Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sipes Food Market

A.H. Sipes began his grocery store business in Oklahoma City (1909) and came to Tulsa in 1927.  They were known to be one of the first stores to bring self-service grocery shopping to Oklahoma yet maintained the nostalgic warmth of a neighborhood grocery store even when they expanded. 

Personal Memories
Going to Sipes was a Saturday afternoon tradition for my dad and I.  We would leave around 10:00 a.m. (shopping list -written by Mom- in hand) and go to his office which was down around 13th and Boulder in a renovated house (later taken out by the expressway).  I would doodle around amusing myself on some poor secretary's typewriter while he worked.  Then we would head over to Ike's Chili Parlor (the last location downtown at 7th and Boston) for 3-way "Spi-get Special" (this was how they pronounced spaghetti and chili with beans and cheese) and a coke served in a paper cone cup in a metal holder.  It was always interesting to sit at the counter and just watch the people working or watch Ollie ring up people at the register by the door.  Then off we would go to Sipes for the weeks groceries.  
My parents' first house was over by the fairgrounds, so the 27th and Harvard location was where we went, even after we moved way out south.  Dad occasionally went to the Sipes at 61st and Yale when it opened but always preferred the Harvard location.  I think it was because he knew the butcher there on a first-name basis. When we would reach the meat department, Dad would give me a dime and I would head over to the Coke machine and get a chocolate Yoohoo and wait. 
If it was summertime, there would be much discussion about loin back ribs, pork chops and steaks for cooking on the Hasty Bake.  If it was winter time, Dad had to choose the right piece of meat and right amount of suet for his chili and have it ground 2-3 times. I'm sure no Tulsa child will ever forget the cartoon/movie "hut" that children were sent to to wait while groceries were being sacked and paid for. Getting a penny to buy a piece of bubble gum from the machine and watching a cartoon for 10 minutes was a great way to end our weekly excursion.  My parent's were very loyal Sipes customers.  Mom even did some advertising modeling for them in the 1950's.  

Sipes Success Story
Customer service and personal check cashing were just two of the many ways Sipes stayed in business, especially during the Great Depression.  In the early 30's there were seven Sipes "self-serving stores" in Tulsa:  11th & Columbia, Peoria just south of 15th Street, 11th & Cheyenne, 15th & Trenton, Edison & Denver, 6th & Zunis, and in the former Warehouse Market building at 11th & Elgin.


These were small stores without much parking needed since few automobiles were on the streets back then.  After WWII, only 2 of those stores were paying operations.  In 1943 son LeRoy Sipes became general manager and bought a location at 15th & Quaker for a larger, more up-to-date super-market.  (This building still stands and is a restaurant).


The 10,000 sq ft facility was the first of five Sipes stores built on the grand scale customers were beginning to demand and included a drug store.


In 1945, the Sipes chain won national recognition for modern supermarket design, including departmentalization of produce and conveyor belt checkout stands. Sipes also received 12 advertising excellence awards from Woman's Day and McCall's magazines. 



Besides the Harvard location (now a Dollar Store), large stores were opened in Holliday Hills (61st & Yale), Eastgate (Admiral & Memorial)  and 32nd & Memorial (now Drysdales).



Hale-Halsell company acquired Sipes Food Markets in 1955 which probably helped the chain outlast many others for decades.  In the early 1970's there were plans to open a store on the northwest corner of 71st & Memorial that fell through.  It was supposed to look like this:



One by one the stores closed with the 61st & Yale location being the last, closing in 1992.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Historic Neighborhoods: White City


Glenn T. Braden, born in 1856, grew up around oil in Pennsylvania.  He was hired to help drill wells at the age of 13, helped his father operate a small refinery for 3 years, then worked as a pipe liner.   An early proponent of natural gas, he invented the Bradenhead, a device which diverted natural gas from oil wells without disrupting production.  
In 1905 he and T.N. Barnsdall purchased 155,000 acres of land from the Osage nation and, as part of the land transaction, they picked up a small natural gas plant in Tulsa.  A year later he formed Oklahoma Natural Gas Company.
In 1912 Braden purchased the land that would later become the White City neighborhood from the Creek Indian nation and built a gas plant. Aside from oil wells and coal mining productions, the rest of the land was eventually turned into a dairy farm when he brought a herd of Jersey dairy cattle to Tulsa during World War I. It was named White City Jersey Dairy Farm because the color of all of the buildings and silos were white.



