Coltrane Road was named for John J. Coltrane, an ’89er born in North Carolina who owned land in the area near NE 36 and the street with his name.
The road begins at NE 23 Street between Bryant and Sooner Road and runs north, skipping a couple of section lines, nearly to Guthrie.
However, the street wasn’t originally named for the Oklahoma pioneer. It was named State Street.
According to an Oct. 5, 1944, story in The Oklahoman, the name change occurred because of a complication.
It seems there were two State streets in Oklahoma City — the northeast location and one in far northwest Oklahoma City, four blocks east of MacArthur Boulevard.
“It’s the folks along the west-side State Street who are raising the fuss. Their visitors go to the wrong street first, then have a long drive going to the right State Street.
“Besides,” says Mike Donnelly, County Commissioner District 2, site of the “west” State Street, “that other State Street never did rightfully exist. Originally it was named ‘Grant.’”
Mrs. Carl W. Skinner, one of several residents along the street and a niece of John Coltrane, said: “I was born about a mile from here and the street never has been called anything else (State Street) since it was opened several years ago.”
John J. Coltrane “originally owned three quarters of a section in that neighborhood. When the state capital was moved here from Guthrie, Coltrane offered land for the site.”
On July 5, 1911, The Oklahoman listed real estate transactions, and J.J. Coltrane transferred land to the State Capitol Building Co. for the sum of $1. In other early advertisements, Coltrane offered cattle for sale, and in the U.S. Census he is listed as a farmer.
The northwest corner of NE 36 and Coltrane was part of the land offered for the Capitol. The southeast corner was once the summer home of Gov. Robert S. Kerr and later the monks of the Holy Protection Orthodox Monastery of Forest Park. It is now privately owned.
R.L. Peebly (Peebly Road), county commissioner for the district, said he would entertain any suggestions for a new name, and Mrs. Skinner said she “would like for the name ‘Coltrane’ to be considered, honoring her uncle.”
While I found no official announcement, apparently there was no objection, and the east State Street became Coltrane Road.
Imagine an event that would bring out nearly half the population of Oklahoma City.
Eighty one years ago, Oklahoma City enjoyed a Christmas parade that was attended by between 65,000 and 100,000 people.
The 1930 federal U.S. Census estimated the city’s population at 185,389.
This description, from the Oklahoma City Times, Dec. 5, 1930, sets the scene:
“Santa Claus was in town, and so was everybody else Friday afternoon to watch the gorgeous spectacle move south on Broadway. Cheers and shouts went up from the throngs on the sidewalks, and many a tiny child in the custody of his mother, waved a happy ‘Hello Santa’ as the parade passed.”
And from The Oklahoman, Dec. 6, 1930, it was reported: “Lindbergh day, Al Smith day, (Gov.) Walton inaugural day, all were eclipsed by the throng, which gathered to attest that Old Santa is Oklahoma City’s greatest hero.”
“What he had to offer in the way of a spectacle was by no mean’s disappointing.”
School was let out so the children could attend, and work came to nearly a standstill as state employees came from the Capitol, office workers watched from windows and even the federal court recessed so the jury could watch.
At a mile and a half long and starting at 10th and Broadway and winding through the downtown shopping district, the parade took more than an hour to pass.
WKY Radio was stationed atop The Oklahoman building at Fourth and Broadway describing the passing displays.
The parade numbered nearly 60 units, including floats, seven bands, three calliopes, city officials and, of course, Santa Claus.
Santa had come to town and brought with him his sleigh and 10 live reindeer.
As we all know, Santa usually travels with eight tiny reindeer, except when Rudolph joins the team.
In 1930, it was still nine years away before he would need Rudolph and his shiny nose, so Santa must have brought the two extra reindeer to help pull the sleigh along the streets.
Times have changed, but Oklahoma Citians now flock to the Holiday River Parade and enjoy the events of Downtown in December.
The Christmas lights are on at Automobile Alley, a part of Broadway that hosted the parade in 1930.
