I remember my grandfather, Bill Wooten, as being a quiet soft-spoken man with a wrinkled smile. Born in Dardendale, AR in 1895, he attended the University of Arkansas graduating with an engineering degree, then joined the Army in 1918, serving as a Lieutenant alongside (future Senator) Robert S. Kerr. When he got out of the Army he taught high school mathematics for two years in Russellville and it was there that he met his future wife, Margaret Elizabeth.
Bill got word that the city of Tulsa was looking for someone to lead a field of surveyors and came to Tulsa to apply for the job, only to learn that there was no survey job available. However he was qualified as an engineer and the city hired him as a statistician in 1922. Two years later he married Margaret and brought her here to Tulsa. Their first home was at 1715 S. Carolina Ave.
For the next years my grandfather advanced to assistant sewer engineer, sewer engineer and assistant city engineer by 1927. He was named to the city's top engineering post the first time in 1939. But in between that time he and my grandmother had saved to start a family which included building their own home. Their first child, my mother, was born in June of 1928 at St. John's Hospital. Thankfully, my grandmother kept a well documented baby book that included lots of photos. She has the hospital room they were in circled on this postcard:
She notes that work on their new house began just a month after my mother's birth in July of 1928.
Their new house was to be way out on 14th Place between Delaware and Columbia.
In this photo an arrow is drawn showing approximately where their lot is.
They visited in August while construction was going fast and furious:
And the house was finished in three short months by October of 1928.
By next spring (1929) flowers in the window box, a sidewalk and new construction going on:
This was the living room at Christmas, probably around 1937 or 38 (my mom and her 2 brothers):
Some time in the late 1980's there was a fire in this house; it was rebuilt as a two-story. This is what it looks like today:
My Grandpa "survived" 18 different city commissioners/elections back before the Civil Service charter amendment banned the political patronage system in 1957. However, it was because of the Civil Service regulations that he was forced to retire at age 70, which was still 5 years longer than usual- and that was because he was asked by the City Commission to stay on, which tells me a lot.
During his 44 years as a city employe, it was estimated that he had participated in construction of more than 75 percent of the city's public improvements including streets, sewage, bridges, airports, drainage and expressway programs. He was honored by the City Commission in 1962 with a silver engraved platter and Mayor Maxwell read a resolution that was adopted, praising him for his work. At that time only one employee had served longer than he had- by 3 months.
I believe that working on the planning and designing of Tulsa's expressways was probably one of the most exciting times of his career.
A couple of years ago I was giving a presentation at a luncheon to a group of retired city of Tulsa employees. I was anxious to see if anyone there knew of or remembered my Grandpa. I was thrilled when several of the men and women did know him and spoke very highly of him. One of these people sat next to me during lunch and I described this book that I had come across on eBay:
I asked this former co-worker of grandpa's if he knew about this book; he smiled and said, "Why yes. Your grandfather hired me to work on that book." Compiled in 1959, this book details each planned expressway for Tulsa, most of which have now been built. I often wondered what he would have thought about the Gilcrease Expressway taking so long to finish. But then, he didn't live to see the Broken Arrow Expressway completed either. He died 4 years after retirement in 1969.