An anniversary slipped by last month.
75 years of anything is generally a milestone to recognize.
On Oct. 31, 1937, more than 600 people attended a formal dedication of Will Rogers Courts, a WPA project for low-income families
The complex near SW 15 and Petee consisted of 37 acres with 354 apartments, a park, a laundry, a community building and playground.
The opening was eagerly awaited by many, although the public project’s construction phase was sometimes bogged down with political red tape and delays.
Mr. and Mrs. Richard Thomas and their 1-year-old daughter, Dixie Lynn, were chosen to be the first tenants.
They were excited.
They had been living in two rooms of an old house where the only available water was from the bathtub faucet and shared with other renters.
They would be moving into an ultramodern three-room apartment in Will Rogers Courts.
” ‘Gosh!’ exclaimed Thomas, who took his family out to look at their new home …
“1603 Rotary Drive! It sounds like it might be in Nichols Hills or someplace like that.”
“It’ll seem just like heaven,” said Mrs. Thomas. “My folks were coming down to see us from Iowa next month. I just hated for them to come to our old place. Now I’ll be proud.”
“It would be impossible to understand the happiness of the Thomases, without seeing them in their old surroundings, then in their new surroundings.
“The look in their eyes and the smiles on their faces, spelling hope and faith in the future, answered a lot of questions about the government’s housing project,” reported The Oklahoman on the front page on Aug. 27, 1937.
Thomas was a taxi driver making $22 a week, and his wife was a homemaker.
Their previous home was an apartment in an old house in poor repair that rented for $19.50 a month, while their new apartment would cost $21.70 and include all utilities. They would have a working kitchen, complete bathroom and a laundry and a park nearby.
Not only are the buildings still standing, but Will Rogers Courts, administered by the Oklahoma Housing Authority, are still providing shelter for Oklahoma City’s low-income families 75 years later.
The project’s mission still remains the same: to provide housing for low-income citizens, providing families hope of a better future.
I had never thought about it before, but Election Day and Thanksgiving Day are both in the month of November.
As voters cast ballots in last week’s presidential election, it’s doubtful many were thinking about the upcoming holiday. It’s more likely they were pondering who would win. Even Facebook friends have faced off, espousing the merits of their chosen candidates. So, emotions have been high, not unlike a previous presidential election.
The 1948 presidential election was between President Harry Truman and Gov. Thomas E. Dewey, of New York.
It was a difficult race to predict, and it led to the famous newspaper headline proclaiming Dewey as the presidential winner.
Now in this era of almost instantaneous results, such a bold error is not likely, but the sentiments of the following words still hold true. The Oklahoman published this editorial Nov. 1, 1948:
“Both in November
“Our lawmakers have so arranged it that the same month that brings our fiery furnace national election also brings our day of national Thanksgiving. About three weeks after approximately 50,000,000 people have gone to the polls gnashing their teeth and declaiming right luridly they will be assembled in our country’s multiplied churches returning thanks for the blessed privilege of residing in the greatest and cleanest and happiest country on earth.
Soon after the election has been held Mr. Truman will issue a proclamation calling upon all people of all parties to dedicate the day of his official selection to general thanksgiving for a happy and prosperous year. He will issue that proclamation, regardless of his electoral fate on November 2. And no matter whether Gov. Dewey wins or loses the presidential prize next Thursday, he will issue a state proclamation of Thanksgiving day and urge the people of his state to show their gratitude for mercies and blessings received.
And no matter how partisans have fumed and stormed and predicted unspeakable disaster they will be found side by side in some loftily spired edifice thanking their creator for the blessings all of them have enjoyed. No matter how the November election goes, all people of all political faiths will unite in holding that our country is the most blessed country beneath the Sun. And myriads of those who have been maddest through the campaign will be wondering on Thanksgiving day just what were they mad about anyway.”
After the hotly contested presidential election, with state candidates and issues also on the ballot, we hope that the citizens of our great country can put our differences behind us and as we sit at the Thanksgiving table remember our blessings.
Congratulations to the winners, consolations to the losers and a Happy Thanksgiving to all!
Halloween is almost here.