While downtown is nearly impassable with all the street closings because of reconstruction and repair, the Bricktown area offers the city Christmas tree, lights along the canal and snow tubing at the RedHawks Field at Bricktown. And, the newly renovated Myriad Gardens is decked out in style with lots of lights, ice skating and Santa, too.
So, visit downtown if you can. If not, close your eyes and picture the sight of Santa and his reindeer making their way downtown with excited children and delighted adults crowded along the streets.
Hadden Hall recently underwent renovation to become downtown apartments, but the 100-year-old structure started life as an apartment hotel.
The three-story brick building at 215 NW 10 provided apartments for city visitors who wanted something homier than a hotel.
A new sign on the building recognizes Hadden Hall’s inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places and notes it is a circa 1910 building.
The circa 1910 was used probably because the applicants had no better luck than I did finding an exact date for when construction got started on the building.
The earliest listing I found was in The Oklahoman’s classified advertisements on Dec. 6, 1911:
“FOR RENT — Nicely furnished rooms with private bath, at Hadden Hall.”
Further research found notices from newlyweds in the newspaper’s society columns that they would be “at home” at Hadden Hall.
The research also introduced me to a remarkable woman who may have been the building’s longest resident, Miss Helen Ferris of Apartment 106.
Ferris, an English teacher from Illinois, joined the faculty of Central High School when it opened in 1910 and probably moved into Hadden Hall in 1912. The city directory for 1911-12 lists Ferris at 215 W 10th.
She was the first woman to be named vice principal of the high school in 1918, but continued to teach a fine literature class.
Ferris was respected and loved by the thousands of students she taught — her former students nominated her for Oklahoma City’s Most Useful Citizen of 1936, and she was selected for the honor.
In 1937, Edith Johnson, columnist for The Oklahoman, wrote of her: “Miss Ferris is not only one of the greatest women of Oklahoma City but one of the greatest women of this state. Nor does her greatness as a woman, as a teacher, as a friend and as a counselor depend upon either an era or an event. At any time or in any circumstance the contribution of Miss Ferris has made to the people of this city and state would be a priceless gift to humanity. Inspired teaching is the need of every generation, and inspired guidance likewise.
“She will live in the lives of her pupils who are what they are in no small measure because of what Miss Ferris taught them, because of the influence she had on their minds and their hearts, the direction she gave to their ambitions, the principles which they have followed in all accomplishment.
“Although Miss Ferris, together with so many women of her profession, has no children of her own body and blood, she is a mother to unnumbered sons and daughters.”
Ferris retired as vice principal in 1940, and in 1941 retired as an English teacher.
From 1941 until her death in 1951, she rarely left her apartment because of a medical condition, but with nearly 3,000 former students a year visiting her, and with her books, needlework, telephone and letters, she was never lonely.
She had another first — her funeral was the first one held in Central’s auditorium.
If you should pass Central High School or Hadden Hall, remember Helen Ferris and the teachers who have meant much to you.
Pick up a newspaper, check online or listen to the television, and it seems all you hear is about the heat and whether or not Oklahoma City will break the 1936 high temperature record of 113.1 degrees.
This observation appeared 75 years ago Sunday, Aug. 16, 1936, on Page 1 of The Oklahoman. It recaps the week of heat that included the record-setting 113.1 degree high temperature.
Fear is the papa and mama of invention. We have been very scared the last two weeks because the human body is 90 percent water and we have been evaporating at a rapid rate.
Harry Wahlgren, with the two hottest weeks on record, until a few days ago had us believing he was drying us like peaches on a smoke house roof. He had us wondering how long it would be until we dried up completely and blew into Arkansas, just so many irritants to hay fever victims.
It’s got to be admitted that Harry’s first few blows brought out our creative impulses. The humblest became scientific. We reasoned that if we were drying up at twice our weight a day we would have to drink three times our weight in water to hold our own.
That was elemental, but as soon as we were waterlogged it became clear that other modern means would have to adopted to cut down the evaporation. We quit all work to apply ourselves to this problem.
