Thesaurus.com defines generosity as “the spirit of giving.”
It seems that Oklahomans have always been generous.
We rise to the occasion when a need is presented to us.
Whether it is providing care and support for the rescue teams that helped after the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building bombing, or helping tornado victims clean up after storms or bringing a can of food for the Oklahoma City Food Bank, or donating their time and efforts, Oklahomans reach out and help.
The Oklahoman’s Dec. 17, 1911, society column began with this item. It illustrates that spirit of generosity that I think Oklahomans still share today.
“Never in the history of the city has there been such a manifestation of the true spirit of Christmas tide as this season, when the world of society, the world of the prosperous and fortunate is turning its attention, not so much toward the giving of gifts to equally fortunate, but to the giving of happiness and good cheer to those less well provided with the goods of this world.
“Baskets of provisions, bundles of toys for children and clothing for old and young are being collected by some of the busiest women in society.
“Others are lending their carriages and automobiles to collect these things and to distribute them among the homes for which they are intended.
“Many a child with its feet on the cold ground will receive a substantial pair of shoes. Many a shivering form will be protected with warm clothing as the result of the efforts of the kindly women who are preparing to bless with comforts the desolate homes of this city.
“One wealthy mother was heard to say the other day, ‘I am not teaching my little girl to think of what she wants for herself but of what she wants to give to make others happy.’
“Another who has no children, but who has the mother spirit toward all, especially toward those of the poor, is spending almost the entire contents of her Christmas purse for the poor, reserving only a small sum for Christmas cards and trifling remembrances which she will send to her many friends already blessed with abundance.
“There is not a club in the city that is not making its Christmas plans to gladden some humble hearth. If there are any selfish idle rich in Oklahoma, one does not hear of them, so obscure do they become in contrast to the kindly generous persons whose spirit of love is finding its way into many a home that would remain dark over the merry season of Yuletide without its gentle manifestations.
“The touch of our lives with others — brings wealth to all of us, rich or poor. And the more Christmases we can share in, however, slight they may be, the more will we find the day glowing with reminisces that we may cherish through a life time.”
Let us take this lovely sentiment and continue the spirit of giving.
May you all have a very Merry Christmas.
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!
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.
Here’s a story that The Oklahoman published Christmas Day 1921 that illustrates the change of thought in home economic education and baby care. In this case, a baby boy who had had a tough start in life was given the chance of a happy future.
“David, the orphan baby who was ‘adopted’ by Oklahoma A. and M. College in order to complete the ‘equipment’ of the school of home economics homemakers’ cottage, will spend his first Christmas in a home of his own.
When students left Friday, for the Christmas holidays, David was among those on out-going trains; he was to be formally adopted Saturday, into the home of a wealthy Oklahoma oil man. A younger baby will take his place in the home-makers’ cottage.”
David was 11 weeks old when he arrived at school, the orphan child of an abandoned mother who died ten 10 days after his birth. He first went into the care of the Oklahoma Children’s Home society until the college, the predecessor of Oklahoma State University, came up with the idea of borrowing a real baby for “the practice house, in order that girl students might gain practical knowledge in the feeding and care of babies.”
The idea worked in David’s favor.
“The publicity that David got at the time brought scores of letters from interested persons; the scientific care assured for the child made him attractive to babyless homes; more than a dozen definite offers were made for his adoption.
“Four groups of girls, eighteen in all, have lived in the homemakers’ cottage during the school year thus far, helping in the care of David. As a Christmas gift, when he left, they gave him a silver loving cup on whose side was inscribed, “David, Oklahoma A.& M.”
Oklahoma A&M continued the program the next school year with David II.
No other information was found about David I or David II with the exception that David II was being groomed for the 1922 State Fair baby contest. In the 1920s, the baby contest was more of how the baby was growing and meeting standards and less of a beauty contest. David II did not win.
An Internet search found that college use of “practice babies” was not unusual. In fact, Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., had a practice baby program from 1919-1969. The school stopped the program after concerns about what was best for the babies and changes that made the homemaking cottage outdated.
