Christmas 1902, something told him to go to St. Louis. During his brief stay there, he read an interview with the mayor of Chicago who had traveled through the Oklahoma Territory and in the interview said that if he was a young man, Oklahoma is where he would settle. Gaylord took the next train arriving first in Guthrie, then the next day, came to Oklahoma City.

"I came down here in December 1902, right after Christmas, I first walked all around the town, all around the business section. It was supposed to be about 10,000 population, but it was just a country town. Four blocks were paved, two on Broadway, one on Grand, and one on Main between Broadway and Robinson."

Gaylord's intention was to use his part of the sale of the Colorado newspaper to buy into one of the papers in Oklahoma City. Roy Stafford who owned the Daily Oklahoman was glad to have an investor, sold Gaylord part interest in the paper, then hired him as the business manager. The office for the paper was on Main Street.

"That block across from the Huckins - wasn't the Huckins then, of course - was called "Battle Row," and all of the buildings, upstairs and down, except the Satterock restaurant and the City Hall on the corner of Grand and Broadway, were gambling houses and saloons. And in the Two Tom Saloon, that was next to this restaurant, Bessie Mulhall - Mulhall was the name of her father, of course - rode her horse into the saloon and had a whiskey straight without getting out of the saddle."

Gaylord had only been in Oklahoma City for a few weeks when one night in February 1903 a murder occurred. Gaylord wrote the story, then got up the next morning expecting to find his story on the front page of the Oklahoman. It wasn't on the front page nor was anywhere else in the paper that morning.

"I got down there and found that the present Chamber of Commerce had come to Mr. Stafford - he was the editor, and I was the manager - and persuaded him that it hurts the town to publish that we had a murder like that. Well of course the Kansas City and the Dallas papers came in for the story, and I was certainly burned about that. Well, as luck would have it, there was another murder right next to our building, in the alley right alongside of our building, about 11 o'clock in the morning, and I proceeded to put out an Extra! and put both boogers in that. We sold them that afternoon, all those morning papers.

In 1918 Gaylord bought out Roy Stafford and became the sole owner of the Oklahoman. In 1928 he bought WKY Radio, and in 1948, he put Oklahoma's first television station, WKY-TV, on the air. He lived to be a 102 and worked a full day at the newspaper before passing away on May 30, 1974. That speech that you heard was one he gave when he was 93 years old.

You can learn more about E.K. Gaylord and many other Oklahomans through the oral history collection at the Oklahoma History Center, NE 23rd just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

End of CCC

2010-03-01

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"...and I was so desperate to get in, and I wanted in so bad that I got a little mixed up on, I didn't know my, didn't try to learn too much on what year I was born, and I got in two years younger, but they didn't say anything."

That is Toney Lackey who, as a teenager in the 1930s, was desperate for a job.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

The Civilian Conservation Corp was one of the most successful of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal programs in the 1930s. As the U.S. fell further and further into depression during the early years of the `30s, many were predicting the complete collapse of the country. The economy was already, for all intents and purposes, gone with more than 1,500 bank failures in 1932 alone and an unemployment rate that reached 25% nationally with some cities reporting up to 80% of their workforce unable to find jobs. Roosevelt realized that he must first at least take care of the most basic needs of the people, and the CCC was one way of doing this. The Civilian Conservation Corps enlisted young men usually from urban environments who would otherwise be out of work and then put them to work on various projects.

Toney Lackey was part of a large family; there were 13 kids in all. By the time he was in high school in the mid-1930s, he and his family were desperate. The family joined the Okies moving from Weatherford to California, but his father couldn't find work there so they came back to Oklahoma, settling on a farm east of Oklahoma City. It was then that he heard about the CCC and decided to join. The work was hard, but the pay was good.

"Thirty dollars a month. We sent twenty-five home, and we kept five dollars. Our bills was free, and our clothes, we got our clothes, too, army-type of clothes, sure did."

Lackey was sent to work on a project in Colorado, but within months he was sent back to Oklahoma City to work on a major project at Lincoln Park.

"It was a vision to build an amphitheatre at the end of the park which we did, as you know at the zoo. They wanted a zoo, then they wanted this lake. They made the lake, you know, then they dug, put in all the rocks for the animals' zoo. We planted all the shrubbery. Then as a vision that they build this amphitheatre at the end of it where they could have entertainment after they had visited the zoo."

For many young men, this was a good life. They all lived in CCC camps. Each camp had showers, latrines, mess halls, bunk houses, and recreation areas. Off time was spent with sports, reading, or writing letters home. Accounts from those enrolled in Oklahoma camps mostly report a very positive atmosphere with many of the kids recalling that the CCC was the only place where they could receive hot meals on a regular basis and had a safe place to sleep. The physical requirements were hard and usually involved working a shovel or pick but given the alternative, complaints it seems were relatively few among the thousands of young men who cycled through Oklahoma's program. The arrival of World War Two lifted the economy enough to make programs such as the CCC unnecessary, and it was in this week of 1942 on March 7th that the state's CCC program was officially terminated.

Many of the Oklahoma CCC projects are still in use today including facilities at Roman Nose Park, Beavers Bend, Robber's Cave, Sulphur, and Osage Hills just to name a few. The Oklahoma History Center features a statue of a CCC worker, Melvin Grant, near the front entrance. The Oklahoma History Center is located just east of the state capitol on NE 23rd Street in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memoriesis a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to the collection, preservation, and sharing of our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

Angelo Scott Remembers First Election in Oklahoma City

2010-04-26

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"This Monday, April 22, was a perfect day in the Oklahoma country, cloudless, cool and still."

That is Dr. Angelo Scott describing what he saw the morning of Monday April 22, 1889, the day of the land run into what would become Oklahoma City.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

Dr. Angelo Scott was an '89er. He arrived in what would become Oklahoma City as a part of the land run in ‘89. Scott was born in 1857 in Indiana but moved to Kansas where he completed his bachelors and masters degrees at the University of Kansas. He was a school teacher there for three years before going to George Washington University to earn a law degree then returned to Kansas. The, on the morning of April 22, 1889, he was a part of the land run arriving in Oklahoma City that afternoon. Dr. Scott described the people who made that run this way

"Fact is, these people were decent American people who came here to establish homes, churches, education, and of course, to better their own economic status."

At noon that day, representatives of the Seminole Land and Improvement Company got off the Santa Fe train and began staking off blocks and lots. Scott wrote in his autobiography that at the same time men from the Oklahoma Town Company arrived from the south and also began laying out street and staking out lots. The problem was the two companies were not working together, and many who people who were trying to claim lots in the new town were going to wind up with lots that were actually in the middle of streets or in the middle of intersections.

On the day after the run, an election was held to place 14 men in the new town with the responsibility to work out where those streets would be located and where lots would be available. Scott described that election as one of the most bizarre events he had ever witnessed.

"You see, these thousands of persons assembled there, all men, were absolutely unacquainted with another, and so when a man was nominated for membership on this committee, he was schlepped through the dense throng to the front, was boosted from below and pulled up from above until he stood between the chairman and secretary on those boxes. And then, this and impertinent questions were asked then, such as this "What was your name where you came from?" and so on, and this was done in the case of every single nominee. Some of them were ejected on their looks. It was tough, but that thing happened."

Scott was an early pioneer whose name is largely forgotten now. He opened a law office and operated a hotel; he and his brother started the first newspaper in Oklahoma City, the Oklahoma Times; he served in a variety of elected and appointed positions in government, include territorial senate and president pro tem of the territorial senate; he then taught English at Oklahoma A&M College and in 1899 was named the president of the A&M College. Later was an English professor at the Epworth University (now Oklahoma City University) finally retiring in 1931.

This interview with Dr. Angelo Scott was recorded in 1939, the 50th anniversary of the Land Run of 1889, and is a part of the archives of the Oklahoma History Center, NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

Gordon Lillie 150 Years Old

2010-02-08

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"I came down here first in 1878, then I went back to Bloomington, Illinois, where I was born and reared till I was around twenty and put in one year back there, one year at school."

That is the voice of Gordon Lillie, better known as Pawnee Bill, who if he were still alive, on February 14th would be 150 years old.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

Gordon Lillie grew up in Illinois. After his father's flour mill burned to the ground, the family moved to Wellington, Kansas. At about the same Lillie moved to Wellington, Pawnee Indians came through the town as they were being moved to the Indian Territory. Lillie met a number of Pawnee Indians, learned their language, and became a trusted friend of the tribe, thus earning the nickname Pawnee Bill. When the tribe settled in their new lands, Lillie followed them to the present-day location of the town of Pawnee, Oklahoma.

"...and there's nothing there but the employees of the government. There was no town, no one allowed to light around there or live or anything of that kind because it was Indian land, land that was being held on which to locate friendly Indian tribes, and the Pawnees were the only ones that was in that section at that time, and I was employed then as a teacher and came down there in the schools, the Pawnee Indian schools."

Meanwhile, from his home near Wellington, David Payne had been leading the boomers into the unassigned lands trying to open the area for settlement. The group had made a number of attempts to settle in the unassigned lands of central Oklahoma. But they were always rounded up by the cavalry from Fort Reno and escorted back to Kansas. Payne never gave up his quest to open the lands for settlement. But in November 1884 Payne died from a heart attack. William Couch took the leadership of the Boomers. Meanwhile from 1886 to 1887 the Santa Fe Railroad built a line thru the territory connecting Arkansas City, Kansas, to Gainesville, Texas. Couch left the Boomer movement to work for the railroad. At the same time Pawnee Bill was back east traveling with wild west show.

"So, later on, of course, I got into show business and got into it enough that I was making money and finally the Board of Trade at Wichita, Kansas, sent word to me, I was with the Chieftain Maryland was my show, asking me to come out and take hold of the Boomer movement, that Captain Payne had died about two years before that, and that it had laid dead from that time on until now, and they wanted me to take a hold and try to build it up and do something to open the country. So I finally did come down here."

Lillie returned to southern Kansas and assumed leadership of the Boomers. He moved the 3,000 or so Boomers from the border town of Ark. City, Kansas, to Wichita. Then, on the day of the land run - April 22, 1889 - he led the group into the central part of the territory, many of them settled in the area of Kingfisher. Lillie returned to show business going back to work for his friend and mentor Buffalo Bill. He later left that show and organized his own show. Then when Buffalo Bill ran into financial trouble, he bought out that show, and combined them into the Two Bills Wild West shows - Pawnee Bill and Buffalo Bill. He ran the two shows until 1913.

He returned to his ranch, was successful in banking and oil, and lived out his life with his friends the Pawnee Indians. He died in 1942. The interview with him was recorded in 1939. The Oklahoma Historical Society owns the Pawnee Bill Ranch, and this summer will present performances of the original Pawnee Bill Wild West show on three Saturday nights in June: June 12th, 19th and 26th. The ranch is open to the public Wednesdays thru Sundays.

Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

Mayor Hefner and Tinker Bonds

2010-03-03

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That was Oklahoma City Mayor Robert Hefner campaigning for a $982,000 bond to pay the land where the Army Air Corps planned to build a maintenance base.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I’m Michael Dean.

In late 1940, the Army Air corps announced plans to locate air base for bombers at the Oklahoma City airport. Sources told the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce that 200 officers and about 2,000 enlisted men would be assigned to the base and at least a million dollars would be spent on barracks, chow halls, and other buildings. More land would be needed at the municipal airport, located southwest of the city, and a committee within the Chamber of Commerce was promptly organized to raise capital to buy that land.

In an article in the Oklahoman in December 1940 E. K. Gaylord made the first public announcement of the committee and its purpose. At nearly the same time, Oklahoma City car dealer Fred Jones was working as a one dollar a year member of President Roosevelt’s War Production Board. During a discussion with several military officers talking about ways to get the country ready for war, he was startled to hear of a proposal for building a large air depot somewhere between Kansas City and Dallas-Fort Worth. Following that meeting Jones called Stanley Draper, the president of the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, and told him to the chamber in gear. Soon the chamber learned that the depot would be a permanent installation employing as many as 2,500 workers located on at least 900 acres of land, most of which should be flat, and that construction would cost the army between 10 and 15 million dollars. They also learned that the army was also looking for a location for an airplane factory, but it was unlikely that the same city would get both the air depot and aircraft plant. So the chamber had to decide which one to go after.

Meanwhile that committee to buy more land at the municipal airport now formed a foundation for the purchase of land. An Army Air Corps colonel looked at two areas near Oklahoma City, one northeast of Norman, the other at Southeast 29th Street just east of Oklahoma City. He liked the Southeast 29th Street location better, and now the foundation very quietly began buying land around that intersection. Once the land was in hand, and the Army agreed to build not just the depot but the aircraft factory on the same site, Mayor Robert Hefner called a bond election to reimburse the foundation for the purchase of the land. He also included the purchase of land northwest of Oklahoma City near Bethany for the construction of an airport there.

Thus in late April 10941, this announcement was seen on movie theaters around Oklahoma City.

“This bond money will be used primarily for the purchase of land on which the army will spend millions of dollars for construction and employment. The great air supply depot alone will mean sixteen million dollars in construction by the government with our city supplying only the land.”

On Tuesday April 29th voters went to the polls and when the ballots were counted the bond passed by an amazing 19 to 1 margin. The city manager of Oklahoma City, H. E. Bailey, announced that construction would begin as soon as possible. The name of the facility posed a problem for the Army.&Because they had already located a bomber detachment at the municipal airport, that was already named the Oklahoma City Air Field. The name for the new facility would refer to its location in the heart of America; it would be known as the Midwest Air Depot, and then later Tinker Field and today, Tinker Air Force Base. Oh, and that air field north of Bethany? Today we know it as Wiley Post Airport.

You can learn more about our military heritage by visiting the Oklahoma History Center, just east of the state capitol on NE 23rd Street in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to the collection, preservation, and sharing of our state’s past. I’m Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

Two Holiday Disasters

2009-12-28

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Holidays and disasters often seem to go together, and in our history, Oklahoma has had two around Christmastime.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

While the rest of the country supposedly frolicked through the roaring '20s, farmers in Oklahoma as well as the rest of the midwestern plains states were experiencing numerous hardships brought on by drought and low farm prices. Christmas for these rural Oklahomans was celebrated in a fashion similar to other isolated farm communities around the country. Special dinners and once a year food treats were brought out, and everyone hoped for something from Santa Claus, something better. Another almost universal trait of the country Christmas was the annual Christmas program usually held at the local school or church. At these events plays and presentations were put on by the children, a tree was usually decorated, sometimes dinner or treats were served but almost always Santa Claus was there to hand out presents. The Christmas of 1924 was no different than others and for the children who attended the school south of Hobart, known as the Babb's Switch, they were looking forward to their special program to be held on Christmas Eve. According to the local news the event started out as anticipated. A tree in the rear corner of the room was decorated with paper cut outs and candles while wall-mounted kerosene lamps provided the main source of light. As the program was winding down and Santa was passing out his gifts, tragedy struck. The paper decorations on the tree caught fire from the candles and the entire tree, a dry cedar, burst into flame. People near the door hurriedly ran outside to open windows trying to provide another means of escape, but heavy security screens were bolted on, and they were locked from the inside. As the fire spread, the kerosene lamps exploded engulfing the entire structure in flames. That process took only seconds to unfold and before it was over 36 people, mostly children, lost their lives. For the families who lost loved ones in the fire, the Christmas of 1924 probably always remained a sad recollection.

Earlier in our history in southeast Oklahoma, another holiday tragedy is now a distant memory.

Mining was one of the primary industries in the Indian Territory. Both the northeast and the southeast corners of the territories held coal, zinc and other valuable raw materials. More than one Oklahoman made their fortune from resources found underground in the Indian Territory. The lure of these minerals and of the many jobs attached to them attracted many outsiders to the territory's mines including many immigrant laborers. By the late 1880s southeast Oklahoma was home to many thousands of miners of Italian and Russian descent. The Italian and Russian heritage of these immigrants and their ancestors can still be seen today in the culture and history of towns such as Krebs and Hartshorne. Other towns in the area with names like Coalgate leave little doubt as to the reasons for their existence. Because they were located within the Indian Territory mine owners and operators were exempt from federal regulation and guidelines. Owners intent on extracting as much money as possible from their mines and their workers often ignored safety concerns, placing workers in life threatening situations. It was in the first week of 1892 that such dangerous working conditions led to the worst mining disaster in Oklahoma's known history. In the early evening hours of January 7, 1892, an explosion ripped through the Osage Coal and Mining Company's Mine Number 11 near Krebs, instantly killing 87 people and injuring 150 more. The scene at the mine was horrific with many helpless miners burned or buried alive and not much that bystanders could do to help. Ultimately an inexperienced worker was blamed for the explosion. Hired because he was cheaper than the experienced miners, the new worker was given the job of handling explosives and of course the inevitable occurred.

Both these disasters brought changes that would prevent school fires and to some extent mine explosions from ever happening again. Governor Martin Trapp led an effort to require that schools have double doors that swing out, schools had more than one exit and more windows, and candles on trees were prohibited. In case of mine safety, tighter safety controls on territorial mines were enacted, and those were carried over when the territory became a state. All those changes were too late to help the children at the Babbs Switch, and in the Krebs mine, but they have helped to prevent similar disasters from occurring again in Oklahoma.

The newspaper collection in the Research Library of the Oklahoma History Center contain these and many other stories. The Oklahoma History Center is open from 10am to 5pm Monday through Saturdays on NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

Jennifer Jones Dies

2010-01-04

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"You do realize that you're on trial for the murder of your husband?" "Yes, I understand that, and I'm not afraid - not now - but you see I've sworn to tell the truth, and I don't remember that I had a husband.""Don't you want to try and help me? Don't you want to remember?""No. I know I should, and I'm trying as hard as I can. I must tell the truth, and I don't want to remember. I don't know what I did or what happened. So long as I don't know it, it never happened, not really, not to me."

That's the voice of Jennifer Jones in her 1945 movie Love Letters in which she played the role of Singleton, or Victoria Moreland, and for which was nominated for her second Academy Award.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

On March 2, 1919, Phylis Lee Isley was born in Tulsa. She attended Monte Cassino School in Tulsa. Her parents had a touring stock company, and by the time she was in junior high school, the family had moved to Oklahoma City where Phylis attended Harding Junior High School. Following high school she attended Northwestern University, then in 1938 transferred to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. Acting was in her blood. There she met fellow acting student Robert Walker and fell in love. They were married in January 1939. Following the wedding they returned to Tulsa for a 13-week radio program her father had arranged, then they were off to Hollywood.

Almost immediately she landed a small role in a John Wayne western, New Frontier, then a small part in a Dick Tracy serial. She was billed as Phylis Isley in both those movies. The couple then left Hollywood for New York. Walker found steady work in radio; Phyllis was modeling hats. Then she learned the New York office of David Selznick was auditioning for a particularly good role. She didn't get the part, but Selznik was so impressed with her, he signed her to a seven-year contract and began grooming her for stardom and gave her a new name: Jennifer Jones. In 1943, back in Hollywood she read for the part of Bernadette in the movie The Song of Bernadette. She won the role.

The movie opens with Bernadette, her sister Marie and sister's friend Jeanne collecting firewood near the town of Lourdes, France. Bernadette is left behind when her sister and friend cross a cold river and warn Bernadette not to follow them for fear of becoming ill.

"Bernadette, don't you come in that water. Remember what Mamaw told you.""I won't catch cold.""Oh, won't you? You'll get a cough then your asthma will keep me awake all night long.""Maybe I can jump across the rocks or something.""Yes and tumble in, and when you fall in and get your bottom wet, don't ask me to wring you out." "But if I dry my seat real well I won't catch cold." (Scene from The Song of Bernadette)

On her 25th birthday in 1944, Jennifer Jones was named Best Actress, winning the Oscar for part as Bernadette. Over the next 20 years Selznick featured Jones in a variety of roles, including Duel in the Sun with Gregory Peck.

"Well, you got gumption, girl, but you ain't got no sense.""If you'd only let me start him right instead of scaring him that way.""It wasn't him that was scared.""He won't throw me next time, I'll bet he won't.""Ahh, you better stick to buggy riding. Maybe him and me ain't your style." "There ain't no maybe about you. Lewt, I wish you'd let me ride him some more.""Why, sure sure, how'd you like me to give him to you?""You mean for keeps? You're not just teasing?""Nah, nah, guess you'd rather have Jesse pick you out a riding horse, even if he don't know the difference between a Pinto and a Strawberry Roan.""No, I like this one, and you like me, don't you, honey? You won't throw me no more.""Alright, he's yours."(Scene from Duel in the Sun)

This was another part for which she was nominated for an Oscar. In 1955 she was again nominated for an Oscar for her portrayal of Dr. Han Suyin in Love is a Many-Splendored Thing with William Holden.

"It wouldn't be good for you to see much of me, anyhow. Might even be harmful.""Oh? Why?""I'm Eurasian. The word itself seems to suggest a certain moral laxity in the minds of some people." (Scene from Love is a Many-Splendored Thing)

Jennifer Jones passed away last month on December 17th at the age of 90, her son, Robert Walker Jr., at her bedside.

You can learn more about arts and artists from Oklahoma by visiting the Oklahoma History Center on NE 23rd street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

Pearl Harbor USS Oklahoma

2009-12-07

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"From the NBC Newsroom in New York, President Roosevelt said in a statement today that the Japanese have attacked the Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, from the air." "By shortwave radio Colombia now brings you reports from its foreign correspondents overseas with summaries of the latest world news. Go ahead, New York. 'The Japanese have attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, by air, President Roosevelt has just announced.'" (Football game radio broadcast footage) "We interrupt this broadcast to bring you this important bulletin from the United Press. Flash, Washington, the White House announces Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor."

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean

Those news bulletins were heard on radio stations across Oklahoma and around the country at about 1:30 central time on Sunday afternoon, Dec. 7, 1941, just hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor. But one Oklahoman, Joe Lawter, had known for hours the war was on. Lawter grew up in Oklahoma City, and after graduating from Central High School in 1939, he joined the Marine Corps. Because he had played in the high school band, he was made a bugler then was assigned to the Marine detachment aboard the USS Oklahoma. Thus it was that 68 years ago this very morning, Sunday, December 7, 1941, Joe Lawter, the Marine Corps bugler, was on the main deck of the USS Oklahoma preparing to blow "To The Colors" on his bugle for the morning flag raising. But just as the ceremony began, as he was standing in formation, he heard airplanes approaching, and he looked up to see Japanese planes diving on battleship row. He told the corporal of the color guard, his response was...

"...and the corporal guard said to me - this is truth - he said, 'Lawter, you're paid to blow not think' and I said 'Well, they're Japanese planes' and about that time we got hit in the side with a torpedo. And we got about, I never did sound the colors at the 8"

The officer of the deck told Lawter to sound general quarters. Lawter said he turned to the boatswain's mate who was standing next to the microphone for the ship's public address system, and it was he who yelled the announcement that was heard throughout the ship...

"General quarters, general quarters, and this is no bull(censored)"

Lawter explained, that one announcement saved many lives that morning on the USS Oklahoma.

"And I probably saved more lives on the Oklahoma than anything because you wouldn't dare say that if you didn't mean it."

Things happened quickly for Lawter. The Oklahoma took a number of torpedo hits in just a matter of minutes, then the senior officer aboard the ship ordered the Oklahoma to be abandoned.

"And I went over to the side of the ship - you have to remember I was crawlin' almost - and I took off my clothes, all but my skivvies. I took the bugle and threw it as far as I could throw it, and out in the ocean I jumped, slid in the water, and when I slid into the water, I started swimming to the Maryland which we were tied up to, and I went over, I ended up paused in the water when the Arizona blowed up. You could see it. Everything was in the air, and the water was on fire. I was able to go down, I was a good swimmer then, and I got over to the Maryland."

Lawter survived the war, returned home and eventually earned a Doctorate in Education. He taught at Northwestern Oklahoma State at Alva for many years. In 1988 this interview was recorded at a reunion of the USS Oklahoma crew. He passed away on December 4, 1995, and a memorial service was held appropriately on December 7, 1995. His voice is a part of the oral history archives at the Oklahoma History Center along with other stories like his from other members of the USS Oklahoma crew.

The Oklahoma History Center is on NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

Bill Passed Allowing for the Creation of a Black College (Langston) February 26, 1916

2010-02-22

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It seems that for most of us the existence of colleges and universities is taken for granted; we just expect such institutions to be there for us. For much of the population of early-day Oklahoma Territory, however, there was no option for higher education. Join us this week in our last installment celebrating Black History Month, as we explore the beginnings of Langston University on Oklahoma Memories from the Oklahoma History Center. I'm Michael Dean.

Almost with the opening of the first land run, plans were made to create institutions of higher learning in Oklahoma Territory. Oklahoma A and M College in Stillwater, followed by other public schools of higher education as well as a number of private schools, opened shortly after territorial settlement began. By 1892, however, there was still no higher education option for the African-American community. State law prohibited blacks and whites from attending the same school facilities, therefore, in order to comply with the very laws that they had created, it would be necessary for the legislature to provide funds to build a completely separate facility for those black citizens wanting to continue their education past high school.

It was in this week of 1896 that the state legislature, at the request of influential blacks within the state, approved the necessary funding for the construction of a black institution of higher learning at Langston, Oklahoma Territory. However, stated the legislature, the land would have to be paid for by the citizens. For one year the residents of Langston and surrounding communities held bake sales, pie suppers, auctions and other events with all of the proceeds going towards the purchase of land for their new college. By 1898 the land was purchased and construction started. Prior to the actual structure, classes for the new school were held in a Presbyterian Church.

