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.
My calendar lists three dates of interest in June: Flag Day, the summer solstice and, on Wednesday, June 27, Helen Keller’s birthday.
It will be the 132nd anniversary of the birth of a most remarkable woman, and Nov. 17 will mark the 68th anniversary of her visit to Oklahoma.
Many people know the story of her early life from the television drama, play and movie “The Miracle Worker,” which portrays the momentous event when Keller was able, with the help of teacher Anne Sullivan, to associate the word “water” with the liquid that was flowing over her hand.
Keller was born with normal hearing and sight, but lost both at the age of 19 months due to a mysterious fever.
As she grew older, she became uncontrollable as her frustrations from trying to communicate increased.
At the age of 7, Keller was brought to Massachusetts’ Perkins School for the Blind, and there, she met Sullivan, an association that would last 49 years.
From the moment Sullivan communicated the concept of water to Keller, she began to learn. She would attend and graduate from Radcliffe College.
Keller became an author, speaker, humanitarian and an inspiration to the world.
In November of 1944, with World War II still being waged, she came to Chickasha to visit battle-deafened soldiers at Borden General Hospital. She was on a coast-to-coast tour of Army hospitals.
The Oklahoman on Nov. 14, 1944, announced her visit: “Miss Keller will discuss the rehabilitation problems of the veterans, giving special attention to those who were blinded and those suffering from deafness.”
When Keller died June 1, 1968, The Oklahoman interviewed John A. Morris, who in 1944 was the director of the speech and hearing center at the Chickasha hospital. “The warmth and love that humanity has must be like the calm, beautiful peaceful sunset of Oklahoma.”
Keller, then 63, visited at the hospital for three days, Morris said.
“Her purpose was to inspire the soldiers. She had a forceful, vivacious personality … most agreeable,” he said.
It was during one of her speeches in the auditorium that she spoke of the Oklahoma sunset, Morris remembered. “It is paraphrased, but from my memory, that’s almost exactly what she said. I’ve quoted it many times.”
Morris said a “companion” repeated everything Keller said to the soldiers. “Her voice quality was not the best.”
“But I understood her quite well in conversation. It was amazing how she got everything I said from just a finger on the throat and a finger on the lips and the rest of her hand pressed lightly on my face.”
Keller spoke abstractly, and her vocabulary would rival any platform speaker, Morris said.
“I was amazed that she could get such a vocabulary (being blind and deaf from an early age) and put it in such beautiful phrases.”
Her vocabulary was above average, he said.
“She was very alive, very interesting … enthusiastic.
“One who met her, I don’t think would ever forget her,” he said.
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.
Today is the day we observe Memorial Day.
In 1868, Gen. John Logan, national commander of the Grand Old Republic, proclaimed Memorial Day as a day to place flowers on the graves of soldiers at Arlington Cemetery.
For years, Memorial Day was celebrated May 30. Then, in 1971, Congress passed the National Holiday Act moving most federal holidays to Mondays to ensure a three-day weekend. Since that time, Memorial Day has been observed on the last Monday in May.
Originally, the day was to honor soldiers who died fighting the Civil War. However, since World War I, it has been a time to honor all members of the military who have died in war.
This editorial published in The Oklahoman on May 30, 1912, refers to those who died in the Civil War, but the message the anonymous writer expresses of honoring the dead and the hope for peace still rings true.
“Today a mighty nation pauses to put wreaths on the graves of soldiers. It is a day of thoughts that pertain to the bivouac of the dead.
Flags will be displayed at half mast; mourning will be in use; bells will toll.
Over on the hill where marble shafts mark the resting place of those who fell in the conflict where brother was arrayed against brother, flowers will be placed. The living will not forget the dead.
It is a day of sorrow. The older among us can realize the horrors which the day recalls. The younger generation cannot understand.
Today we should be reminded of peace. If the peace movement had been as strong in 1860 as it is today the nation would not have been plunged into civil strife. Memorial Day should impress upon us the horrors of war, it should make that impression so deep that the peace of the world will be assured.”