This ghost story from Oklahoma’s past appeared in The Oklahoman on Nov. 1, 1908:
“In the darkness of a canyon cave, near old Fort Arbuckle, there resides an oracle. What it is no living person knows. Certain it is that some natural formation of earth, stone or timber stands suspended in such a manner that the circulation of winds within the cave creates an uncanny sound that drives one, if he suspects the supernatural or is a believer in ghost dances or spirit walks, to think that an imp of the nether region is playing a funeral dirge while his fellows dance in glee during the cremation of a lost soul. So vivid is the noise on occasions the superstitious folk of that neighborhood lock their doors tight at night and even in summer wrap themselves in bed covers to keep out the sound. A few have been driven to other lands, and it is said that for years during the early days of Indian Territory, even horse thieves, murderers and outlaws shied from the place, suspecting they heard omens of ill luck, or the song of an oracle betokening the approach of the posse.
The mysterious cave is only a half mile from the site of Fort Arbuckle (six miles west and one mile north of Davis) where 40 years ago United States soldiers were stationed to guard the frontier against marauding Indians. History relates that a battle was fought in the canyon and the bodies of dead soldiers were thrown into the cave. Unfortunately for superstitious clans, the date of the battle was October 31, the day of ghosts, hobgoblins, walking spirits and other supernatural phenomena that are, prehistorically speaking, in spectacular evidence when darkness falls upon the valleys and hills.
On the night of that battle day either some of the dead came to life, or persons not dead had been pitched into the cave, or else disturbing spooks walked over the bodies with mysterious weepings, for out of the inkiness came inhuman sounds, shrill shrieking, screaming or again doleful dreary, delirious — now groans of a maniac sinking into oblivion, now the shrieks of an expiring lost soul, now the music of Hades harped for the fantastic dance of the demons.
A pioneer heard it that night. He slew Indians all day and was tired at sundown. He lay upon a patch of grass in the valley of the canyon and tried to sleep. Repose deserted him. Rest was frightened away. He lay all night with his eyes open, staring at a heaven full of pretty stars. He tried to peer beyond the stars, strained his ears for a heavenly music, sought to forget the awful night of spookdom. But he couldn’t. Neither could he move his prostrate body when he tried. Not a muscle was active. The noises would not cease. All night he heard them and until the sun rose in the morning. That day in a cabin of the Arbuckle mountains the man told his story. That day the family in the cabin moved out. And from that day afterwards never was this man seen…”
Have a happy and safe halloween!
In Guthrie’s Summit View Cemetery, a stark, black monument has marked the resting place of an Oklahoma pioneer for 83 years.
On June 7, 1929, as the Oklahoma Press Association was meeting in Guthrie, The Oklahoman reported:
“Friday the editors of Oklahoma and high state officials will gather at Summit View cemetery here to unveil a monument and pay tribute to the memory of John Golobie, one of the most romantic figures in the pioneer history of this commonwealth.
“Golobie came to the United States a poor immigrant boy, sent by his mother in what is now far away Czecho-Slovakia, alone across the sea to America the land of opportunity.
“He acquired an education, mostly by reading good books, came to Kansas and worked on the Wichita Eagle and when Oklahoma was opened to settlement on April 22, 1889, made the run to Guthrie where he was connected with various newspaper enterprises, finally helping to found the Oklahoma State Register which he edited here until his health failed. He served eight years in the state senate and became a power in the Republican politics of the state.”
The granite monument was quarried in Golobie’s native land and shipped to Oklahoma by his friend Lew Wentz.
“The base, appropriately, is of Oklahoma granite, combining symbols of the land of his birth and the land of his achievements.
“On the stone has been engraved the simple inscription:
A True American
Died May 30, 1927.’
“There is no date of birth, for Golobie did not know his exact age. Even John Golobie was his name only because he had worn it so long. His real name, long and foreign, only one other man in America knew. “John Golobie” the boy invented for himself when he started to an American school.
When the United States entered the World war Golobie threw all the force of his oratory into the cause of his adopted country. He inspired thousands by his speeches. It was a sad blow to him when following the war he failed in his race for governor of his state because people who did not know him voted against him because of his foreign birth.
Then he set his heart on being appointed minister to Czecho-Slovakia and would probably have succeeded, but for a ruling that no naturalized citizen might be sent as ambassador to the land of his birth.
Of his work in the state senate the achievement of which he was most proud was his bill establishing the state circulating library, making it possible for people in rural sections to enjoy good books.
Golobie never married. He had no known relatives in his adopted land. When his funeral was held, as he requested in the open air pavilion at Mineral Wells park here June 1, 1927, (more than 1500) friends from all walks of life and from all parts of the state gathered to say farewell. His grave is on the highest knoll in the heart of Summit View.”
Perhaps along with “A True American” the inscription should read “A True Oklahoman.”
With full-page newspaper advertisements and dramatic television commercials featuring specialty hospitals and their offerings these days, it’s hard to imagine there was once a time when a newspaper advertisement for a hospital was just the name and location.