According to documents provided by the school the purpose of the institution was to instruct male and female colored persons in the art of teaching common and higher education in the agricultural, mechanical and industrial arts. The first president of the institution Dr. Inman Page, the son of a former slave, expanded the original eighty acres into one hundred sixty acres, and the school continues to grow and thrive today. In 1941 the name was officially changed to Langston University. Both the town and school derive their name from Virginian John Mercer Langston, a black proponent of higher education active during the late 19th century. Langston University gets the legislative go ahead this week in 1896.

You can learn more about the African-Americans who've made major contributions to our state by visiting the Realizing the Dream exhibit at the Oklahoma History Center, NE 23rd Street just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to the collection, preservation, and sharing of our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

Mars Rover Anniversary

2010-01-25

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"Ladies and gentlemen, I have a grave announcement to make. Incredible as it may seem, both the observations of science and the evidence of our eyes lead to the inescapable assumption that those strange beings that landed in the Jersey farmland tonight are the vanguard of an invading army from the planet Mars."

For centuries man has been fascinated with outer space, travel to the moon, and invasions from Mars. This month is the anniversary of the first successful mission by NASA, investigating what really makes up the red planet Mars. From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

Mars came closer to the planet Earth in August 2003 than it had in thousands of years. NASA decided in the summer of 2000 to take advantage of this favorable planetary geometry to send two rovers to the planet Mars. The two rovers were named Spirit and Opportunity. Both rovers were launched from Cape Canaveral. Spirit was launched on June 10, 2003. Opportunity followed with a nighttime launch on July 7. Spirit landed on Mars on Jan. 4, 2004, with Opportunity landing almost a month later, on January 25, 2004. When Opportunity landed, Opportunity traveled about 220 yards while bouncing 26 times and then rolling after impact. It finally came to rest inside a small crater. One scientist called the landing an "interplanetary hole in one." Opportunity had flown 283 million miles from Earth and then landed only about 16 miles from the center of the target area.

An Oklahoma City native, Mark Boyles is the Mission Assurance Manager for the rovers. Boyles was born in Oklahoma City and graduated from Northeast High School before going on to college. Boyles was at the Oklahoma History Center recently and talked about the difficulty involved in the Mars rover mission.

"Entry, descent and landing to a planet, or basically, landing on a planet is the hardest thing that we do, so far at least, we may come up with something harder, but I don't know of many people at JPL or NASA in general that would say that there's anything harder than landing - certainly for robotic missions. When you get into man flight - I don't work the man's arena so I won't compare to that - I would assume landing a human is even much harder. But landing on a planet, a robot on a planet, is very difficult. Entry, descent and landing into Mars is, basically, takes six minutes. During that time, for the rovers, there were hundreds of events that had to occur in lockstep synchronous fashion. Things like pyros - I don't know if you know what a pyro is - but a pyro initiator, a pyro event, it's basically an explosive event that can be - is an item basically that can be used to open something up like a cover. Basically if there's a cover that's closed, and what's holding it closed will often be some sort of latch, and a pyro event is what's used to open up that latch, or for instance, on MER we had hundreds of pyro events throughout the entire EDL sequence, and that included things like the parachute - basically opening up the parachute canister so the parachute can come out - there were things like, there were several, I don't know how many pyro events on the heat shield. There's the arrow shell, release the arrow shell at some point, then you have to release the heat shield after you've gone down, after it's served its function and has kept you from burning up, you've got to get rid of it. There were different events for the air bags. There were events for the deployment where we had, you know, we had the tether which basically got deployed out, and you had to cut that. Pyro is basically is what is used to initiate the cutter which will cut that. So there's hundreds of these, and in six minutes, everything has to happen lockstep exactly right, perfectly, correctly."

Boyles (Michael says his name wrong here) is moving on to another interplanetary project for NASA, the Juno probe and the mission to the planet Jupiter.

You can learn more about Oklahoma's direct involvement in various space missions by visiting the Oklahoma History Center on NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

15th Anniversary of Murrah Bombing

2010-04-19

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"If anyone thinks that Americans have lost the capacity for love and caring and courage, they ought to come to Oklahoma."

That's the voice of then-President Bill Clinton speaking at the memorial service on Sunday, April 23, 1995, the Sunday after the Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City had been destroyed by a bomb.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

The subject of the Murrah bombing has been in the news recently, whether that bombing should be included in Oklahoma History classes. It was 15 years ago this morning that downtown Oklahoma City was rocked by a massive explosion. News outlets began reporting on the explosion within minutes.

"This is Jim Palmer in the WKY News Center. There apparently has been some sort of explosion in downtown Oklahoma City in the vicinity of Northwest 5th and Robinson. Emergency crews are in route to that scene and as well as WKY News reporters."

WKY News Director Jim Palmer ran that bulletin at approximately 9:07, just a few minutes after the explosion occurred. News crews raced into the downtown area not knowing what to expect.

"Huge plume of black smoke drifting from the center of downtown to the west. It's all the way over to El Reno now, I would say. You can see it for miles."

That was news reporter Billie Rodely, driving south on the Broadway Extension toward the downtown area. From Wednesday the 19th to Sunday the 22nd, the news was a blur of stories about the destruction, the deaths, and those who were injured in the bombing. Then on Sunday, April 23rd, the healing began with a service at the state fairgrounds arena. Governor Frank Keating spoke.

"He confronted God, and he asked why he had ceased to walk beside him when he most needed that support. Why, he wondered, had God abandoned him, and God answered,‘But, my son, those were the times I was carrying you.' He carries us today, cupped gently in His loving hands."

Keating was followed by President Bill Clinton…

"I could only recall the words of Governor and Mrs. Keating. ‘If anybody thinks that Americans are mostly mean and selfish, they ought to Oklahoma. If anyone thinks that Americans have lost the capacity for love and caring and courage, they ought to come to Oklahoma.' "

Then the Reverend Billie Graham spoke to the group.

"Someday the wounds will heal, and someday those who thought they could sow chaos and discord will be brought to justice as President Clinton has so eloquently promised. The wounds of this tragedy are deep, but the courage and the faith and determination of the people of Oklahoma City are even deeper."

What was said there collectively became known as the Oklahoma Spirit. Weeks later the remains of the building were imploded, and a memorial was created on the grounds.Today the Murrah Memorial attracts visitors from around the country. They come to Oklahoma City to pay their respects and to remember what, until September 11th, was the worst case of terrorism ever perpetrated on American soil. The audio clips are from the Jim Palmer collection, a part of the archives of the Oklahoma History Center, NE 23rd just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

New Oklahoma Flag Raised for the First Time, April 2, 1925

2010-04-05

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That's the voice of Louise Fluke the woman who designed the Oklahoma flag that flies over all of our buildings in Oklahoma.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

You might think that designing an official flag might be one of the first orders of business for a new state but not so for Oklahoma in 1907. For almost four years Oklahoma was without a state flag, flying only the U.S. flag above the state's government buildings. In 1911 the legislature adopted the official state flag, and you would think that after having four years to think about it the design would be something really special but that was not the case. The first state flag to fly over Oklahoma invoked the national colors red, white, and blue. The field was solid red with a single blue edged white star in the middle. In the center of that star was the number 46 representing Oklahoma's place as the 46th state.

Several things happened to inspire a new flag. First, the design just looked too simple and plain and with the number 46 on it was a bit too obvious. Secondly, the prominent red color and star combination hinted a bit too strongly, many believed, at Oklahoma's one-time strong connection to the Socialist Party. Regardless of the reasons behind it, in 1924 a contest was announced to come up with a new design.

"A statewide contest was publicized and many designs submitted. Several of the designs considered best were selected by the committee and sent to then-Governor Martin E. Trapp who asked Mr. Markham, Adjutant General, and Mr. Charlie Barrett, former Adjutant General, to assist him in making the selection, and this is where my design was chosen."

That is the voice of the winner of the contest, Mrs. Louise Fluke. But she almost missed the announcement of the contest…

"I had not known of the contest, or it had not registered with me, as I was at that time legally engaged in preparation to be married a week before Christmas. I went to Oklahoma City where my husband was employed at Liberty National Bank."

Her winning design featured a field of blue with the middle occupied by the shield of an Osage warrior. Emblazoned on the shield are white crosses, the American Indian symbol for stars which represent high ideals. Lying diagonally across the shield are two symbols of peace, an American Indian calumet or peace pipe and an olive branch. In this speech recorded in 1975, Louise Fluke describes the symbolism contained in the flag she designed.

"The blue of the field signifies devotion; the shield, defensive or protective warfare, but always surmounted by and subservient to the olive branch and peace pipe which betoken a love of peace on the part of united people; and the state name was added in 1941."

And thus it was in this week of 1925 that the new design became the official flag of Oklahoma and made its first appearance outside the state capital.

"On April 2, 1925, the new flag was first raised over the Capitol."

The new design met with the overwhelming approval of state residents, but in 1941 the flag was altered once again this time by adding the name Oklahoma across the bottom in large white letters, a move that did not meet with great approval but remains to this day. You can see all fourteen flags that have at one time or another flown over the Territory and/or the State of Oklahoma and learn more about early day Oklahoma by visiting the Oklahoma History Center on NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to the collection, preservation, and sharing of our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

OKC Growth

2010-05-10

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“We’re a big city now, and we’ve gotta have big city facilities. On Tuesday, May 9th, we will vote on a greater Oklahoma City bond issue which will give us twelve solid measures to match our facilities with our city’s growth.”

That’s from a film shown in theaters around Oklahoma City promoting a bond issue for a variety of infrastructure needs in Oklahoma City.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I’m Michael Dean.

The period from 1950 to the mid-1960s saw incredible growth for Oklahoma City, and along with that growth were ideas and plans for the future development of the capitol city.

After the war was over, Oklahoma City continued to experience the same growth that it had before the war. That incredible growth placed an incredible strain on city services. Because of the war, Oklahoma City lacked adequate water service, sewer service, new city fire stations were needed along with streets and bridges, so the city council put a total of twelve bond issues before the voters. The complete package was for $36 million, a lot of money in 1950. To promote the bond, Sylvan Goldman, the owner of the Standard/Humpty Dumpty supermarkets, financed a short film that was shown in movie theaters around the city. It graphically demonstrated the city’s needs.

“Yes. This is our city. We’ve come along way since 1889. But a city of nearly 300,000 persons can not stand still. We can not go backwards; we must go forward. What shall we do with a city of which we are a part. We must build for the future of our most priceless assets – these, our children. Vote yes on all twelve issues in the greater Oklahoma City bond election, Tuesday, May 9, and assure a great future for our youth in our city.”

That was in 1950. In 1964, just 14 years later, the Urban Action Foundation, a non profit organization formed to launch urban renewal in downtown Oklahoma City, contracted with world renowned architect I. M. Pei to develop a plan for the future of downtown Oklahoma City. He, too, turned to a film to sell his plan.

“Like many cities Oklahoma City is showing the results of the disease called blight, which like a deadly mold is settling over downtown and killing it. The symptoms of the disease are everywhere – in obsolete structures, worn out hotels and apartments, junkyards at the edge of downtown, and low-grade businesses in much of its center. Fewer people come here anymore, and sales are dropping. Business costs are going up, and many merchants have thrown up their hands in disgust and moved out.”

And as the 1950 bond issue did, the Pei film had a call to action, though not a bond issue, the Urban Action Foundation was trying to build support for the plan. Pei called for tearing down hundreds of buildings and creating dozens of high-rise office buildings, an enclosed shopping mall, and apartments around the downtown area.

“And in company with such traditions, surely Oklahoma City’s 75-year old downtown is too young to die. It’s up to you.”

In the end, the 1950 bond passed, and Sylvan Goldman produced another film, this one to show the voters what they were getting for their money.

“You should be proud to be a stock holder in this clean, still-growing, still-improving Oklahoma City. Please remember, you get more in actual services from the five cents you pay out for city government than you get out of the remainder of the tax dollar you spend.”

By the 1980s the Pei plan never generated the interest needed for it to take shape. All that was left was a large model of what Pei thought downtown Oklahoma City would look like by 1989. That model is today considered the forerunner of the MAPS projects that have changed the landscape of downtown Oklahoma City.

You can learn more about the urban histories of Oklahoma City and Tulsa by visiting the Oklahoma History Center, NE 23rd Street just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state’s history. I’m Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

Pawnee Bill, Calamity Jane, Mexican Joe and Effie Cole

2010-06-21

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"'Would she be any attraction to our show?' and he says 'No, not a bit, nowhere, she's ugly as a mud fence.' That's exactly his words!"

That's Gordon Lillie or, as we knew him, Pawnee Bill explaining what Buffalo Bill thought about Calamity Jane.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

Diversity may not be a word you would associate with the old west. The word hadn't been coined when Buffalo Bill and later Pawnee Bill ran their Wild West shows, but diversity was a key element in both shows' success. The most popular performer with the Pawnee Bill Show was "Mexican Joe." He once said "I don't believe I need an introduction to the public for I am known to everyone as "Mexican Joe," although my real name is Joe Berrera, and my work and roping will never be forgotten."

The lifelong partnership and friendship began when Pawnee Bill hired Joe at the age of 15 to tour with his Pawnee Bill Wild West Show. He was already one of the greatest ropers of all time and soon became the highlight of the show.In 1905 Joe married Effie Cole, and Effie became a popular performer specializing in skills on horseback. Her act included hurdle jumping, piloting four horses in a chariot race, and western ballet. After the show closed, the Berreras continued to live and work on the ranch with Joe serving as ranch foreman. He was associated with Pawnee Bill for 45 of his 81 years, and he once said "Pawnee Bill is the only father I have ever known, and I dearly love him."

Buffalo Bill employed Annie Oakley, a superb show-woman and excellent trick shot. So accurate was Annie that Sitting Bull named her "Little Sure Shot." Pawnee Bill featured his wife May, who cultivated her skills at shooting and trick riding. There was one woman in the old west who never appeared in either the Buffalo Bill or Pawnee Bill Wild West shows, and she was Calamity Jane. In this 1938 interview Pawnee Bill described a conversation he had with Colonel Cody, as he called him, or Buffalo Bill about Calamity Jane.

"Here's what Cody said to me. I got a postcard from her once, wanting a job with the show. Well, I didn't know her. She didn't live anywhere around where I did, so I took the postcard in to Colonel, and I says 'Colonel, did you know a Calamity Jane?' He says 'I'll say I did.' and I says 'Here's a postcard from her' and I said 'Would she be any attraction to our show?' and he says 'No, not a bit, nowhere, she's ugly as a mud fence.' That's exactly his words! Then he told me later on, we were talking about her one day, he said 'Well, you know, she was old Wild Bill's sweetheart for a long while.'She's buried right along side of him up there right now at Deadwood, I think, is where he's buried."

The Wild West shows were among the most popular form of mass entertainment before motion pictures came along.The Pawnee Bill Wild West Show featured a variety of entertainers: cowboys, cowgirls, American Indians, performers from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. Mexican Joe represented the Latino cowboys of the southwest. Effie Berrera, Annie Oakley, May Lillie, and Lucille Mulhall all helped pave the way for their gender in the rodeos we see today.

Though Pawnee Bill is gone, his ranch near Pawnee, Oklahoma, lives on as a wonderful museum dedicated to his memory maintained by the Oklahoma Historical Society. And every summer, in June, Pawnee Bill Ranch Staff and volunteers from the town of Pawnee stage a reenactment of the Pawnee Bill Wild West Show using actual scripts from 1907 and 1908. For times and information go to the Oklahoma Historical Society website, okhistory.org, and then click on the Pawnee Bill Wild West show link. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma Historical Society, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our states past. From the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City, I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

Spansh/Swine Flu

2009-11-09

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"And they had very little care, and they just died like flies." That's Harry Bathurst, who served in the Army during World War One, describing what happened to his friends when the Spanish Flu hit their training camp in 1918.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

In 1918, the world was at war. Thousands of soldiers on both sides were dying in the trenches of France as the war ground on, but soon an enemy far more devastating than the artillery and gas shells being fired by both sides appeared. In March 1918, the Spanish Flu, as it was called then, first appeared at Fort Riley, Kansas. Because of the war, Army bases were jammed with men, causing the flu to spread with a speed never seen before.

Harry Bathurst in Cherokee, Oklahoma, received his draft notice in March 1918.

"I joined the Army in 1918. At that time people were very patriotic. I remember the day that I went to the Army, several other young men went at the same time. The little town of Cherokee which is the county seat of Alfalfa County had a big celebration, and they put on a free dinner for us. They had the bands playing, and we had speaking. The whole town, and in fact the whole county, went to the depot to see us off."

It didn't take long for the flu to catch up with Bathurst.

"The Spanish Flu broke out, and my buddies, all of them, nearly all of them took the flu and went to the hospital, as long as there was room in the hospital. The hospitals became full, and they put beds in the aisles, and later on even the aisles became so full that they had to put the sick boys in the kitchens, and they had very little care, and they just died like flies."

Bathurst was surprised that not just the men were stricken.

"Also in World War One, they were using lots of horses. We had many wonderful fine horses in our camp, and they also got something that very similar to the flu, and they died like flies, so it looked like for a while that things were pretty serious."

The first reported case of Spanish Flu in Oklahoma City was a young woman named Corrine Smith who was diagnosed September 28, 1918. By October 1st, Oklahoma City doctors were dealing with more than a thousand cases of flu. Two days later, the number was 2,000.

In the late summer of 1918, Guy Moore, an Oklahoma corpsman from Pawnee, Oklahoma, saw his first cases among returning British infantrymen at a hospital in Southampton, England.

At Camp Doniphan near Fort Sill, from September to December 1918, there were about 4,000 troops stationed there, and more than 2,000 cases of flu.

By late September 1918, the pandemic was so widespread, the Army cancelled a call-up of 142,000 draftees and quarantined all the stateside camps.

In all, almost 100-million people died worldwide from the flu. The flu took the lives of more soldiers, both allies and German, than did death in combat. This pandemic has been described as "the greatest medical holocaust in history" and may have killed more people than the Black Death.

In the spring of 1919, 7,350 Oklahomans had died from the effects of the Spanish Flu. Bathurst was lucky, he survived the pandemic, came back to Oklahoma, served for a number of years as the county agent in Kay County before retiring in 1964.

The interview with Harry Bathurst was recorded in 1973 and it's a part of the oral history collection in the Archives Division at the Oklahoma History Center. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to the collection, preservation, and sharing of our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

Statehood

2009-11-16

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"When the telegram arrived, my father had the notary public there and took the oath of office in his suite there at the Royal Hotel."

That's the voice of Francis Haskell, daughter of Oklahoma's first governor Charles Haskell, explaining when her father actually took the first oath of office on the day Oklahoma became a state.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

At just after 9:00am the morning of November 16, 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt signed the proclamation making Oklahoma the 46th State. Thousands of people had been gathering in Guthrie beginning the day before to be present for what was then called Admission Day.

"At 11 o'clock he went up to the Carnegie Library on the steps, and there gathered were over 10,000 people who had been coming into Guthrie all night and the afternoon before from all over the state because there was no way, no automobiles, any way for them to get into there except by wagon or carriage or horseback and by special train, and they had special trains they pulled on to the side tracks and they slept there all night in those coaches. Not accommodation, there were no hotels, not enough for that many people." (40 sec)

A part of the ceremony included the symbolic wedding of Miss Indian Territory and Mr. Oklahoma Territory. Mrs. Leo Bennett was selected to be the bride. Francis Haskell recalls that she borrowed a friend's wedding dress for that inauguration ceremony.

"...a nationally known dressmaker up there to have a dress made, and Ms. Bennett borrowed it. It was a lavender and lace dress with a lavender hat with a long lavender plume, ostrich feather, and she wore that as the bride." (17 sec)

Following the inauguration the public and dignitaries went to what was then called Island Park on the banks of the Cottonwood Creek for a barbeque lunch.

"They didn't have hamburger joints and everything else in those days, and they had to have gone without food or brought it the day before, so they had this barbeque, and they had bread and all the things that go with a barbeque."

And for Francis Haskell that lunch held a special memory.

"This is the first time I had ever tasted barbeque beef."

A ball that evening at Convention Hall capped off an incredible day in Oklahoma history.

"Everybody was well-dressed and looked nice. The state militia band had went into the room, and the local orchestra at the other, and one would play for the dance and the other would play. They'd alternate. The ladies all had armfuls of American Beauty roses, and they had punch and cakes and everything. Of course, there was no alcohol in the punch because Oklahoma was a dry state, had to be dry for 21 years because the Enabling Act provided that."

Francis Haskell was there to witness her father taking the oath of office as our first governor and all of the events that occurred that day, November 16, 1907, when Oklahoma became the 46th state.

The interview with Francis Haskell is a part of the oral history collection in the Research Library at the Oklahoma History Center, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. The politics in Oklahoma exhibit features a number of artifacts from Governor Haskell and other prominent politicians in Oklahoma. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

Official State Song

2010-03-22

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"Oklahoma, Oklahoma, Fairest daughter of the West, Oklahoma, Oklahoma, 'Tis the land I love the best"

That was the official state song of Oklahoma before Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote the Broadway musical Oklahoma.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

When Oklahoma became a state, we didn't have an official state song. In 1935 Mrs. Harriet Parker Camden of Kingfisher wrote the music and words to a song she titled ""Oklahoma - A Toast."" The song became a local hit, so much so that the state legislature on March 26, 1935, named this song, the official song of the State of Oklahoma.

"I give you a land of sun and flowers, and summer a whole year long, I give you a land where the golden hours roll by to the mockingbird's song, Where the cotton blooms 'neath the southern sun, where the vintage hangs thick on the vine. A land whose story has just begun. This wonderful land of mine.""

Those are the voices of Mrs. Donovan Campbell, formerly Georgie Beyers, and Ed Brennan. The song was performed on a Washington D.C. radio station in 1941 as that station was saluting the State of Oklahoma.

Compare that song to this one:

"Oklahoma, where the wind comes sweepin' down the plain, and the wavin' wheat can sure smell sweet when the wind comes right behind the rain. Oklahoma, every night my honey lamb and I sit alone and talk and watch a hawk makin' lazy circles in the sky. We know we belong to the land, and the land we belong to is grand! And when we say Yeeow A-yip-i-o-ee-ay, We're only sayin' You're doin' fine, Oklahoma! Oklahoma - O.K."

That is from the movie soundtrack Oklahoma featuring the voices of Gordon McRae and Shirley Jones. It was the first of many collaborations by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein. Based on the Lynn Riggs play ""Green Grow the Lilacs,""it was one of the longest running plays on Broadway and a very successful Hollywood musical. In 1953 a young state representative from McAlester, George Nigh, sponsored legislation to name that song, Oklahoma, as the official state song.

You can learn more Oklahoma and the movies by visiting the Oklahoma History Center on NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

First Streetcar in Oklahoma, February 1, 1903

2010-02-01

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Music and the clanging of a trolley car...singers singing "The Trolley Song."

That sound, though not the song, was heard on Sunday afternoon February 1, 1903, in downtown Oklahoma City. From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

Among the 89-ers who made the land run into what became central Oklahoma were Anton Classen and John Shartel. Classen first settled in Edmond where he was the first postmaster, edited the Edmond Sun newspaper, and donated the land where the Central State Normal School was eventually built. Shartel settled in Guthrie and almost immediately became involved in a land claim dispute. By the mid-1890s both men moved to Oklahoma City. Both were lawyers. Classen became the receiver at the federal land office, and Shartel founded a law firm employing three other attorneys. Classen left the federal land office and opened his own company, the Classen Company. That company purchased land and built housing additions, mostly for middle class working families.

The period from 1900 to 1920 saw Oklahoma City grow by leaps and bounds. The population of Oklahoma City was just over 11,700 in 1890 and by 1910 it was officially over 85,200. Prior to that time transportation in the state was limited to either horsepower or walking. Those modes were fine in most situations but as cities expanded other options were needed. Congestion and impracticality prevented many urban dwellers from owning horses, and the large number of horses required for transporting goods around cities created a substantial amount of waste material, but the need for transportation still existed. The answer came in the form of electric streetcars.

As early as the mid-1890s Shartel asked the city council to consider some form of street cars. The requests were turned down. But as the city continued to grow, by 1901, the council changed its mind. In 1902, the Metropolitan Railway Company was granted a franchise to build a trolley system in Oklahoma City, and Classen and Shartel were now in business. After months of careful preparation it was on Sunday February 1, 1903, that the first electric streetcar in Oklahoma, described as a "giant" by the local press, slowly and silently rolled out of the Metropolitan Railway Company's car shed on 13th Street in downtown Oklahoma City. Getting electricity from an old outdated city power plant, the new electric giant made its maiden voyage down 13th to Broadway and into the heart of downtown. The crowd that witnessed the event numbered into the thousands with one report estimating that more than ten thousand onlookers mobbing the downtown tracks.

On the corner of Broadway and Grand, a reporter for the Daily Oklahoman stood next to one of the original boomers who had served with David Payne. The reporter observed the old man's reaction when he spotted his first electric flyer. The reporter wrote the man threw his hands in the air in amazement, then leaned forward with his eyes fixed on the object until it disappeared over the next hill, then he shouted (and now read by Jason Harris), "Well by thunder, they've sure got them cars totted by lightnin'." Visibly shaken, the boomer made his way to the nearest saloon, the reporter wrote, and ordered a four-finger quantum of fire water to calm his nerves.

