History records the Chinese using oil from snakes to alleviate joint pain, but with the coming of the patent medicine man, snake oil took on a different connotation: fraud and fakery.
The traveling elixir peddlers sold their medicines with the promise of cures for practically everything that ails you.
Seventy-five years ago on April 3, 1938, The Oklahoman reported the story of rattlesnake hunter Herb Pinack of Medicine Park.
“He seeks out the dens of the rattlesnakes, kills them and collects the fat from the sides of the rattlesnakes. From this fat he renders an oil which has been known for years for its medical qualities.”
“From the time of the medicine shows when the wandering doctors went through the country selling their remedies, snake oil has been known as a healer of rheumatism, toothache, earache and other aches for which penetrating oil will give relief. Rattlesnake oil, according to Pinack, is one of the most penetrating oils that have ever been found and a small amount rubbed into a joint sore with rheumatism or dropped into an ear will give quick relief. He sells the oil for $20 an ounce, but a small amount will last the winter for an average family.”
On a sunny Sunday, reporter Helen Gilbert met Pinack and his wife in the Wichita Mountains to hunt rattlesnakes.
“I saw two people wandering among the rocks on a ledge above me and calling up to them I asked if they were hunting rabbits. They yelled back. “No we are looking for rattlesnake.” I had seen a posted sign on a fence that I had just crossed and when Pinack answered that he was looking for rattlesnake I thought he was trying to scare me.”
“Soon, I came closer to Pinack and his wife and they invited me to join them. Still thinking the snakes were a joke, I trailed along and fell into conversation. Pinack told me how he had killed thousands of rattlesnakes in the 36 years that he had lived in the mountains and how he decided to make a hobby of killing them and collecting their oil.”
Herb Pinack located a den and killed six rattlesnakes.
“With his penknife, Pinack slit their skins, his knife making a slight raking sound as it cut through the scales. With deft fingers he pulled the fat from their sides and dropped it into a fruit jar which he brought along.”
Rattlesnake oil may truly just be snake oil, but as media continues to bring stories of the next great cure, and who knows, but real snake oil might be worth another look from scientists.
If you want to get out there and hunt your own, consider attending the Waurika Rattlesnake Hunt, April 12-14; the Apache Rattlesnake Festival, April 18-21; and the 48th Annual Mangum Rattlesnake Derby, April 26-28.
In 1942, city roadhouse owner Billy Gragg opened a downtown dance hall at 7 N Broadway and named it the Daisy Mae after the character in the long-running comic strip, “Li’l Abner.”
Bragg said, “Girl attendants will dress as Daisy Mae, while fountain boys will appear as Li’l Abner.”
With World War II ongoing, Gragg decided female patrons must show their ration books to prove they were of legal drinking age.
With the police chief’s blessing, Gragg instituted a rule that men must show their draft cards to show they were 21, but he would serve the military regardless of age. ” … if he is big enough and old enough to carry a gun, he’s big enough and old enough to carry a glass of beer.”
On April 5, 1942, veteran Oklahoman writer Tom Rucker reported the Daisy Mae’s most memorable event.
The battle of Mrs. Mabel Bassett v. the Daisy Mae’s bare tummies closed its second round Tuesday night with no decision and the tummies still bare.
The complaining commissioner of charities and corrections was sidestepped in the first round, when the very male city council pointed out that city ordinances cover such things as bare tummies in a legal sort of way and referred her to the police department.
The second round opened with verbal sparring with L.J. Hilbert, police chief, and with Mrs. Bassett failing to land any telling body blows, but was brought to a sudden halt when Billy Gragg, owner of the honky-tonk, said in effect: “Bare they are, bare they stay.” His actual words were: “If anyone complains that the bare midriffs are vulgar, we’ll cover them up.” When it was pointed out that Mrs. Bassett already had complained, he gave out verbosely, but which boiled down in paraphrase to: “Anyone else.”
Mrs. Bassett claimed that up to six inches of anatomy of the Daisy Mae’s waitresses showed between halter and skirts.
A detailed examination of the midriff of one tall waitress made Tuesday afternoon (purely in the interest of facts, Lou Verna, my dear) revealed:
Two and one-half inches of slightly tanned, smooth skin between the upper and lower garments. If she breathed deeply the bare would have built up to four inches.
If the bare built up to six inches the inspection no longer would have been scientific.
This particular waitress, a charming 18-year-old blond, wore a polka-dot halter with a full back in it. It was tied in front with one of the ends drooping down, thus hiding at least one square inch of skin.
Her jagged skirt, a la Daisy Mae fashion, ended just below her knees, in a much less intriguing manner than the scanties worn in the comic strips by the real Daisy Mae.
Thus the score stood Tuesday night: Two rounds, no decision, eight tummies still bare.
Gragg has had several brushes with officials. An old hand in the entertainment business, he usually adopts a conciliatory attitude. But Tuesday he just wanted to ask more questions of Mrs. Bassett.
What, he asked, is Mrs. Bassett going to do with housewives who wear midriffs downtown this summer? And how about girls at swimming pools and women who wear two-piece evening dresses?”