This is the 1923 Sanborn Map of the White City Dairy Farm.  Click on the photo to enlarge:



This item is listed in the Token Catalog, found by a local treasure hunter.  It says:
White City Jersey Farm   1 quart   Pat Dec 25 (?) 1916



After his death his children closed the dairy, platted the land and began selling lots.  One of the stipulations was that there be a neighborhood park.  Originally named White City Park, it was renamed Braden Park a few years later.

White City was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on June 14, 2001.  These are the boundaries:

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tulsa Pioneers: Glenn Condon

Glenn Condon was born in 1892 to George and Mary Condon.  After graduating from Oklahoma City common schools (8th grade), he worked as a messenger boy for Western Union which was also the source of the Oklahoma City Times-Journal's stories. Glenn's brother happened to work for said newspaper as a pressman.  One day his brother told him to standby, that there was going to be an extra out on the San Francisco earthquake. Glenn was the first kid out on the streets with that extra and was bitten by the journalism bug.

He came to Tulsa in 1907 and worked as a bundle wrapper, a soda jerk and at a vaudeville theater called Egan's Roof Garden which was atop the building that also housed the Beane-Vandever dry goods store.


Condon finally got up enough nerve to ask the editor of the Tulsa Democrat for a job- any job that he had to offer.  Having only an 8th grade education he was given the job as a printers devil.  His duties included sweeping the floors and being the editor's gopher.  Glenn liked to tell the story of his first assignment as a cub reporter for the Tulsa Post (at age 17) covering an evangelistic meeting being held in a tent.  He took his place at the press table, proudly "making" like a reporter, when a woman approached and asked, "Young man, are you a Christian?" to which he replied, "No ma'am, I'm a newspaperman" without realizing how it sounded.  In 1911 Glenn covered the only legal hanging to occur in Tulsa.

While working for the Tulsa Post, he inaugurated one of the first sports columns and became their Sports Editor.  Then he went to work for the Tulsa World performing, at one time or another, all of the news jobs there; police reporter, telegraph editor, city editor and managing editor-all before the age of 25.  During this time his boss was  Eugene Lorton who would later become the newspaper's publisher.

In October of 1911 Tulsa was preparing for their Second Annual County Fair and the First Annual Industrial Show and trade week.  The Tulsa Daily Democrat reported that aviator Leonard Bonney would be arriving:


Bonnie Will Arrive Today
     Bonnie, the daring your aviator, who has been making successful airship flights at the Muskogee fair and other exhibitions during the past summer will arrive here in a special car from Muskogee this morning. His airship, a Wright biplane, will be immediately taken to the fair ground and set up. A flight will be made on the fair grounds today. Bonnie is the first aviator to carry passengers in his machine in this state, performing this feat in Muskogee last week when he took a member of the State Board of Heath up in the air with him.

Eugene Lorton had wanted to go up in one of those flying machines for quite some time and won a chance to do just that.  The Tulsa World was "published from the air" that day:


What Mr. Lorton didn't learn until 15 years later was that every piece of paper in that hat had his name on it.

It was Lorton who encouraged Glenn to run for the House of Representatives seat, which he did and won in 1916.  He resigned in 1917 to visit Europe on a war mission for the state, coming back to Oklahoma to promote the state's war efforts by making more than 300 speeches in every county.

After the war Condon became editor and publisher of the Vaudeville News in New York.  He gave cub reporter Walter Winchell his first job there, before he became known as a gossip columnist.  Ironically over the years, many said Glenn, with his staccato speaking pattern,  sounded a lot like Winchell over the airwaves. Perhaps it should have been the other way around.

Returning to Tulsa in 1926, Glenn managed the Ritz and Orpheum movie theaters and later the Majestic.  According to notation on this photo, this is Glenn interviewing Gene Autry on the Orpheum stage, however it is not confirmed that this is in fact Mr. Autry (see comments below):


During the World Series games, he would shout the play-by-play of the game from the 2nd story of the Majestic  as it came in over the wire to the crowds below.