The leading real estate developers stimulated and controlled the expansion of Oklahoma City with their promotion of the electric street and inner urban rail system. Thus the advent of affordable mass transportation made it possible for Oklahoma City to grow as it did. Classen and Shartel were both dead by the mid 1920s, but the company continued on. It never made much money, and most of its life it was in receivership. Rationing during World War II gave the company a brief reprieve, but as the war ended, on October 25, 1945, the announcement of the sale of the company was made. Oklahoma Transportation Company, the statewide bus company, paid two and half million dollars for the Oklahoma Railway Company and announced the street cars and tracks would be dismantled as soon as possible.

You can learn more about Oklahoma's urban history by visiting the Oklahoma History Center, on NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

Wild Mary Sudik Revisited

2010-03-29

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"It was a terrible thing, sprayed oil all over town.""

That's the voice of Lee Bush, a petroleum engineer talking about the Mary Sudik Oil Well.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

At about 6:30 the morning of March 26, 1930, the crew of roughnecks working on a well on the property of Vince Sudik paused. The tired drillers had been waiting for daylight to continue their work. The location was at about I-240 and Bryant in present-day Oklahoma City. It was just a few miles south of the location of the Oklahoma City Discovery Well Number One, the well that in December 1928 opened the Oklahoma City Oilfield, the largest oilfield in the state. Within weeks hundreds of drill rigs began searching for more oil under the capitol city. Indian Territory Illuminating Oil Company, who had drilled the Discovery Well, signed a lease agreement with the Sudiks, a Czech family who had made the 1889 Land Run into the territory. The well was named for Vince Sudik's wife, Mary.

Thus it was that early morning March 26, 1930, with the crew waiting for daylight to bring up the tools and then send a new drill bit down the hole to continue drilling. They had drilled to 6,471 feet. The exhausted crew failed to fill the hole with mud, something that might have prevented what happened next. They didn't know the Wilcox sand formation was permeated with natural gas under high pressure, and within minutes that gas under so much pressure found a release. The crew was caught off guard when a mixture of oil and gas came roaring out of the hole. Pipe stems were thrown hundreds of feet into the air like so many tooth picks. First there was gas, then the flow turned to a green-gold color and then black. Oil shot hundreds of feet into the air. For the next 11 days the Mary Sudik ran wild.

Lee Bush, in this interview recorded in 1973, said that in addition to the crew failing to fill the hole with mud, there was another problem. The crew didn't have the proper size safety head for that well.

"I was acquainted with the people of this firm of Black, Sivalls and Bryson. They were manufacturing safety heads to put on things (unintelligible), and they didn't have a safety head that size. Consequently, the Mary Sudik was run the wild well; they had nothing to put on it."

In those 11 days experts estimated she wasted more than 800,000 barrels of black gold When the Mary Sudik was finally brought under control crews recovered more than 200,000 barrels of oil from pits and ponds around the area. With a strong wind blowing to the north, the Wild Mary Sudik's oil spread as far as downtown Oklahoma City. Then the wind shifted to the south, and oil was blown to Moore and eventually to Norman.

Newsreel photographers, including Oklahoma City's own Arthur Ramsey, sent motion picture film to Hollywood, film that within a week appeared in newsreels in theaters around the world. When she was finally tamed, the Mary Sudik was the largest and most productive proved oil and gas well in the world through 1930. Drilling continued with roughnecks working north along east side of Oklahoma City, eventually drilling in the middle of city blocks. Something had to be done, and it was then that the Oklahoma City Council passed some of the first rules regulating how and where oil wells could be drilled. ""The oil ordinance for this town was the pioneer of the nation. Nobody had ever had this experience before, drilling in the big city, taking care of these things."

Today you can see the valve that spilt in half and view the newsreel film of the Wild Mary Sudik in the oil and gas and natural resources exhibit at the Oklahoma History Center. And you'll want to explore the outdoor oil and gas park on the grounds of the History Center. The Oklahoma History Center is located on NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

USS Oklahoma Commissioned

2010-05-24

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"I love that ship like a floating palace. It was home to me, was most important thing. There never was a ship as beautiful as that Oklahoma, really not."

That was Jerry Jerrett who was serving in the Navy when in 1917 he was assigned to the Navy's newest Battleship, the USS Oklahoma.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

In March of 1914 the daughter of then-Governor Lee Cruce, Lorena, stood on a high scaffold in New York City and christened the newest of the U.S. battleships, the USS Oklahoma. She smashed the bottle of champagne onto the ship's bow, and it slid gracefully into the water. It was to be three years later, however, before the Oklahoma was fully outfitted and ready for duty. The USS Oklahoma along with her sister ship, the USS Nevada, sported the latest in US Navy technology; they were the first battleships in the fleet to use fuel oil instead of coal, and they both held technologically-advanced engine designs.

It was in this week of 1917 that the USS Oklahoma became fully commissioned in the U.S. Navy. Only a few months earlier, the Navy began assigning sailors to the ship. They were to be the "commissioning crew" and among them was Robert Graham.

"Oh lord I thought that was the biggest thing I'd ever seen in one piece, and I thought it was the prettiest thing, you know."

Graham joined the Navy, in his words, to see the world. He had just graduated from boot camp. Before joining the Navy, he had worked in his father's machine shop, and there he learned a skill that the Navy would use.

"Well, I made whatever was necessary to make on a machine, you see. If it's a bushin, if it's a bolt or whatever, why, you made it on the lathe, because you made it on a planer, of course, and, you, whether it's the head light, the electricity or anything electrical, you had to be capable of doing…where I've been…of doing whether it's electrical or whether it's on the machine or whether it was replacing whatever it was."

During World War One, the ship was held up for repairs and served on escort for only one Atlantic convoy. Following the Great War, the Oklahoma went on to a variety of important tasks. Under President Wilson, the mere presence of the Oklahoma at places like Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Vera Cruz, Mexico, and the Panama Canal helped to enforce and strengthen the influence of the United States. When President Wilson went to Europe to urge creation of the League of Nations, the Oklahoma was a part of the convoy. Jerrett describes seeing Wilson during the voyage.

"He had a high hat on and he was like Harry Truman. He fought the same war that we did. World War I. Everybody said he could never win, but he did…and one of the finest presidents we ever had."

The Oklahoma was not involved in any high profile battles or duties, something that Graham felt bad about.

"And, I don't know, the Oklahoma was kind of a hard luck ship in a way, she was, because they never – nothing we did was ever spectacular or anything like that, you know."

The hardest luck for the USS Oklahoma came on the morning of December 7, 1941, while she was moored on Battleship Row at Pear Harbor. Jerrett by now had been out of the Navy for several years, but he still kept track of his old ship.

"It took a while for me to sink in. I couldn't understand it, because I understood that Japanese embassies came and were talking with the President at that time. And while the talk was going on, that's when they hit the ship."

The USS Oklahoma was hit by seven torpedoes and capsized shortly thereafter. The ship lost 448 men, the second-largest loss of life the Navy suffered in the attack. The USS Oklahoma proudly served the United States for 24 years and did so, as various crew members have pointed out, without ever having fired a shot in anger.

The story of the USS Oklahoma is just a part of the military history of our state. The research library at the Oklahoma History Center holds extensive interviews with a number of crewmen who served aboard the Oklahoma, from those original commissioning crew in 1917 to the survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor. All are available for you to read. The Oklahoma History Center is located just east of the state capitol on NE 23rd Street in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

Jim Varney for Braums

2010-03-08

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"They're humongous, ain't they, and big, too? Let old Ernest help, okay? Now, let's see. Who got the vanilla? Who got the butter pecan?"

That's the voice of Jim Varney, who in this week of March 1983 began doing commercials in Oklahoma for Braum's Dairy Stores.

From the OklahomaHistory Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

In 1933 Bill Braum began helping his father with their dairy cattle and milk processing plant near Emporia,Kansas. In 1952 Henry Braum sold the wholesale part of his business and began concentrating on ice cream, creating the Peter Pan chain of ice cream stores in Kansas. In 1957 Bill bought out his father and took over the company. Ten years later, he sold the 67 store chain to a large company. The sale didn't include the dairy herd or processing plant, but it did include a no-compete provision that for ten years prevented Bill Braum from selling ice cream in the state of Kansas. Braum and his wife moved to Oklahoma and brought their ice cream business with them. From 1967 to 1971, the dairy herd and processing plant remained near Emporia, so they trucked their ice cream daily into Oklahoma. In 1971, they built their first plant near Oklahoma City and moved the dairy herd here.

The company was growing and expanding statewide but in March 1983, their advertising agency contracted with an actor in Nashville, Tennessee, who would really put Braum's on the state and regional map. That actor was Jim Varney. Varney began his career as a Shakespearean actor, but he found his mark in a completely different set of roles.

"O, that this too too solid flesh would melt
Thaw and resolve itself into a dew!
…God! How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable,
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
…Know what I mean, Vern?"

Varney's "Hey Vern" commercials hit the airwaves in Oklahoma with the same reaction they'd received in other markets. Typically viewers would express outrage then laugh, then they would create strong sponsor identification, and that was the case here with Braum's. After the Hey Vern commercials began airing, the company built a quarter-of-million-square-foot plant in Tuttle to keep up with demand.

"…and Vern, I bet you got the chocolate. Don't you want yours, Vern? Well, pay the lady."

In this interview on ABC's Good Morning America in 1985 Varney explained why he thought the character had become so popular.

"I think everybody identifies with or may even have a neighbor or a relative that's like that. They've always got a better deal than you've got, or they tell you what you did wrong, and so I think everybody knows him."

After his run with Braum's, Varney was hired by Channel 4 Television in Oklahoma City to promote local news.

"Hey Vern, what you having for di…is that the station you watch? Vern, Vern, Vern, Vern, Vern, Vern, Vern! :::singing::: Hey, you've been lookin' for news on all the wrong stations!"

Toward the end of his career as a pitchman, Varney recorded a series of anti-smoking commercials.

"Gosh, Vern, you tryin' to kill us all, walkin' around all the time with that weed hangin' out of your mouth. Don't you know how deadly that thing is? You're just askin' for a case of the big C. Cancer City. Chemotherapy Hotel."

Sadly, Jim Varney, a lifelong smoker, died from lung cancer in February 2000, but we remember him from the early 1980s pitching ice cream for Braum's.

"Hey Vern, I see you brought the younguns in for a double-dip of that Braum's ice cream."

The Oklahoma History Center features an exhibit on Oklahoma businesses past and present. The Oklahoma History Center is located on NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

Will Rogers Memorial Dedication

2009-11-23

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"I think of his nobility. I thought of it a few weeks ago in Paris when I stood before this impelling statue, this speaking likeness which we have just unveiled, a replica of which will stand for all time in the Hall of Fame in our nation's capitol."

That's the voice of Governor E.W. Marland speaking at the dedication of the Will Rogers Memorial in Claremore, announcing that a statue of Will Rogers will join a statue of Sequoyah in the Hall of Statues in the Old House Chambers in the Capitol in Washington.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

At the time of his death on August 15, 1935, Will Rogers was the most well-known Cherokee Indian to come from Oklahoma. He had appeared in 71 movies, was Hollywood's top box office draw, had written more than 4,000 newspaper columns, and had the highest rated program on network radio.

On the anniversary of his birth, November 4, 1938, led by Governor E.W. Marland, thousands of people gathered in Claremore to dedicate the Will Rogers Memorial. NBC Radio carried the dedication live on a nationwide network.The broadcast included a number of his friends speaking from various parts of the country. Among them Eddie Cantor who recalled he and Rogers working together:

"And how well I remember when I joined the Ziegfeld Follies of 1917 and found Will Rogers the big star of that show. I can't tell you how elated I was. I watched him at every performance, and I learned more from studying him in the few years we were together than I could have learned in a lifetime anywhere else. His wit, philosophy, his kindliness, his humanness. We'll never know how much Will Rogers gave of his time, his money, and himself."

George M. Cohan speaking from New York told about a 1916 trip he and other Broadway actors made with Will Rogers to Washington:

"The Friars Club of New York was making its annual tour that summer playing the large cities, one night each. It was an all-star aggregation, fifty of the biggest names in the show world gathered together for the trip. A night in Washington was not available on account of contracted bookings at the National Theatre there. 'Well, now, that's too bad,' Bill said. 'Sorry we don't play Washington. President Wilson told me he'd surely come to the show if we could book a night there.' Well, we couldn't get Washington, so we played a matinee in Philadelphia and Baltimore that evening. When we arrived in Baltimore at 7:30 in the evening, we all wondered as we stepped from the special train why the City Council, Chamber of Commerce, brass bands, mounted policemans and whatnot were not at the station to greet us as they had been in all the other cities. 'Where's the crowd? Where's this reception committee everybody has?' 'Why, they're all in front of the Academy of Music,' the stationmaster told us. 'The whole town's gathered there to see President Wilson. He's driving over from Washington to see your show and expects to arrive at the theatre at 7:45pm.' Well, a cheer went up from all the members of the star company. Everybody, of course, delighted to think the President would take all that trouble, do all that travel, just to see our little frolic. So we formed in line, paraded to the theatre where we were to play, at the Academy that evening, and as we came inside the theatre we heard the cheers and saw the flags waving, great mob pushing, shoving, surging to get a look at the President who had just arrived in his car. Well, the house was packed, the President and his body occupied a stage box. The show was quite a hit. The final curtain fell, the Star Spangled Banner was played. I rushed from backstage to the President's box, and as Abbot of the Friar's Club, which I was at that time, I thanked the President for the fine compliment he'd paid us by coming all the way from Washington to Baltimore to see the show. 'Oh, no, not at all, not at all. My goodness, me,' said President Wilson. 'I'd travel ten times that distance any day just to see and listen to as wise and clever a man as Will Rogers.' Rogers is what he came to see."

Will Rogers remembered by his friends, the stars with whom he worked. You can learn more about Will Rogers and our American Indian heritage by visiting the Oklahoma History Center, NE 23rd Street just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

Woodward Tornado, 1947

2010-04-12

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"A little boy died there. Of course the doctor said that my husband was already dead, so they loaded him in the back of a pickup."

That's the voice of Agnes Giddens. Agnes was working at the Oasis Steakhouse the night of April 9, 1947…the night the deadliest tornado in Oklahoma history devastated the city of Woodward.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

It was quiet night in Woodward, the night of April 9, 1947. Agnes Giddens was a waitress at the Oasis Steakhouse working the night shift. That was her preference. Her husband worked days; she worked nights. That way someone was always at home with her two sons. But that night, no one would have expected what would happen over the next couple of hours.

"It was kind of the beginning of spring. People wanted to be out and doing things and all, and I remember this cloud bank in the southwest about sundown and lightning and such and I thought 'Well, it's going to rain and maybe the weather will get settled and so on.' Then, of course, after dark why it began to build up and move toward town."

On April 7th, a pacific warm front crossed through Arizona and New Mexico, and by April 9th, the front arrived near Amarillo where it collided with a strong cold front. The wind speed in Amarillo was clocked at more than 100 miles per hour, and in short order, a half-dozen tornadoes formed and dropped from the sky. The first one with a base estimated at two miles wide struck Canadian, Texas. The biggest town in its path was Woodward.

There were no tornado warnings as we're accustomed to today. And on Wednesday April 9, 1947, it was the third day of a nationwide telephone strike. Only emergency operators were working the switchboards at the local phone offices.

Giddens was concerned that night. Usually her husband and two sons, ages 5 and 8, came by the Oasis where her husband would have a cup of coffee, and the boys would drink a soda.

"…and he didn't come over that evening for some reason, and I don't know why. He always came over but not that evening, and I wanted to call him and even tried to call him, but the operator said 'No, not unless it's an emergency,' and I said 'Well, it is an emergency. I want to get through. I want to find out why he didn't come over.' She wouldn't accept the call."

At 8:15pm the tornado completely leveled the town of Gage, 25 miles southwest of Woodward. Now Woodward was in the tornado's bulls-eye. People commented on how muggy it was that night, then the wind picked up, then it really started blowing, bending trees to the ground, then the rain followed the wind, then hail…then the tornado, until 1999, the only confirmed F-5 tornado to ever hit Oklahoma.

Giddens remembered what happened at the Oasis that night when the tornado hit.

"…and then the first thing I knew, why, tin started coming off of the Oasis and windows, you know, bulging and cracking and popping and so on. Then it wasn't long 'til dishes started coming off the shelves, and the whole building came apart. People were screaming."

Giddens left the Oasis as soon as the tornado passed. Her house was just two blocks away. She felt her way home through the pitch black of the night only to find her home gone. She knew the path of the storm was to the northeast…

"…and it all was headed toward the northeast, and so I reasoned, well they've got the northeast of where the house was. I found them a block away in a grater ditch, all three of them, and I would say my husband was probably already dead, all I could hear was the death gurgle in his throat, and then the little boy was unconscious, and my oldest one that lived through it, he was crying that he was hurt. 'Please help me, Mom.'"

The first reports that night were that 12 people were killed, but it was much worse than that. The first reports were that some houses and buildings had been demolished. It was much worse than that. The next morning, at daybreak, those who survived found themselves in the midst of a catastrophe. A two-mile-wide tornado had leveled 100 city blocks in Woodward, leaving 185 dead and 1,000 people injured.

The interview with Agnes Giddens was recorded in 1983. It's a part of the oral history collection at the Oklahoma History Center. The Oklahoma History Center is located on NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City.Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving and sharing our state past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

Charlie Christian

2010-06-07

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"…the sounds of Charlie Christian playing…"

That is the sound of one of the premier guitarists of all time…Oklahoman Charlie Christian. In a short life of just twenty-five years, Charlie Christian forever impacted the world of music.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

Charlie Christian was born in 1916 in Texas, but at the age of two his family moved to Oklahoma City. He followed the musical tradition of his older brothers and father and learned to play the trumpet before he was ten. By 12 he had switched to the guitar, making his own crude instrument from cigar boxes in a manual training class.

Charlie Christian attended Douglass High School and learned his music from the Deep Deuce, or Northeast Second Street, an incubator for many of the nation's jazz greats. In the 1930s he played string bass with the Alphonso Trent Band.

By 1936 he was traveling the Midwest with various bands, and in 1939, Charlie was in Los Angeles where John Hammond arranged an audition for Charlie with his brother-in-law Benny Goodman. Goodman had a reputation for hiring black musicians; Lionel Hampton on vibraphones among them. In a 1940 interview for Metronome Magazine, Charlie said that Goodman was not impressed with the audition; he was playing an acoustic guitar, but that night Hammond took Goodman to a jazz club where Charles was performing. An unhappy Goodman asked Charlie to play "Rose Room" feeling certain that Christian wouldn't know it. He did; he had been playing it for years. On October 2, 1939, "Rose Room" became one of the first studio tunes recorded by Charlie Christian after he joined the Benny Goodman Sextet.

"…the sounds of Charlie Christian playing…"

Over the next three years Charlie transformed the electric guitar from being used as a rhythm instrument to a lead instrument. He helped create a genre of jazz that became known as bebop. He worked with another young jazz guitarist, Barney Kessel, a fellow Oklahoman from Muskogee. Kessel later became one of the foremost jazz guitarists following Charlie's death. In three short years he elevated the electric guitar to the position in modern music that it holds now.

In the summer of 1941, while touring in the Midwest, he began showing severe signs of tuberculosis. He died on March 2, 1942, in New York, at the age of twenty-five. Even though he recorded for only three years, his influence has been felt by generations of musicians. He was inducted into the Down Beat magazine Jazz Hall of Fame in 1966, and in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990 in the Roots of Rock and Roll.

"…the sounds of Charlie Christian playing…"

For many years guitar collectors wondered what happened to the Gibson ES-250 that Charlie was holding in nearly all the photos of taken during his last years. Gibson only manufactured about 70 of that model. Finally, in 2002, a guitar collector and expert in Utah saw an ad in a magazine for a Gibson ES-250; he inquired and when checking the serial number on that guitar with records from the Gibson factory, he knew that he'd found the long-missing Charlie Christian guitar.

That very guitar is now on display at the Oklahoma History Center on NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

July the 4th, 100 Years Ago

2010-07-04

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The banner headline that stretched across the entire front page for the Daily Oklahoman screamed ""America on Tiptoes Awaits the Start of a Great Ring Battle."" The sub headline read "Thousands in Reno Waiting Curtain Call." On Monday July 4, 1910, the nation was waiting the heavy weight championship fight between James J. Jefferies and John A. Johnson.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

One hundred years ago, July 4th was on a Monday, and it was maybe even bigger than our celebration today. The Oklahoman listed a number of events in the new Capitol city; Oklahoma City had just become the state capitol three weeks earlier.

For most residents of Oklahoma City there was plenty to do. The headline read ""Holiday Offers Great Opportunity...Various Forms of Sport and Many Picnics are Planned."" Members of the Grand Army of the Republic (Union veterans of the Civil War and many veterans of that war were still living in 1910) held a celebration at Wheeler Park. Vaudeville was on tap along with dancing and fireworks at Delmar Gardens on the North Canadian River and at Belle Isle Park on the north side of Oklahoma City also featured vaudeville, and vaudeville was being featured at the Lyric Theater and at the Maze Airdome.

At the fairgrounds back then at what was 10th and Eastern, racing was on schedule at the racetrack. The Oklahoma City baseball team had a doubleheader against Shreveport at Colcord Park...first game at 10:30 a.m., second game at 4 p.m and in the words of the Oklahoman,""The grand and glorious American holiday, the fourth of July, will be celebrated by the people of Oklahoma, Monday, much as in former years. Parks, summer resorts and different societies have added special attractions to the usual allurements and those who spend the day at one of the picnics given by organizations or at the local parks is assured of a good time."

More than two hundred members of the Grand Army of the Republic, those union veterans from the Civil War, had gathered at Wheeler Park where they read the Declaration of Independence, enjoyed music, and had a big basket lunch. Meanwhile the state's Confederate veterans were spending the fourth of July making final preparations for their state convention that kicked off the next day on July 5th. More than 6,000 were expected in Oklahoma City for that annual convention.

At Colcord Park, the Oklahoma City Mets bested Shreveport in both games of their double header, much to the joy of what was described as one of the largest crowds to witness a baseball game in the city. In front of the Oklahoman office in the 100 block of West Main, an immense crowd waited as returns from the Jeffries vs. Johnson fight came in; the Oklahoman reported that ""now and then when a favorite landed a telling blow, cheers would break out, and when it was finally determined that Johnson was the victor he was given a rousing ovation."

Tragedy struck in Edmond on the fourth. A section of a grand stand with about 300 people seated watched vaudeville collapsed, resulting in two people being seriously injured, scores more escaped with minor injuries. In Muskogee, an assistant cashier at the Muskogee National Bank and a young society women drowned in the Grand River; the young woman stepped in to what she thought was shallow water only to plunge in over her head. The young man jumped in to save her. Witnesses said the woman grabbed the man, then both went under and were not seen again.

Governor Charles Haskell spent the day in Clinton and Elk City where he was delivering orations in the interest of his party. The day after the fourth, Oklahoma Commissioner of Charities and Corrections, Miss Kate Barnard, returned from Colorado and was immediately asked about the Women's Suffrage movement. Her response "I don't consider the women's suffrage question within the jurisdiction of my office; however, if the gallantry of Oklahoma were to grant the women of Oklahoma the right to vote, you can bet that Kate Bernard will do her best to cast an intelligent vote."

Those articles from the Daily Oklahoman from July 4 & 5, 1910, are part of the newspaper collection at the Oklahoma History Center, NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

William Murray and the Red River Bridge War

2010-07-12

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"The boundary line between Oklahoma and Texas is not at the center of the river, but it's on the south side of the high water mark. "

That was William H. Murray explaining the legal boundary between the states of Oklahoma and Texas.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

It's called the Red River Bridge War, and it occurred in July 1931. William H. Murray, Alfalfa Bill Murray, was the governor of Oklahoma, and Ross Sterling was governor of Texas. Until the late 1920s the only way to cross the Red River was by ferry. Then several companies in Texas constructed toll bridges to span the river. Then Texas constructed three public or "free" bridges, connecting Durant and Dennison, Terral and Ringgold, and Marietta and Gainesville. It was then that the Red River Bridge Company in Dennison sued the state of Texas, asking for $150,000 dollars in damages because of the free bridge. A federal judge in Houston ordered the public bridges closed, and that was when the two governors entered the fray.

"Sterling - the governor of Texas - wires me 'You've got your gall to hand the barrier off of there.' I wired back this, in substance - 'You don't seem to know your boundary. If you look at a map that you have, made between the Spanish and the French, your boundary is at high water mark on the south side of the river.'"

Murray, who came to the Chickasaw Nation as their attorney in the 1890s, knew the complete history of the boundary between the two states.

"A treaty was made by the United States with France after we bought the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. That should be the boundary. I knew that, but the federal judge didn't know it, and the people general in Texas didn't know it, and even the federal officers didn't know it here in the Indian country. Well, when I wired him, I said, 'You better have your attorney, tell him to look over those treatise, and find out what your boundary is. '"

Murray concluded his exchange of telegrams with Sterling with this threat.

