Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year

New Years Eve. A cause for celebration, no matter how big or small the town or city may be. Looking back through some historical information, celebrations were a bit different back at the turn of the 20th Century.
"At the stroke of twelve The Times cannon on the Times Building boomed out a farewell to the old year and century and thundered a merry welcome to the new. This was the signal for a general uproar. Bells, whistles and guns joined in the clamor, and the crowds cheered from street to street. The past century has failed to improve upon the tone of the tin horn, and this exquisite instrument of torture and pandemonium soon predominated. No only did the omnipresent small boy yield this effective air splitter, but women and men in dignified walks of life blew the tin noise dispensers until their lungs refused to do further duty."

-- The Los Angeles Times January 1, 1900

We no longer shoot canons or guns off (legally, anyway) but those horns- be they tin or paper- are still annoying.

Another example:
"New York City outdid herself...a riot of colored electric fire, hung from invisible wires, in a plaza surrounded by Titanic skyscrapers...a splendid chorus of human voices singing the glories of 'The Star Spangled Banner' beneath a lettered 'Welcome, 1900.'"

-- The New York Herald January 1, 1900

It would be great if folks still felt compelled to burst out in our national anthem at such a time, but that seems unlikely in this day and age.

And then, there were the "killjoys" in San Francisco:
"'No monkey shines this year' appears to have been the order of the day issued by Police Chief Sullivan. The 1899 celebration had been characterized by indiscriminate public kissing on the part of persons who had not been properly presented to each other. Chief Sullivan, the killjoy, planted five cops at each corner of Market Street and ten along each block. It was a cold, clear, windless (and comparatively kissless) night."
-- Nation's Business, January, 1900

These youngsters posed for this photo on New Years Eve 1908 here in Tulsa:
Not looking too cheerful. No indiscriminate kissing here either, I'm sure.

I hope everyone reading this has (or had) a great time on this New Years Eve. I am looking forward to 2010 with great hope and excitement. Cheers!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas and Snow

I don't know if we have ever had this much snow on Christmas Day. But I do know we have had this much (and more) before. For instance: January, 1930 (click on photos to enlarge):
Tulsa received 14 inches of snow and also set a record low of -16. Brrrr This is looking south on Main Street. You can see Main St. Theatre on the right and Putter's Bargain Center on the left.

I found these photos in the Beryl Ford Collection. There is no date on them but again, lots of snow:They dug a hole to the door:

Tulsa Gal wishes you and yours a very merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Cowboy Christmas

This is a Christmas story adapted from The Tulsa Daily World, December 21, 1930. I hope you enjoy it.


Major Gordon Lillie was known to thousands of fans of his Wild West Show as Pawnee Bill. In his younger days he had been a cowboy in the Cherokee Outlet (aka Cherokee Strip). According to a story he told, one of the earliest appearances of Santa Claus and a Christmas tree in that part of the Territory was in 1880 on a ranch where he worked.

Old man Constable had just returned to the Strip from running 20,000 Texas Longhorn steers to Armour and Company in Chicago. In that bustling city, the cattleman had been impressed by a beautiful Christmas tree at one of the world’s largest department stores. When Constable returned to the Strip, Christmas was only 5 days away, and he decided they had to have a tree for the ranch. When he suggested this to the other Cowboys, a lively discussion ensued:

“Whar you goin' to get the evergreen tree from?” asked old man Wharton.

“Why, down on the Cimaroon River. It’s only one day’s drive from here. We’ll send Scotty down in the morning.”

“Whar you goin' to get the people from to give your presents to?”

“From Berry’s ranch on Stillwater Creek, from Walker’s ranch on Big Greasey and from Bar X horse ranch on Hell Roaring, and all the other ranches around here.”

“Wall, now, listen boss. When I was a boy in Maine, I attended more than one Christmas tree celebration and they are run for the benefit of the kids, not the grown-up people.”

“Wall, I hadn’t thought of that. I tell you what we can do. We can get that red-headed freckle-faced kid over at the Circle C ranch. He is the funniest looking kid you ever saw, and his daddy is a good fiddler. We’ll have him come over to furnish the music.”

Constable won out, and Scotty left the next morning to search for an evergreen along the Cimarron River down near Oklahoma country, land used at that time exclusively by large ranches in the strip for running cattle. When he found one he thought Constable would take a fancy to, he chopped the bushy cedar down, tied the branches close to the trunk, and attached it to the side of his horse. He then set off for the ranch, and when he set up the tree, all the cowboys elbowed each other with delight. With great frivolity the rowdy men set about the task of stringing popcorn to decorate the tree.

Men came from all the other ranches in the area, and little Red Rankin was happier than he had been in his entire seven years. Most of his short life had been spent either on a ranch or in a covered wagon, and such splendor and extravagance was a wonder to that freckle-faced kid.