This wasn’t the end of the story. On May 22, 1944, The Oklahoman reported a Chicago trade magazine, “Institutional,” had picked up the story of the bare midriffs and ran the photo of a Daisy Mae waitress in her “uniform.” The only problem was they identified the waitress as “Mabel Bassett of the Daisy Mae tavern in Oklahoma City fashions the very latest in Dogpatch style.”
Bassett was out of town and apparently chose not to make a public comment when she returned.
“Why the idea,” giggled Elsie D. Hand, assistant commissioner, “of Mabel Bassett going around showing half of her stomach. That’s the funniest thing I ever heard of.”
Mabel Bassett was elected and served as the state commissioner of charities and corrections for 24 years. She oversaw the operations of the state schools for boys and girls, orphanages and the state penitentiary. If a child was orphaned or abandoned, she would often pick up the child herself, or if a prisoner had a complaint, he or she would come to her. She was also recognized early in her career for being the first woman patrolman in the state at Sapulpa. The state correctional facility in McLoud is named for her.
The Daisy Mae lasted until late 1947 when Chuck’s Billiards took over the location and arrests began to rise for illegal gambling and bookies.
A sad, little story appeared in The Oklahoman on Nov. 3, 1912.
Captain W.W. Mayne, a survivor of the Civil War, died April 15, 1912, in Claremore, and a public auction of his possessions was held later that year in November on the streets of Claremore.
The story began: “At a public auction sale on the streets of this city recently one of the most famous violins in America was sold and one of the saddest stories of human life — full of romance and disappointments — was brought to light.”
Mayne, impoverished after searching unsuccessfully nearly 18 years for the wife who had deserted him in 1894 and taken their children, left an estate of only a few trinkets and four violins.
He had arrived in Claremore six years before in poor health resulting from war injuries aggravated by his search.
Claremore’s famous artesian water known as Radium water worked its cure and Mayne regained his health for a time.
Of the four violins, three sold for less than $20 each. But the fourth was a special one and sold for $145.50 to local attorney John T. Ezzard.
After the Civil War, Mayne became “a famous violinist and a noted orchestra leader, standing at the head of his profession in Chicago for a number of years. While there, a friend who had secured one of the Maggini violins was about to lose the instrument by foreclosure of a mortgage when Mayne secured the instrument on the payment of $760, the original mortgage being $1,760. The instrument, owing to the death of the mortgagee, was never redeemed and remained in the possession of Captain Mayne for over thirty years.”
Giovani Paolo Maggini lived in 17th century Italy and crafted violins. While not as well-known as Stradivarius or Guarneri, his violins are still quite respected in violin circles.
Mayne’s Maggini violin resurfaced in The Oklahoman on Jan. 27, 1936, in a story about a man who had spent 20 years trying to prove he had a 300-year-old violin.
According to the story, shortly after buying the violin in the 1912 auction, attorney Ezzard sold it to Carl Nuccols (Nuckolls) also of Claremore.
“‘I could tell the first time I played it. I had something,’ said Nuccols, employed in the aviation trade at 325 Northwest Second Street.”
“‘But I wanted to find the man whose name was inscribed on the bow which came with the violin and see what he knew.’ ”
“Encased with the instrument was a bow bearing this inscription: ‘Presented to Capt. W.W. Mayne by Roy Young, Violin Virtuoso.’ ”
Nuccols would move to Oklahoma City in 1933 in search of a job, and a chance meeting would lead him to Young’s brother, Fred.
After owning the violin for nearly 24 years, Nuccols was able to track down Roy Young, professor of violin, who had formerly taught at the University of Oklahoma.
Young wrote, “Yes, it is a genuine Italian-made violin, made by the son of Paolo Maggini in 1640. The instrument has a value of $3,000 or more. The bow isn’t so valuable.”
“The Maggini instrument’s untold ‘past’ is almost as obscure as it is far-reaching. In 1880, Captain Mayne bought the violin from a man then living in Chicago, now unknown. Beyond that, who can tell but the old violin, itself?”
Carl Nuckolls died in 1968.
The violin’s whereabouts is unknown.
If motorists whizzing along NW 39 Street look on the south side of the 2600 block, they will see the YWCA Gaylord Service Complex.
But imagine traveling in a time machine back to 1924. That same stretch of highway would be only a two-lane road, and where the YWCA sits now, there might have been only a grand opening sign with a family park for a backdrop.
The formal opening of Log Cabin Park was announced in an advertisement in The Oklahoman on April 19, 1924, touting the park as “a paradise for tourists.”
Another ad encouraged readers to come out to “this close-in Tourist Park” and listed the availability of gasoline, oil and tires from the station and touted the “Log Cabin Inn — We’re going to make it worth your while.”
An image that accompanied the ad shows a two-story log building with an awning that extends over gas pumps.
The park featured a free baseball game on Sunday, political speaking Tuesday evening by Democratic candidates and offered free ice cold lemonade all day every Sunday.
By September, the ads were featuring a cafe and a promotion that read, “You can eat our wholesome meals or cook yourself. The kids can romp and play and yell their heads off.”