"You sent your Rangers over here, and if you do it again, I'll prosecute them for invasion of the state."
Meanwhile, Texas blocked off the public or free bridges because of the injunction. Murray responded by calling out the Durant unit of the National Guard. He traveled to Durant and personally led the soldiers across the bridge, brandishing a rather large six shooter in his right hand. They tore down the toll booth on the south end of the bridge and burned the lumber. The two Texas Rangers who had been in the booth got in their car and left the scene. The controversy ended on August 6 after the Texas Legislature, in a special session, passed a law allowing the Red River Bridge Company to sue the state, and the federal court then dissolved the injunction that touched off the "war. "The free bridge served the public well until 1995 when it was dynamited, and traffic was then shifted to a new bridge -also free. Oklahoma won the war against Texas.

The interview with William H. Murray is part of the oral history collection in the archives of the Oklahoma History Center on NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

Urschel Kidnapping

2010-07-19

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"It is the judgment of the court that George R. Kelly be sentenced to the federal penitentiary for the term of his natural life.""

That was federal district judge Edgar S. Vaught sentencing Machine Gun Kelly for the kidnapping of Oklahoma City oil man Charles Urschel in 1933.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

It was a quiet Saturday night, July 22, 1933, as Mr. and Mrs. Charles Urschel were hosting their friends, Mr. and Mrs. Walter Jarrett, for a bridge match on their back porch. The Urschels were a well-to-do family living on NW 18th Street in Oklahoma City in what is now known as Heritage Hills. Urschel had made a fortune in the oil business and was married to the daughter of another prominent Oklahoma oil man, the late Tom Slick. Their friends, the Jarretts, were also a wealthy oil family. All was quiet until 11:15 p.m. that Saturday when suddenly two men, one armed with a machine gun, the other with a pistol, burst through the screen door and asked which man was Urschel. Receiving no reply, they remarked, "Well, we will take both of them." After warning the women against calling for help, they marched Urschel and Jarrett to where they had driven their car, put them into the back of the Chevrolet, and drove rapidly away. Mrs. Urschel telephoned J. Edgar Hoover, the head of the FBI, and reported the kidnapping. Special agents were dispatched to the home.

At 1:00 a.m., Sunday, Jarrett made his way back to the Urschel residence. The victims had been driven to the outskirts of Oklahoma City. After crossing a small bridge and arriving at an intersection, they put Jarrett out of the car after they had identified him. Several days elapsed before word was received from the kidnappers. On July 26, J.G. Catlett, a wealthy Tulsa oil man and close friend of Urschel, received a package through Western Union. It contained a letter written to him by Urschel, requesting Catlett to act as an intermediary for his release, a personal letter from Urschel to his wife, and a typewritten note directed to Mr. Catlett, demanding that he drive to Oklahoma City immediately. The package also contained a typewritten letter addressed to E. E. Kirkpatrick of Oklahoma City, which said in part:

"Immediately upon receipt of this letter you will proceed to obtain the sum of TWO HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS ($200,000.00) in GENUINE USED FEDERAL RESERVE CURRENCY in the denomination of TWENTY DOLLAR ($20.00) bills.""

The money was collected and a week went by before arrangements were made for the exchange of the money for Urschel. Finally at about 11:30 p.m. the evening of July 31, Urschel returned home exhausted. FBI agents questioning Urschel about his ordeal were surprised to learn that Urschel had been able to keep track minute by minute of every move the kidnappers made, and eventually agents were able to pinpoint a house near Paradise, Texas, where Urschel had been chained to a chair for just over a week. Even before Urschel was released the FBI learned that George Kelly, Machine Gun Kelly, and his wife Kathryn, along with many others, were responsible for the kidnapping.

The first six who were arrested were tried in federal court in Oklahoma City before Judge Edgar S. Vaught. On October 7th, Judge Vaught read the jury's verdict.

""The defendants, Albert L. Bates, Harvey J. Bailey, R.G. Shannon, Ora L. Shannon, Armon Crawford Shannon, Edward Berman, and Clifford Skelly will please stand. Now in this case, the jury has returned a verdict of guilty. The court is of the opinion that this verdict is fully sustained by the evidence."

Now the government was ready to try Machine Gun Kelly and his wife, and on October 12th Judge Vaught issued his verdict in their case.

"It is the judgment of the court that George R. Kelly be sentenced to the federal penitentiary for the term of his natural life.""

Altogether, twenty-one persons were convicted in the case. On July 17, 1954, his 54th birthday, Machine Gun Kelly died of a massive heart attack at the federal prison in Leavenworth, Kansas.
One obituary quoted an FBI agent who captured Machine Gun Kelly in Memphis "He was cowering in a corner with no gun handy," the FBI man said. ""His face twitched and he got white. He was whimpering. He lost his bravado. He reached his hands toward the ceiling, trembled and said, 'Don't shoot, G-Men, don't shoot.'"

You can learn more about the Urschel kidnapping and view the newsreel film about the crime at the Oklahoma History Center, NE 23rd Street just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

We Got Tinker Field

2010-07-26

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From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

In early 1940 the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, headed by Stanley Draper, learned that the Army Air Corps was considering building a maintenance base somewhere in the Midwest, somewhere between Kansas City and Dallas. One of the requirements was that the city selected had to donate the land for the base. Newspaper publisher E. K. Gaylord and other business leaders formed a non-profit foundation and quietly began buying land east of Oklahoma City, land that was flat and would be an ideal location for an air base. In this speech in 1970, Gaylord recalled the group's first meeting with Army representatives.

"'What they sent three men out, I mean, yeah two men - one captain, two lieutenants - down here and with instructions there were five places they could look - come to Oklahoma City first, Wichita second, so on. These fellows wouldn't meet with the Chamber of Commerce. They said they wanted one man from the Chamber to give them all the information they wanted. They worked with him about a week, and then they came in and said 'We want these things by four o'clock this afternoon.'"

Gaylord said the Army officers then gave them the requirements they wanted to be met by that afternoon. "They wanted a 24-inch water line from Capitol Hill, which was about 8 miles, to Tinker Field. We had offered them the 298 acres at the location for Tinker Field. They wanted an option on some other land. They wanted a railroad building there. They wanted 40 miles of roads, state highway, around the Tinker area, wanted them graveled, and this paved road from Capitol Hill was to be six lanes paved, and of course they wanted all of this by four o'clock that afternoon." Gaylord said that he and other members of the Chamber committee got busy lining up what the Army was asking for. They were convinced that they could meet the demands; the Army officers were just as convinced they couldn't. "Of course by that afternoon we gave them the signed document from the city and from the highway department and from the railroads and from everybody that everything they had asked for, and they were dumbfounded, but we got Tinker Field." On July 30, 1941, the ground-breaking ceremony was held for the Midwest Air Depot. The Army Air Corps typically named their bases for the city in which they were located, but the Air Corps had already located a bomber squadron at the Oklahoma City Municipal Airport, which then became the Oklahoma City Army Air Corps Base. So, their next choice was to name the base for its general location in the Midwest, so it was named the Midwest Air Depot, and the town that developed next to the base became Midwest City. The name was only changed following the death of Major General Clarence Tinker, an Osage Indian from Oklahoma who died leading a bombing mission in the Pacific.

The speech by E.K. Gaylord is a part of the oral history collection at the Oklahoma History Center, where you can learn more about our military history in Oklahoma. The Oklahoma History Center is located on NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean."

Oklahoma Memories

Coach Iba and the 1972 Olympics

2010-08-02

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"Doug Collins has perhaps won the game...2 seconds...somebody has gone down on the floor. The Russian coach and Hank Iba are - or a Russian official and Hank Iba were yelling at each other, and bedlam has taken over here at the basketball hall."

That's the voice of the ABC sportscaster broadcasting what he thought was the end of the USA vs USSR basketball game at the Munich Olympics in 1972.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

Basketball and Oklahoma State University are linked together as almost no other sport and school combination can claim. One man is responsible for that linkage, legendary basketball coach Henry Iba. We remember Coach Iba for his 767 wins, for winning national championships after World War 2, and for the many quality players who were in his program and the many coaches who say they owe their success to him. But we also remember Coach Iba for the one game he didn't win...the game against the Russians in the 1972 Munich Olympics.

In an interview just weeks before he left for those Olympics, he talked about the players we thought he'd need to won the gold in Munich.

"I hope that we can come up with some guards like we had in '64 and like we had in '68. Right now I can't see three great centers in the United States that might be an Olympian."

And what about the competition? Coach Iba was asked what teams he thought would be the strongest competition for the USA team.

"If you remember last fall, the Russian team came over and played what we call a rookie pros throughout, and they played nine ballgames. They won the first eight and lost the one out at Utah."

But that wasn't Coach Iba's only concern. He was particularly aware of the difference in the officials and how they call international games, especially at the Olympics.

"but let's be sure that we scout the officials so we know exactly how the official's going to call it."

His words were prophetic. It was the officiating that allowed the Soviet Union to win, costing the Americans the gold medal as his team lost 51 to 50. Doug Collins had given the Americans their first lead of the game, 50-49, when he hit two free throws with only three seconds to play. The Soviet squad attempted to put the ball in play under its own basket, but the inbounds pass was deflected, time ran out, and the Americans began to celebrate what they thought was their gold-medal victory."Now you have me totally confused. They're changing the clock is what they're doing. They're going back to three seconds is what the PA announcer said. So they'll have to speculate that...it's all over! Wow, what a finish. The United States winning their eighth consecutive gold now. This place has gone crazy."

Their joy was short-lived. The secretary-general of the International Basketball Federation came down from the stands, overruled the officials, ordered the game clock reset at three seconds, giving the Soviet team another chance to put the ball into play."Now we're being told the scoreboard is not correct, and they are running the clock down as Hank Iba comes to the bench to get the official count. The horn had sounded, but apparently they are going to move the clock back down to the three seconds that was indicated was official."

It took some to restore order on the court."Now the clock shows three seconds. There is time for the Russians to go to their big man, Aleksandr Belov. They're going to try. Aleksandr Belov!"

And that wasn't the only thing stolen from Coach Iba that night. During the melee at the end of the game, Iba removed his jacket. After the game finally was over, Iba went over to the team bench to pick up his jacket. It was then that he discovered his wallet had been stolen from a pocket in the jacket.

You can see the Olympic jacket that Coach Iba wore in the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo in the sports exhibit at the Oklahoma History Center on NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. From the Oklahoma History Center, I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

Hottest Day in OKC

2010-08-09

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"But it was very much frequented by especially the young people in Oklahoma City and the families on picnics. It was a very much appreciated spot in those days. "

That's the voice of Harvey Everest, and he's talking about Wheeler Park on what was then the southwest side of Oklahoma City. In August 1936, city parks were very popular places to be.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

July 1936 was the hottest month on record in the state of Oklahoma, but the next month, August 1936, that heat wave continued. On August 11, 1936, Oklahoma City's high hit a temperature that is still the record today. At 3 p.m. that day the U.S. Weather Bureau recorded a temperature of 113.1 degrees in Oklahoma City.

Wheeler Park on the banks of the North Canadian River was the place to be.

"Wheeler Park then had beautiful flower beds, beautifully manicured lawns, and great trees, and it was by far the prettiest park we've ever had in Oklahoma City or have to the present day. It's just too bad that it had to go and be neglected and never been reestablished to its former state. "

For residents of Oklahoma City escaping the heat was of paramount importance. Everest remembered the first major amusement park in Oklahoma City, Delmar Gardens

"At the same time that Wheeler Park was in its greatest year of beauty, the Delmar Gardens right north of there was a great attraction for entertainment. They had a baseball diamond there, a Ferris wheel, a figure eight, and the theatre - and streetcars run out there very, very frequently with kids hanging all over the sides, hitching rides. Delmar Gardens only lasted though about ten years, I believe, but it was a great...it was the only entertainment place in the state of Oklahoma, really. "

Following the demise of Delmar Gardens, the Belle Isle Park and Lake later became the center of attention. John Shartel, who ran the street car company, extended a line out to Belle Isle Lake for a couple of reasons; it was a popular run particularly on weekends, and he built an electric generating plant on the lake to power his street cars.

"And then when the Belle Isle Lake was put in out there, he sent it up to belle isle; that was quite a resort for many years, too. It was used by the electric company; I'm not sure if it was the Oklahoma Gas & Electric Company at that time, but I think it was. But there was a lot of boating and swimming at Belle Isle Park for years and years. "

Today, we simply turn up the air conditioning, but that wasn't possible in August 1936. On August 11, 1936, when that high temperature in Oklahoma City was 113 degrees, a 52-year old traveling salesman staying at the Saratoga Hotel in downtown Oklahoma City was found dead in his room, having died from the heat, and a 55-year old woman at the public market was overcome by the heat; she was taken to St. Anthony's Hospital where she later recovered. Statewide seven people died from the heat that day.

In Oklahoma City, as in other cities and towns around our state, Oklahomans were able to find some relief from the heat at local parks and swimming lakes.

You can learn more about the weather in our state by visiting the Oklahoma History Center, NE 23rd Street just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

First Car in Oklahoma City

2010-08-23

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"Well that was my father's brother, my uncle J.H. Everest, who was always quite a mechanic, and when he first heard that automobiles were going to be manufactured, he always wanted one, and finally the Stanley Steamer Company - I believe they were manufactured in Cleveland, Ohio - offered their cars, and he bought a Stanley Steamer. I think it was probably a 1903, I believe it was."

That's the voice of Harvey P. Everest whose uncle owned the first car in Oklahoma City.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

As a young child Harvey P. Everest and his parents made the land run into what became Oklahoma City. His father was a banker; his uncle was a businessman. And in the summer of 1903, his uncle purchased the first car to appear in Oklahoma City. It was a Stanley Steamer, so called because it was propelled by a steam engine.

"It had about 10 horsepower. You could travel about 50 miles before refilling the water tank, and the boiler you set out on top of the boiler. Of course in those days the steel wasn't very good and you was always a little fearful that the tank might explode which they did occasionally but never with my uncle's family, but it was quite an adventure to move about Oklahoma City with the sandy, muddy streets and this little Stanley Steamer and they [unintelligible] lots of comments and admiration from everybody. They thought it was a wonderful thing."

Everest's father was intrigued by his brother's "conveyance," as it was called back in the day, and some time later he also bought a car.

"Then two years later my father bought a 1-cylinder Oldsmobile. It had a curved dashboard and had a tiller for a set of a steering wheel. It likewise had 10 horsepower, 1 cylinder, and would sometimes get up to 25 to 30 miles per hour downhill. It had very little power, but we had a lot of fun in it, too."

Driving those vehicles on Oklahoma City streets was quite a challenge. Everest recalled the streets at about the time his uncle bought the Stanley Steamer.

"There was no pavement at all, and it was about 1903 or 1904 that I recall, that Main Street was paved between Broadway, well between the Santa Fe tracks really, and Hudson. That was paved, as I recall, with brick at that time, and then they gradually extended the pavement north on Broadway to 1st up to 3rd Street and then as far north as 6th, and I remember very well when 6th Street was the north boundary of any residences in Oklahoma City and just beyond that where the old Central High School is was a corn field in there."

In July 1909, a car being driven by Anton Classen with John Shartel as his passenger collided with the back of horse-drawn wagon in front of the Threadgill Hotel on Broadway in downtown Oklahoma City. The horse was not injured, the wagon suffered a broken wheel, Classen and Shartel walked away from the accident unharmed. That was one of the earliest wrecks reported in Oklahoma City.

Harvey Everest remembering a time in Oklahoma City before there were cars. That interview is just a part of the oral history collection at the Oklahoma History Center on NE 23rd Street just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

Gemini 5

2010-08-30

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"Gemini 5, have a nice trip and drive carefully. Eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one. Roger, we have liftoff, and the clock is operating."

That voice saying the clock is operating was Shawnee Oklahoma's Gordon Cooper who was making his second trip into space.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

Cooper was one of the seven original astronauts and had previously flown on a mission in the Mercury series. It was on August 21, 1965, that he became the first American to make two trips into space. Also on board was Charles Pete Conrad. Until this flight, the United States had trailed the Russians in the space race; the Russians launched the first satellite into space, the first man into space, the first woman into space, the longest manned flights in space. Every step of the way, they led, and we followed, but that all changed with the Gemini 5 mission with Gordon Cooper in command.

Gemini bridged the gap between the Mercury flights, proving that man could successfully fly in space, and the planned Apollo flights that would send an American to the moon and back. The purpose was to extend flight times to that required to fly to the moon and return, walk and work in space, and rendezvous with other objects in space...all the things required for the lunar missions.

About halfway through the eight-day Gemini 5 mission, they hit a milestone.

"The Flight Director would like to speak to you for just a moment. 'Roger.' 'Good morning, Gordo.' 'Chris, how are you?' 'How does it feel for the United States to be the new record holder?' 'At last, huh?' 'Roger. Congratulations.'""

The mission was not without a series of problems. The oxygen tank for the power supply was new and partially failed, the orbital thruster system ran short of fuel causing some of the experiments to be cancelled, and Pete Conrad was suffering from sheer boredom.

"Gordo composed this yesterday after our system pooped out on us. And you can sing it to We Were Sailing Along. It goes like this. We were drifting along by the CSQ, but the radio suddenly said here's word for you, your controls are dead but you're not through, so here we are for three days more with the end quite far. 'Hey Pete you're doing great until the last line. Recompose that, will ya?' We'll work on it. We have a few more that are better.""

This was the first Gemini mission with a patch. It featured a covered wagon with the words ""8 days or bust"" on its side. During the flight Conrad sketched a drawing of the wagon about halfway over a cliff. After they landed Conrad called the mission ""Eight days in a garbage can."" (The garbage can reference referring to the small size of the Gemini capsule about the size of a Volkswagen Beetle.).

They successfully landed on August 29, 1965, and promptly received a call from President Lyndon Johnson.

"So I just want to say God bless you both. We're glad you're back. We shall be everlastingly proud of you, and we are so thankful for all the blessings that are ours.""

During a visit to Oklahoma City in the year 2000, Cooper talked about the Gemini program.

"It was a great program. In some ways it wasn't as much fun as Mercury, but it was more fun in some ways because you knew what to expect, and it was a great program. The whole program was good because it was a really successful R and D program, and it went right down the track time wise. We didn't really encounter any undue delays. It was an ideal program as far as test programs.

Gordon Cooper died in October 2004. You can learn more about Oklahomans in the manned space program by visiting the Oklahoma History Center, where you'll see a display featuring the actual Gemini 6 capsule that Oklahoman Tom Stafford flew in December of 1965.

The Oklahoma History Center is located on NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

Concorde Lands in OKC

2010-09-12

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That's the sound of a Concorde jet flying by; it's pretty loud.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

When the Concorde first began flying in 1976, most airports in the United States banned them because of the noise. Thus they were seldom seen outside of Kennedy International in New York, Washington Dulles, Miami International, and DFW in Dallas. The Concorde was a passenger plane that flew at two times the speed of sound. In December 1978, a Concorde visited Tulsa and Oklahoma City as part of a promotional tour by Braniff International Airways. Braniff began as an Oklahoma City company in 1928 flying mostly oil executives between Tulsa and Oklahoma City. By the 1970s Braniff operated an all-jet fleet and flew routes across the United States and Central and South America then added Europe and Middle East as well. In 1979 Braniff concluded a deal with Air France and British Airways to fly ten of the 19 Concordes the two companies owned on domestic routes from Dallas to New York then to England and France. Thus, in 1978, the promotional tour of the Concorde included both Tulsa and Oklahoma City.

"Sounds of a Concorde"

In September 1985 a Concorde landed at Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City. A passenger on another inbound flight described watching the Concorde approach Oklahoma City.

"Just came in from Chicago and were coming in when the pilot announced the Concorde was off on the right, and so we all had a real good look at it, and it kept getting closer and closer, and we got a good a real good view of it. I guess we flew alongside for about five minutes. Very impressive. Everyone on the left side went to the right side of the plane to see it. It was a beautiful sight."

The Concorde flight was a charter flight picking up 100 Oklahomans for a trip to Europe. They paid about $2,500 per ticket. They flew from Oklahoma City to New York then refueled for the 3-hour flight to London.

The flight engineer told reporters the plane made the trip from New York to Oklahoma City in two hours and 15 minutes. Shortly after arriving in Oklahoma City, Governor George Nigh paid the plane a visit. The Concorde supersonic passenger jet landing in Oklahoma is just a small part of the history of aviation in our state. You can learn more about this fascinating part of our history by visiting the Oklahoma History Center on NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. The History Center is open from 10 am to 5 pm Monday through Saturdays. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

Cherokee Strip Land Run

2010-09-20

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"Well, I made the run in a little two-wheel cart with a pony."

That was Nancy McClain describing the largest land run in Oklahoma History, the run of September 16, 1893 that opened the Cherokee Strip.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

In all there were five land runs that opened up portions of what would become the state of Oklahoma. When the words land run are mentioned, we usually think of the first land run, April 22, 1889, that opened up the central part of the territory. That run was followed by two more, then on September 16, 1893, the largest land run of all began.

The Federal Government granted seven million acres of land to the Cherokee Nation in treaties of 1828 and 1835. The United States guaranteed to the Cherokee Nation that this land would be a perpetual outlet west for tribal hunting grounds; it measured 58 miles wide and extended 220 miles along the northern border. Following the Civil War, a number of things began happening to that land. First, the federal government took back some of it to use for relocation of additional Indian tribes, then the railroads came through along with cattle drives. People began clamoring for the land to be opened for settlement, so at noon on September 16, 1893, cannons boomed, guns were fired, the run was on, with more people running and more land to be claimed than in any previous run.

Among those making the run was young Nancy McClain with her cart and pony...

"Well, in the first place, I was in that little cart, and horsebackers on each side of me, and they all carried a stake to stake their claim, and when my cart would be swerved to the right the boys over there would line it up and to the left they would line it up until we got out where they thinned out and then it was very nice going."

It was a hot day and dry; clouds of dust rose from the barren prairie, the dust made worse because much of the grass had burned off in a large prairie fire days earlier.
"And I remember this, too, the prairie was all burnt off, and a girlfriend and her brother ran with me and left us there so they could go on farther, and we slept on that prairie that night with a blanket and a parasol to keep the dust out of our eyes; however, there were two men got in there ahead of us, and they had regular racehorses from Nebraska, and they were very much elated because they had wives that we could all be together, and we were there three hours before anybody came to stake on school land and then tried to crowd us out. They stayed with us, and all we had to eat the next day these boys killed an antelope. Of course they didn't know what it was, but I happened to know, so we skinned that and toasted that over a fire and we were near a creek where we could have water."

McClain was one of an estimated 100,000 people who made the run. By that evening the towns of Alva, Enid, Perry and Woodward had risen where no had lived previously. Those first weeks many slept on the ground or in their wagons. Soon they began building sod homes. Many of those who came to the territory in that run were farmers from central and eastern Europe, wheat farmers. They found soil and conditions similar to their homelands and began growing wheat.
The Oklahoma Historical Society will open the new Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center in Enid this November 5. It's been under construction for three years. The only remaining sod house from the land run is now a museum owned by the Oklahoma Historical Society, located in Aline, and the Oklahoma Historical Society operates the Cherokee Strip Museum in Perry. The Oklahoma History Center on NE 23rd Street just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City features a large exhibit on the land runs, including an actual wagon that made both major land runs, the 1889 run and the 1893 run.

Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

Gene Autry

2010-09-27

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Gene Autry Melody Ranch introduction, singing and cheering

The Gene Autry Melody Ranch Show was one of the most popular programs on the CBS radio network from 1940 to 1956. Gene Autry was one of America's first singing cowboys, and his popularity faded only when he served as a pilot in the Army Air Corps during World War Two, and Roy Rogers eclipsed him in popularity. From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

Gene Autry was born September 29, 1907, in Texas, but the family soon moved to Oklahoma. Autry dropped out of school and found work was a telegrapher for the Frisco railroad and that led to his first big break.

"Well, this was back in about 1927, I worked for a railroad, the St. Louis-San Francisco, or for short they called it the Frisco lines, and I was a telegraph operator, and I worked in a little town in Oklahoma called Chelsea, Oklahoma, and that was close to the hometown of Will Rogers, and he used to come - 'He was from Claremore, I believe' - Claremore, yes, and he used to come through there quite often to visit with his sister that lived in Chelsea, and I always kept a guitar around the office to play and pass away the time, you know, at night. So he came in - 'You knew who it was?' - I didn't at first. When I first knew him probably I never would have done any singing in front of him, I was so scared. But anyway he heard me playing and singing and he gave me this telegram that was going to the syndicate that carried his column, and it was signed Will Rogers, and he said 'You know, young fellow, you ought to get yourself a job on the radio. ' So I didn't think too much about it, but the Depression came along about that time, and the railroad started laying off a lot of their employees and looked like that I was going to be one of them, so I thought well, if Will Rogers thought I was good enough to get on the radio, maybe I will, so..."

Autry left Oklahoma for New York City but soon returned to the Sooner State.