He went back into broadcasting helping to organize stations as KOME and KAKC- with the "C" standing for Condon ("A" was for Avey, "K" was for Kellogg and later King).  The majority of those alive now probably recall him as news director for KRMG when it went on the air  Christmas Eve 1949. 

Glenn was a popular speaker at functions all over the city with many interesting stories to share.  

In his Only In Oklahoma series, Gene Curtis recounts:
Condon…once introduced a public official as "the only Tulsa County Commissioner who hasn't been indicted."  When the laughter died down, he added, "yet."

Another of those stories was about a tall, thin, soft-spoken Indian by the name of Henry Starr.

Henry had a price on his head and had been undercover for about a year.  One summer day, Henry and his gang rode out of the Osage Hills and headed towards Stroud, OK.  At the edge of town they split up with carefully made plans to rob the town's two banks at the same time.  A 16 yr old grocers son, firing from the back of his dad's store with a .22 rifle, winged Henry in the leg as the outlaws rode out of town.  Henry fell from his horse and was captured.


He was taken to the Lincoln County jail where he sent for a few Tulsa newspapermen (Condon being one of them) and shocked them all, telling them that he had been living in Tulsa all of this time in a rented house a block from the sheriffs home and two blocks from the mayor.  He gave the newsmen his keys to the house and in it they found everything just as he had described.


Glenn Condon was one of the proudest Tulsans I think I've ever read about.  With good reason though.  He had lived here during the birth of the city and had seen and been a part of it all.  From the Commercial Club Booster trains that went to state capitals in the East (which he called "audacious") to the knock-down newspaper fight between titans Eugene Lorton and Charles Page over Tulsa's water.  He saw the building of the bridge that essentially brought oil to Tulsa and thought the sign erected over the top of it epitomized Tulsa's spirit.  "You said we couldn't do it but we did."
He never failed to recognize how many, if not all, of the wealthy oil men "put their money where their mouths were" and gave so very much back to the city in the form of museums, parks, airports, buildings and more.

In other aspects of his life, Glenn was active in the Parks Department, served on the Tulsa State Fair Board, the Tulsa Press Club, the Rotary Club- you name it, it seems as though Glenn was a part of it.  Which is why he was honored in July of 1964 by the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce upon his retirement after 57 years as a reporter.  This tribute to a self-made newsman humbled him greatly and sealed his belief that Tulsa was the greatest city on earth.

Glenn Condon passed away in 1968.

*Click HERE to read how Condon viewed Tulsa in 1919.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Statehood Day: How The News Came To Tulsa



Sunday Tulsa World
November 17, 1907


Washington, D.C.  Nov. 16, 1907  
All Managers:
President Roosevelt signed statehood bill at 10:17 a.m. 
J.D. Prosser, Manager
Received at Tulsa, 9:19 a.m.