One hundred years ago, the week before St. Patrick’s Day was not all that different from 2012.
The newspaper carried advertisements for green carnations for a dollar a dozen, the stationery store offered St. Patrick’s Day postcards and the society page offered a break from Lenten abstinence with Irish-themed parties.
Oklahoma’s March weather was as changeable as ever, starting out the week with rain, proceeding to fair and colder, then more rain and winding up with a beautiful spring day with temperatures in the high 60s and a light breeze.
Political rhetoric was at full pitch for 1912, as it was also a presidential election year.
The candidates fiercely campaigning were incumbent Republican President William Howard Taft; Theodore Roosevelt, leader of his own Bull Moose Party; Socialist Eugene V. Debs; and the final winner, Democrat Woodrow Wilson.
On Monday, the day after St. Patrick’s Day in 1912, The Oklahoman offered this description of the day:
“The weatherman appointed a beautiful spring setting for St. Patrick’s day and while there were no parades or formal meetings in Oklahoma to celebrate the occasion, there were thousands of pretty shamrock leaves worn by the Irish of Oklahoma City and those with the blood of the Emerald Isle in their veins.
Appropriate references were made to the day and its significance in song and sermon at the church services, while at the Catholic services the usual religious forms of worship appropriate to the event were rendered.
It was a still day, full of beauty and sunshine, the first distinctly spring day of the season and the out-of-door world was particularly inviting. In the afternoon there came upon the streets the biggest crowd since the Christmas holidays, a great portion of whom were ladies and the spring hats and dresses were very much in evidence.”
Oklahoma City will be having its annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Saturday at 1 p.m., or you can join the Bricktown Block Party for a breakfast of green eggs and ham and stay until midnight enjoying food, green beer and some great Irish entertainment.
Come and celebrate the Irish in you.
Speed-dating is a phenomenon that, according to harvardmagazine.com, first came on the scene in 1999 in California.
A group of single men and women would meet, pair off and, for about 3 to 8 minutes, chat and get to know each other. Then, a signal would sound and the pair would change and start all over again with a new partner.
If a participant were lucky, perhaps he or she might find true love.
This excerpt from an April 19, 1964, The Oklahoman article by Helen Ford, still writing today for the newspaper as Helen Ford Wallace, sets the record straight.
In early-day Oklahoma, around the time of the Land Run in 1889, when young men wanted to meet young ladies, this is one of the ways it was accomplished:
“Visiting back and forth was the primary way of socializing in the town and country in those days and the main way for a boy to meet a girl. Socials came into the scene.
“A young man would ask a settler’s wife if a social might be held in her home and having secured her permission, after earnest urging, he would deliver verbal invitations to everybody. One of the favorite entertainments of these groups was the ‘set-to.’ Seats were arranged around the wall and as the young people assembled, the hostess seated them in couples. After a man had talked to a girl for 10 or 15 minutes, it was the hostess’ duty to bring up another man, take the first one away and give his place to the newcomer.
“The other man would then be seated by some other girl and so they were all shifted around until every man had been introduced to every girl and had talked with her for a few minutes. Many romances blossomed after those few minutes.”
Long before Midwest City and Del City were incorporated, the pioneers that laid claim to the area in the Run of ’89 and homesteaded their land created a community named Sooner.
Its center was at the intersection of Sooner Road and SE 15.
From an Aug. 24, 1955, Oklahoma City Times story, writer Mary Goddard gives this description:
“They built a little frame room, called Bowden chapel, on a (northwest) corner diagonally across the intersection from the present church. It was finished in time for the neighborhood Christmas program in December, 1889.
“The first few school terms were held there, too, until the territorial government could get Sooner school started across the road. Folks still remember the first schoolteacher, Charley Kirk, who suffered frostbitten feet while teaching in the chilly little chapel.
“That chapel gave the whole community its name. The story goes this way. Several “sooners” actually had pre-empted land before the ’89 opening, and feeling ran high about property rights.