"I did a record at that time for Victor, then I went to Tulsa, Oklahoma, and went to work at KTOO, and I got a song called "That Silver-Haired Daddy of Mine," and it turned out to be a big hit. "
Gene Autry's show business career included recording 640 records, including more than 300 songs written or co-written by him. His records sold more than 100 million copies, and he had more than a dozen gold and platinum records, including the first record ever certified gold. He starred in more than a hundred films, and in 1950 began a weekly TV show. He retired from show business in 1964, but he did not retire from business.
"...but actually from the business standpoint, why, I got interested really in radio, owning radio stations and TV, when I went into the service in 1942. The year before I had made over a half million dollars, and I found myself in the Air Force and started about $100 or $125 a month. I started thinking what if something should happen to you. What if you should lose your voice or be incapacitated. You should always have something to fall back on and have something bringing income without you having to perform personally. "

Autry owned the California Angels and was a member of the board of directors of the American League. In the late 1970s he built KAUT-TV in Oklahoma City. At the time of his death he was one of the 400 richest men in America. Gene Autry who began his career in 1928 as "Oklahoma's Yodeling Cowboy" died in 1998.

His story is just one of the many stories told in the Oklahoma History Center, NE 23rd Street just east of the state capitol. The Oklahoma History Center is dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's history. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

Tom Mix Remembered

2010-10-03

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Three afternoons a week - Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays at 5:45 - children, mainly boys, gathered around the radio to listen to this program.

"Continuation of Tom Mix show intro"

For kids in Oklahoma it was especially thrilling to hear the adventures of the former town marshal from Dewey, Oklahoma. If you read Tom's biography, that about the only thing in it that was accurate. This excerpt from the Tom Mix Straight Shooters Show from August 1945 didn't feature Tom Mix. He died in a car crash in 1940. The Tom Mix radio shows that ran from 1933 to 1950 never starred the real Tom Mix.

Radio's Tom Mix had little similarity with the actual Tom Mix. However, even the "actual" Tom Mix bore little relation to historical fact. Thomas Hezekiah Mix was born in a rural Pennsylvania in 1880. Later he claimed Oklahoma or Texas as his birthplace and claimed that he was "one-quarter Cherokee", but all of his ancestors were Irish or English.

Like most boys of his era, he didn't finish grade school. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1898, and although he eventually made sergeant, he never saw combat nor did he ever leave the United States. He deserted the Army and never went back. Later, Tom (and his press agents) embellished his military record to include membership in Teddy Roosevelt's "Rough Riders", wounds from war in both the Philippines and Cuba, and action in the Boer War and the Boxer Rebellion, but none of this was true.

In Oklahoma, he served as the town marshal in Dewey, and he worked for the Miller Brothers 101 Ranch Show where he stood out as a skilled horseman and expert shot, winning the 1909 National Riding and Rodeo Championship.

A year later, in 1910, he moved west to Los Angeles and began his climb to fame and fortune. He got a job as a supporting cast member with the Selig Polyscope Company. His first shoot in 1910 at their studio was Ranch Life in the Great Southwest, in which he showed his skills as a cattle wrangler. The movie was a success, and Mix became an early motion picture star.

Mix's movie career spanned 26 years from 1909 to 1935. At various times he was under contract with Selig, Fox, the Film Booking Office, Universal and Mascot. In all, he made 336 feature movies, produced 88, wrote 71, directed 117. Tom made only nine sound feature movies and one 15-chapter serial, "Miracle Rider." Tom Mix's movies were famous for quick action and daredevil stunts. Tom and his horse, Tony, performed their own stunts. Tom was a superb athlete and kept himself in good physical condition. He pioneered many of the early movie stunts. No trick cameras or fake scenes were used because of the limited shooting budgets.

In 1929, he joined a circus, earning a reported $20,000 a week. The Great Depression and several failed marriages took a financial toll on Tom. Eventually he returned to the silver screen. In 1933 an advertising agency tried to persuade Tom to appear in a radio adventure series, but Tom refused saying radio didn't pay enough. He did, however, give the Ralston Company the rights to use his name on the radio show while he continued to perform in circuses.

In 1940, on October 12, Mix was driving his car in rural Arizona, when he came up on a bridge washed out sign. Highway workers watched as his car failed to brake in time. He was killed instantly.
Tom Mix was "the King of Cowboys" when Ronald Reagan and John Wayne were youngsters, and the influence of his screen persona can be seen in their approach to portraying cowboys. When an injury caused football player John Wayne to drop out of Southern Cal, Tom Mix helped him get a job moving props on the back lot of Fox Studios.

You can learn more about Tom Mix by visiting the Tom Mix Museum in Dewey, Oklahoma. The museum is operated by local volunteers in Dewey and is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4;30 p.m. and Sundays from 1 to 4:30.
"Closing credits for Tom Mix"

Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma Historical Society, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

The 1989 OSU Football Season

2010-10-18

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"...here's Gundy, giving to Sanders, over the right side, gets a block...he's at five, he's at one, he's the one, touchdown Cowboys!"

That was Bob Barry who from 1973 to 1991 was the radio play-by-play voice of the Oklahoma State Cowboys.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma State's 1989 season was very special for a number of reasons. During August two-a-days, no one would have suspected what would lie ahead for the Cowboy football team that year.

The season began at home with Miami of Ohio visiting Lewis Field and leaving after a 50-to-20 loss. That win for the cowboys was enough to propel the team into the AP Top Twenty at number 18. The Pokes would remain in the top twenty the rest of the season.
The next week, September 24th, Texas A&M came to Stillwater; they were handed a 52-15 loss. The Cowboys moved up to number 13 in the AP poll. October the 1st, Tulsa was the next victim with the Cowboys whipping the Golden Hurricane 56 to 35. October 8th the Cowboys took to the road, opening Big 8 play at Colorado. They left Boulder with a 41-21 victory but remained number 13 in the AP. Through those four games the statistics were amazing. Tailback Barry Sanders had 178 yards against Miami, 157 against A&M, an astounding 304 against Tulsa, and a 174 against Colorado. But the offense was balanced. Quarterback Mike Gundy completed passes to Hart Lee Dykes for 175 yards against Miami, 122 against Texas A&M.

That season the Cowboys suffered two losses. The first on the road in Lincoln as Nebraska won 63-42. The other loss was a close game at home in Lewis Field against Oklahoma...the final score in that one, 31-28. Going into that game the Cowboys had moved up to number 12 in the AP while the Oklahoma Sooners were ranked number 8.

The Cowboys cruised through the rest of the Big 8 beating Missouri for homecoming 49 to 21; at Kansas State 45-27; at home against Kansas 63-24; and closing out conference play in Ames against Iowa State beating the cyclones 49 to 28.

Following that game was a most unusual regular season finale, playing Texas Tech in the Coca Cola Bowl in Tokyo. A close game with Oklahoma State beating the Red Raiders 45-42, and Barry Sanders becoming the all-time NCAA rushing champion.

The season came to an end in the holiday bowl against another Cowboy team, the Cowboys from Wyoming; Oklahoma State beat them, 62-14. Barry Sanders lead the way.

"...Oklahoma State first down...ten from their own 33, they started the first possession from this half in their own 20. Two wide receivers to the left and one to the right, Sanders at tailback...From the 33, Gundy gives the ball to Barry Sanders, up the middle to the 35...he's at the 40...he's at the 45...he's at the 50, 45, 40, 35, 30, 25, 20, 15, 10, 5...Touchdown Cowboys of Oklahoma State!"

It was another balanced attack with Sanders running for 222 yards and five touchdowns, while Gundy passing for 315 yards and two more touchdowns.

The Cowboys on that team set records that still stand. Barry Sanders, the most rushing touchdowns for a season, 37; Mike Gundy fifth on the single-season passing touchdown list with 19. Individual career passing yards, Gundy number one; career receiving yards, Hart Lee Dykes number two; rushing yards for a career, Barry Sanders number 5 on the all-time list; career total offense, Mike Gundy, number one; career scoring, Barry Sanders, number one; career touchdown passes, Mike Gundy, number two; career rushing touchdowns, Barry Sanders, number one.

Bob Barry is now in his fiftieth consecutive year of calling play-by-play for Oklahoma State, OU and one year at the University of Tulsa.

You can learn more about college athletics in Oklahoma by visiting the Oklahoma History Center, NE 23rd Street just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

Theodore Roosevelt's Birthday

2010-10-23

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"I realized before I had been twenty-four hours at Sagamore Hill that nothing in my upbringing had in any way prepared me for the frenzied activity into which I was plunged. Something was going on every minute of the day. The house was always full of people. The telephone never stopped ringing. Conferences were held continually, and in the evenings, my father-in-law received the newspaper men."

That is the voice of Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., the daughter-in-law of the 26th President of the United States.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

We remember him today as the 26th President of the United States - a leader of the Republican Party and Progressive Party, Governor of New York, professional historian, naturalist, explorer, hunter, author, and soldier. He is most famous for his personality, his energy, his vast range of interests and achievements, his model of masculinity, and his "cowboy" personality.

It was on October 27, 1858, that Theodore Roosevelt was born. His youth differed sharply from that of the log-cabin presidents. He was born in New York City in 1858 into a wealthy family, but he too struggled - against ill health - and in his triumph became an advocate of the strenuous life.

In an interview recorded before his death, TR's son, Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., tells of his father's childhood.

"By the time he was only ten or twelve he was really actively [unintelligable]. There's a family story telling how his elder sister objected when she found he was keeping dead mice in the icebox. He's supposed to have remarked solemnly on hearing this that 'she was obstructing science."

In 1884 his first wife, Alice Lee Roosevelt, and his mother both died on the same day. He later remarried. Roosevelt spent much of the next two years on his ranch in the Badlands of Dakota. There he mastered his sorrow as he lived in the saddle, driving cattle, hunting big game, and he even captured an outlaw.

Roosevelt had always been fascinated by naval history. Urged by Roosevelt's close friend, Congressman Henry Cabot Lodge, President William McKinley appointed a delighted Roosevelt to the post of Assistant Secretary of the Navy in 1897. Roosevelt was instrumental in preparing the Navy for the Spanish-American War and was an enthusiastic proponent of testing the U.S. military in battle. When the Spanish-American War began, TR resigned his position with the Navy and accepted a Lt. Colonelcy in the Army and helped organize the first Volunteer Cavalry, commanded by Colonel Leonard Wood. Roosevelt came out to the Indian Territory and recruited cowboys and Indians from what would become Oklahoma to serve in his unit. A member of the first volunteer Cavalry, Henry P. Fletcher, recalls charging up San Juan Hill; the soldiers were on foot under heavy fire; Roosevelt was riding his horse.

"He was riding a little Bay horse, pony really, and one of the little Texans lying in the grass alongside there, said ""Well, Colonel, if you get off that damned horse we'll get along alright."" Colonel got off the horse, and after that he had to puff to keep up going with us because he wasn't quite as spry as some of us. However, we got up there, and very soon the thing was over."

Following the war, Roosevelt was elected governor of New York, where he gained a reputation as a trust buster. In 1900 he was placed on the Republican ticket as candidate for vice president with William McKinley. They easily won the election, but six months after taking office McKinley, while attending the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, was assassinated. Following McKinley's death, Roosevelt became the youngest man to ever serve as president. In 1904, he ran for a full term as president again, easily winning. It was during this term as president that Roosevelt oversaw the admission of Oklahoma as the 46th state.

You can learn more about the Rough Riders and Roosevelt's influence in combining the Indian Territory and Oklahoma Territory into one territory before statehood by visiting the galleries at the Oklahoma History Center, NE 23rd just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

Frank Eaton

2010-11-01

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"In '68 my father was called to the door and shot down like a darned mad dog."

That's the voice of Frank Eaton, and that's beginning of the story of how he became known as Pistol Pete.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

Frank Eaton was born on October 26, 1860, in Hartford, Connecticut, but at an early age his family moved west.

"Why my parents came to Osage County, Kansas, Carbondale, south of Lawrence, southeast of Lawrence, in 1867."

It was shortly after moving to Kansas that Eaton's father was shot and killed. Eaton's father had sided with the North in the Civil War.

"In '68 my father was called to the door and shot down like a darned mad dog by a bunch of well, by a bunch of Missouri 'jebs.' Men that had been on the other side of the fence in the war, and there was six of them that killed him, there were six men killed him.""

Eaton explains what happened next.

"But after the death of my father there was a man there by the name of Moses Beaman, a friend of father. He came over there and put a hand on top of my head and he said may an old man's curse rest on you for the longest day you live if you don't find and shoot the men that murdered your father.""

Eaton was only eight years old at the time.

"Well I was just a kid of a boy, and I thought I had it to-do, and he came over with a pair of old dragoon cap-and-ball pistols and learnt me how to use them. That's how I got my name of Pistol Pete. I learnt how to use them guns. I can use them just better than any man in the state, I think."

He began practicing with the pistols, and by the age of fifteen went to Fort Gibson to learn more about handling guns from the Army troopers stationed there. At 17, he was appointed a Deputy U.S. Marshal by Judge Isaac Parker. It was then that he began tracking down his father's killers.

"I saw every one of them. I only stayed for one last funeral and another man killed him. That was in Buckhart, Douglas County, Missouri.""
Frank Eaton carried loaded guns and was either a marshal or a deputy sheriff until late in his long life. He was still said to be fast on the draw well into his nineties. He died in 1958 at the age of 97. He had been married twice, had nine children, 31 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren

After seeing Eaton ride a horse in the 1923 Armistice Day parade in Stillwater, a group of Oklahoma A & M College students decided that Eaton as "Pistol Pete" would be a more suitable mascot than their mascot at the time, a tiger. They felt that "Pistol Pete" represented the Old West and the spirit of Oklahoma. However, it was not until 1958 that "Pistol Pete" was adopted as OSU's mascot. The familiar caricature of "Pistol Pete" was officially sanctioned in 1984 by Oklahoma State University as their licensed symbol.

You can learn more about Frank Eaton and many other men and women who helped shape our state by visiting the Oklahoma History Center on NE 23rdStreet, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

Stafford Gets Death

2010-11-06

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"Roger fired first, and they see him shoot the black man, and they see him shoot the manager, and they seen Howard pointing his gun into the freezer..."

That's the voice of Verna Stafford describing what happened the night of July 16, 1978, at the Sirloin Stockade restaurant in south Oklahoma City.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

The evening of July 16, 1978, two men and a woman entered the Sirloin Stockade on SW 74th and Penn on the south side of Oklahoma City. Minutes later they left with $1,300 and left behind two adults and four teenagers, employees at the restaurant, shot to death, their bodies in a walk-in meat locker. It was the most gruesome mass murder at that time in the history of Oklahoma. The manhunt for the killers began almost immediately. Detectives initially connected the steak house murders to the murders of a three-member family two weeks earlier along I-35 near Purcell. The manhunt continued for almost a year. Ironically Roger Dale Stafford called the OSBI in January 1979, six months after the steakhouse murders. Stafford and his wife Verna were staying at an Oklahoma City motel when they saw on television composite drawings of the two men and woman who were wanted in connection with the crime. On July 13, Stafford and Verna were arrested outside a Chicago YMCA. Ten months after the murders, his brother Harold, who was the second man being sought, was killed in a motorcycle accident.

Finally in October 1979, Roger Dale Stafford's murder trial began. His wife Verna provided some of the key testimony.

"Roger fired first, and they see him shoot the black man, and they see him shoot the manager, and they seen Howard pointing his gun into the freezer, back towards the back, and they couldn't watch it no more, and they turned around and walked away."

Roger testified that he was in Tulsa and was drunk the night of the murders. The trial lasted seven days. The jury deliberated for less than an hour. District Judge Charles Owens read the first of six verdicts returned by the jury.

"We, the jury, empaneled and sworn in the above and titled cause, do upon oath find the defendant, Roger Dale Stafford, guilty of the crime of murder in the first degree as to count one of the information concerning the death of Terry Horst. Having heretofore found the defendant Roger Dale Stafford guilty of murder in the first degree as to count one of the information concerning the death of Terry Horst fix his punishment as to this count at death."

Oklahoma County District Attorney Andy Coats said that he had no doubt the jury would find Roger Dale Stafford guilty.

In August 1989, Verna Stafford sought a new sentence, but District Judge Richard Freeman gave her two consecutive life sentences. He told her "I would wager there's one of the hottest corners of hell vacant with your name right above it..."

Roger Dale Stafford spent almost 16 years on death row at the state pen in McAlester, and then finally July 1, 1995, he was sent to the execution chamber for the six Sirloin Stockade murders and the murders of the three members of the Lorenz family.

The Roger Dale Stafford trial was the first trial receiving extensive broadcast coverage since electronic media hardware were permitted in the courtroom earlier that year in 1979.

You can learn more about crime and punishment in Oklahoma by visiting the Oklahoma History Center, NE 23rd Street just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated by collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

1984 Bank Failures

2010-11-29

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"The bank's problem started two-and-a-half years ago."

That's the voice of Oklahoma Banking Commissioner Robert Empie in November of 1984 announcing another bank closing in Oklahoma; that a bank in Tecumseh had failed. From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

In July 1982 the Penn Square Bank failed. That set off a string of bank failures, not just in Oklahoma but in other states as well. By the fall of 1984 bank failures in Oklahoma were almost a daily occurrence.

The fall of 1984 was a particularly troubling time for Oklahoma banks with four banks falling into failure, Community Bank and Trust in Enid; followed by Security State Bank in Weatherford; then Farmers and Merchants in Tecumseh; and earlier in the summer First Continental Bank and Trust of Del City.

The crisis was being watched by banks and the public around the country. U.S. Senator David Boren reassured state reporters and business leaders that banks and financial institutions were still a safe bet.

"The number of institutions that's been on the trouble list or the watch list is continuing to drop. More and more of the ins that were considered trouble earlier have been restored to health and have been taken off that list, and we're given an update usually every two or three months, more recently about every month, about the number of institutions that are being watched and that's steadily dropping."

In Tulsa, a $72-million lawsuit was filed after three banks there filed for bankruptcy. Their deposits were not insured by the FDIC. Frank Keating, who was running for Congress that fall in 1984, proposed new legislation that would help depositors like those in Tulsa. At a news conference just prior to the election, he was joined by a woman who had lost her money in one of those failed banks.

"This is not intervention as such, this is merely a requirement that's simple common sense. If you presume to take deposits from the general public and invest those deposits, the least you can do to the general public is require that they be insured deposits."

"I think this bill of Frank's would be something that would save other people from what I am going through, and it isn't nice."

While most of the banks that failed in the early 1980s failed because of high-risk energy loans, the Tecumseh bank failed for another reason - a Ponzi scheme that defrauded people out of tens of millions of dollars. Bank Commissioner Robert Empie explained.

"The bank's problem started two-and-a-half years ago at the instance of the Coy Everett affair, who was a young man in the Shawnee area, that perpetrated a Ponzi scheme to the extent of thirty-two million dollars."

Coy Everett, then living in Shawnee, admitted to a fraudulent energy drilling scheme in which returns promised investors were paid with money from seceding investors. The pyramid finally collapsed when Everett was unable to generate money quickly enough to pay those returns.

In the fall of 1984 a total of five banks in Oklahoma failed. The following year, 1985, another 13 Oklahoma financial institutions failed. In the last two years bank failures nationwide have become more frequent; in fact, through last week, a total of 149 banks across this nation have failed this year, and there is still one month left before the year ends.

The Oklahoma Historical Society is working on a major exhibit on banks and financial intuitions in Oklahoma and their role in shaping our state. We'll announce an opening date for that exhibit early next year.

You can learn more about this story and other interesting stories about Oklahoma by visiting the newspaper collection at the Oklahoma History Center, located on NE 23rd Street just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to the collection, preservation, and sharing of our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

Tom Stafford Flies Gemini 6

2010-12-13

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"7A...seven and six would you continue with the description of your station keeping. Right now 6 is about ten feet above at the left of seven. We're just flying nose-to-nose, approximately 15 feet apart.""

Those are voices from NASA. Gemini 6 was piloted by Tom Stafford, who had just become the second Oklahoman to fly in space.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

On December 15, 1965, Wally Schirra and Weatherford, Oklahoma's Tom Stafford flew the Gemini 6 mission that included the first rendezvous in space of two manned space capsules when Gemini 6 met Gemini 7 in Earth orbit. Schirra was the commander; Stafford was the pilot. The mission meeting and docking in space were extremely important, as Schirra explains.

"Rendezvous and docking are most essential to complete the Apollo lunar mission. Now on this mission with Gemini 7, we in 6 came within about a foot of Gemini 7. Shortly after that, Gemini 7 maintained station on us as well. Rendezvous and docking are feasible for manned crews.""

Fellow Oklahoman Gordon Cooper had flown the Gemini 5 mission, and now Stafford was the next to be in space on Gemini 6, but a series of problems and near catastrophes nearly caused that flight to be called off altogether. Originally Gemini 6 was to meet an Agena rocket in space, but as Stafford and Schirra were sitting in their capsule waiting for their launch, they watched the Agena blow up after it was launched. That was the first try. That mission was canceled, and NASA decided to substitute an alternate mission: a meeting in space of two Gemini spacecraft. Their flight would now be known as Gemini 6A and would launch eight days after the launch of Frank Borman and Jim Lovell in Gemini 7. When Gemini 6 tried again, the engines on their Titan 2 rocket shut down on the pad just after ignition but before the actual launch. That was their second try. Their third attempt to blast off occurred three days later, on December 15, 1965.

"The launch of Gemini 6 is scheduled at the beginning of the 118th revolution of Gemini 7. T-minus 48 and all still going well with our Gemini 6 countdown here at Launch Complex 19. All quiet on the communications at the present time. On my mark, twenty seconds. Mark. Go. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1...ignition. Engines start. We have a real liftoff. 27 seconds after the hour."

The planned meeting in orbit went off without a hitch.

""Ask them what their range is now. About 20 feet. Well, we're sitting up here playing bridge together, in formation with 7. Everyone is still here. Ahh, roger. Congratulations. Excellent. Thank you. It was a lot of fun."

Following the meeting with Gemini 7, Gemini 6A made a separation burn and slowly drifted out to 10 miles. This ensured that there wouldn't be any accidental collisions in space at night. Stafford explained just how tired they were after their full day in space.

""The Gemini 6 [unintelligible] How'd your separation burn go? [unintelligible]. Finally, we collapsed, or should I say, went into a deep sleep at 9pm Cape time, having been up since 4am that morning."

The next day, December 16, 1965, Gemini 6A made reentry, landing within a mile or so of the aircraft carrier, the first truly accurate reentry.

You can see the actual Gemini 6 capsule that Tom Stafford flew in on display at the Oklahoma History Center, NE 23rd Street just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

Governors

2011-01-11

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"I, Brad Henry..." "I, Brad Henry..."

That's the voice of Brad Henry eight years ago being sworn in as governor of Oklahoma. This week another Oklahoman has taken that same oath.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

When Mary Fallon took the oath of office, she will have sworn the same oath that her predecessors swore.

"As a judge of the court of record of the State of Oklahoma, Governor, it's my honor to present you with the oath of office. Would you raise your hand and repeat after me. I, Brad Henry, [I, Brad Henry] do solemnly swear [do solemnly swear] that I must obey and defend [obey and defend] the Constitution of the United States [the Constitution of the United States] and the State of Oklahoma [and the State of Oklahoma], that I will not knowingly receive [receive], directly or indirectly [directly or indirectly], [any money or any other valuable thing], for the performance or non-performance [for the performance or non-performance][of any act or duty] pertaining to my office [pertaining to my office][other than the compensation] allowed by law [allowed by law]."

Those were the voices of Brad Henry, Henry Bellmon in 1963, Dewey Bartlett, Frank Keating, George Nigh, and David Walters. Before Governor Fallon twenty-four men served as governor, three of them twice, and one, George Nigh, served as governor on four different occasions.

Women running for public office dates back to our first statewide election in 1907. She was Kate Barnard who was born in Kansas but joined her father in Oklahoma City in 1891. In 1904 while serving as a hostess at the Oklahoma exhibit at the St. Louis World's Fair, Barnard noticed urban poverty and listened to discussions by social science experts who suggested solutions. Returning to Oklahoma City, she discovered that her hometown also had developed an army of indigents, so she began a career in charity work. Believing that women had political potential, especially in the area of social justice reform, she entered politics in 1906 when Oklahoma statehood was imminent. During the Constitutional Convention she convinced delegates to adopt two reform measures: the prohibition of child labor, and the establishment of the office of Commissioner of Charities and Corrections. After the convention the Democratic Party endorsed her candidacy for the position of commissioner, and she won the office by a greater plurality than any other candidate in Oklahoma's first general election, an election in which women could not vote.

Another woman who achieved early success as a politician in our state was Alice Mary Robertson. She was born in January 1854 at the Tullahassee Mission in the Creek Nation of the Indian Territory. At the age of eighteen she was sent to Elmira College in New York, where she graduated near the head of her class then went to work as a clerk in the U.S. Indian Office in Washington. Returning to the Indian Territory, she taught in the school at Tullahassee and later at Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania but in 1882 returned to Oklahoma and was placed in charge of the Indian girls' boarding school, an institution which later developed into Henry Kendall College (now the University of Tulsa).

In 1920, Robertson rode the coattails of President Warren G. Harding and was elected to Congress from the Second District as a Republican in that heavily Democratic district. She arrived in the nation's capital with much talk about her being a woman. Only the second woman elected to the Congress, Miss Alice was the first woman to preside over the House of Representatives.

You can learn more about our colorful political history by visiting the Oklahoma History Center, NE 23rdStreet just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

The Job of Being Governor

2011-01-24

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"There is something special about our wonderful state. We have always known that. Now America does. Now the world does."