Primitive souls hauled in tubs of ice and sat opposite electric fans. Stone age men hung wet towels in the windows. Reactionaries tried gin highballs. The best minds among us evaporated a lot of rigging up air coolers. They sought boxes of wet excelsior, ran water through them and fanned the air on their heaving bosoms.
Some made gadgets out of fishing reels, bicycle pumps, flannel underwear and electric fans. Some lay under water sprinklers. Others floundered in tepid swimming pools.
It looked like it would all be in vain. We were losing ground. Wahlgren was pouring it on.
The worse day was the day we broke the record. Panting from inventing we learned that on August 10 we had been hotter than ever an Oklahoma Cityan had been before. That made us kinda proud. It set us out as hardy people.
Sleeping through that night under the cool off a mere 81 degrees that was long in coming we found we could take it for certain.
The next day we weren’t even impressed when Harry raised the ante to 113 degrees. Then when the temperature began to fall a two and three degrees at a clip we gave Wahlgren the horse laugh. We drove out Classen in the heat of the day to mock him.
We even went back to work. We forgot about our gadgets to keep cool. We forgot even to remember we were hot. We have proved that hearty Oklahomans can sweat and live. Not only sweat and live, but sweat and get the job done, sweat and even have fun. We have proved we’re tougher even than rag weeds.
Hang in there! In 1936 the rains and cooler temperatures finally came in September.
Note: Harry Walgren was the head of the U.S. Weather Bureau branch on Classen Boulevard in what are now law offices
Summer can’t be over!
It’s still too hot and August has just begun.
When I was growing up, back to school always meant summer was over and cooler temperatures were soon to come.
School didn’t start until after Labor Day (and Oklahoma City is starting Monday).
I don’t remember it ever being too hot to learn or play at recess and I know we didn’t have air conditioning at my school, Traub Elementary School in Midwest City.
Now most mornings, I pass Emerson School on the corner of NW 7th and Walker.
I love to see the old school. It looks just like what a school should look like.
One built to last the ages, while educating students and preparing them for the world.
I love the stone lion holding a tablet on the roof. It looks like he’s watching over his students while keeping an eye on Oklahoma City.
There has been an Emerson School on this corner since 1895. The building has changed.
The first one burned and in 1907 brick building was built. It has been extensively remodeled over the years and little, if any remains of the original buildings.
The students have changed too, from elementary to high school students, but the location and mission to teach has remained the same.
In 1905, Emerson was one of the highest points in Oklahoma City (it sits on a hill and is three stories high). An unknown photographer turned his camera southeast towards downtown and took a picture of history.
It shows mostly houses, a downtown business district of buildings that look to be no higher than five or six stories, churches and industrial buildings with smoke stacks sharing their dark smoke.
In 1997, one hundred and one years later, Oklahoman photographer Jim Argo, took a photo from the roof of Emerson looking south towards downtown.
Side by side they show the progress of Oklahoma City over the years and now with the ongoing construction of the Devon Tower, downtown’s skyline is changing once again.
Emerson, named for poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, has been there all these years sitting on its hill, preparing students to go out into the world and we hope it will continue for another hundred years.
Imagine what the skyline might look like then!
According to “Bunky,” there were only 23 streets in Oklahoma City on April 23, 1889. “Bunky” was the pen name of journalist Irving Geffs, who wrote this fact in his book, “The First Eight Months of Oklahoma City,” which was published in 1890.
The named streets running north and south were Santa Fe, Broadway, Robinson, Harvey, Hudson and Division, and those running east and west, north of Reno, were Main, Grand and California. South of Reno, the streets were Washington, Noble, Chickasaw, Pottawatomie, Frisco and Choctaw. These would become S 2 through S 7, respectively. North 1 through N 7 made up the rest.
Of these, Grand, now named Sheridan, was first named Clarke after Sidney Clarke, pioneer and civic leader; Washington for President George Washington; Noble for John W. Noble, who was secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior when Oklahoma Territory was opened for settlement; and Frisco for the St. Louis & San Francisco Railroad. Indian tribes made up the others.