Dr. F.K. Camp, founder of Wesley Hospital, pioneered the use of display advertising for hospitals.
In the August 1911 edition of The Oklahoman, a display advertisement shows the building and announces the opening of Wesley Hospital in the Herskowitz Building on Broadway and Grand.
Camp and his wife had established Wesley Hospital on two floors of the Herskowitz Building. But by December 1911, he had purchased an apartment house at 12th and Harvey and remodeled it into a hospital “second to none in the state. Operating room equipment the best money can buy. Beds, from $10 to $35 per week. Excellent nursing. An ambulance will meet trains when requested.”
The ads for the new Wesley Hospital location would show a photograph of the hospital and provide information about the hospital improvements and amenities.
The doctor and his wife owned and managed the hospital until 1919 when it was bought by a group led by Dr. A.L. Blesh and renamed the Hospital of the Oklahoma City Clinic.
On Aug. 10, 1919, The Oklahoman published an announcement about the hospital’s sale and Dr. Camp’s retirement. It also mentioned Camp’s advertising success:
“Dr. Camp’s advertising campaign, which was launched several years ago to popularize Wesley Hospital, was so successful that he became known nationally as the man who had made a success with advertising in a field where the ethics of the profession had long held against the use of display space in connection with the business. Dr. Camp was a pioneer in advertising a hospital. His methods were discussed by members of the profession throughout the country. Many hospitals in the large cities of the nation followed Dr. Camp’s lead.”
Camp was not through initiating innovations, however.
When he and his wife retired to California, they bought the already historic Brookdale Lodge, built in 1870 near Santa Cruz.
While searching the Internet trying to discover what Dr. Camp’s initials stood for, I discovered he was responsible for creating a landmark in the lodge that still exists.
The lodge, now known as the Brookdale Inn & Spa with the slogan, A River Runs Through It, has been closed due to financial problems since January 2011.
Its restaurant, called the Brookroom, was built so the natural brook on the property would run through the 200-seat dining room, complete with trees and boulders amid the tables and chairs.
The Brookroom was Dr. Camp’s creation, and for some 60 years after his death, the Brookroom was still a popular California destination, even featured in Ripley’s Believe It or Not.
Camp’s Oklahoma City legacy still stands, too.
Old Wesley Hospital became Presbyterian Hospital, now a part of the OU Medical Center. And the old hospital building on 12th and Harvey is now the Wesley Village Retirement Community.
Who was Sally? When I read a March 1, 1925, story in The Oklahoman, I wanted to know.
She must have been important, because the unnamed reporter checked with several prominent Oklahoma City citizens trying to find out where she was. It turns out the reporter came up with a clever story.
“From bank presidents down to messenger boys, they’re hunting for her through dark alleys, up the main highways, to directors’ meetings and on the schoolground, comes the pitiful wail, ‘Please bring her back to me.’
“Among city business men, it isn’t a question of who she is, They know. And they want to find her. So they dream, and hunt, and memory brings back the pleasant times they spent planning the future — with Sally — if only Sally hadn’t deserted them.
“But Sally is gone. So John Fields, vice president of the Farmers’ National bank, removes his stogie and whistles, ‘I wonder what’s become of Sally,’ while his eye moves a picture of how she would look all dressed up in Washington.
“Politicians muse on what a glorious figure she would make on top of the capitol dome they would have given the state.
“Ed Overholser believes she’d make a great chamber of commerce president.
“T.P. Martin would give her a place as pilot on the air mail route.
“Fred Suits seeks for her in the union station; Governor Trapp believes she is in the Darlington narcotic house; W.F. Vahlberg thinks she took his plans for a new city hall with her; Alva McDonald has a hunch that she has joined John Wilkes Booth, and hopes she led the seekers after his job with her.
“But the garbage man is the only one who has seen her since she left the city, for he’s stopped whistling, ‘Yes we have no bananas,’ and assures the world that Sally is headed for the dump heap.”
It took me a search on Google to find out who Sally was.
She was Sally Long, a Ziegfield Follies dancer who was the inspiration for the popular 1924 song titled ‘I Wonder What’s Become of Sally?’
“I wonder what’s become of Sally,
“That old gal of mine.
“The sunshine’s missing from our alley,
“Ever since the day Sally went away.
“No matter where she is,
“Whatever she may be,
“If no one wants her now,
“Please send her back to me.
“I’ll always welcome back my Sally,
“That old gal of mine.”