Since the Civil War, Americans have lost their lives serving in the Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War, the Iraq War and now the Afghanistan War.
In December of 2000, President Bill Clinton signed the National Moment of Remembrance Act into law designating 3 p.m. local time as the moment for a grateful nation to pause and remember.
This is a part of the statement released at the signing:
“Each Memorial Day, the Nation honors those Americans who died while defending our Nation and its values. While these heroes should be honored every day for their profound contribution to securing our Nation’s freedom, they and their families should be especially honored on Memorial Day. The observance of a National Moment of Remembrance is a simple and unifying way to commemorate our history and honor the struggle to protect our freedoms.”
Please take at least a minute today and remember the husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters who have given their lives for their country.
Let us never forget.
The Oklahoman has been chronicling the events of Oklahoma history large and small, earthshaking and pedestrian for more than 100 years.
Newspapers do that.
They provide a permanent reminder of what has happened in the past, near and distant.
For some of us, The Oklahoman has printed our birth announcement, perhaps a marriage announcement, obituaries of family and friends, and, in my case, a story about the perfect school attendance (kindergarten through 12th grade, eight years apart) of my sister, Martha (Young) Vickery, and myself.
Sometimes the newspaper might report about someone, and then we wonder later, what next, what happened to them.
In 1941, The Oklahoman told us about Eddie Nakayama, an 18-year-old senior at Central High School who had been selected for the silver Letzeiser medal as an outstanding example of citizenship and achievement.
Through his three years of high school, he had maintained grades of A’s in all classes with the exception of two B’s while daily helping “his father Lloyd, a native of Japan, on the 20-acre truck farm which supports the family.”
“Ed wants to get a job at the University of Oklahoma so he can study engineering and enroll in classes offered by the naval reserve department. Some day he hopes to get an appointment to the United States naval academy,” the story went on to report.
Eddie next appears in the newspaper the day after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, when The Oklahoman interviewed his father, Lloyd Nakayama, who expressed shock over the bombing and his pride “when he announces his children are native-born citizens of the United States.”
The story mentions that Eddie is a freshman ROTC student at the University of Oklahoma.
More stories follow. Eddie pledges Tau Omega fraternity, is initiated and in 1944, he receives his diploma for a mechanical engineering degree.
We catch up with him in September of 1945, home on leave from the Army, after serving six months overseas.
“Of all things to happen to a soldier girded for action. Measles quarantine and lost papers!
It’s enough to embarrass a guy, and that’s exactly what it does for Pvt. Eddie U. Nakayama. But those two minor (?) details kept him from seeing any front-line action until the war was over.”
After the quarantine and finding of those lost papers, he was sent to guard German prisoners. Eddie joined the service in July 1945 after graduating from OU. After his leave, he was expecting to be assigned as an interpreter.
In 1958, The Oklahoman listed Eddie U. Nakayama as one of 50 Oklahomans to be licensed to practice engineering by the state.
“The final entry for Eddie is a death notice in The Oklahoman Jan. 28, 2009, under Bartlesville: “Nakayama, Eddie Utaki, 85, retired mechanical engineer, died Jan. 24.”
While The Oklahoman has no entries Nakayama between 1958 and 2009, we would not be surprised to find that The Bartlesville Examiner might have picked up his story.
The countdown has started. Next year will be one of anticipation for the First Lutheran Church of Oklahoma City, 1300 N Robinson.
A century chest was buried in the church basement on April 22, 1913. The Oklahoma City mayor, governor and other dignitaries were in attendance when the time capsule was sealed.
The church now has devoted a Web page to the century chest at firstlutheranokc.org/site/ks/editorial.asp?page=2 and it includes a countdown clock.
Next year, on April 22, church members and other dignitaries will gather to open the century chest, which is not an ordinary time capsule. It contains a treasure trove of items that will fill a future column on their own.