Many of the later streets named during the early days in Oklahoma City got their names from pioneers associated with the land run, original landowners and developers of housing additions.
On Nov. 21, 1915, The Oklahoman interviewed the secretary of the Chamber of Commerce, Elmer E. Brown, on his recollections about the names of city streets.
Here are a few names I was able to verify:
Durland Avenue — “In honor of Otto Clay ‘O.C.’ Durland, who in a contest, won a quarter section of land in what is now the Oak Park addition.” When Brown says contest, what he meant was Durland’s land claim was disputed all the way to the state Supreme Court.
Laird Avenue — “For S.E. Laird, prominent early day settler.” He was a landowner, and Laird Avenue is the entry to the Oklahoma History Center.
Everest Avenue — “For J.H. Everest, a lawyer.” A pioneer Oklahoma City attorney, at his death, he had been the last surviving charter member of the First Christian Church.
McKinley Avenue — Named not for the president but for “Miss Margaret McKinley, prominent woman real estate speculator in early days.”
Douglas Avenue — “For McGregor Douglas, prominent businessman, now dead.” At the time of his death in 1908, he was secretary of the Central Title and Investment Co. and the Oklahoma Loan and Building Co. and a member of the Real Estate Exchange.
Brauer Avenue — “For George Brauer, half-brother of Douglas.” This one is wrong. George Brauer is listed as the stepbrother of Anton Classen in Classen’s obituary, and in Brauer’s obituary several surviving Classens were listed as brothers. He was one of the founders and secretary-treasurer of the Oklahoma Railway Co., the trolley car business.
Dewey Avenue — Named “in honor of Admiral George Dewey.” Hero of the Battle of Manila in the Spanish-American War in 1898, Dewey was named an admiral in 1903.
I was not able to verify this, but Brown said California Avenue got its name from the number of Californians who settled there after the land run.
I hope this sheds some light on where the names came from for those streets we drive on every day.
Read “The Archivist” online at blog.newsok.com/archivist.
MOURN THE LOSS OF GYPSY QUEEN NOMAD, HEAD OF BAND HERE, IS BURIED IN FAIRLAWN CEMETERY.”
It was just a small item on Page 5 of The Oklahoman, on Tuesday, Feb. 4, 1908, with a headline almost as big as the story.
Ellen Young, 69, was camping in Colcord Park near the river with her “band of nomadic Egyptians” when she died in a tent Friday, Jan. 31, 1908. Her funeral services were conducted the following Monday by the Rev. T.H. Harper of Pilgrim Congregational Church, and she was buried at Fairlawn. Fifty grief-stricken Gypsies attended her service.
The Oklahoman’s story read: “Mrs. Young had spent all her life travelling in covered wagons through Europe and America, telling fortunes, creating rugs, painting pictures, doing what she could to secure a living from a nomadic wandering life. Unlike her countrymen, she became a Christian, and she is of the strain of family which includes the renowned Congregational preacher, “Gypsy,” Smith, one of the greatest preachers of England.”
Can you imagine how cold it was living in a tent in January in Oklahoma?
From my research, I learned Gypsies more likely came from India, than Egypt, and many more of them were, and are, of the Christian faith than most people think.
Also, Rodney “Gypsy” Smith, born in 1860 in England and raised in a gypsy wagon, never attended school and was converted at the age of 16. He started preaching at 17, and during his evangelistic career that ended in 1947 with his death, he was as widely traveled and admired as Billy Graham is today.
Colcord Park, later renamed Delmar Gardens, was owned by Charles Colcord and consisted of 160 acres near Reno Avenue and Western close to the North Canadian River. Baseball was played in that area until the flood of 1923.
A trip to Fairlawn Cemetery and a check of the records located Young’s resting place, 103 years after her death.
The original entry in the cemetery ledger read Mrs. Emma Young (gypsy) camped near the ballpark, died Jan. 31 and was buried Feb. 3, 1908. The ledger also disclosed the location of her burial place in the cemetery and the funeral home handling the arrangements. Her first name was different, but the rest of the facts fit the newspaper’s story.
