Monday, March 29, 2010

When The Count Came to Tulsa

Bill Basie stopped in Tulsa the first time in 1926.  He was traveling on the TOBA circuit  (Theater Owners Booking Association was the vaudeville circuit for African American performers in the 1920s and 1930s) with the show Gonzelle White and Her Big Jazz Jamboree.  In this show Basie played piano, a villain in a skit and played a ballyhoo in the streets to drum up business.  The show was in town for a week to 10 days and the group was put up at the Red Wing Hotel (actually a boardinghouse) on Greenwood Avenue.

In his memoir Good Morning Blues, Basie recalls one morning, as he was sleeping in late, he awoke to music he thought must be coming from a Victrola in another room.  He threw on his clothes and stumbled downstairs and encountered The Walter Page Blue Devils, a band from Oklahoma City, playing a ballyhoo on the street.  The groups verve and dynamics dazzled him and though he met the band and was invited to join, it wasn't until a year later that he did.  Basie is quoted as saying that The Blue Devils were "the happiest band I've ever been in. Everybody seemed to be having so much fun just being up there playing together, and they looked good and sounded good to boot."  The band broke up in the early 1930s.

Also in his memoir he says he returned to Tulsa in 1935 for a one-night gig at a dance hall, but no other information is available.

By the time he returned to Tulsa, when the following pictures were taken, he was known as Count Basie and had several hits out, including "Swingin' The Blues", Jumpin' At The Woodside" and his theme song, "One O'Clock Jump".   This show is sponsored by Columbia Records which he joined in 1939, shortly after his "discovery" at The Famous Door in 1938.  It looks like it was in the early 1940's.

And now, for your listening pleasure, I give you Count Basie and his orchestra performing Big Band Basie Boogie in the 1943 movie "Top Man" - the video quality isn't so great but the music is:

Saturday, March 27, 2010

1959 Plan for Central Tulsa- TULCENTER

In 1959 a booklet was produced called "A Plan for Central Tulsa" that had new concepts and ideas that would help keep downtown Tulsa thriving.  Written by California architects and paid for by a group called the Downtown Master Plan Committee (which was primarily downtown merchants and business owners), it encouraged the then newly formed Urban Renewal Authority to "begin as soon as possible to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the new (Oklahoma state) legislation"  and offered some interesting ideas and concepts that sound very familiar today.  The writers of this book encouraged IMMEDIATE action on this plan if it were to work.  In fact, Tulsa apparently did implement some of these ideas but at a much later date.  Too late, most would say.  This booklet explains some of the mysterious changes that took place in downtown Tulsa during the 60's and 70's.  The mall/fountain area and the one-way streets, to name a couple.

The IDL had just been approved and was essentially a "done deal" so, with that in mind, these planners came up with some rather unique ideas for optimizing and revitalizing downtown.  This was well before the Williams Company came along and, I'm guessing, screwed most of this up.  Anyway, this General Development Plan was geared using 1975-1980 economic projections and was for both public and private development.
Foreseeable needs were keeping retail business active and growing; having personal service establishments- laundry, barber, beauty shops, shoe repair; having additional medical and dental facilities; more office space as well as hotel/motels and multi-family dwelling units.
Studies were sited from 1955 showing the estimated needs for more parking.  It was suggested that the streets could be improved and capacity increased by removing through traffic and routing it around the central area.    To accommodate the needs for new parking and better downtown circulation, the Plan includes major one-way streets to connect to expressway interchanges and parking terminals immediately adjacent to the shopping core.  Immediate parking construction was urged in this Plan.