Today, I want to introduce the young woman who was credited with “perfecting the plans for the chest” — Mrs. George G. Sohlberg, president of the church’s Ladies’ Aid Society.
Virginia Bland Tucker was born and raised in Missouri. After frequently visiting local relatives, she and her mother settled in Oklahoma City in 1890, two years after the Land Run.
She taught school until 1898, when she met and married George G. Sohlberg, founder and president of the Acme Milling Co. and civic leader.
In 1966, Joan Gilmore, Women’s Editor of The Oklahoman wrote of Mrs. Sohlberg in conjunction with an Oklahoma Art Center Gala:
“At the time of her death in 1913, Mrs. Sohlberg was headlined in The Daily Oklahoman as ‘Active in Society’ and was esteemed ‘One Of City’s Most Queenly Women.’ ” The article about her describes her as “one of the best and most beautiful women … one of the gentlest, the most cultivated members of society; her influence has been widely felt.”
Another article said, ” … Never has she failed; as mother, wife, daughter and friend, she has always lived up to the noblest ideals of life. …
“She was brilliant and talented. … was a leader, not only in social circles where her hospitable home was the center of pleasure and enjoyment, but equally as much so in church, literary and charitable circles.”
Mrs. Sohlberg was almost single-handedly responsible for preparing the century chest, which was buried under the First Lutheran Church, commemorating the 24th anniversary of the opening of Oklahoma City. She gathered relics of value and simple annals from hundreds of people and scores of organizations in Oklahoma City and the state, which were buried in the chest.
Virginia Sohlberg died Aug. 10, 1913, of heart failure at 40 years old, less than four months after the chest was buried.
When the chest is opened on April 22, 2013, in celebration of the 124th anniversary of the Oklahoma Land Run, Virginia Sohlberg should be remembered and her work preserved so future generations can reflect on it.
It wasn’t that long ago that alpacas were an endangered species, at least in the United States.
In 1964, there were only 9 alpacas in the United States, and the Lincoln Park Zoo, now the Oklahoma City Zoo, was able to acquire one of those on permanent loan.
His name was Manco, and, according to a story in The Oklahoman announcing his arrival, the zoo’s director, Warren Thomas, hoped to selectively breed the alpaca with its larger cousin, the llama. His intent was to cross breed until the offspring were mostly alpaca and protect the animal from extinction in the United States.
No information exists on how successful Thomas was, but his preservation plan was no longer needed because in 1984, a 1940′s importation ban to protect against hoof and mouth disease was lifted.
Between 1984 and 1996, importations of alpacas were allowed from South America, until the Alpaca Registry closed the registration books to only American bred animals.
Margie Ray of Ray Farms, considered the founder of alpaca breeding in Oklahoma, acquired 3 imported alpacas in 1986.
There are now more than 170,000 alpacas in the United States, and, in 2009, there were more than 80 farms in Oklahoma.
Alpacas are raised for their hair or fiber. They come in 22 colors and two types: suri, which has long silky hair, and huacaya, which has soft fluffy hair.
Once a year, usually in spring after the show season, the animals are sheared to make them more comfortable during the summer heat and the fiber is processed for various uses, such as roving for spinners, thread for weavers, and yarn for those who knit and crochet, rugs, jewelry and more.
The Alpacas of Oklahoma, A-OK, are having their annual show Easter weekend, April 7 and 8, at Shawnee’s Heart of Oklahoma Exposition Center, 30 miles east of Oklahoma City and easily accessible from Interstate 40.
The alpacas are shown at halter, obstacle, public relation, junior exhibitor and showmanship. Costume classes also are presented.
The show is free to the public and offers an opportunity to meet alpacas and their owners and to buy alpaca fiber, yarn, jewelry and other alpaca related items. You might even buy an alpaca or two.
In 1904, following a mine explosion in Pennsylvania that killed 181 men, including two rescuers, Pittsburgh steel magnate and philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie, created the Carnegie Hero Fund commission to recognize “acts of civilian heroism.”