Turns out, her final resting place is just a few steps north of the cemetery office.
The last curious fact about Ellen/Emma is that her grave stone bears the wrong year for her death.
But you’ll look sweet But you’ll look sweet
Upon the seat of a bicycle built for two.
Times change and our modes of transportation change with them.
The tandem bicycle or bicycle built for two was invented in late 19th century England and there is a report in The Oklahoman that possibly three bicycles, and one of those a tandem, participated in the Land Run of 1889.
Here is an article about a theft published November 28, 1938, that brought back memories of an earlier time to the responding police officers.
“Shades of the gay nineties descended upon the police department Sunday afternoon.”
“Got a stolen bicycle at the White House cafe, 1945 Northeast Twenty-third street,” Joe Jerkins, station captain, told (Clyde) Anderson (station officer).
Anderson took off and when he returned it was with “a bicycle built for two–a tandem. And the back seat was almost a large as a rocking chair seat, so the girl friend could ride sideways.”
“Twirling his moustache and yearning for the return of the mustache cup, Jack Barnett, scout car lieutenant, took one look at the machine and remembered how he had clipped a neat corner on one of the things in the dear, dead days. He could go whizzing by the Overholser Opera house on North Robinson avenue, do a fancy left turn, and coast to South Broadway.”
Try that today with downtown’s streets under various stages of repairs and you could probably wind up in a hole or run into a backhoe.
Jack Barnett continued telling about the first car he ever saw was one he ran into on his bicycle. He recalled, “It was a doctor’s car, and when he lifted me into that strange animal I quit hurting right away.”
“Many a boy and man hopped off their tandems to enlist for the Spanish-American war,” Barnett remembered. “And the fellow who had a shiny tandem could really give the girls the eye!”
Back to the crime, it was determined a teen-age boy had left the bicycle behind the cafe and escaped on foot. There was no indication he was ever apprehended, but it sure brought a nostalgic air to the police station back in 1938.
One hundred years ago today, Feb. 28 fell on a Tuesday. Reading a newspaper from yesteryear can show what life was like and give a sense of what was important to the pioneer citizen.
A check of The Oklahoman for Wednesday, March 1, 1911, gives indication that Tuesday was a busy news day.
On the front page we find that U.S. Sen. Thomas P. Gore’s accusations that he and others had been offered bribes to influence the vote on the sale of Indian lands were substantiated and that a Senate resolution passed in the state House of Representatives to submit an amendment to change a section of the state Constitution barring railroad building in the state.
Inside the newspaper, then as now, the weather was important to Oklahoma’s residents, and 100 years ago, the state was having its first blizzard of the year with an ice storm in Oklahoma City and 8 to 10 inches of snow in some areas of the state.
Other items of note on the inside pages:
Chicken stealing was made a felony, if the bird was worth more than $5.
An arsonist was burning buildings in Stilwell and Snyder.
A bridegroom dropped his gun and shot himself in the leg on his way home after the wedding.
February was considered a slow month because only 74 marriage licenses had been issued.
The post office was booming, announcing a 32 percent increase in the sales of stamps and stamped envelopes, compared to 1910.
The conduct of the Legislature has not improved much judging by the story appearing on Page 14 in 1911, a part of which follows: “There was a lapse in the dignity of the House of Representatives Tuesday night, and toward adjournment at 11 o’clock the session reminded one slightly more of a farcical burlesque on the stage than the solemn deliberations of the dignified lawmakers of Oklahoma. This was so especially during a heated controversy between Speaker Durant and Representative Ed Clark, right in the midst of a roll call, when Mr. Clark arose and started to make a talk when his name was called. The speaker banged his gavel so viciously that the head flew off, and the two men together indulged in some language not exactly parliamentary.”
The business page told of real estate sales totaling more than $2 million, double that of January. Building permits were down, the complaint being the weather caused construction to cease.
Boxing and baseball dominated the sports page, while the society column announced that with Ash Wednesday and the coming of Lent, there would be less formal entertaining.