According to Lillie’s account, the ranch cook served up a wild turkey dinner, which all the cowboys bragged was the best they had ever tasted. They then lit up their pipes as they sat back to enjoy the fiddle playin’ of Red Rankins’s pa. Pawnee Bill recalled that the boy “had just mounted his spotted hobby horse, which was the capital present presented by Dad Constable (who had dressed up like Santa), when a volley of pistol shots rent the air, and the most unearthly cowboys’ yells broke the peaceful quiet of the Christmas festivities.”

Dust was flying as Ike Clubb and his friends raced up on horseback hollering that the U.S. Marshal was after them. Without bothering to dismount from their steamy horses, the riders came on into the half-dugout serving as a ranch house, breaking right through the wagon sheet hung over the unfinished side of the crude structure. Breathlessly, they described how the Marshal just over the border in Caldwell, Kansas had ordered them to forfeit their guns while in town. They had refused to obey the new law, whereupon Marshal Bill Tilghman had immediately deputized a bunch of Texas cattlemen on the spot! What a ridiculous group of emergency deputies they were- all lit up purty well! Deciding there were better places for them to be, Clubb had told his cohorts as they left Caldwell, “Boys, come on. Let’s not have any killing on this beautiful Christmas day. We’ll go down and see Dad’s Christmas tree.”

Clubb and his cronies thus had turned their horses around and started to ride leisurely back to the ranch, but before they reached the Kansas border, they realized that Tilghman and his men were hot on their trail. Clubb explained to Dad Constable, “So we hiked it for your ranch. They are not over a half-mile behind us. They would have caught us had I not occasionally sent a Colt’s bullet back over their heads, which slowed them up some.”

One of the cowboys suggested that Ike disguise himself in the Santa Claus suit and wig. When Tilghman arrived a few minutes later, Santa greeted him with a bottle of Old Crow and an invitation for all to join the party. Later, as the Marshal and his bunch bid Ike, Dad and the other cowboys good bye, “They were profuse in thanks for their entertainment and the view of the first Christmas tree ever erected in the cattle country of the Cherokee Strip,” recounted the great storyteller, Pawnee Bill.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The ARCO Building/Towercade

The ARCO (Atlantic Richfield Company) Building was the final stop on the Tulsa Treasures tour. This unique building, located at 119 E. Sixth Street, was built in 1949 at the end of the Art Deco era and is a great example of how the style evolved over the years. I have long admired the outside of this building when walking past it. How could entrances like this not catch your eye? (click on photos to enlarge)
Actually, these are two buildings that are connected. This plaque the west side of the building explains:

We were asked by the owner not to go further than the lobby area due to safety issues. And there wasn’t much light, so bear that in mind. There are some ragged edges here and there, but the marble and style are still wonderful. 

This is on the floor just as you step out of the elevator:

This ornate door was admired by everyone:
As you walked in the building from the south door, this was the area to the right:
And this to the left:

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The ONG Building

Last weekend approximately 40 or so curious Tulsan’s got up early and ventured out into the cold, windy streets of downtown Tulsa to see some treasures. Speaking for myself, it has to be something I really, really want to see or do that makes me get up EARLY on a weekend and then get OUT in the COLD! And this was something, for sure.The Tulsa Treasures Tour, coordinated by Tulsa Now was to begin in the lobby of the old ONG Building. That alone was incentive enough for me to bundle up, grab my camera and go. And I was NOT disappointed. I was wowed the minute I walked in: The light fixtures, the floor, the molding, the star theme…..
The floor:
Pillars in the lobby:

I find the elevators, building directories, and mailboxes in buildings of the oil boom era to be charming and exquisite. This one was no exception.

Built in 1928, the ONG building was one of (if not the) first of its kind (zigzag art deco style) in Tulsa.
Our group then stepped out the east door of the lobby, onto Boston, and listened while architect experts told stories about other buildings of interest. I gazed at my beautiful city and tried to capture the moment.

Across the street was the former Ponca City Savings and Loan Building, a Mid-Century style building that is awesome:
Unfortunately we did not get to tour this building inside, as we hoped, which was a shame. That did not stop our tour from discussing the architecture and history of this building as well as the Chase AutoBank that now occupies that corner. I have always liked this wall that is out there:

Next we got to go across the street, north, and see another rarity: the ARCO Building. More on that in the next post.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Alvin Hotel

Yesterday I had the golden opportunity to be in the lobby of this historic building, the ONG:
(click on photos to enlarge)
But that is another story (and photos) for another time. I want to focus on the building to the left (west) of the ONG Building in the above picture- The Alvin Hotel.

Built in 1928-29, the Alvin Hotel was located on the northeast corner of 7th and Main.

In 1930 it was one of many new, fashionable hotels around town.

The Alvin's claim to fame was being home to the First Barbershop Quartet Chapter in Tulsa.
The Barbershop Quartet group met and practiced at the Alvin. This was the Main Streeters Barbershop Quartet:
The Coffee Shop:

This is a view from the balcony overlooking 7th Street below:
Later on, the name was changed to the Alvin Plaza:
The Alvin Hotel/Plaza was torn down in 1976.