TULCENTER, the heart of downtown, was conceived as a pedestrian paradise with automobiles eliminated from the 12-block area surrounded by Boulder, Cincinnati, Second and Sixth Streets. Main Street would be transformed into a shopping center rivaling the best retail trade centers in the country.  Four blocks of Boston Ave would become a veritable office park for office workers featuring coffee shops, restaurants, bookshops and specialty stores.
Unified canopies along storefronts, trees planted -and all of this with no traffic.  There was to be separate traffic garages, close to the expressway exits. At two strategic locations, between Main and Boston, rest and Convenience Centers would be located.
"A lady would be able to park her car, walk under cover to her favorite stores and shop at her leisure without ever carrying a bundle.  Her purchases would be delivered to the Convenience Center pick up station and assembled in one package which she can then collect when she leaves.  She may meet friends at the CC for a cup of tea.  Benches, fountains and trees will create a park-like atmosphere in place of rushing cars and honking horns.  Street corner flowers stalls can add color.  A branch library in one CC, art exhibits, noontime concerts. All of this could all lead to a return to 'old fashioned neighborliness' civic pride and friendliness."  

Old Courthouse Square   
At the time this proposal was written, the original Courthouse building sat at 6th and Boulder and was empty.  Since it was already owned by the public it was felt this was a very important idea to consider: providing shops and offices on the Fifth Street mall frontage, two- or three-level parking on the balance site with a roof deck promenade area to tie in with Main St activities.  On the roof, a garden restaurant could be developed which would be an expansion of Bishop's Restaurant on Main St.  "Thus a shopper could enter the garage at Sixth and Boulder, exit through the shops to Fifth or across the roof garden promenade.  The City, through Urban Renewal, could assemble the land around it (the entire half block on the east side of Boulder between Fifth and Sixth).  This idea is broken down into three detailed phases (which I won't go into).

Transportation Center    
This proposal was to start with the existing Union Depot, adding bus operations and airline ticket and passenger check-in facilities.  Auto rental agencies and taxi services. In addition it would be advantageous to make room for a major post office central operational headquarters there as well.  And of course, more parking would be needed: one between First and Second around the Bliss Hotel and the other between Second and Third by the Hotel Tulsa.

North and West of TULCENTER, where the land use was mixed and blighted, would be made into light industrial warehousing and distribution center. South and East should be apartment and single-family housing.

The Oil Mart   
Located in the "unsavory and run down section of Tulsa" between Boston and Boulder and north of First Street, the idea here was to have activities associated with the petroleum industry to be drawn together in a single convenient location along with office spaces for geologists and any other oil-related businesses.  There could be an oil museum, exhibit hall, etc.

Apartment Areas   
Opportunities exist to create living patterns and housing types different and far better than any apartment area that now exists in Tulsa.  The conventional apartment building just won't do."  The suggestion here was to construct a variety of housing types for singles, families and senior citizens. 

Cathedral Square  
This plan called for realigning Boulder Street and making a park like setting for use at times when church use was not at its peak.  

This idea called for creating a low-level dam below the 21st St Bridge and creating a large, clear lake.  Then constructing islands, a lagoon and recreation facilities for boating, fishing and water skiing in various areas of the river.  "The Marina would make living in central Tulsa the envy of every western city dweller." 

In 2007 writer Michael Bates touched upon this Marina idea in an article he wrote for Urban Tulsa:

We can only wonder "what if" most of these ideas had been implemented quickly, as was recommended.  Would it have revived downtown Tulsa? 

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Duncan McIntyre: "Father of Tulsa Aviation"

Duncan A. McIntyre was a former Air Force instructor and military barnstormer.   In 1919, as he was on his way to Spokane, Washington, he decided to stop in Tulsa to visit an old war buddy.  He ended up staying here until 1940, and making commercial aviation a reality in Tulsa.  
McIntyre quickly realized that oil-booming Tulsa was ripe for starting an aviation business.  He and another pilot,  Bert Brookins, rented part of the Curtis Southwest Airplane Field and called it an airport.  

He began offering sight-seeing tours over the city for $20 and round trips to Houston for $400.  He soon had enough money to purchase 80 acres at Admiral Place and Sheridan.  With 3 hangars, offering sales, service and repair, the McIntyre Airport was official.

Here are some ladies from the Junior League having an aerial tea party with McIntyre in 1920.