That's the voice of Governor Frank Keating speaking to the nation at a memorial service following the Oklahoma City bombing.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

As our new governor Mary Fallon settles in, she may face a number of challenges, as did her predecessors.

In his third year in office, Governor David Hall had to deal with the largest prison riot in Oklahoma history.

"The prisoners are in three different areas. A little over 700 are in the yard directly by the main cell block buildings. There are a little over 600 that are in the industrial, burned-out industrial, area which is secured by the National Guard. There are a little over 125, 150 in the prisoner rodeo yard."

In the mid-1930s Governor E.W. Marlandfaced an energy crisis. Oil had been discovered in Oklahoma City, and when crews began drilling wells on the capitol grounds, the Oklahoma City council threatened to arrest the roughnecks for violating the city's embargo on drilling new wells. Marland called out the National Guard, but the city backed down.

"The City attempted to enjoin me in the lower courts, but the Supreme Court upheld my contention. So now everything's okay. The oil is ours. Soldier boys have gone home."

Governor David Boren also faced an energy crisis.

"In the intrastate market, within our state of natural gas, have gone - with our free market - reserves have increased 25% since 1969. In the controlled, government-controlled interstate market, reserves have declined by one third since 1969. Now if you're interested in increasing reserves and helping states like Illinois, what in the world makes sense? It's obvious, it ought to be clear to each and every one of us that the only way that we're going to solve their problem is to increase production, and the only way we're going to have production increases is to use the free market pricing incentive."

Our next governor, George Nigh became Oklahoma's tourism ambassador.

"Oklahoma's known for making strangers feel at home, but here's even more reason to welcome visitors. Tourism is our number three industry. Last year alone, tourists pumped over 2.5 billion dollars into our state's economy. They bought food, lodging, entertainment, and fuel for travel, and created 60,000 jobs - all thanks to tourists."

The challenges our governors have faced in the 103 years we have been a state have been varied, but all have been just a part of the job. Governor Robert S. Kerr talked something his father once told him.

"He used to say to me, 'Bob, you can do anything you want to do if you're willing to work hard enough for it. You can even be governor someday.'

These audio clips are a part of the oral history collection; the more recent ones were taken from the News Channel 4 collection at the Oklahoma History Center. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

Stuart Roosa Flies on Apollo 14

2011-01-31

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"30 seconds and counting. Stu Roosa just said 'Thanks, it's been a good count.'"

That's the voice of a NASA flight controller, and the 'Stu Roo' he is referring to is Stuart Roosa, and 'Stu Roo', Stuart Roosa, was seconds from being launched into space.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

Stuart Roosa was born in Colorado but grew up in Claremore, Oklahoma. In 1966, Roosa, then an Air Force test pilot, was selected by NASA to join the astronaut corps. And on January 31, 1971, he, along with the first American astronaut Allen Shepard, and Edgar Mitchell, were launched into space aboard the Apollo 14 mission, the third landing on the Moon.

Roosa graduated from Claremore High School then attended Oklahoma State University for a short time before transferring to the University of Arizona then the University of Colorado. He dropped out of school in the early 1950s and served as a smoke jumper with the U.S. Forest Service. He joined the Air Force, completed gunnery school at Del Rio Air Force Base then graduated from the Aviation Cadet program where he earned his wings. He returned to Colorado to complete his degree in aeronautical engineering. Roosa served as a research test pilot at Edwards Air Force Base when NASA came calling. He was in the back up crew for Apollo 9.

"Ignition sequence start. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0."

Then the primary flight crew for Apollo 14, the flight that returned Allen Shepard to space.

"We have liftoff with Apollo 14. 3 minutes past the hour. The tower is clear. 'Houston is controlling.'"

Roosa was the sixth man to orbit but not land on the moon. That honor went to Shepard and Mitchell.

"Now, I can see the reason we have a tilt is because we landed on the slope. The landing gear struts appear to be about evenly depressed. 'Roger out.' And moving around, getting familiar...getting familiar with the surface."

Roosa remained in the command module, circling the moon. While flying around the moon, his son Christopher said his dad would look at the Earth gleaming "like a jewel in the sky" and reflect on how it held "everything I know" and then cover it with the palm of his hand.

At that point, circling the moon by himself in the command module, more than 200,000 miles from home, "he felt very alone," Christopher said.

Roosa named the command module the Kitty Hawk to honor the Wright Brothers and the sand dunes in North Carolina where man's flight began. Roosa died in 1994 from pancreatitis, but his memory lives on in a number of Moon trees. In his personal items kits he took on the Apollo 14, he included a bag of seeds. During decontamination, the canister holding the seeds burst open. Scientists feared the seeds wouldn't germinate but between 420 and 450 did. The Forest Service gave the seeds to a number of state forestry organizations, and many of those trees are still alive today. The most common varieties are loblolly pines, sycamores, Douglas firs, and redwoods. None, however, were given to Oklahoma.

Oklahoma is the only state to have an astronaut fly in every phase of the manned space program. You can see a permanent exhibit on Oklahomans in space at the Oklahoma History Center, NE 23rd Street just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

John Hope Franklin

2011-02-21

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"The memory that I have of someone having shot into our house in about 1919, and I don't remember the shot or anything, but I remember them picking the buckshots out of the buttocks of our horse the next morning."

That is Dr. John Hope Franklin, one of the foremost historians of African American history in the world.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

John Hope Franklin was born in 1915 in Rentiesville, a tiny all-black town just north of Checotah. His father, B.C. Franklin, was a lawyer; his mother an elementary school teacher. Education was a very important part of John Hope Franklin's life beginning at a very early age.

"...and she would put me in the - she was teaching elementary - and she would put me in the back of the room and give me a piece of paper and tell me to be still and be quiet, and I was. But I listened and I learned and before she knew it, I was writing. At first it was scratching on the paper then she looked and found that I was writing. I had learned to write and learned to read. I suppose I was three years old or less, I don't know, and I've been reading and writing ever since."

In 1921, just before the Tulsa Race Riot, Franklin's father moved to Tulsa and established a law practice there. After the riot, Franklin and his mother moved to Tulsa. John Hope graduated from Booker T. Washington High School with honors. He then moved to Nashville, Tennessee, to attend Fisk University, and it was there that he met his mentor, a white history professor at that all-black college.

"...but I had no reason to feel uncomfortable with Theodore Currier was his name of my professor, and I was not uncomfortable. From that point on, we ate together - not regularly, not meals regular but ate together - he took me riding, he mentored me, then he pointed me for Harvard and very deliberately said 'I want you to go to Harvard.' He saw in me some things that I should do that he hadn't done."

Franklin said he never felt any discomfort being in mixed classes. He said early in his teaching career one day after he had started his class, a young black women entered the classroom late and began looking for a seat. After a few minutes she sat next to some other black students, something that Franklin found perplexing.

"When I was in graduate school I didn't have that problem anyway, because there were no blacks in any class that I went to, and I just came in and sat myself down wherever I wanted to. I didnot understand that she got some satisfaction, some comfort, in sitting next to an African American. I say that to indicate to you that I was absolutely dumbfounded, maybe I shouldn't have been but I was."

Franklin earned his masters and PhD in history at Harvard then embarked on a distinguished career in education. He published a number of books on African American history and ultimately retired from Duke University. In Tulsa the race riot is commemorated with the John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park dedicated just last month.John Hope Franklin died March 25, 2009.

"...but I have always worked hard and tried to do the best that I could, and I would let the rest take care of itself."

You can learn more about John Hope Franklin by visiting the exhibit on African Americans in Oklahoma,Realizing the Dream, at the Oklahoma History Center, NE 23rd Street just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

Frank Buckles

2011-03-05

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"When April 6, 1917, came and the notices appeared in the local post office, I was very excited about it."

That's the voice of Frank Buckles', America and Oklahoma's last World War I veteran.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

Frank Buckles once summed up his life saying adventure "just came to me." Frank Buckles passed away on Sunday, February 27th at the age of 110. At the time of his death he was the last living U.S. veteran of World War One.

Frank was born in 1901 near Bethany, Missouri, near the birthplaces of two famous generals...John "Black Jack" Pershing and Omar Bradley. At the age of 15 his family moved to Oklahoma as he explains in this 1988 interview from the US Army's Center for Military History.

"My father bought some land in Dewey County, Oklahoma, and I accompanied horses and purchased horses and equipment in a boxcar down to Oakwood in December 1916."

Buckles attended high school in Oakwood and worked at a local bank. A family story is that one afternoon while cleaning the bank, he overheard two men planning to break into the bank that night and steal the money kept in the safe. Buckles took the money from the safe and kept it in his room that night, then when the would-be robbers broke into the bank and the safe that night they came up empty handed.

In 1917 the U.S. entered the war that had been raging in Europe. Buckles, only 16 at the time, was in Wichita, Kansas, and went to both the Navy and Marine Corps recruitersto lie about his age saying he was 18. They didn't believe him so he returned to Oklahoma City. Boys, he said, read the papers so he was eager to get into the fight.

On August 14, 1917, Buckles visited an army recruiterin Oklahoma City and told him he was 17.

"The Army sergeant was dubious about my age, so he called the captain in, and the captain asked me some questions. I explained that at the time I was born there were no records kept - public records - the only record was in the family Bible, but I would expect to bring the family Bible down to the recruiting station. Okay."

Buckles said he wanted to see action quickly.

"Went to Fort Logan, Colorado, Fort Riley, Kansas. A wise old sergeant told me 'Don't go in the cavalry' - the 6th Cavalry was stationed there - 'you may end up in Texas. If you want to get overseas quickly, go in the ambulance corps.' And they took men who had some experience. I'd been driving an automobile since I was 12 years old. No license in those days."

He did then sailed for France on the Carpathia.

"The Carpathia was the ship that went to the rescue of the Titanic on the 15th of April 1912, which I had read about as a young boy and was very interested in. I talked to a number of the men who had served aboard during the rescue."

Buckles wound up working in a warehouse and never actually saw combat. He stayed in France after the war returning German soldiers back to their homes then returned home to Oklahoma City. He later worked for two steamship companies, and on December 8, 1941, he was in in Manila in the Philippine Islands.

Following the Japanese invasion of the Philippine Islands, Buckles was taken as a civilian prisoner by the Japanese then spent three years in a POW camp. Following his release at the end of the war, he said "I was never actually looking for adventure, it just came to me."

And on February 27 at the age of 110, Frank Buckles re-joined his fellow doughboys who had served over there.

You can learn more about our military history by visiting the Oklahoma History Center, NE 23rd Street just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past.

I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

First Car in Oklahoma City

2011-03-13

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"Well that was my father's brother, my uncle, J.H. Everest, who was always quite a mechanic, and when he first heard that automobiles were going to be manufactured, he always wanted one, and finally the Stanley Steamer company - I believe they were manufactured in Cleveland, Ohio - offered their cars, and he bought a Stanley Steamer. I think it was probably in 1903, I believe it was."

As a young child Harvey P. Everest and his parents made the land run into what became Oklahoma City. His father was a banker, his uncle was a businessman. And in the summer of 1903, his uncle purchased the first car to appear in Oklahoma City. It was a Stanley Steamer, so called because it was propelled by a steam engine.

"It had about 10 horsepower. You could travel about 50 miles before refilling the water tank, and the boiler, you sat out on top of the boiler, and of course in those days the steel wasn't very good, and you was always a little fearful that the tank might explode, which they did occasionally, but never with my uncle's family. But it was quite an adventure to move about Oklahoma City with its sandy and muddied streets in this little Stanley Steamer and excited lots of comments and admiration from everybody. They thought it was a wonderful thing."

Everest's father was intrigued by his brother "conveyance" as it was called back then that he also bought a car.

"And two years later my father bought a 1-cylinder Oldsmobile, had a curved dashboard and had a tiller instead of a steering wheel. It likewise had 10 horsepower, 1 cylinder, and would sometimes get up to 25 or 30 miles per hour going downhill. It had very little power, but it had a lot of fun in it, too.

Driving those vehicles on Oklahoma City streets was quite a challenge. Everest recalled the streets at the time his uncle bought that Stanley Steamer.

"There was no pavement at all, and it was about 1903 or '04, as I recall, that Main Street was paved between Broadway and - well between the Santa Fe tracks, really - and Hudson, and that was paved, as I recall, with brick at that time. Then they gradually extended the pavement north on Broadway to first up to 3rd Street and then as far north as 6th. I remember very well when 6th Street was the north boundary of any residences in Oklahoma City, and just beyond that where the old Central High School is, there was a corn field in there."

In July 1909, a car being driven by Anton Classen with John Shartel as his passenger collided with the back of horse-drawn wagon in front of the Threadgill Hotel on Broadway in downtown Oklahoma City. The horse was not injured, the wagon suffered a broken wheel, and Classen and Shartel walked away from that accident unharmed. That was one of the earliest wrecks reported in Oklahoma City.

Roads and highways in 1909 were virtually nonexistent, but two years later in 1911 the state legislature created the Oklahoma Highway Department, and this year ODOT is celebrating its centennial anniversary. The Oklahoma History Center is helping in that celebration with a major exhibit of very old cars from just after the turn of the last century. That exhibit will open on March 16th at the Oklahoma History Center on NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

Harry Walhgren Remembers Hottest Summer

2011-09-05

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"The '34 and'36 were the very hot dry drought years and that brought forth one of the best stories that I ever had."

That's Harry Walhgren, the chief meteorologist at the U.S. Weather Bureau in Oklahoma City from 1911 to the mid-1940s. From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

This summer Oklahoma has experienced the hottest climatological summer on record since records were begun in 1895. Going into this year, Oklahoma held the top three slots for the hottest summer on record in the United States,the summer of 1934 and the summer of 1936. Those were the summers Harry was referring to.

In the 1930s, the Weather Bureau, as it was called back then, had more than 100 reporting stations statewide, one in every county and many others located in other parts of the counties.That long hot dry summer of 1936, Harry had driven to one of the stations in eastern Oklahoma.

"We had 100 or more stations; we had stations in every county, a cooperative, and I had a sun prostration just east of Fort Smith and was overcome. They took me to a little drugstore, and luckily the assistant health officer of the State of Oklahoma had a drugstore there, took care of me, used bottled water from Fort Smith because they didn't have any."

Following his treatment for heat prostration, Harry returned to Oklahoma City.

"I told my wife when they were bringing me home that night I was glad that that didn't happen in some place except Podunk because it'd been the papers."

What Harry didn't know was the Daily Oklahoman had already called his wife looking for Harry. She told the editor at the Oklahoman what had happened to Harry in some little podunk town in eastern Oklahoma. A reporter from the Associated Press apparently heard part of that story, and he sent what he heard out on the wire. Harry's father lived in Iowa.

"Next morning a reporter walked into my father's office - he was deputy clerk of the United States Court of [unintelligible] and said 'how's Harry?' He said 'he's fine last we heard from him.' He said 'he got over his heat prostration?' My father said 'what prostration?' 'well,' he said 'haven't you seen the Chicago Tribune?' They had a correspondent in this little town, a very small town, in Oklahoma; she sent it to the Associated Press, and that story went all over the country."

Thus, it was reported around the country that Harry Wahlgren, the U.S. Weather Bureau weatherman for the state of Oklahoma, had suffered from heat prostration in the town of Podunk, Oklahoma.

That same summer, the official log book at the Weather Bureau office in Oklahoma City had an entry reporting that Harry Walhgrenhad had to leave work early to go home suffering from heat sickness.

Harry's career included a number of firsts. He first began reporting the weather on WKY Radio in 1940. By the late 1940s he had moved to St. Louis where he was the full-time weatherman for one of the popular stations there, and he was a founding member of the American Meteorological Society.

The heat Oklahoma has experienced this summer is record breaking, and someday we will talk about the summer of 2011 as Harry talked about the summers of 1934 and 1936.

After working and living in St. Louis for several years, Harry and his wife returned to the city they loved, Oklahoma City. He met herhere in Oklahoma City shortly after moving here in 1911. She had grown up on a farm at what is today NW 10th and Villa.

The interview with Harry Walhgren is part of the oral history collection at the Oklahoma History Center, NE 23rdStreet just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

Jimmy Stewart

2011-09-12

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"This new sound brought them to the windows and out on the sidewalks, but once they arrived for the first time in the history of Oklahoma City, they viewed a corps of high school boys marching as if they had been trained for the Prussian Guard."

That's the voice of long-time Oklahoma City civil rights leader Jimmy Stewart.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

Jimmy Stewart attended Douglass High School in Oklahoma City in the mid-1920s. In this interview, Stewart recalls that parades were an important part of the culture in black communities. The parade he recalled took place in 1924 with the Douglass High School band marching through downtown Oklahoma City. But Stewart said putting the band together and clothing them in uniforms was quite a task.

"The Douglass High School Band had no uniforms, but each member of the band was able to find a white shirt and dark trousers for this occasion. Two, the band was augmented with a few professionals who were members of the Blue Devils Orchestra, headquartered in Oklahoma City, and at various times filling in with visiting musicians playing vaudeville engagements at the Aldridge Theater."

Stewart recalled that jobs for young black high school students were difficult to find.

"One of the main sources of income for black youngsters of upper high school age when I attended Douglass High School in Oklahoma City was serving luncheons and banquets at the old Skirvin Hotel."

Stewart said he also worked at the Huckins Hotel.

"Among my memories of the Huckins was the various nicknames given waiters, busboys, cooks, and so forth, at the hotel. I recall a busboy called "Chili Sauce," a cook called "Onion," and a cold meat station man called "Booger Red.""
Jimmy Stewart served in the Marine Corps during World War Two. Upon his return from the war, he was hired as a janitor at Oklahoma Natural Gas Company. Eventually he was promoted to office manager, and by the time he retired from ONG, he was a vice president of the company. His work in civil rights in Oklahoma is legendary. Stewart served as president of the Oklahoma City branch of the NAACPhttp://digital.library.okstate.edu/encyclopedia/entries/N/NA001.html, as well as of the state chapter. He served on the NAACP national board for eight three-year terms. Through his work with Roscoe Dunjee and the Black Dispatch, his outreach extended across the state and the nation.
In July 1982 Stewart was elected chairman of the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority. In 1984 Governor George Nigh appointed him to the State Narcotics and Controlled Drug Commission. He served as president of Oklahomans for Progress, which was dedicated to the elimination of inequities based on race.

Stewart passed away in 1997 and is buried at the Arlington national Cemetery. But now we remember his birth - 99 years ago - September 6, 1912, Jimmy Stewart came into this world.
The interview with Jimmy Stewart is a part of the oral history collection at the Oklahoma History Center, NE 23rd Street just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

Lee Wiley

2011-10-08

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"'Don't Blame Me' - Lee Wiley's going to sing it. Lee Wiley singing: Ever since the lucky day I found you, I've hung around you, just like a fool, Falling head in heels in love like..."

That's the voice of Lee Wiley, long forgotten jazz singer from Oklahoma.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

In the history of music, and particularly jazz, many Oklahomans were at the forefront of that genre. Charlie Christian, Jimmy Rushing, Patti Page, Ernie Fields to name a few. There are many more jazz artists from Oklahoma whose names are now lost in history. Among those names Lee Wiley, jazz and blues singer from Oklahoma, who made her mark on the genre in the 1930s, '40s, and '50s.

Lee Wiley was born October 9, 1908, in Fort Gibson. By the time she was a teenager, she singing professionally in Tulsa, appearing on local radio programs there. In 1930 she left Oklahoma for New York City to sing with the Leo Reisman Orchestra.

"Lee Wiley singing: Time on my hands, you in my arms, nothing but love in view. Then if you fall, once and for all, I'll see my dreams come true."

That is a 1931 recording of the Reisman Orchestra featuring Lee Wiley.

Wiley's career peaked in the mid-1930s when she launched a successful CBS radio series titled Saturday Night Swing. From 1936 to 1938 she was the star vocalist.

This is the opening to their first anniversary show broadcast on June 12, 1937.

"...and so we herald the opening of the first anniversary session of the Saturday Night Swing Club, marking a full year of a series of programs devoted by the Columbia Network to that thing called Swing."

With more than 50 recordings to her credit, Wiley was the first jazz vocalist to record albums devoted to one composer's works, including Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Harold Arlen, and George Gershwin.

Meanwhile Lee continued appearing on big band and jazz shows on various radio networks.

"Brought to you from the beautiful Wagon Room of the famous Rustic Lodge, and tonight our final guest artist, a Miss Lee Wylie on the vocals and Henry Red Allen on the horn, and so until next Thursday evening at 10:15, a very happy night of listening to all of you."

Wiley was featured in a 1963 television drama based on her life (Something about Lee Wiley) on Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theater on NBC. Piper Laurie played Lee Wiley in that program.

(clip from show) "'I just want to go home and sit on mama's porch, look northeast, feel her fire going.''1,500 [unintelligible] miles from Oklahoma City to Columbus. See I saved you a trip.'"

During the same period she continued her recording career.

"Come to me, my melancholy baby,"

Lee Wiley passed away from colon cancer on December 11, 1975, in New York City. She is buried in the cemetery at Fort Gibson. In 2000 she was inducted into the Oklahoma Jazz Music Hall of Fame, and in 2003 she was inducted into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame. Lee Wiley, a voice for the ages.

Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past.I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

Joe Carter Wins B2B World Series

2011-10-24

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"Otis Nixon - ground it out to short in the first, ground it out to short in the third, popped up to short in the fifth, base hits in the seventh and ninth - waggles a bat and he waits. Timlin to the dome, pitch on the way, and there's a bunted ball, first base side, Timlin to Carter, and the Blue Jays win it, the Blue Jays win it, the Blue Jays are World Series champions."

That is the voice of Toronto Blue Jays play-by-play announcer, the late Tom Cheek, calling the final out in the final game of the 1992 World Series in which Joe Carter made that last out giving the Blue Jays the world championship.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

Joe Carter was born and grew up in Oklahoma City. Following his graduation from Millwood High School, he was recruited to play baseball at Wichita State University. His junior year, 1981, he was named the Sporting News magazine's College Player of the Year, and in the 1981 draft, the Chicago Cubs chose him with the second pick of the first round. By the 1991 season, Carter had played for the Cubs, the Cleveland Indians, and San Diego Padres, and San Diego had traded him to Toronto in time for the '91 season.

The next year, 1992, he led the Blue Jays to being the first non-U.S. team to make the World Series playing against the Atlanta Braves. The series went to game six, with Toronto leading the series 3 games to 2. A win in game six would clinch the world title for the Blue Jays. That game went to the 11th inning, Atlanta trailing 4 to 3, bottom of the 11th, Atlanta at bat, two out, the Blue Jays just one out from winning the game and clinching the title, Carter playing first base, Mike Timlin was the reliever for the Blue Jays. The batter hit a bunt to Timlin who tossed the ball to Carter at first base for the World Series winning final out.

For Joe Carter that seemingly would be the highlight of his life in baseball, but the next year, 1993, the Blue Jays won the American League Pennant; the Philadelphia Phillies took the National League Pennant. Same scenario as 1992.Toronto lead the series 3 games to 2 going into game 6. Bottom of the 9th, the Phiilies with the lead 6 to 5, Blue Jays at bat, two out, two on, Joe Carter steps to the plate...with the count at 2 balls, 2 strikes...Tom Cheek describes the next pitch and delivered one of the most memorable calls in sports broadcasting history.

"Joe has had his moments, and to layoff that ball, totally outside part of the plate, he just went after one, two balls and two strikes on it. Here's the pitch on the way, a swing and a belt, left field, way back, the Blue Jays win it, the Blue Jays are World Series Champions, as Joe Carter hits a 3-run home run in the ninth inning, and the Blue Jays have repeated as World Series Champions. Touch 'em all, Joe, you'll never hit a bigger home run in your life." Minutes later Tim McCarver met up with Carter in the Blue Jays' locker room on the CBS TV post game show.

"You know, I thank God, this is a storybook ending. I told my wife before I went to the ballpark, I said something special's gonna happen today, you know, what can you say? This is awesome. This is unbelievable. 'You caught the ball last year in Atlanta, the last out from Mike Timlin. What is the difference between this year obviously, other than your involvement in the game-winning hit?' You know what? You may think it's ironic, but I told everybody I was going to catch the last out."
Joe Carter is the only player to ever record the final out in one World Series and then get a series-clinching walk-off hit in another./p>

As baseball fans celebrate this year's World Series between the Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals, we celebrate the rich history of baseball in Oklahoma with a great exhibit on our national pastime at the Oklahoma History Center, NE 23rdStreet, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

Statehood

2011-11-12

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"When the telegram arrived, my father had the notary public there and took the oath of office in his suite there at the Royal Hotel."

That's the voice of Francis Haskell, daughter of Oklahoma's first governor Charles Haskell, explaining when her father actually took the oath of office on the day that Oklahoma became a state.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

At just after 9 the morning of November 16, 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt signed the proclamation making Oklahoma the 46th state. Thousands of people had been gathering in the territorial capital Guthrie beginning the day before to be present for what was then called Admission Day. The ceremony was set to begin two hours after President Roosevelt signed that proclamation at about 11 a.m.

"And at 11 o'clock, he went up to the Carnegie library on the steps, and there gathered were over 10,000 people who had been coming into Guthrie all night and the afternoon before from all over the state because there was no way, no automobiles, any way for them to get in there expect by wagon or carriage or horseback and by special trains, and they had special trains that they had pulled on to the side tracks, and they slept there all night in those coaches. Not accommodation, there were no hotels, not enough for that many people."