According to the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission’s Website, 96 Oklahomans have received the Carnegie Medal of Honor as of December 2011.
Tom Ball was not the first person from Oklahoma to receive the Carnegie Medal of Honor, but he distinguished himself by giving the ultimate sacrifice.
The page one story from the Dec. 20, 1921 edition of The Oklahoman describes the accident:
“Tom Ball, 45 years old, unmarried, in whose heart the love for little children is stronger than his own desire for life, with left foot severed and hip mangled, is twisting in agony on a bed at a Wichita hospital facing death. The child whom he saved, all unknowing of the sacrifices made that it might live, prattled out of the scene and is unknown. Ball, whose 90-year-old father lives at Harper, Kan., was talking with his father a few minutes before the accident occurred. A flaxen-haired tot playing by the railway gleefully ran upon the track. The freight train started to back up. Ball leaped between the rails, tossed the child gently to safety, but failed to rescue himself. The caboose of his own train ran over him before the engineer halted the train. Ball lost one foot, his hips were crushed and he was injured internally. Physicians say that he probably will not live. A special train was run by the Orient road to Wichita in an effort to save Ball’s life.”
The accident happened in Harper, Kan., but Ball had lived in Fairview for 14 years and was known in every town on his run between Fairview and Harper, Kan.
The superintendent of the Kansas City, Mexico and Orient Railroad began a movement, supported by the towns along Tom Ball’s route, to secure a Carnegie medal for his act of heroism and on April 30, 1922, The Oklahoman announced Ball’s selection for the honor.
“Thus reads the prosaic record of one of the most heroic deeds in the history of the railway service, for Tom Ball, whose home was at Fairview, gave up his life to save the life of a little child. The little boy was Carl E. Yoder, 5 years old. He was unhurt, but Ball was caught by the wheels of the car and fatally injured. He died a few hours later at Wichita, Kan., where he was rushed on a special train. The medal awarded by the Carnegie Hero Fund commission has been sent to his aged parents, Mr. and Mrs. M.C. Ball at Harper.”
An online search of federal census records and the Social Security Death Index, finds that Carl E. Yoder lived another 80 years after that fateful day.
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.
Christmas is over, the presents unwrapped, the dinner eaten, the ballgames watched and this year’s Christmas memories made.
Newspapers used to have the luxury of space and often would publish poetry written by its readers.
This poem by Hazel Fletcher was published in The Oklahoman on Dec. 28, 1970.
She titled it “The Aftermath,” and it seems appropriate for the holidays.
“‘Twas the day after Christmas and you’d never guess / Where once there was order, there’s now such a mess.
“The pieces are scattered throughout the house, / There’s not even room for a little bitty mouse.
“Boxes and ribbons and much colorful paper, / The poor Christmas tree and the burned out taper.
“A hammer has hammered the lesser of toys, / The walking doll’s crippled by the rougher of boys.
“The truce is now over — children fight as before, / There’s a let-down feeling — can’t take any more.
“But regardless of the trouble, anxieties and din / We’d open our hearts and do it again.
“So memories are stored with memories from the past, / And love for them all will ever last.”
Hazel Fletcher of Purcell, now Hazel Nicholas of Marietta, had her poems published in The Oklahoman at least 12 times.
My memory of Christmas 2011 will be of the “wonky” Christmas tree.
My aunt Grace Helms, 88 years young, decided to decorate her 7-foot tree a row at a time, adding lights and decorations as she went.
It had 12 rows, but somehow rows 10, 11 and 12 were left on the back porch. When the top was added to the unstable wobbling tree, now only about 5 feet tall, it made for a “wonky tree.”
A new pre-lit tree was acquired, decorated and stands beautifully in the corner while the old one, with lights, decorations and tinsel, was delivered to a new family who had no tree, just in time for Christmas.
I hope this Christmas has given you wonderful memories to add to ones already made.