This was how the word reached Tulsa, via Elmer E. Louderbach, local manager, of the
 Postal Telegraph. Postal had made special arrangements to have ready a through wire
from the White House, connected with their offices in the new state. In Tulsa 
Manager Louderbach had made arrangements with several of the power plants equipped
with large steam whistles to be ready for the signal, and the telephone operators were
pressed into service for the rapid transmission of the word to turn loose the noise.
A messenger was posted at the phone in the telegraph office, and as the awaited message began ticking, a signal from the operator at the key sent the news speedily about
the city. Thus it was that the whistles and bells and guns began their joyous clamor
but two minutes after President Roosevelt actually signed his name to the proclamation
of Oklahoma as one of the United States of America.
  The great bell in the fire station was the first to break the morning stillness and 
before the second stroke was heard a perfect bedlam of noises broke loose. Two mighty 
engines on the Frisco tracks set forth their shreiking (sic) and joined in the clamor which
 was in progress. Bells of every kind gise (sic) and description joined in the din and naught 
but the shrieking of whistles and the resounding tones of the bells could be heart. (sic) 
For l5 minutes this burst of enthusiasm, and out of the uproar could be heard the clang
 of the fire bell measuring off the 46 strokes....
From the flagstaff of the high school building a magnificent new flag, dotted
 with 13 stripes and l6 stars swung out into the morning air, and from all parts of the 
city flag exercises of a similar nature were carried on. Those that had not the flags with the 16 stars dug the ancient banners from the hiding places and sewed 
the brightest and newest star upon "Old Glory”.
At 1:30 the parade which had been forming on Boulder Avenue got under way and filed
slowly up Boulder to Sixth Street.
Down Main Street came the procession, led by little Vernor Terril dressed in a
 suit of red, white and blue, representing the new state in a carriage with D.C Rose 
and J..M. Hall. Then came the Commercial Club band, some 40 in number, catching the 
crowd with a quick step. A ripple of applause ran down the line and in appreciation 
the band struck up the "Star Spangled Banner” and a storm of cheers greeted the 
great national air.
Following the band came the representatives of union labor in Tulsa, keeping perfect step with heads erect and maintaining an excellent line of march. One after another the unions filed by, some 200 in all, each member wearing a statehood badge.
The carnival band, which had generously donated their services for the occasion came next and kept up the applause with popular airs. Then came the school children in gaily decorated wagons and they too were greeted with applause.
The children evidently enjoyed the spectacle as much as those who lined the streets 
and kept up a never-ending stream of cheers.
The fire department with Chief Alder and Lieut. Hall came next in order and after them the shining wagons of the department. The prancing steeds evidently felt the greatness of the occasion and the sturdy drivers were kept upon their feet throughout the line march holding the steeds in check.
Eleven student representatives of the Bartlesville high school and Tulsa Business College teams came next in line, garbed in the peculiar raiment of the football field. Whenever a bevy of maidens greeted their gaze they whooped it up generously for their schools and were rewarded by a pattering of hand claps.
A never ending line of carriages bearing the representative men of the city, their wives and citizens followed, a great many of them gaily decorated for the occasion.
After the parade had completed the line of march it disbanded at the Grand where a throng had assembled to hear the statehood orators. Thomas B. Lyons, a young attorney affiliated with the firm of Martin & Rise, delivered the principal address. Christopher Kreiger, representing the labor organizations of the city, spoke on behalf of the cause of labor, telling what statehood meant to them.
------------------------
A couple of photos........

The was the mayor of Tulsa at the time of Statehood:

And of course there was a photographer set up on 1st and Boston who snapped this photo of some Tulsa cowboys on the historic day:



Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Spartan Aircraft- Trailercoaches

As discussed in an earlier post regarding oilman Bill Skelly's interest in aviation, he led the way in putting together the funds to open Tulsa's Municipal Airport in 1928 (along with several other wealthy businessmen).  Skelly's wealth allowed him to indulge his interest in this new frontier by founding the Spartan Aircraft Company.  This was a college as well as a manufacturer of open cockpit and canvas bodied biplanes which were used primarily for the flight training schools.  
This was the Spartan Aircraft Factory in 1929, located on N. Sheridan, north of the Frisco Railroad tracks in an area known as Tulsa Heights. In the lower left hand corner of the photo is North Sheridan. The road with the grass median is East Virgin Street. 


With profits from the well-made products wisely being reinvested into research and development, they were able to come up with great technical improvements.  One of the most lucrative products was the "Spartan Executive", a luxury model and aviation legend.  It was built for the comfort and luxurious tastes of the rich oilmen, rivaling the comfort of the most opulent limousines of the day. 



Skelly sold Spartan to billionaire J. Paul Getty in the late 1930's.  

When the U.S. became involved in the war Getty threw himself into the operation of running the plant, receiving a contract to build Navy trainers.  At the end of the war, Getty had to decide where to take the company.  There were quite a few options on the table: 5-passenger airplanes, a new type of automobile and a radically designed travel trailer.  With the great need for housing after the war, Getty determined that trailer manufacturing would be the way to go.



from the Spartan Trailer History page:



The first prototype was made in the summer of 1945 using aircraft design similar to the Spartan Executive without much concern for other trailers trailer design of the time. They were out to produce the best product on the market. Using building techniques and designs that they had mastered in the aircraft building industry. By mid 1945 the pilot model had been completely road tested and a small production run of 100 was scheduled.  

True to their intent, Spartan spared no expense on these trailers. They were of the highest quality and sleekest design employing the monocoque building technique used in airplane manufacturing. They were truly the "Cadillac" of trailers. When we compare the price of a brand new home in Levittown for under $8000 including the land the 25 foot Spartan Manor at close to $4000, it was rather expensive.