A part of the ceremony included the symbolic wedding of Miss Indian Territory and Mr. Oklahoma Territory. Mrs. Leo Bennett was selected to be the bride. She borrowed a friend's wedding dress for the inauguration ceremony.

"...a nationally-known dressmaker up there to have a dress made, and Ms. Bennett borrowed. It was a lavender and lace dress with a lavender hat with a long lavender plume, ostrich feather, and she wore that as the bride."

Following the ceremony the public and dignitaries went to what was then called Island Park on the banks of the Cottonwood Creek for a barbeque lunch.

"They didn't have hamburger joints and everything else in those days, and they had to have gone without food or brought it the day before, so they had this barbeque and they had bread and all the things that go with a barbeque."

And for Francis Haskell that lunch held a special memory.

"And it was the first time I had ever tasted barbeque beef."

The grand ball at the convention hall that night capped off an incredible day in Oklahoma history.

"Everybody was well-dressed and looked nice. The state militia band at one end of the room and the local orchestra at the other, and one would play for the dance and the other would play - they'd alternate. The ladies all had arms full of American Beauty roses, and they had punch and cake and everything. Of course there was no alcohol in the punch, because Oklahoma was a dry state, had to be for 21 years because the Enabling Act provided that."

Francis Haskell was there to witness her father taking the oath of office as our first governor and to witness all of the events that day, November 16, 1907, when Oklahoma became the 46th state. Haskell returned to private business then in the summer of 1933 suffered a stroke and died at the age of 71.

The interview with Francis Haskell is a part of the oral history collection in the research library of the Oklahoma History Center, NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma history center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

Bob Barry Remembered

2011-11-19

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"They tell me that I've done over 500 football games and over 1,600 basketball games in Division I, and that's a lot of blabbing in 50 years. I've really, really been lucky"

That's the voice of Bob Barry, for fifty years the voice of all three major university athletic teams in Oklahoma.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

Sunday, October 30th, Oklahoma lost a legendary sportscaster with the death of Bob Barry, Sr. Bob Barry accomplished something that perhaps no other play-by-play announcer ever has or ever will do. He was the voice, at one time or another, of all three major universities teams in Oklahoma. His fifty year career included calling all of the games of four Heisman trophy winners, beginning with Steve Owens in 1969. In this interview recorded this past spring, Barry recalled that back in 1969, there was no television coverage of the Heisman award dinner, and the candidates didn't even go to New York City for the announcement. That evening, Steve Owens was in OU president Dr. George Cross' office waiting for the phone call from New York City, and Barry was there, too.

"So, this was in Norman, Oklahoma, the president's office. I'm sitting there with a writer from the Daily Oklahoman, and that's it, just the two of us. No hoopla or anything. Phone rang, and President Cross opened the door and said 'He won it!'"

Barry called OU games from 1961 to 1972, Tulsa University basketball games in the winter of '72 to the spring of '73, then Oklahoma State Cowboys football and basketball games from 1973 to 1991. There he called the games of his second Heisman winner, Barry Sanders.

"Here's Gundy, giving to Sanders, over the right side, gets a block, he's at 5, he's at one. Touchdown Cowboys!"

Before Sanders won the Heisman, Billy Simms won it playing at OU. Who was the better running back?

"Barry Sanders, not only by my estimation which is minor, but I heard Barry Switzer just the other day call Barry Sanders the greatest running back he ever saw, and I certainly would agree 100%. Not to belittle Simms or any of the other great running backs Oklahoma had. It'd be real close in my mind between Barry Sanders and Billy Simms."

In 1991 Bob Barry returned to OU for his second stint at the play-by-play microphone and called two more Heisman-winning seasons for quarterbacks Jason White and Sam Bradford. Last year was his final season, and he did play by play for more players who may be high picks in the next NFL draft.

"Shotgun formation, Murray to the left of Landry Jones, white side of the field to the right, looking left and right, Landry Jones fires a pass, open. Touchdown Oklahoma! A great one-handed catch by Broyles! What a great catch at the northwest corner of the end zone!

Through all of his career, Barry tried to create each game in his listener's mind's eye.

"You want to make it live, and that's what I think a lot of the modern-day play-by-play guys lose. You're trying to paint the picture of what they can't see. Television you can see it, but radio you've got to paint it through words. So that's what I try to do because that's what they did in the old days. Curt Gowdy, Bill Stern, years and years ago, those guys, you learn a lot from listening to them, and you hear modern-day kids announcing, and they don't get it as far as that part is concerned, in my opinion."

On March 10, 2011, Barry closed out his final broadcast following OU's loss to Texas in the Big 12 basketball tournament in Kansas City.

"Thank you for everything. God Bless. So long, everyone.Boomer Sooner."

Historian Bob Burke and I had the honor of writing his biography The Voice of Bedlam, the Life of Bob Barry.

The Oklahoma History Center is located on NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City.Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past.I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

Ada Fisher at Law School

2012-02-04

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"The Sipuel decision was not a decision for Ada Lois; it was a decision for America, it was a decision, a victory for the Constitution of the United States."

That's the voice of Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher, who was the first black to graduate from the University of Oklahoma College of Law.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher graduated with honors from Langston University in 1945 with a degree in English, but she dreamed of becoming a lawyer, a dream that in segregated Oklahoma in 1945 seemed an impossible dream. Langston University didn't have a law school, and state statutes prohibited blacks from attending white state universities.

At the urging of the NAACP, twenty-one-year-old Fisher agreed to seek admission to the OU College of Law in order to challenge Oklahoma's segregation laws and achieve her lifelong ambition of becoming a lawyer. On January 14, 1946, she applied for admission to the University of Oklahoma College of Law.

After reviewing Fisher's credentials, university president, Dr. George Lynn Cross, advised her that there was no academic reason to reject her application for admission, but that Oklahoma statutes prohibited whites and blacks from attending classes together.

On April 6, 1946, with the support of civic leaders from around Oklahoma, including Roscoe Dunjee, the editor of the Black Dispatch newspaper in Oklahoma City, Fisher filed a lawsuit prompting a three-year legal battle. A young attorney, Thurgood Marshall, later a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, represented Fisher.

"The very first time I saw him, he grabbed me, picked me up off the floor, and Dunjee said this is the young lady I've been talking to you about. I was a little bit afraid; I've heard of this great barrister, and I've read about him in the Crisis, and so I timidly stuck my hand out in Dunjee's office, a few days after I first applied, and Marshall knocked my hand aside, and reached and got me, and hugged me and picked me up off the floor and kissed me. We were strangers no more. He was a magnificent man."

Court battles raged, and finally she won. Thus, three years almost to the day that she first applied for admission, she was officially admitted to the OU College of Law.

But the struggle continued.

"They moved all of the white students down to the first three rows and then they left three or four blank rows and then behind the last row they had found a large wooden chair with a big pole and 'colored' written on it so I had to climb the steps, about seven steps up, to get to that colored chair."

And that wasn't all she had to endure.

"We couldn't eat with the other students. We couldn't get in the line with them; we had to go in a side door to get to the cafeteria, and they pulled some steam tables together and put a heavy chain around it, and I didn't understand why they needed a big burly armed guard with a big pistol on his hip standing there guarding our table. Nobody going to kidnap us; I later determined it was probably there to keep the white kids out."

The case became national news, particularly in black communities around the country.

"I understood that they were going to tell me no. I understood that we would end up in court. I don't know that, I was rather surprised at the amount of national attention that the case drew."

In August 1952 Fisher graduated from the University of Oklahoma College of Law. On April 22, 1992, Governor David Walters symbolically righted the wrongs of the past by appointing Dr. Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher to the Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma, the same school that had once refused to admit her to their College of Law. On October 18, 1995, she passed away.

You can learn more about the fascinating black history of Oklahoma by visiting the Oklahoma History Center, just east of the state capitol on NE 23rdStreet in Oklahoma City. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

Oil in Oklahoma City

2011-11-26

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"A fabulous Christmas present came to the city December 4, 1928, with the discovery of the oil field within the city limits."

That's the voice of Daily Oklahoman owner, the late E.K. Gaylord, describing the effect of the discovery of oil in Oklahoma County.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

In 1897, the Nellie Johnstone oil well in Bartlesville came in, setting off an oil boom in Oklahoma that would last for decades. Over the next twenty years, the Glen Pool south of Tulsa, Three Sands in Northern Oklahoma, the Healdton field in south central Oklahoma, and the Seminole field put Oklahoma in the forefront of the oil industry in America.

As early as 1890, the first wildcatter arrived in Oklahoma City convinced that the soil of Oklahoma County floated on a sea of black gold. He erected a derrick at what is today 4th and Santa Fe, rigged his cable tools, and began drilling. However, at a depth of 600 feet he abandoned the site; it was a dry hole. From 1890 to 1928 more than 20 test wells were drilled in Oklahoma County, all of them dry holes. Though the nearest oil field to Oklahoma City was 60 miles away, more than a hundred oil companies had offices or headquarters in Oklahoma City, and by 1928 Oklahoma City was in the mainstream of the state's petroleum industry.

In the summer of 1928, the Indian Territory Illuminating Oil Company, or ITIO for short, turned its attention to Oklahoma City. The company founded by H. V. Foster, who had been the chief geologist for the Phillips Brothers in Bartlesville, had largely developed the Greater Seminole Field. Foster, as were others, was convinced that there was black gold under Oklahoma City. Foster bought a lease about six miles southeast of Oklahoma City, near what is today SE 59th and Bryant. In June 1928 the company built a derrick and began drilling.

Through July, August, September, and to the end of November, drillers drilled past 3,000, 4,000, 5,000 feet. Foster was positive they would find oil. Working 12-hour shifts, roughnecks kept the rotary rig busy, and finally at shift change the morning of December 4, 1928, at a depth of 6,355 feet, the well blew in and for an hour and half that well ran wild.

Newspaper publisher E.K. Gaylord described the event as a watershed moment in Oklahoma City's history.

"A fabulous Christmas present came to the city December 4, 1928, with the discovery of the oil field within the city limits. The financial panic covered the country in 1929, but our oilfield boom helped carry us through the Depression years."

When wells such as the Oklahoma City Discovery Well Number One ran wild, the roughnecks working the wells were particularly concerned about their safety, for reason people might not realize, as Jack Fitzpatrick, a member of the ITIO Drilling Department, recalled in this interview recorded at an ITIO reunion in 1969.

"The main thing we had trouble with was curious people from the city that knew nothing about the oil field, and it's very dangerous on a well that's flowing loose and no way to control it. The trouble was getting the people back, and the company had to have patrolmen to keep spectators back, and we wasn't afraid of the workmen we was working with but we was very afraid of the people outside of the fire lighting a cigarette or something because the gas was on the ground and the oil spray was sometimes..."

The discovery well was deepened and cased and over the next 27 days produced an amazing 110, 000 barrels. At a $1.56 a barrel, H. V. Foster hit gold, black gold.

The Oklahoma History Center is located on NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

David Gates

2011-12-10

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"I was born in Tulsa, and I was the youngest of four children, all musicians, and my dad was a music teacher/band director, and he had moved to Tulsa in 1940, just a few months before I was born, to take a teaching and supervising position with the Tulsa Public Schools, and my mom taught piano in our home."

That's the voice of David Gates, one of the many rock and roll artists from Oklahoma who churned out records in the 1970s.

From the Oklahoma History Center this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

Primarily known as the front man for the 1970s soft-rock band Bread, David Gates was a composer and session man before his career blossomed. Born in Tulsa on December 11, 1940, Gates graduated from Will Rogers High School, where he played in the school band. Gates had wanted to be a professional musician for as long as he could remember. In 1958 he began his career, singing and writing Rockabilly tunes, but he switched to studio work when he moved to Los Angeles. Gates hit the big time in 1963 when a friend of his asked him to help with a girl group called The Murmaids.

"...and he came to me and said I've got this girl's group, I need a song, and I happened to have just written this "Popsicles and Icicles," one of only two songs I ever got out of bed to write in the middle of the night." (snippet of song's chorus)
Popsicles charted at number three nationally, then in 1964, he met a TV producer who was putting together the pilot for a show for ABC-TV that would feature rock and roll artists weekly in prime time.
"I actually did the first Shindig! show as an arranger and arranged all that one hour's music for Jack Good to do his pilot. Charged him $100. I spent untold hours on that stuff."

(snippet of show intro)

In 1969, he met two members of a group called The Pleasure Fair, featuring Robb Royer and James Griffin.

"One of the groups I was producing and arranging had a guy in it named Robb Royer, who was a writer, and he said I need you to hear some songs I've written with my writing partner James Griffin. So I went over to their apartment and listened to some songs that James and Robb had written, and I loved the way Jimmy sang, and so I played some recent things I had written, and we were harmonizing on each other's songs and realized that our harmonies were really quite special with each other on each other's songs, and that's kind of what got us going."

Together they formed the band Bread. The group signed with Elektra Records and produced their first album. Gates said it got good reviews but didn't sell so well. So Bread went back to the studio to record a second album.

"So we had recorded about four or five songs on the second album, and the record company president came by to listen to what we were doing and "Make It with You" was one of those, and he said 'Oh, I've got to have this out right now.' I said 'But we're not done with the album.' 'That's okay, let's get this out on the street.'"

(snippet of "Make It with You")

His soft style and sweet melodies coupled with his sentimental lyrics resulted in seven Gold Record awards and two Gold Single awards. It was growing up in Oklahoma in the 1950s and '60s that led to his and others' success.

"...and Oklahoma has had a remarkable number of musicians in relationship to the population of that state - shocking number of successful Oklahoma musicians - and I feel it's because of this combination of music gathering in this one location, that we all learned to play and enjoy and appreciate all of these styles."

David Gates, born on December 11, 1940.Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. From the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City, I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

Pearl Harbor - USS Oklahoma

2011-12-03

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"From the NBC newsroom in New York - President Roosevelt said in a statement today that the Japanese have attacked the Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, from the air."

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

That news bulletins was heard on radio stations in Oklahoma and around the country at about 1:30 central time on Sunday afternoon, December 7, 1941, just hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor. But one Oklahoman, Joe Lawter, had known for hours the war was on. Lawter grew up in Oklahoma City, and after graduating from Central High School, he joined the Marine Corps. Because he had played in the band, he was made a bugler and assigned to the Marine detachment aboard the USS Oklahoma. Thus it was that 70 years ago, Sunday, December 7, 1941, Joe Lawter was the Marine Corps bugler standing on the main deck of the USS Oklahoma preparing to sound "To The Colors" on his bugle for the morning flag raising. Just before the ceremony began, as he was standing in formation, he heard airplanes approaching and looked up to see Japanese planes diving on battleship row. He told the corporal of the color guard, whose response was:

"He said 'Lawter, you're paid to blow not think' and I said 'well, there are Japanese planes' and about that time we got hit in the side with the torpedo."

The officer of the deck told Lawter to sound general quarters. Lawter said he turned to the boatswain's mate who was standing next to the microphone for the ship's public address system, and he was the one who made the announcement that was heard throughout the ship.

"...and so he said 'General quarters, general quarters, and this is no "blank blank"!'"

Lawter explained that that one announcement saved many lives that morning on the USS Oklahoma.

"...and that probably saved more lives on the Oklahoma than anything because you wouldn't dare say that if you didn't mean it."

Late that afternoon, our time, the first radio reports from Honolulu began coming in, including this one from the NBC radio affiliate reporting on damage at the Navy base.

"At Pearl Harbor where is based the Pacific fleet, three ships were attacked; the Oklahoma was set afire. All lines of communication seem to be down between the various army posts and Navy air drones and Army airfields."

The next day, Monday, December 8, President Franklin Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan.

"I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire."

Lawter survived the war, returned home eventually, earned a doctorate in education which began his career that included stops as principal of Central High School in the 1960s and teaching at Northwestern Oklahoma State University in Alva. In 1988 this interview was recorded at a reunion of the USS Oklahoma crew. Lawter passed away on December 4, 1995, and a memorial service was held on December 7, 1995.

This week the Oklahoma History Center is opening an expanded exhibit on the USS Oklahoma and the Day of Infamy. You'll see a number of artifacts from the USS Oklahoma and artifacts from Oklahomans who were at Pearl Harbor on that day of infamy. The Oklahoma History Center is on NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

Gayla Peevey

2011-12-17

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(GaylaPeevey singing) "I want a hippopotamus for Christmas, only a hippopotamus will do. Don't want a doll, no dinky tinker toy, I want a hippopotamus to play with and enjoy."

That is Gayla Peevey singing her hit song from Christmas 1953. From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

Gayla Peevey was born in 1943 in Oklahoma City. A few years later her family moved to Ponca City then back to Oklahoma City. She began singing as a preschooler in church, and by the time she was in the fourth grade she was appearing regularly on WKY Radio and Channel 4 in Oklahoma City. In 1953 at the age of 10, she began appearing on Saturday Night Revue with Hogey Carmichael, a summer replacement show on the NBC television network. That brought her to the attention of Columbia Records. After she signed a contract, they flew her and her mother to New York for a recording session with Mitch Miller.

"My mother and I were flown to New York, and it was quite exciting because we had not ever been to New York before. Big recording stuidio in New York, Mitch Miller, big full orchestra. (singing) I want a hippopotamus for Christmas, only a hippopotamus will do (stop singing) Is that enough? (laughing and then singing again) Don't want a doll, no dinky tinker toy, I want a hippopotamus to play with and enjoy. I want a hippopotamus for Christmas, I don't think Santa Claus will mind, do you? [and I put] No crocodiles, no rhinoceruses, and I didn't know if they would like that or not, and Mitch Miller said 'Keep it. Keep it, I like that.' ""

The song was released in time for Christmas 1953. At the same the song was released, the Oklahoma City Zoo director decided that the zoo needed a hippopotamus, and Gayla's song would be perfect to use for a fund raising campaign.

"They started running ads in the paper and telling kids, hey, let's send in your nickels and dimes, and we can raise enough money to buy Gayla a hippo, and it was called the Gayla Peevey Hippo Fund. They were able to buy Matilda and ship her in on Christmas Eve. She came in a crate and I was the first one to peek in and see her, and it was quite exciting.""

The hippo for the Oklahoma City Zoo cost $5,000 including shipping from New York, and on Christmas Eve 1953, Matilda the hippo arrived in Oklahoma City and was taken to the zoo. There Gayla helped introduce Matilda to her new home.

Over the years many believed that Gayla made a fortune with her recording.

"Oh, people really think I'm just raking in the money in royalties and everything. Not! Not true. I wish it was!"

Matilda entertained zoo visitors for more than 40 years before finally passing in the 1990s. Gayla lives in California but comes back to Oklahoma periodically. The interview with Gayla Peevey was provided by Jack Frank for his video OKC A to Z.

Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

(more of I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas)

Oklahoma Memories

Carl Albert becomes Speaker

2012-01-14

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"My colleagues, I accept the high honor which you have given me with humility, humility tempered only by the immense responsibility which this office carries."

That's the voice of McAlester's Congressman Carl Albert, his acceptance speech following his election as Speaker of the House of Representatives.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

He was called the "Little Giant from Little Dixie"; Carl Albert represented the third district of Oklahoma, most of southeast Oklahoma, in Congress from 1947 to 1976. In the 1950s and '60s he moved into various committee and party leadership positions in Congress, culminating with his election as Speaker of the House on January 21, 1971.

It was a difficult time. Inflation, recession, President Richard Nixon's frequent impoundment of appropriations, and the ever-worsening conflict in Vietnam threatening the unity of the House, but Albert reminded his fellow congressmen of their duty.

"As I see it, it is by definition the duty of a legislative body to legislate. If we are to perform that duty and meet the responsibilities that we owe to those that sent us here, to our nation and to our generation, we must be about the job. We must not flounder. We must move cautiously, of course, but we must also move with dispatch in the disposition of the public business. There is too much to be done to delay in the performance of our duties."

Richard Nixon was just beginning his second term as president. Albert had to lead the Democratic-controlled Congress with a Republican serving as president.

"The Congress shares with the President a moral as well as a Constitutional obligation for the evolvement of basic precepts for a healthy and dynamic state of the union. Our preceding, our predecessors well acquitted themselves in the discharge of that obligation. I neither anticipate nor shall I settle for anything less from the 92nd Congress."

Albert realized there would be difficult days ahead and encouraged all of the members of Congress to work together on the people business.

"We cannot falter. We will not fail. The biography of this Congress will shake the legislative destiny of the 1970s."

Perhaps Albert's greatest challenge was presiding over Congress during the Watergate scandal. He chose not to involve the House in investigations of Vice President Spiro Agnew and referred presidential impeachment resolutions to the House Judiciary Committee. Twice during the scandal Albert was second in succession to the presidency. As Gerald Ford and Nelson Rockefeller were both appointed by Congress, Carl Albert was the highest-ranked elected official serving during that administration.

After three terms as Speaker of the House and serving for thirty years in the Congress representing southeast Oklahoma, Carl Albert retired in 1976. He and his wife, Mary, returned to McAlester, where he kept an office and continued to be active in politics and public service until his death on February 4, 2000. But it was on January 21, 1971, that the "Little Giant from Little Dixie," Carl Albert, was elected Speaker of the House of Representatives.

His acceptance speech is a part of the oral history collection at the Oklahoma History Center, NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

Mae Axton and Heartbreak Hotel

2012-01-28

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"...and I want to say to Elvis it's been very nice having you in the studio today. 'Well, thank you very much, Mae, and I'd like to personally thank you for really promoting my record, because you really have done a wonderful job, and I really do appreciate it because if you don't have people backing you, people pushing you, well you might as well quit.'"

That is Mae Boren Axton interviewing young Elvis Presley in 1955 in Jacksonville, Florida.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

Mae Boren was the sister of Oklahoma Congressman Lyle Boren and the aunt of former governor and U. S. Senator David Boren. After graduating from East Central State College in Ada with a teaching degree, Mae Boren met and married John Axton. John Axton was serving in the Navy and eventually was stationed in Jacksonville, Fla. Mae Axton was teaching high school English in Jacksonville and in her spare time writing songs and helping to promote local recording artists. Thus, in 1955, those two vocations came together. Mae had a program on a local radio station in Jacksonville and was promoting an appearance by country recording star Hank Snow. A young singer from Memphis was the opening act for that show. Mae interviewed that young, largely unknown, singer, Elvis Presley, on her radio show.

"...but I've seen you perform, and you're a terrific performer, and a lot of my listeners have seen you, and they've heard your records, and they think they're very wonderful. Of course, you really skyrocketed to fame on "That's All Right, Mama. "Wasn't that the one? 'Well, yes ma'am, that was the one that got me on my way and everything. '"

That interview in May 1955 led Mae to meeting Col. Tom Parker who had just signed on to manage Elvis. Parker hired Mae to help with publicity. At that point in her career Mae had already written songs for Perry Como and Ernest Tubb. Later that summer, Mae's co-writer Tommy Durden read a story in a newspaper about a man who had taken his life. There was no identification on the body, just a hand written note that read "I walk a lonely street. " Mae and Durden were struck by that line, and Mae came up with the idea of a heartbreak hotel at the end of that lonely street. Mae played the song for Parker then Elvis. Elvis loved it and began using it in his live shows. On January 10, 1956, Elvis recorded five sides at the RCA Nashville studio, including "Heartbreak Hotel. "

[clip of Elvis singing "Heartbreak Hotel"]

RCA label executives in New York thought the song was too somber, too serious; it wasn't like anything he had recorded at Sun Records, but on January 28, 1956, it was released, and two weeks later Elvis appeared on the Tommy Dorsey Show on CBS television.

"We have another song here, friends, that we hope you like. It's called "Heartbreak Hotel."

[clip of Elvis singing "Heartbreak Hotel"]

The song continued to be featured by Elvis through the remainder of his career. In 1968 on his comeback special...

[clip of Elvis singing "Heartbreak Hotel"]

Of the more than 200 songs Mae Boren Axton wrote, "Heartbreak Hotel," released on January 28, 1956, was by far the biggest hit. You can learn more about Oklahomans in the entertainment business by visiting the Oklahoma History Center, NE 23rdStreet just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

Black Fox is Dead

2012-03-03

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"I will be surprised if the Public Service Company and their co-owners do not decide to cancel this project. That's my personal opinion."

That's the voice of a spokesman for Public Service Company of Oklahoma, the Tulsa-based electric utility that proposed building a nuclear power plant in the Sooner State.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

One year ago this week an earthquake and tsunami devastated the coast of Japan and crippled a nuclear power plant at Fukushima, Japan. A year later, that nuclear power plant is still in the news. On this episode of Oklahoma Memories we go back to 1973 and learn just how close Oklahoma came to having a nuclear power plant in our state that would have used the same reactors that suffered catastrophic damage at Fukushima.

In May 1973, Tulsa-based Public Service Company of Oklahoma proposed building the state's first nuclear power plant near Inola, just east of Tulsa. They proposed using two General Electric Boiling water reactors. The first part of construction was approved, land was cleared, and the foundation for the plant was poured. At the same time, Carrie Dickerson organized the group Citizens Action for Safe Energy which began leading protests against the plant. The protests lead to nine years of hearings being held on the project. Finally in 1982, PSO went before the Corporation Commission to cancel the project. A company spokesman told reporters...

"I'm not too anxious to speculate about what Public Service Company might do. Public Service Company has two co-owners, as I mentioned earlier, that have an interest in this project, and they have an investment that they need to protect in addition to the Public Service Company's investment. I will be surprised if the Public Service Company and their co-owners do not decide to cancel this project. That's my personal opinion."