For more than a decade, Log Cabin Park was a destination for Sunday drives and a popular spot for company picnics. In the 1930s, boxers trained in the Log Cabin ring. If you didn’t have a car, the street cars would take you there.
Times changed, and the Log Cabin Inn gave way to the Log Cabin Theater in 1941. It was Oklahoma City’s movie theater of choice for artsy movies, although it showed regular fare, too.
In April 1950, the theater name was changed to the Frontier, and it continued showing movies until it burned in 1954.
The land changed hands, and the Rio Motel was built on the site in 1957.
In 1988, the YWCA bought the old motel and remodeled it for their battered women’s shelter.
The site at 2640 NW 39 has had many names: Log Cabin Tire Co., Log Cabin Inn, Log Cabin Park, Log Cabin Club, Log Cabin Theater, Frontier Theater, Rio Hotel and now the YWCA Gaylord Service Complex.
The next time you pass this location, imagine a slower, simpler time with citizens enjoying an outing at the park or young people seeing a movie.
Jan. 1, 1913, was a time of celebration for Oklahoma City.
The new year had arrived with hope of great things, but Oklahoma City was also looking back at the successes of 1912 and hoping that new and more businesses were on the horizon.
Much new business had come to the city in 1912 along with much construction.
A building that met the dawning of 1913 was also here for the Opening Night celebration of 2013.
A story from The Oklahoman for Oct. 13, 1912, stated that: “The first two weeks’ operation of the new $250,000 Oklahoma City plant of the Iten Biscuit company finds orders piling up so fast that the packing force is hardly able to keep up with them, notwithstanding the daily additions to the force that are being made.”
“…In this 150×140-foot (building), carrying, in its five stories and basement 126,000 square feet of storage capacity, everything entering into the production and distribution of crackers and cakes is manufactured.”
“Even the packing boxes are made at the plant. There is a loading dock of six doors, all under cover and lighted with electricity. The furnaces are on the top floor and the processes are all downward, the very laws of gravitation being utilized to effect speed and economy in the producing and distributing agencies.”
One concept that was unusual for 1912, but was incorporated into the building, was that each floor had its own breakroom and bathrooms.
It’s hard to imagine that being considered “cutting edge,” but those of us who work in multi-storied buildings are grateful the idea caught on.
The biscuit company served Oklahoma City well for nearly 30 years.
Then it was acquired by Nabisco, next the Folding Carrier Company and, finally, its current owner, U-Haul Storage.
The 6,000 windows have been covered, but the building still stands and remains a solid part of downtown Oklahoma City
Today we recognize it best by the U-Haul truck that sits on the roof, and while the Crosstown Bridge no longer passes next to the building, it is still visible to citizens and visitors.
May the Devon Energy building and other buildings built in 2012, and the businesses they generate, endure as well as the Iten/U-Haul building.
News from the Titanic disaster dominated newspaper pages 100 years ago.
State headlines told of ships returning with bodies from the Titanic, U.S. hearings on the accident and news stories of the deadly tornadoes that struck five western counties, leaving 15 dead and at least 39 injured.
The following article from The Oklahoman of April 29, 1912, introduces Mrs. Fannie Dubois and gives her story of how the sinking of the ocean liner, Titanic affected her life.
“LOCAL LADY WINS IN WIRELESS BUY
“When Marconi Stock Soars She Sells Hers at Fancy Margin of Profit”
“As the result of the Titanic disaster and the decision of the English courts in favor of the Marconi patent for wireless, Mrs. Fannie Dubois, 1305 North Shartel Boulevard, has sold twenty-four shares of Marconi stock, which cost her $100 per share eight years ago, for $220 per share making her a snug little profit of more than one hundred percent.
“It’s an ill wind that blows nobody good and the late horrible Titanic disaster was no exception to the rule. That accident which cast a gloom over the whole civilized world, also caused attention to be called to the workings of the wireless telegrapher, for had it not been for the distress call sent out by the Titanic’s hero of the wireless, many more would have found their graves in icebound waters with the magnificent ocean giant that is now only a sad memory.
“Just about that time the courts of England sustained the Marconi patents for wireless and it is expected that the United State courts will follow their example. As Marconi was the first with his invention, every other wireless company is infringing, to some extent or other, on his patent and the United Wireless even now is attempting to gain control of the Marconi company.”
Fannie Dubois was born in Belgium, immigrated to the United States at age 19 and moved to Oklahoma in 1909. The 1912 city directory lists her as proprietor of the Marquette Hotel.
In 1904, Mrs. Dubois bought 24 shares in the Marconi company. She held onto her shares even after the value dipped to about $28 a share and no dividends had been paid.
Little did she know that a Marconi wireless was installed on the Titanic and was responsible for sending the messages requesting help as the ship sank.
With the sinking of the Titanic and rumors that all ships would be required to install several wireless operators, Marconi stock suddenly became valuable.
Almost immediately, brokers began sending Mrs. Dubois telegrams with offers for her stock. She held out until the price reached $220 a share, and she sold for a total of $5,280. In today’s currency, the value of her shares would be about $13,200.
Not a bad return at all.