The first models rolling off the production line in the mid 40's to early 50's could be considered true travel trailers in every sense with the largest reaching around 35 feet long. As the interstate highway system began to come into existence things would change.


The company started making much larger trailers, or homes as Spartan preferred to call them. They were furnished in the latest of styles from couches to window coverings. The 50's saw a great rise in the number of competing trailer manufacturing companies. Most offering models priced much below that of Spartan. In 1958, to stay competitive, Spartan introduced 2 new lines of trailers. The "Sparcraft" an all aluminum and riveted trailer constructed with less appealing styling than the Spartan.  The super economy line the "Sparlane" was a basic boxy affordable mobile home.


1961 marked the final year of production. At this time Spartan had a very extensive line of trailers with 19 models. The largest reaching 10 feet wide by 55 feet long. A fleet of 29 2-ton Internationals was used to deliver these large homes.  In 1962 the plant closed and the company went into the insurance and financial business, under the name of the Minnehoma Insurance Co., After closing its plant, Spartan sold its name to the Spartan School of Aeronautics, which continues today.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A Visitor From Above

At 1:40 pm on a sunny fall day in 1928, shrieking sirens went off in the West Tulsa refineries.  They were announcing the arrival of the Los Angeles.  "Queen of the American Skies", the naval dirigible was the guest of Tulsa for a few fleeting minutes that Tuesday as it leisurely swept over the city. Coming from Ft. Worth, the second largest ship in the world at the time was on it's way "home" to it's mooring in Lakehurst, N.J.


Greeted by an escort of eight Tulsa planes (those are the dots in the photos), the dirigible was first sighted far south of Tulsa, hanging low over the Sapulpa hills, by thousands of Tulsans.  They could see it from rooms and windows of office buildings, from Reservoir Hill, from Riverside Drive and beyond.  As it made it's way towards the city, it swung to the west to circle over the downtown area.  


People scrambled to the tops of buildings as it dipped low to an altitude of 900 ft. using only 2 of its 5 motors. They said that every detail and marking could be seen in the brilliant sunshine and that it appeared to be as low as The Exchange Building -the tallest structure in the state at that time.

Tulsa World photographer Lee Krupnick stood on top of the Mayo Hotel and took this photo.  

If you squint your eyes, you can perhaps see the people standing on the buildings.  Wish I had a better copy of this photo.

To Tulsans it was the pride of the U.S. Navy but to one resident it was more.  Lt J. Benam Carter had been a member of the ship's crew for the last 3 years.  His aunt, Mrs. Hunt, lived on East 18th Street  and the dirigible's course took it almost directly over the Hunt home.  Spotting the house, Lt. Carter dropped a note of greeting addressed to his Aunt and Uncle which landed near their residence. An observer picked up the message and delivered it.


And with that the ship which had once crossed the Atlantic headed on towards Kansas City.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Aunt Chick: Easy As Pie

As a reporter once put it:  Aunt Chick was her generation's Martha Stewart.  She pioneered cooking techniques that are still in use today and invented some great products to boot.


Nettie Williams came to Claremore to teach economics after graduating from the Stout Institute in Menomonie, WI- this was only the second school in the nation at that time devoted to home economics.  After teaching there she became the supervisor of Home Ec for the Muskogee Public Schools.  Then she married Sam McBirney of Tulsa in 1913.  McBirney was the brother of J. H. McBirney who, in addition to being in the banking business with his brother, was also coach of the Kendall College (now T.U.) football team.  The McBirney's bank, National Bank of Commerce, was started in 1908 and because of the oil business, never felt the effects of the Depression as so many did.

In 1935 Nettie decided she wanted to begin writing a cooking column, so she approached the Tulsa World Editor, N.G. Henthorn.  He offered her $15 a week to write the column which appeared Tuesday through Friday on the society page as well as on Saturday in a food shopping guide.  Nettie didn't tell her husband about this new job which she viewed as more of a hobby than work (she later said she would have written about good cooking for free) but when Sam opened up the newspaper  to her first column -which she signed as "Aunt Chick" -he knew it was her as this was one of her pet names.   The story goes that Sam said, "That crazy woman will start a run on the bank if people think she has to work!" before confronting her.  Of course, it didn't start a run on the bank.  Rather a run on newspapers as women loved her cooking advice and recipes.  