Patrick J. Hurley and Will Rogers at the McIntyre Airport in 1926.  Hurley would later become the U.S. Secretary of War.

Within a few short years the McIntyre airport was considered by many early flyers to be one of the finest airports in Oklahoma.  With it's sod runway and fields, his airport was chosen as the site for a military Fly-In in 1925.  The Army and Navy brought approximately 35-40 aircraft to the site, including the all aluminum Hamilton fighter plane (U.S. Army) and the Vought Navy aircraft.  

On September 30, 1927 Tulsa aviation history was made when Charles Lindbergh, fresh from his non-stop flight across the Atlantic Ocean, landed The Spirit of St. Louis at the McIntyre Airport.  Schools and businesses closed for "Lindbergh Day" in Tulsa and thousands turned out to cheer.  

Also on hand was another famous pilot named Arthur Goebel.  He piloted his "Woolaroc" non-stop across the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii and wanted to greet Lucky Lindy.  The Woolaroc was sponsored by Phillips Petroleum of Bartlesville and Frank Phillips accompanied Goebel that day.

Henry Ford got into the aviation business and wanted to promote his new Tri-Motor airships by launching a city-to-city "flying circus" called the Ford Reliability Tour in 1927.  Although the McIntyre Airport had hosted fly-ins, it was too small for Ford's extravaganza. W.G. Skelly, however, made arrangements for planes needing refueling to do so at McIntyre.  

Tulsa was told it could be a stop in 1928 if, in six months, they could put together an airport that could handle 50 airplanes.    With no time to spare, 47 of Tulsa's wealthiest businessmen, led by Skelly,  signed the Stud Horse Note for $172,000 to purchase a 320-acre tract of land at Sheridan and Apache.  A wheat field was mowed into 2 runways, a shabby barn-like building was thrown up within a week and, on July 3, 1928, Tulsa Municipal Airport was ready to open and host the tour.

D.A. McIntyre, "Father of Tulsa Aviation", moved to California in 1940 to take a job with Lockheed.  He returned to Tulsa one more time in 1961, to dedicate the new terminal that would be renamed Tulsa International Airport.

Sources:  Tulsa Times: The Boom Years, The Tulsa World

Monday, March 22, 2010

Earthquake Detector

I have a very reliable earthquake detector right in front of me, on my wall.  It's this:

My lovely, historical Tulsa plate has not been wrong yet.  Actually, it's the plate-holder (the kind with the springs on the back) that alerts me.  The wall this is hanging on is in fact the south side of my chimney.  Airplanes and loud vehicles can make my windows shake, but this has "gone off" when all is quiet.  
The rather large (for Oklahoma) one we had a couple of months ago was by far the strangest sounding.  I could not figure out what the noise was because, besides the plate doing it's thing, other parts of my house vibrated as well.  That was when I started to make the connection.  And with that one, I began to mark down precisely when this plate vibrated.  And lo, it's right on.  Last night it went off around 9:38; wasn't a very strong one.  I feel like I should DO something when this happens. Twitter it?  Well there is an actual study going on using Twitter as faster earthquake notification.  And I found that there is a website I can report these too.  I feel like its my duty ;-)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Memorial Park Cemetery

Nearly every Tulsan has driven by Memorial Park Cemetery/ 51st and Memorial at some time.  Many of us have been inside the cemetery on more than one occasion.  And yet, did you ever notice the resemblance of this Spanish-style building to, say…. The Alamo?  

The original owner of this private cemetery, C.W. Beck, used this style to honor his wife who was from San Antonio, so the story goes.  Built during Tulsa's oil boom in 1927, Beck wanted to build a modern cemetery, so he purchased 160 acres that was then about 6 miles outside of Tulsa's city limits and built the huge 5,000 square-foot chapel (now used primarily as offices).  This was some chapel.  The original doors are still used on the south side of the building- heavy wood, bound by wrought iron.  And inside you can see the high ceilings lined by cypress beams.  This chapel seated 180 and had a choir loft, pipe organ and a large frontier style fireplace along with 14 stained-glass windows  honoring Christian heroes.
Built at the same time was The Tower of Memories which has 20-pipe Deagan chimes that play melodies during the day and chime on the hour and half hour.  I'm fortunate to live close enough (and have most of my life, actually) to hear them most days.