These items indicate a busy news day, and The Oklahoman was there to keep residents informed, then as it is now.
Mary Phillips writes “The Archivist,” which appears regularly on Tuesdays in the Oklahoman. If you have any Oklahoma natural wonders that you might like to share, e-mail Phillips at email@example.com.
The Oklahoman has had many columnists over the years, and they have covered a variety of subjects.
One of the most popular columns, “The Smoking Room,” was written by one of The Oklahoman’s great editors and writers, who was known to most newspaper readers as R.G.M., the initials that accompanied his column.
R.G.M. was Richard “Dick” G. Miller, who came to The Oklahoman in 1920 and retired in 1968. For the 30-plus years lof his column, R.G.M. wrote mostly about the state he loved and its people and places. He was, according to his obituary published Sept. 16, 1970, “the state’s undisputed champion booster and ambassador.”
Here’s an excerpt from a “Smoking Room” column published March 29, 1936, that captured my attention:
“We should like to have the help of Smoking Room readers in naming the Seven Wonders of Oklahoma. Jot down your ideas and send them in. Of course, the whole state is a wonder, having been settled only 47 years ago and ranking among the best of them now. Our oil fields constitute another wonder. It is also a wonder, sometimes, how some men get elected to high office in Oklahoma. But the kind of wonder we are talking about is the kind that was built by nature but cared for and possibly aided by men.
To give you an idea and start you thinking, here is a list of what we call the wonders of Oklahoma, and there are more:
1. The Great Salt Plains in Alfalfa County, near Cherokee and Jet.
2. The artesian sulphur wells at Sulphur.
3. The bat caves at Freedom, near the Woods-Woodward county line.
4. The Glass Mountains in Major County. The queerest hill formations in the state.
5. The basket weavers’ caves in the western part of Cimarron County. Definite proof is visible there of prehistoric man’s existence in this state.
6. Devil’s Den, a few miles north of Tishomingo. Giant piles of solid granite boulders; one wonders how they ever got that way.
7. The mammoth caves and canyons in Blaine County north of Watonga and west of Hitchcock — large earth rooms that are explorable.
8. The sand dunes on the North Canadian River just south of Waynoka; more sand hills are visible from this point than anywhere else in the state.
9. The giant cliff that towers above the Illinois River just across from the village of Cookson in Cherokee county — probably the state’s largest and most scenic cliff.
10. The Kiamichi Mountain scenery, made easily accessible by CCC roads which lead around and to the peaks of the highest mountains.
11. Dripping Springs in southern Delaware County near the Arkansas line. Nature left a queer-shaped but beautiful piece of handiwork here, with sparkling 80-foot falls.
12. The Turner Falls area, in the Arbuckle Mountains between Davis and Ardmore.
13. Robbers Cave near Wilburton; giant rocks, deep hideouts, one of nature’s beauty spots.
Take that list for a starter, make any additions you like, and vote for seven — the seven which you believe to be the Seven Wonders of Oklahoma.”
I haven’t been to all the places on Miller’s list, but I can agree on all of those above that I have seen.
My list would include (1) Chickasaw National Recreation Area in Sulphur with its natural springs and range of nature; (2) Devil’s Den, with its rock formations and Pennington Creek, a natural water slide, before it became privately owned; (3) the sand dunes at Little Sahara State Park; (4) Beaver’s Bend and the Mountain Fork River; (5) Turner Falls and (6) Black Mesa, the highest spot in Oklahoma, complete with dinosaur tracks.
I have been to the salt plains, the canyons at Roman Nose State Park near Watonga, the Glass or Gloss Mountains and once spent an entire day driving on some of those CCC roads in the Kiamichi Mountains.
But for me, my seventh wonder would have to be any Oklahoma sunset that lights up the sky in colors no artist or photographer can truly do justice.
Mary Phillips writes “The Archivist,” which appears regularly on Tuesdays in The Oklahoman. If you have any Oklahoma natural wonders that you might like to share, e-mail Phillips at firstname.lastname@example.org.