Alva McDonald was a U.S. marshal, W.F. Vahlberg was a member of the city board of commissioners, T.P. Martin was on the chamber of commerce’s aviation committee and Fred Suits was an attorney representing supporters for a railroad union station.
I guess I’m still wondering why they were wondering where Sally was.
Maybe you saw the news.
The Times-Picayune, the daily newspaper for New Orleans, La., since 1837, is downsizing from a daily to publishing three days a week.
In this age of digital news, newspapers have had to find other ways to compete or disappear.
The Oklahoman still publishes seven days a week, but also offers its award-winning digital site, NewsOK.com, as an alternative.
Dorothy Dix, the pen name of Mrs. Elizabeth M. Gilmer, was a syndicated columnist who began her writing career at the New Orleans Daily Picayune in 1896 after a chance encounter with the newspaper’s publisher.
Dix pioneered the advice column and the syndication of her column, Dorothy Dix Talks. She was the first “Dear Abby,” if you please.
Her column was carried by the Oklahoma City Times and also The Oklahoman until her death in 1951.
She touched millions of readers with her advice column for more than half a century, according to her obituary.
Dorothy Dix contributed this column about newspapers for The Oklahoman‘s Golden Anniversary edition, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 1889 Land Run on April 23, 1939. The Oklahoma City Times began publishing in May of 1889 and was also celebrating its 50th anniversary.
“In a way a newspaper is like a woman. The chief charm of both is in being a good gossip and having all the news of the world at the tips of their tongue, and if they have personality and originality — what we call IT, for want of a better word — the older they get, the better they are.
“For the newspaper, like the woman, adds humor and knowledge and experience of life and tolerance of poor humanities’ faults and foibles to its other virtues and becomes the friend and comrade without whose salty companionship our days would be flavorless. It is Grandma with her new hairdo and a short skirt who remembers everything she should have forgotten: who knows who’s who and when such and such a one moved across the railroad tracks; who has birthed so many babies and pinned the wedding veils on so many brides; who has wept at so many funerals; who has rejoiced with so many in their good fortunes and comforted so many in their hour of misfortune that she is part of the lives of the whole community.
“So I congratulate the Times on its fiftieth birthday, and still more the people who have had it for a friend, counselor and guide for so many years. They have been blessed beyond their knowing because whether we realize it or not, as our daily paper thinketh so think we. It sets our standards for us. It forms our ideals. And if in the past 50 years Oklahoma City has risen from a struggling, straggling village to a foremost place among the progressive cities of the land, it is largely due to the fact that the Times and Oklahoman led the way.”
The Oklahoman is still leading the way for its readers, whether you access it online, with your mobile device or on your porch every morning.
Note: The Oklahoma City Times was the evening edition published by The Oklahoma Publishing Co. until 1984 when it merged with The Daily Oklahoman.
Basketball season will be upon us in a few months.
The Thunder faithful will gather again on Reno Avenue north of the Chesapeake Arena in anticipation of another great game.
But go a few blocks north to where Broadway and Sheridan form a T intersection anchored by the Cox Convention Center, the Sheraton Century Hotel and the Renaissance Hotel, and imagine, if you will, Broadway extending south and each corner populated with its own diverse group of citizens.
This article from The Oklahoman, May 25, 1919, tells the story of Gospel Corner.
” ‘Gospel Corner,’ famous in the history of Oklahoma City until a decade ago, is being rehabilitated, after being partially suppressed by police edict. During its palmy days, ‘Gospel Corner’ vied with Trafalgar Square in London as a place where the freedom of speech regardless of how seditionary or unorthodox, was permitted. During the summer months it was not uncommon for four religious meetings to be in progress simultaneously — one on each corner, and it was because the intersection of Grand Avenue (now Sheridan Avenue) and Broadway was favored during the cool of the evenings as a place for street sermons that the intersection became known as ‘Gospel Corner.’
“Any man or woman who thought he or she had a message to deliver to the world was welcome to mount a soap box and begin expounding after 6 o’clock p.m. The city was filled with transients at that time, and any speaker was sure to have an audience regardless of the subject or length of the address.
“Religious ideas were not the only ones disseminated at ‘Gospel Corner’ during the heyday of its glory. Soap box orators and curbstone statesmen flourished here in those days, and a citizen with a few minutes to spend could learn how to save the country. The information was free.
“Gospel Corner’s downfall really dates from the time that ‘God,’ ‘Adam’ and ‘Eve’ (a group of nudists or naturists) undertook one day to put their preaching into practice on West Grand avenue. In broad daylight the three, attired even as Adam might have been, emerged from a doorway near Robinson avenue and began a march east on Grand avenue.”