Beck lost controlling interest in the cemetery in 1933 but the cemetery has survived and grown to 240 acres.  And there are many interesting monuments and statues scattered about.

The American Legion Post dedicated their monument when the cemetery opened in 1927 to the men of WWI and later to all veterans.  Memorial Day services are held here every year.  
I had never noticed these sentries before.

Around 1946 another chapel was built.  This one is designed more like an old English cottage with Bandera stone.  Inside an elaborate use of walnut makes it feel, indeed, like an Anglican church.  It seats 125.

Also on the premises:  a stone reproduction of Da Vinci's The Last Supper, the Garden of the Apostles and this one that was built for children.  

The 5-acre lake was drained, cleaned and refilled a couple of years ago.  The electric fountain that had been there from the beginning was removed. Currently more renovating and new family  areas are being added in this area. 
Many people come here to see where well-known public figures were buried.  Wayman Tisdale's grave is hard to miss right as you enter off of 51st:

Prior to Tisdale's death, the number one visited celebrity grave was that of Bob Wills:
I love this:

Many people that knew who Sam Kinison was (preacher-turned-crazy comedian) had no idea he was also buried here:


And of course, there are the local family names we all recognize:

Rev. Oral Roberts and Billie Joe Daugherty are also buried here.
In 2002 the new Family Center was opened providing 10,000 sq. feet for larger gatherings, complete with kitchens.  It is similarly designed like the Alamo and blends in nicely.  Personally, I love this place not only because my family is buried out here (as will I be someday) but because of its natural beauty.  I took these photos last fall:

Memorial Park Cemetery is one of the country's 10 largest privately owned cemeteries and a wonderful asset to our city.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Jane Moore Captain Appleby

Born in 1825, America Jane Moore came to Indian Territory in 1872 with the Osage tribe as the wife of Augustus "Ogeese"  Captain. Although she did not have any Indian blood in her, she was raised in the tribe from the age of 8 and was prominent in all Osage affairs and assemblages.  As an honor to her, when the Dawes roll was made in 1906 she was placed upon it for all purposes except a division of land.
She and Augustus raised a large family on their ranch near Hominy.  After his death, she married her ranch foreman Lew Appleby.  Known around the Osage area as Aunt Jane, she was one of  the richest woman in the Indian Territory.   She died at the age of 92 in a Tulsa hospital.
One of her daughters, Rosa Captain, married Al Hoots.  They owned a fast horse named U-See-it whose winnings supported the two.  In 1917 Al was dying and his last wish was for U-See-it to be  bred to one of the finest studs, certain that the foal produced would be a winner.  When oil was discovered on their Osage land, Rosa had the means to honor her late husband's wish and shipped U-See-it to Lexington, KY where she was bred with Black Toney.  The result was a black colt named Black Gold who won the 50th Kentucky Derby in 1924.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


The Tulsa Street Railway Company was formed in 1905 by 18 of Tulsa's visionaries.  Faced with many of the same hurdles in getting the street's paved, construction did not begin until 1907 (and was done before the streets were). 

The city was eventually served by three electric railway companies that passengers could ride: the Tulsa Street Railway operated in town:

Tulsan's were using cars, horse and buggy along with the streetcars to get around:

The Sand Springs Railway carried passengers between that town and Tulsa.  

Many people took the streetcar on Sundays to Sand Springs Park for a day of fun.

The Tulsa-Sapulpa Union Railway connected Tulsa to the oil fields.  

Tracks ran along the main thoroughfares of the city and towns. You can see color-coded routes here.

The smaller interurban cars were similar to railroad passenger cars.
These is the streetcar maintenance crew:

Sources:, Tulsa County Library