Another group, the Sunbelt Alliance, joined the protests. A spokesman for the group told Oklahoma City's News Channel Four of the group's reaction to PSO's decision.

"Sunbelt Alliance is obviously really happy that Public Service of Oklahoma has said that indeed Black Fox is going to collapse of its own economic weight. That's about what we've been saying all along, is it's going to collapse of its own economic weight. However, we knew - we're folks, look around, you see carpenters, you see pipefitters, you see plumbers, you see teachers, you even see some future lawyers. All we wanted to do was to be carpenters and teachers and child care workers and social workers. That's all we wanted to do. Our major goal, our major purpose, was to be able to go back home. Tonight we've accomplished our major goal and our major purpose. Black Fox is stopped, it's collapsed of its own economic weight, and we're done. The Sunbelt Alliance, as of this moment, is over."

According to the group SANE, the Black Fox plant was the only nuclear power plant in the United States to be canceled by a combination of legal and citizen action after construction had begun. The project began in 1973 and continued until its cancellation nine years later.

After the protest, Dickerson founded the Carrie Dickerson Foundation, a nonprofit group designed to educate people about all aspects of nuclear energy. Dickerson died in 2006.

PSO proposed using two General Electric boiling water reactors. They were designed in the late 1960s and would have been installed in Inola at about the same time the Fukushima power plant was being built in Japan in which 5 of the 6 reactors there were GE boiling water reactors.

You can learn more about the Black Fox project through the newspaper archives in the research library at the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City on NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

Death of Prentice Gautt

2012-03-17

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"Well, they kept it, as I said, very quiet, and it was kind of like I was given a, given a chance to see what I could actually do on that football team."

That is the voice of Dr. Prentice Gautt, who in 1958 became the first black athlete to start on the University of Oklahoma football team.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

Two years after the Brown vs. the Board of Education Supreme Court decision that led to school being integrated, many schools, including those in Oklahoma City, were still segregated. But that year, 1956, things would begin to change, largely because of one senior at Douglass High School in Oklahoma City. At Douglass High School, he played drums in the school band, but the football coach realized that with his size, he should be playing football. Eventually Prentice Gautt joined the football team, and in 1956, his senior year, became the first black to play in the Oklahoma All-Star game.

A stellar student, Gautt wanted to attend the University of Oklahoma. A group of doctors put together a scholarship for him, but in the meantime...

"One of Bud's assistants had watched me play in the All-Star game, and after the game was over said that Bud wanted me to come to the University of Oklahoma, and that he would be talking to some people to make this happen. Well, they kept it, as I said, very quiet, and it was kind of like I was given a, given a chance to see what I could actually do on that football team."

Being a black player on an all-white football team in the late 1950s wasn't easy. Gautt found that Bud Wilkinson was more than a football coach.

"I found that Bud had a lot of confidence in me, and one of the things that I also found out that he was a good psychotherapist. I was in his office every Wednesday, on the couch, telling him about the things that happened and the things that I didn't feel like I would be able to take and all of the problems, and after I'd finished talking that, I would get off the couch and go to practice. I did that for the first, about a year and a half; that's how I think I got through the ordeal with University of Oklahoma."

Following a game in Tulsa, the team was taken to a restaurant for dinner, but Gautt was told they didn't serve blacks there, so he left.

"A couple of the guys saw me going out, and they said 'Where are you going?' and I said 'Well, I can't eat here.. They said 'Well, if you can't eat, none of us will eat' and the whole team got up, marched out and got on the bus, and we rode to just the outskirts of Tulsa and found a restaurant that would serve us. But anyway, I felt like I had made it at that point to have that whole team get up and move with me to a place to eat."

Gautt became a two-time All-Big Eight player and the 1959 Orange Bowl MVP. In his senior year, he was named to the academic All-American team.He played football professionally in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns for one year and the St. Louis Cardinals for six years. After the NFL, Gautt coached football at Missouri while earning his Ph.D. in psychology. He then began a career in athletics administration, first as an assistant commissioner for the Big Eight Conference and then as a special assistant to the commissioner of the Big 12 Conference. Prentice Gautt died on March 17, 2005.

You can learn more about the accomplishments of African Americans from Oklahoma by visiting the Oklahoma History Center, just east of the state capitol on NE 23rd Street in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

Official State Song

2012-03-24

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"Oklahoma, Oklahoma, Fairest daughter of the West, Oklahoma, Oklahoma, 'Tis the land I love the best"

That was the official song of the state of Oklahoma before Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote the Broadway musical Oklahoma!, and this week of March is the anniversary of both state songs.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

When Oklahoma became a state in 1907, we didn't have an official state song. Then, in 1935, Mrs. Harriet Parker Camden of Kingfisher wrote the music and words to a song she titled "Oklahoma - A Toast." The song became a local hit, so much so that the state legislature on March 26, 1935, named this song the official song of the state of Oklahoma.

"I give you a land of sun and flowers, and summer a whole year long, I give you a land where the golden hours roll by to the mockingbird's song, Where the cotton blooms 'neath the southern sun, where the vintage hangs thick on the vine. A land whose story has just begun. This wonderful land of mine."

Those are the voices of Mrs. Donovan Campbell, formerly Georgie Beyers, and Ed Brennan. That song was performed on a Washington, D.C., radio station in 1941 as that station was saluting the state of Oklahoma.

On March 31, 1943, the Rodgers and Hammerstein adaptation of Lynn Riggs' Green Grow the Lilacs, the Broadway play Oklahoma! opened. The play became a hit and ran for several years.

McAlester native Ridge Bond was the only Oklahoman to play the role of Curly in the original, long-running Broadway production, when he took over the role in 1946 from Howard Keel. Bond would go on to portray Curly in more than 2,600 performances of the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical.

In 1953, the CBS television program Omnibus featured Ridge Bond and the cast of Oklahoma.

"You can keep your rig if you're thinking that I care to swap, For that shiny little surrey with the fringe on the top."

In 1950, at the age of twenty-three, George Nigh became the youngest member of the state legislature when he was elected to the Oklahoma House of Representatives from Pittsburg County. In 1953 he introduced the bill that would make the song "Oklahoma!" from the Broadway musical the official state song.

Ridge Bond later said when that bill was read, "An old legislator stood up at the microphone and softly sang the old song 'Oklahoma, Oklahoma, 'tis a toast we all can quaff' and started to cry, and everybody there started clapping and carrying on," Bond said. "So, Nigh tabled the bill immediately and called me." Bond added, "He got me together with the choir from the Oklahoma College for Women in Chickasha. We had a quick rehearsal and then went in to the legislature and sang the song for the legislature, and they passed it. I think I had as much to do with getting that song passed as anyone, and I've always been proud of that."

In 1991, he was awarded the Lynn Riggs Award, presented by Rogers State University. The Oklahoma Heritage Association named Bond an Ambassador of Goodwill. Ridge Bond passed away in Tulsa in 1997.

You can learn more Oklahoma and the movies by visiting the Oklahoma History Center, NE 23rd Street just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

Martha Knott

2012-03-31

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KBYE clip - "Yessiree that old theme coming up in the background, pushing ole Cousin Nellie right off the airwaves. Neighbors, gonna see you here tomorra. You bethar and I'll be here, and we'll have a wonderful time. In the meantime, don't forget our wonderful sponsor, Springdale Farms Poultry. This is your old Cousin Nellie saying [unintelligible] neighbors, we gottagit!"

That is the voice of Martha Knott closing her 1950s radio program as Cousin Nellie on KBYE in Oklahoma City.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

Martha Knott was active in show business in Oklahoma from the early 1900s through just a couple of years ago. In fact her family, the Standley family, produced three generations of entertainers that spanned the totality of the twentieth century. The patriarch, Jack, and his wife Myrtle began their careers on the east coast in Vaudeville. In 1905 while on tour, they married in Charleston, South Carolina. They then joined other permanent and circle stock companies, performing in theaters around the United States. In the late 1920s the couple helped operate the Merry Frank Players before purchasing their own tent to do tent shows. Beginning in 1931 the Standley Players began following the wheat harvest, playing in Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas while the show wintered in Oklahoma.

"My dad, Jack Standley, who was the manager of the Standley Players, and my mother and dad were theatre people. They were on the stage, and then I have a brother, John, a sister, Marjorie, a sister, Eleanor, and I'm Martha. Well, we were the Standley Players, and we traveled all over."

It was in those tent shows a young Martha began her career.

"We had a fairly large show. We would have like an orchestra when things were good and the seasons where the farmers had good cotton crop or good wheat or whatever. Well we sort of, our success depended on their success, and if they had money and made money, we made money. When things got bad for them, which is certainly did through the Depression and the Dust Bowl, it was bad for us, the Standley Players."

Early in the family's career, Oklahoma became their home.

"We kind of chose Oklahoma more or less as a headquarters. It seemed that it was sort of strategically located for our traveling and for moving the show. They retired from the road in '57. You know, Oklahoma just all the little towns, and I can think of Reydon and Cheyenne and Butler and, oh Camargo, and I could just name them. Cherokee, Arnett, Elk City, Clinton, Sayre, Hobart, all over - we played all those towns..."

Martha Standley Knott performed as an actor, a comedian, musician, and singer for the Standley Family Players. Martha married Bobby Knott, a musician that toured with the tent show. In the early 1950s the couple settled in Oklahoma City. Bobby formed an orchestra and played at clubs, garnering a long-term job at the Petroleum Club in downtown Oklahoma City. Martha had her radio show on KBYE in Oklahoma City titled Cousin Nellie, a take-off to the Minnie Pearl style comedy, and played country music. Martha stayed active in the stage, acting and directing at Oklahoma City's Mummers Theater and Lyric Theater.

Martha and Bobby's son, Robert Knott, joined the family profession in the 1980s. He has acted in dozens of movies and wrote and produced Appaloosa, starring Ed Harris. Martha Standley Knott passed away two weeks ago, March 24th, at the age of 98.

You can learn more about Oklahomans in show business and in motion pictures when the new exhibit "Oklahoma at the Movies" opens next month at the Oklahoma History Center, NE 23rdStreet, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

Mayor Hefner and Tinker Bonds

2012-04-21

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"When we vote for bonds Tuesday, we are voting to increase employment and to increase business."

That was Oklahoma City Mayor Robert Hefner campaigning for a $982,000 bond election to pay for land where the Army Air Corps planned to build a maintenance base east of Oklahoma City.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

In late 1940, the Army Air Corps announced plans to locate an air base for bombers at the Oklahoma City airport. Sources told the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce that 200 officers and 2,000 enlisted men would be assigned to that base and at least a million dollars would be spent on barracks, chow halls, and other buildings. More land would be needed at the municipal airport, then located southwest of the city, and a committee within the Chamber of Commerce was promptly organized to raise the capital to buy the land. In an article in the Oklahoman in December 1940, publisher E. K. Gaylord made the first public announcement of the committee and its purpose.

At nearly the same time, Oklahoma City car dealer Fred Jones was working as a one-dollar-a-year member of President Roosevelt's War Production Board. During a discussion with several military officers talking about ways to get the country ready for war, he was startled to hear of a proposal for building a large air depot somewhere between Kansas City and Dallas-Fort Worth. Following that meeting Jones called Stanley Draper, the president of the Chamber of Commerce, and told him to get the Chamber in gear. Soon the Chamber learned that the depot would be a permanent installation employing as many as 2,500 workers located on at least 900 acres of land, most of which should be flat and that construction would cost the Army between 10 and 15 million dollars. They also learned that the Army was also looking for a location for an airplane factory, but it was unlikely that the same city would get both the depot and aircraft plant. So the Chamber had to decide which one to go after.

Meanwhile that committee to buy more land at the municipal airport now formed a foundation for the purchase of the land. An Army Air Corps colonel looked at two areas near Oklahoma City...one northeast of Norman, the other on Southeast 29th Street, east of Oklahoma City. He liked that Southeast 29th Street location better, and now the foundation very quietly began buying land around that intersection.

Once the land was in hand, and the Army agreed to build not just the depot but the aircraft factory as well on the site, Mayor Robert Hefner called a bond election to reimburse the foundation for the purchase of that land. He also included the purchase of land northwest of Oklahoma City near Bethany for the construction of a new airport there.

Thus in April 1941, this announcement was seen on movie theaters around Oklahoma City.

"This bond money will be used primarily for the purchase of land on which the Army will spend millions of dollars for construction and employment. The great air supply depot alone will mean 16 million dollars in construction by the government with our city supplying only the land."

On Tuesday, April 29, 1941, voters went to the polls and when the ballots were counted the bond passed by an amazing 19 to 1 margin. The city manager of Oklahoma City, H. E. Bailey, announced that construction would begin as soon as possible. The name of the facility posed a problem for the Army. Because they had already located a bomber detachment at the municipal airport that was already named the Oklahoma City Air Field; the name for the new facility would be the Midwest Air Depot, and the city that grew around the base thus was named Midwest City.

You can learn more about the our military heritage by visiting the Oklahoma History Center, just east of the state capitol on NE 23rd Street in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to the collection, preservation, and sharing of our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

Oklahoma at the Movies

2012-05-12

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"Another Oklahoma boy. Yeah. I had never met Jimmy before. We got along famously, though. Same background."

That is Oklahoma actor G. D. Spradlin talking about his friend and fellow Oklahoma actor James Garner.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

Louis B. Mayer, one of the "M"s in MGM, used to brag that MGM had more stars under contract than there were stars in the heavens. The same might be said of Oklahoma. Since the beginning of the motion picture industry, Oklahoma has perhaps had as many or more people involved in all facets of the motion picture industry than any other state per capita...actors, actresses, directors, producers, screenwriters, cinematographers, film editors, the lists goes on.

How about actors and actresses? Joan Crawford was born in Texas, but as a youngster the family moved to Lawton where her stepfather ran a movie theater. Here she describes her movie Mildred Pierce.

"Tonight's picture, Mildred Pierce, is one that caused quite a stir when it was first shown. It also caused quite a stir in my own emotions as an actress. I'm happy to say that for this role I was lucky enough to win an Oscar. Mildred Pierce, filmed in 1945, is the story of a devoted mother driven by ambition and a desire to give her daughters the luxuries she herself had missed in her youth."

Lon Chaney, Jr. was born in Oklahoma City; his father became one of the first "movie monsters" in silent movies. Lon Chaney, Jr. explains why his father was so good at pantomime.

"My dad learned his ABCs in pantomime. Now don't get excited, the reason for that is that he was born of deaf-mute parents."

William Boyd was born in Ohio but grew up in Tulsa and became one of the silver screen's great western heroes, Hopalong Cassidy.

" -theme song- Here he comes, here he comes, there's the trumpets, there's the drums, here he comes, Hopalong Cassidy, here he comes. 'Hoppy, I'm kinda worried.' 'Alright, let it out, what have you done now?' 'Oh it's not me, it's California I'm worried about.' 'California? What's the matter with him?' 'Well, I don't like to carry tales, but he says he's going to do a little gamblin' and drinkin'.' -laughing- 'He's been saying that for years, but he's never done it.'"

Actress Vera Miles was born in Boise City in the panhandle. Though she was under contract with a number of studios, she costarred with some of Hollywood's leading men, in this scene from The FBI Story with Jimmy Stewart.

"Now we've talked about his before, Chip."
"You mean my job?"
"I love you very much, Chip, but I wouldn't marry you tomorrow or any other day as long as you work for that Bureau."
"Now, Lucy, you're not being very fair about this."
"I don't think you're being very fair to yourself. You spent years getting a degree, working in the day and going to school at night, and then you get stuck in some dinky little rut. I'm not against government work, Chip, but do something important."
"Well, honey, I'm awful sorry, they just wouldn't let me start as a senator."
"Now that's not what I mean, and you know it. I'm not looking for a lot of money or a big mansion. I just hate to see you sliding along, year after year, with nothing to show for it except a payroll number and maybe a pat on the back from some political appointee. You're too good for that, Chip."
"Well, I guess that's pretty clear, isn't it?"
"I hope so."

The Oklahoma History Center opens its newest exhibit, Oklahoma at the Movies, this week exploring this fascinating part of Oklahoma history. The Oklahoma History Center is located on NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memoriesis a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

Capital Moves to OKC

2012-06-02

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"...boarded the south-bound train and returned to Oklahoma City at 10:20pm. According to the papers, the whistles screeched, the bells rang and the auto horns tooted, and the governor was met by a great reception committee and paraded to the Lee-Huckins Hotel. After twenty years of struggle, Oklahoma City was definitely and finally the capital of Oklahoma."

Irvin Hurst was the long time city editor of the Daily Oklahoman and published a history of early Oklahoma government titled The 46th Star. He was a close friend of our first Governor Charles Haskell, and he was describing Governor Haskell's arrival in Oklahoma City the night of June 11, 1910...the day the voters decided to move the capital from Guthrie to Oklahoma City.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

When Governor Haskell arrived at the Huckins Hotel, he asked for a stenographer and dictated a memo which he nailed to the door of his new office, proclaiming Oklahoma City to be the capital of the state of Oklahoma. On Wednesday of that week, a giant celebration was held on the fairgrounds near what is today NE 10th and Martin Luther King. Haskell dictated his memory of the speech to Hurst twenty-two years after the fact, but Hurst was convinced Haskell's memory of the speech that he gave was accurate. Hurst then continued to quote Haskell's speech.

"It has never been the policy of the present governor of Oklahoma to let another man to get to first base before he gets there himself. If there are to be any injunction suits, he proposes to let those suits to find him where he wants to be rather than at the place from which he is trying to get, and that is why the official seat of government for the state of Oklahoma today is Oklahoma City. I'm glad to know, however, that Oklahoma City and its men who have made this vigorous campaign for the state capital, hesitate to accept the capital at this time if they think they have gained it by deception. Your chamber of commerce, however, may rest in peace for you haven't stolen anything."

From the time the state capital was moved from Guthrie to Oklahoma City, there have been almost countless myths surrounding the move, all of them suggesting that the state seal was stolen from Guthrie and moved to Oklahoma City. Francis Haskell, daughter of Charles Haskell, tells of one of the myths and her father's reaction to it.

"Many people have told how he climbed out the capitol window and so on, but he hadn't been in Guthrie for three weeks. So, I used to say to him 'Why you let people sit up right in front of you and say how they helped you get out the window?' And he'd say "Why lose a friend by spoilin' his story? He's told it so much he believes it.'"

Here's what really happened: On July 21, 1909, the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce delivered a petition to the assistant secretary of state in Guthrie, calling for the capital to be permanently moved to Oklahoma City. They argued that Oklahoma City was the natural choice for the capital since it boasted a central location, a growing population, and a strong economic community. The proclamation was originally prepared with June 14, 1911, designated as the date for the special election. Governor Haskell marked out the "fourteenth" and wrote in the "eleventh," causing the election to be held on a Saturday with the results to be known on Sunday. So, on Saturday, June 11, 1910, almost a year after the petition had been delivered, with no mention as to when the move would take place, Oklahoma City won the election, Guthrie finished second, and Shawnee third.

Governor Haskell was in Tulsa on the day of the election. After receiving word that Oklahoma City was the projected winner, he and his wife and some friends boarded a special Frisco train for Oklahoma City. Before he left he phoned his private secretary, W.B. Anthony, and ordered him and the secretary of state to pick up the state seal from the Logan County courthouse and meet him at the Lee-Huckins Hotel in Oklahoma City, and that's what they did.

You can learn more about our state government by visiting the Oklahoma History Center on NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean

Oklahoma Memories

Gary Busey

2012-07-07

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"When they gave me the three permanents and dyed my hair black and gave me these clothes from the '50s, I could not find Gary Busey in the mirror."

That's the voice of Gary Busey with his thoughts on the role he'll be remembered most for as Buddy Holly.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

Gary Busey was born on June 29, 1944, in Texas but grew up in Oklahoma. He graduated from Nathan Hale High School in Tulsa in 1962 then played football for two years on scholarship at Pittsburg State in Kansas but became interested in acting and transferred to Oklahoma State University, where he majored in theater and was playing drums in a local rock and roll group, the Rubber Band. Then in 1970 his friend GailardSartain had a Saturday night show on a Tulsa TV station hosting old movies and performing skits. Sartain asked Busey to join him on the Uncanny Film Festival and Camp Meeting.

"A friend of mine, Gailard Sartain, was doing a local show in Tulsa called The Uncanny Film Festival and Camp Meeting. Outrageous, outrageous eccentric things. While they showed the movie - like, a great movie - then the break would come and he would do stunt, he would do a skit, he would do a little thing, and he asked me to be on it with him. And I said, 'What am I gonna do?' Just come in and start dancin'. I said 'What?' Be a truck driver. You've been on the road a long time; you need to dance. 'Okay, is that it?' He said yeah. I said 'What should my name be?' He said Teddy Jack Eddie. I went, 'Teddy Jack Eddie.' I said, 'That's a guy with three front names.'"

About the same time, Leon Russell had moved to Tulsa and was opening his Shelter Records recording studio.

"...came over. He invited me over to his house, and I got on drums, he got on piano, and we played "Spontaneity" together and turned out to have a...those songs are on an album called Will o' the Wisp -"Hideaway" and "Rock and Roll" and "Bluebird." So I stayed and played with Leon, stayed and played at his house, went on the big tour with him on a bus. It was rough but so what. So is life. And what happens when things are rough in art? Make the best of it. You create something that gives the roughness a smooth feeling because you went through it. And Leon - quiet, humble, secure, and always performing at 150%. Amazing."

The combination of music and acting took Busey to Los Angeles when from 1971 to 1978 he appeared in a dozen movies and several TV shows, and in 1978 his music combined with acting landed him the title role in The Buddy Holly Story.

"Oh, Buddy Holly Story. Every time I sang a song, when I'd do the scenes, I didn't even remember what happened in the scene. I felt like nothing happened, but everything was happening, because I wasn't thinking. I was playing a real person who died February 3, 1959, at 1:15am in an airplane crash, and when they gave me the three permanents and dyed my hair black and gave me these clothes from the '50s, I could not find Gary Busey in the mirror."

Busey was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of Buddy Holly. More movies followed ...more than a hundred and almost as many television appearances.

Busey has always been a controversial subject, but now we celebrate his 68th birthday. Busey's career in Hollywood is a part of our major exhibit "Oklahoma at the Movies" now showing at the Oklahoma History Center, NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.

Oklahoma Memories

Dean McGee Remembered

2012-09-22

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“Well, I had a detached retina. I never had had any trouble with my eyes. And I just woke up one morning with partial sight in one eye. ”

That’s the voice of Dean McGee explaining why he endowed the McGee Eye Institute. Dean McGee is remembered as half of the Kerr McGee Corporation that was headquartered in Oklahoma City until recent years.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma memories. I’m Michael Dean.

Petroleum geologist and philanthropist Dean McGee was reverently known early in his career as "the man with a nose for oil. " He was born in Humbolt, Kansas, on March 20, 1904. After his graduation from the University of Kansas in 1926, he went to work for the Bartlesville-based Phillips Petroleum Company, starting in their Texas oil fields. By 1937, he had risen to the position of chief geologist. That’s when Robert S. Kerr noticed him, and offered him a position with Anderson and Kerr Drilling Company in Ada.

“By 1937, I had become chief geologist at Phillips, and liked very much my job. I liked the Phillips Petroleum Company and the people I worked with, but when the opportunity to join a small company and share in its growth came along, I looked on it as a challenge, really. Not because I was dissatisfied in any way with my progress or the people I worked with. ”

McGee’s ability to guide exploration activities while adding refining and distribution capabilities gave Kerr the luxury of running for public office, first as governor of Oklahoma, and then as United States Senator.

Following World War II, McGee began studying the ocean floor off the gulf coast and became convinced that at least one fifth of the world’s oil could be found underwater. Using Governor Kerr's political influence, the company acquired a surplus World War II barge, mounted a drilling rig on it, and pioneered offshore exploration. The one problem with off-shore drilling was something that wouldn’t be solved until long after his death, and was locating the exact positions of rigs out side the sight of land.

“So when we found these structures, and decided to build a platform, we had to make sure they were where we thought they were, so we went out and drove a pylon on the block 32 structure where we thought it was, then we went back and seismographed again, just to make sure it was there. You don’t realize the problem when you get ten or eleven miles off-shore in the water, trying to decide where you are geographically. ”

He was rewarded for his efforts when the company name was renamed Kerr-McGee & Company and by his promotion to president in 1946. By 1954, the company's board of directors named him chief executive officer.

In 1979, McGee remembered how important that decision to drill in the ocean really was:

“Discovery of oil in the ocean might have been a turning point for us, because it put us in the off-shore drilling business. And for a period of the early two or three years we were the only people in the off-shore drilling business. ”

Dean McGee died at the age of 85 on September 15, 1989.

The interview with Dean McGee was recorded in 1979, the 50th anniversary of Kerr McGee.

On June 23, 2006, Kerr-McGee directors agreed to a buyout by Anadarko Petroleum that involved moving the headquarters from Oklahoma City to Houston. The Oklahoma Historical Society, however, houses the complete collection of documents, film, and tape that chronicle the history of the Kerr-McGee corporation.

The Oklahoma History Center is located on NE 23rd Street just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving and sharing our state’s past. I’m Michael Dean.