After being covered up by well-meaning citizens, the trio were taken to jail and then banished from the city. The police pronounced an edict prohibiting gatherings on the corners.
The 1919 article ended by saying:
” ‘Gospel Corner’ is being revived but it is now pitched upon a higher plane. On several evenings last week two organizations were holding forth simultaneously at ‘Gospel Corner’ and the gatherings assumed the proportions of the old time crowds.”
The crowds have moved two blocks south now to Reno, and the shouts are for the home team, but if you’re at Broadway and Sheridan on game night, use your imagination and hear the sounds of those long-ago crowds.
As the 2012 Summer Olympics are now under way in London, a look back in The Oklahoman shows the Stockholm Olympics were drawing to a close 100 years ago on July 15, 1912.
How exciting it must have been to have been a participant as the winners of gold, silver and bronze received their awards. The Oklahoman, July 16, 1912, described the spectacle on the front page:
“With the United States well in the lead in total number of points in all sports; with a sweeping victory to the credit of Yankee athletes in track and field events; and with an Oklahoma Indian, James Thorpe, proved the best all-around athlete in the world, the curtain has fallen upon the Olympic Games of 1912. Never before has there been such an assemblage of athletes, never before have the events been so hotly contested, and never before have previous records been bowled over so ruthlessly as in the fifth Olympiad.
“James Thorpe of the Carlisle Indian school proved himself easily the greatest all-around athlete of the world in the decathlon, which proved a variety of tests of speed, strength and quickness… .
“It seems marvelous that any capacity to shout was left in Stockholm after the last nine days but the victors got all due them when they received their laurels. … Three handsome stands were placed on the greensward and all the winners of first, second and third prizes marched into the arena and assembled in three groups before the stands. The athletes and gymnasts and officers of the various nations who competed in the military events were in uniform while the women prizewinners were variously attired.
“The king (Gustave of Sweden) conferred on the winners of each first prizes an oak wreath, a gold medal and a challenge cup. Crown Prince Gustave Adolph presented a silver medal to each member of the second group and Prince Charles, brother of the king, handed bronze medals to each of the third group. A herald in medieval costume called the name of each who then stepped forward and received the prize.
“(Jim) Thorpe was honored with a huge bronze trophy so large he could hardly carry it.”
As London presents this year’s Olympics, The Oklahoman will again keep us apprised of the competitions. Let us cheer all the competitors on, with special cheers for the 39 Oklahoman athletes, coaches and support staff. Four of the rowers trained on the Oklahoma River.
History often shows up where we least expect it.
My sister, Martha Vickery, and I occasionally go to estate sales, searching for bargains and odd, interesting items
At a recent sale, I saw a plaque on the wall, looked at it, thought the $12 price was too high and went on looking through the house.
Before I paid for the things I had found, I looked at the plaque again and decided to buy it.
It is a simple board plaque with a half-inch thick slice of iron rail attached and a piece of paper pasted to the bottom with this simple explanation:
TOWARD A FINER OKLAHOMA CITY
This section of streetcar track was removed in 1976 from its original location at Main and Robinson during the renewal of the Central Business District. As part of the downtown city loop of the street rail system, this track served all the north and east areas of Oklahoma City, including such routes as the Fairgrounds, East Fourth, Capitol Culbertson, Lincoln Park and North Robinson. Over this rail passed thousands of merrymakers destined for the Fairgrounds as well as those with civic pride eager to see the new State Capitol dedicated July 4, 1917. During 1920, the system’s best year, 25.5 million passengers used the lines of the streetcar system.
— George H. Shirk, Christmas 1976
My guess is George Shirk, former mayor of Oklahoma City and a lifelong preservationist of Oklahoma history, might have given these as Christmas gifts the year before his death in 1977.
Why is the plaque important to me?
That piece of streetcar rail represents a part of my family’s history. My Oklahoma pioneer grandmother, Stella Young, rode the streetcar to Guthrie for the 89er parades. My aunt, Grace Helms, tells how when she rode the cars as a child, the wicker seats were so slick, and the streetcar’s swaying motion made her afraid she might slide right off.
Many family memories centered on the fairgrounds, then at NW 10 and Martin Luther King Avenue, where Douglass High School now stands, Northeast Lake near the zoo, then a popular swimming area, and trips downtown to window shop, all destinations on the streetcar lines.
The only street cars I’ve ridden were those in San Francisco.
The closest I had come to the rails were those still in the street under the overpass at NW 4 and Broadway.
Now, I have a piece of Oklahoma City history.