Nettie had a knack for solving cooking problems plus she listened to women.  She always tested the recipes she published and believed that a good home cook knew more than most experts.  Nettie said she liked the way Oklahoma women made biscuits and fried chicken and said she found it was the kind of flour they used that made the difference.

One of the biggest problems of that time was making a good pie.  Aunt Chick taught how to make wonderful pies with perfect crusts and meringue that didn't weep. She loved teaching and demonstrating and became an international figure not only for her inventions but for organizing  teams of cooks trained to demonstrate cooking which were employed by large department stores in major cities across the nation.


Her wire-bottomed pie pans eliminated soggy crusts and her non-stick pastry canvas was a must for rolling out dough of any kind. There was her Spatulator, her rolling pin with a cover, the heavy aluminum cookie sheets with handles and of course her famous cookie cutters. Aside from making cute, easy to decorate cookies, she patented these molds (that easily release the dough) in 1949.  This was accomplished with little dots on the inside of the cutter as well as there not being any right angles in the whole Merry Christmas set. Fans included Princess Margaret who purchased a set of the Christmas cutters for Prince Charles' fourth Christmas in 1952.  



Nettie wrote her column for 20 years, quitting in the early 1950's.   She then devoted all of her time to the business of selling her cooking products. She also wrote cookbooks with the most popular one being this one (my prized possession):



She collected cookbooks, beginning with one she received when she married in 1913 and donated the entire lot of them (about 1,000) to the Tulsa County Library when she moved into a retirement home in 1973.  She didn't stop doing what she loved though; she just had a new venue and audience to demonstrate to.  


Nettie McBirney died on Thursday, 16 December 1982. She was 96 years old at the time of her death.
---------------------------------------
Carrie Greno had a grandmother herself who brought out Aunt Chick's cookie cutters at Christmas during her childhood.  Wanting to carry on the tradition, she began looking for those cutters and learned that they hadn't been made in decades and that some bakers hoarded them for fear there would never be any more.  She found a Tulsa man who had 18,000 of the original cookie cutters in storage, which she bought.  She purchased a small ad in Martha Stewart's magazine (!) and they sold like hotcakes. After the great response, she contacted Nettie's granddaughter and convinced her to sell the original production molds and in 2004 her new company, Gramma's Cutters was in business.  You can now purchase those beloved cookie cutters again.  

You can read some of Aunt Chick's columns from the Tulsa World here.

And for you cookie baker's out there, here is her no-fail cookie recipe:


Aunt Chick's Original No-Fail Cookie Recipe 
INGREDIENTS NEEDED:
1 cup shortening
2 cups sugar
3 eggs 
4 1/2 cups sifted measured flour
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda

FLAVORINGS
1 tsp vanilla and 1/2 tsp lemon or 1 tsp vanilla and 1/4 tsp almond

MAKING DOUGH: 
Sift together flour and salt. Cream together shortening, sugar, eggs, salt, flavoring and soda. Combine mixtures and shape dough into an oval roll and wrap in waxed paper or place in plastic bag. Chill at least 2 hours. 

CUTOUT AND BAKING: 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use a pastry canvas and covered rolling pin. Flour both lightly. Take out 1/4 or less of dough. Keep remaining dough chilled. Roll dough into 1/4 - and 3/8 - inch thickness. With floured cookie cutter, place cutter on dough and press down firmly with fingers all around edges to make sure the entire edge is cut. With spatula, lift cutter and dough. With thumb, rub cutting edge clean of dough. Then, using thumb, gently press dough into design of cutter. Be careful never to press closer than 1/4 inch of edge of cutter. Slap cutter down on table or cookie sheet, and dough will come right out. Flour cutter before cutting next cookie. Bake cookies 12 to 15 minutes. Do not allow to brown. Cool thoroughly before decorating. 

NOTES: 
If you wish to make colored dough, mix color into dough just before rolling dough in waxed paper. Colored dough should bake at only 325 degrees to help the dough retain its color.