“One night, a cowboy, possibly fired up by hard liquor, reeled by on his horse and scrawled the word “Sooner” across the chapel front. The name has stuck ever since.”
By 1906, the Sooner community had their school across the street from the chapel and in fact, the churchgoing folk were using the school for worship.
Sixteen women decided the community needed a new church building, so, to finance it, they organized a Ladies Aid Society.
After nine years of pie suppers and quilt sales, the group raised $2,000, and with a few donations and free labor provided by husbands and sons, in July of 1915, Sooner Community Church was ready for dedication.
The Times story said: “Their awed menfolk decided the women had earned full ownership, so the church was and still is — official property of the incorporated Ladies Aid.”
That one-story church with a basement stood on the southeast corner of the intersection until it burned in April of 1970. Still owned by the Union Ladies Aid Society of Sooner, it had served many startup congregations, as the first office for the Tinker YMCA, and had still been in use several months before the fire.
Because the church land was bound by a covenant that restricted its use to religious or educational purposes, the Ladies Aid, many daughters or granddaughters of the original members, decided to sell the land, and the money was used to establish the first scholarship fund at Oscar Rose Junior College, now Rose State College. This scholarship is available to help students purchase textbooks.
The early pioneers might not recognize the intersection now. The school, now Sooner-Rose Elementary School, is still on the northeast corner, but across Sooner Road on the west is now a gas station and strip mall. And where Sooner Community Church once stood, there is now a small shopping center with a Home Depot behind it. Across the street is a Walmart.
My, how times have changed.
Standing at the entrance to Fairlawn Cemetery at 2700 N Shartel, it is difficult to imagine a cornfield where marble and granite stones now stand.
A story from The Oklahoman dated Sept. 25, 1921, describes the cornfield “filled with scrawny and withered stalks usually bending toward the north, for the wind blew continuously from the south.”
Fairlawn Cemetery Association bought that cornfield in 1892 and began the cemetery that is still there today.
The weather had been hot and dry, and, for a while, the cornstalks served as guides to the cemetery and temporary grave markers.
By 1924, Fairlawn Cemetery was well-established, and the trustees of the Fairlawn Cemetery Association were ready to improve the premises by building a mausoleum to provide aboveground resting places.
The mausoleum was finished in 1925, and the citizens of Oklahoma City were invited to Sunday open houses in October.
It is a concrete building covered inside and out with fine marble and bronze, and it has kept the promises made in newspaper advertisements of being a safe and sanitary resting place for loved ones for more than 80 years.
Simplicity is the design: Two wings are on either side of a small chapel area with aisles dividing the wall crypts, and, near the entrance, are a few special “family rooms,” some with bronze doors or gates and often personally decorated with stained-glass windows and pedestals for flowers or memorabilia.
The lower level is almost a mirror image of the main floor with “special rooms,” crypts, a chapel area and a caretaker’s room.
The chapel on the main level has a beautiful stained-glass window of an angel. The trustees spared no expense and bought an art glass window from the Tiffany Studios of Louis Comfort Tiffany for $5,000 in 1925.
The angel, which is titled “The Spirit Shall Return Unto God Who Gave It,” appears to be hovering midair among the clouds gazing upward.
She made her debut in October 1925, and, while she still shines brightly, our angel has kept a very low profile.
She bears the signature of Louis Comfort Tiffany and is constructed in the Tiffany style.
Louis Comfort Tiffany was famous for stained-glass windows that featured his handmade glass called drapery glass and brilliant colors of glass created in his glass furnaces.
Looking almost like actual cloth, drapery glass adds a three-dimensional quality to the angel’s gown.
He also liked to layer glass, which allowed more interest to the picture than just flat glass.
When you look at our angel, she is surrounded by the moon and stars, but it’s as if they are floating behind her, peeking through the clouds.
For almost 87 years, she has graced our city and brightened the solemn resting place of many of Oklahoma City’s pioneers.