Political candidates often make promises to their constituents in hopes of being elected, but changing the date of Groundhog Day to Valentine’s Day seems a bit of a stretch.
In 1918, Dr. M.W. Romine was elected to the state House of Representatives by the citizens of Le Flore County.
According to a story in the Jan. 20, 1919, edition of The Oklahoman, Romine was going to try to make good on one of his promises.
“In the good old days gone by, Oklahoma legislatures have been called up to wrestle with many weighty problems of statecraft — stategraft, also.
Regulatory measures without number, ranging from suggestions to require women to wear their skirts long enough to drag the ground, on up the line to declaring the piercing of ears to be barbarous and unnecessary voluntary punishment and placing it under ban, have in times received great and serious consideration.
John Barleycorn has lost many a memorable battle within the walls of Oklahoma legislative assemblies.
Only recently both houses decided within the brief space of a few hours that a league of nations … is a good thing for this old world and ought to be established.
But all of these momentous problems, which received the best thought and effort of some of the most distinguished men who have ever signed a legislative payroll in Oklahoma, are soon to be relegated from memory, which is the only place they remain, and a newer, more weighty and far reaching problem — it reaches all the way to Arkansas — is to receive the closest attention of the best legislative talent.
It is the question of establishing once and for all that date which is to be observed as ground hog day in Oklahoma.”
Apparently, before 1919, Arkansas and Mississippi would celebrate Groundhog Day on Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day.
Oklahoma farmers along the eastern state line would tend to follow their Arkansas neighbors.
“In farming communities ground hog day, the elements permitting, is considered the day upon which potatoes should be planted. At that particular time Old Mother Nature is ready to receive her potato crop.
So when people of east-side Oklahoma plant on February 2 and their crop fails, and their Arkansas neighbors do their planting on February 14, and their crop is a success, bad feeling develops.
‘And now I have decided,’ said Representative Romine of Spiro, Le Flore County, ‘to ask the legislature to settle the argument and fix ground hog day by statute. I have no particular date to suggest. I am willing to leave that matter to the judgment of the legislator, but the question must be settled on the Arkansas line.’
Romine said that when he made his campaign for member of the house he promised to work to this end, ‘and I am going to remain true to my constituency and do the best I can,’ he said.”
It seems the Hon. Mr. Romine intended to keep his promise.
I was unable to verify an official change, but since Groundhog Day is celebrated nationally on Feb. 2, it’s possible his bill never made it out of committee.
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.”
For 114 years, Oklahoma’s state flower was the mistletoe.
But it was always a controversial choice.
In February 1893, while the 2nd Territorial Legislature met in Guthrie, Rep. John A. Wimberly introduced the bill to designate mistletoe as the official floral emblem.
The Women’s Congress of the Columbian World Exposition held in Chicago in 1893 had proposed that the states should consider selecting floral emblems to represent their state at the exposition.
While Oklahoma was not a state, the Oklahoma Pavilion at the exposition, also known as the Chicago World’s Fair, promoted the territory to exposition visitors.
Wimberly was the youngest member of the House of Representatives and it was he who, according to The Oklahoman on April 19, 1925, suggested “one of the most interesting traditions.”
“One day the question of the state flower was brought up. Everything from daisies to American Beauty roses was suggested.
A representative from the southern part of the Territory wanted forget-me-nots. “That’s a good name for a state flower, and it’s a pretty flower too,” he said.
“Mr. Wimberly remembered how hard the previous winter had been and that when settlers had died and there were no flowers to put on the graves: “the only thing in the whole country with a bit of color was mistletoe.”
So it was adopted as the new territory’s floral emblem.
“Years later when Oklahoma became a state, members of the constitutional convention carried the old territorial flower over into statehood, thus confirming what has since become one of Oklahoma’s oldest traditions.”
Every few years after it seemed someone would propose a change, it would be discussed and mistletoe would remain.
The sweet pea, yucca and the cowboy rose (not a rose but a part of the mallow family), were among those proposed, but probably the most unusual was the alfalfa blossom.
Before we were even a state, in 1906, William H. Murray stated his preference for alfalfa in a letter to the editor of The Oklahoman:
“Who, indeed, would desire to adopt for a state flower, a parasite?
Let greater Oklahoma be known as the “Alfalfa State.”
In an editorial in The Oklahoman for June 17, 1912, the newspaper came out in support of alfalfa as the state flower:
“Now that Oklahoma has become known as the marvelous alfalfa state, why not use the alfalfa blossom as the state flower?”
“The alfalfa blossoms are pretty; they enrich the scenery, added to the artistic part, alfalfa, is the mortgage lifter of Oklahoma. It is the crop which brings riches to the state; it is a crop which means more to the future than any other crop.”
“Alfalfa blossom — the state flower. It should be adopted”
The hardy little mistletoe stood firm from 1890 until 2004 when Gov. Brad Henry signed a bill into law making the Oklahoma Rose our official state flower. The mistletoe remains the state floral emblem.
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 been providing stories following up on Oklahoma’s recent historic election.
As we begin a new chapter in the state’s history, let’s look back 100 years and do a follow-up on the 1910 election.
In 1910, Oklahoma’s state election was held the second week in November, rather than on the first Tuesday as it is now.
On Nov. 9, 1910, The Oklahoman announced the win of Lee Cruce as the state’s second governor over William “Alfalfa Bill” Murray after an acrimonious gubernatorial campaign. The headlines shouted the news of the Democratic landslide that swept the nation.
“With a total of 200 candidates and six state questions to be voted on, so great was the crush at the polls Tuesday morning that not over two-thirds of the city registration could secure ballots. In nearly every precinct, the inspectors provided extra booths, but even this failed to supply the demand and over 2,000 voters, tired of waiting in line, gave up in vain.
“Fully 2,000 people gathered in front of The Daily Oklahoman building to watch the returns Tuesday night. It was a good natured throng, and favorite candidates were cheered heartily whenever the meager returns justified it. The greatest interest was shown in the gubernatorial candidates, the local option and high license bill, and the results of the elections in other states. It was midnight before the crowd dispersed.”
Of the six questions on the ballot, local option, allowing liquor sales, and women’s suffrage, allowing women the right to vote, generated the most interest of the voting public. They both went down in defeat. Women’s suffrage, allowing women the right to vote, would not pass until 1918, and local option (liquor by the drink decided by individual counties) would not pass until 1984.
“Although the vote was light compared to the registration, it was the largest in the history of the county. The large number of questions to be voted upon as well as the great number of candidates on the ballot required not less than five minutes for a voter to properly mark his ballot. This was the minimum, and in cases where voters were unfamiliar with the question and had to read them in the booth, a longer time was necessary.”
There were long waits this past Tuesday thanks to the lengthy ballot. And as the votes were tallied, there were exciting wins and bitter defeats.
An editorial from The Oklahoman on Nov. 9, 1910, summed up the importance of the election and the effects of participation. It bears reading in its entirety, but here is an excerpt from the last paragraph that is as appropriate now as it was then.
“In Oklahoma, the passing of the election is like the lifting of a fog, for local conditions are now such that ordinary activities may be resumed with confidence and politics will be relegated to the rear. …”
Let’s hope that is true as Gov.-elect Mary Fallin begins preparing for her term as the first female governor of Oklahoma.