Saturday, November 10, 2012

Trolley Restoration Group Adds Three More

Awhile back I blogged about the trolley restoration that Roy Heim and friends are doing HERE.  

Since that post, they have been given three more trolley's.  These are currently located at around 16th and Mingo in what's known as the Elm's Tourist Court / Elm's Trailer Court.  These three trolleys were converted into homes with the last occupants living there in 1985.  No other information is known at this time on where they came from, when they were first put there or by whom.  These three cars had frames built around them and looked like this last August:

 Note half of a Whistle advertising sign, upside down, over the window:

This is a rough drawing of the layout:
Roy tells me that they have spotted bright orange paint on the bodies with bright yellow paint around the windows.  The cars are numbered 302, 308 and 380.  
With so many of the smaller surrounding towns all having trolleys at one time or another and the practice of trading and repainting them common, figuring out the cars history is quite the challenge. 

The volunteer crew members are working unbelievably hard to get these former trolley cars moved over to Sand Springs.  They made good progress this week, finally getting the cars raised from their foundations.

You can join the Tulsa Trolley Restoration Facebook page and follow along.  Roy posts lots of great photos and perhaps you can help in the research, too. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Gano's Crossing

The story of Gano's crossing the Arkansas River.  Great stuff.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Disco Dancing in Tulsa

What did Reflections, Pistachio's and Casa Blanca all have in common? DISCO, baby! I don't know about the rest of you out there, but Saturday Night Fever changed this girls social life in college. So, let's trip…..or rather Hustle down Memory Lane with this video from KOTV's vault.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Tulsa History Minutes

Steve Warren wrote, produced and directed a series called "History Minutes" back in the 1990's with the cooperation of the Tulsa Historical Society.  He recently uploaded some of these gems to YouTube and I thought I would share them here.  This first one is about the Tulsa Confederate Reunion of 1918.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Couple of Things

One of the many things currently occupying my time these days is working on a new educational program for the Tulsa Historical Society. This one is on Tulsa Homes by Mail- the catalog mail order homes that are still standing in Tulsa and the surrounding area. It has been a lot of fun and so educational for myself and my partner-in-crime Marian (the scriptwriter) to "learn from the master" Rachel Shoemaker, our local expert in all things mail-order homes. Rachel is a retired firefighter-turned-researcher/historian with a passion for discovering and documenting these homes along with their histories. She has been posting her finds on Facebook and Flickr for awhile now and just this week began a long awaited (by many) blog: Oklahoma Houses By Mail. 
Another activity that now also occupies my time is fabric design. I have discovered a  passion for this and I have incorporated my Tulsa history interest into a few items I created. I opened a little online shop on Etsy named (what else) Tulsa Gal's Shop.  I finally have a place to offer my cookbook and will have some more neat Tulsa-related stuff  soon.  

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Note From Tulsa Gal

Hello fellow history buffs.  It's been awhile, hasn't it?  I did not intentionally mean to take a 4+ month hiatus from blogging about Tulsa's history, but as they say, Life Happens.  I'm still not prepared to post any new entries but I have not abandoned this site completely.  I will leave it as is for those who may find some useful information on it and hopefully return to blogging sometime in the future.  Until then, thanks for visiting.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

New App For Tulsa History Buffs!

This just in from the Tulsa County Library:

The Tulsa County Library has a GREAT new app in Apple's App Store that they want to share with you! "Tulsa Then and Now: Mapping the BFC" provides access to approximately 300 photographs selected from the Beryl Ford Collection. It includes streets, buildings, and residences. Browse, search, and view these historic images that document growth and change in Tulsa. The photographs have been mapped to allow for location-based browsing and to enable you to find images nearby your current location.

When you find a remarkable image from decades ago, share it via email, Twitter, or Facebook. Snap your own photo of present-day Tulsa and send it side-by-side with the historic image, creating your own custom Beryl-O-Gram. You can even use the camera on your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch to overlay the historic photograph with your current view.


• Access hundreds of historic images
• See a map with drop pins that represent the photos
• Search for a photo or location
• Browse photos taken nearby your current location
• Share images through email
• Share images on Twitter
• Share images on Facebook

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

History In High Def

Although I normally stick to Tulsa history on this blog, occasionally something comes along regarding our state's history that I must share. The Oklahoma Historical Society has been busy digitally converting  entire film collections, thanks to some fancy new equipment they acquired this past December. They share a sneak peek on their blog today.  This footage is from the Haskell Pruett Collection that "documents community events such as parades and rodeos as well as leisure activities of an Oklahoma family from 1929 to the late 1960s."  While there is no sound, it is nonetheless a fascinating glimpse into the way life was.  


Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Great Raft Race

I was going to write about The Great Raft Race that used to occur Labor Day weekend here in Tulsa, but Tulsa World journalist Gene Curtis did such a bang-up job in his Only In Oklahoma series, I thought I would just share his column.  Following his article I will add a link to some photos and a recently exhumed video from KOTV's vault

Only in Oklahoma: Raft race brought recreation back to river 
By GENE CURTIS 9/1/2007 

Thousands turned out annually for 19 years to float down the Arkansas River in rafts that depicted everything from Noah's Ark to paddle wheelers and almost every other kind of water craft that could be imagined. Thousands more lined the river to cheer rafters, to watch the floating craft that ranged from simple to ornate to strange, or just to party once more as summers drew to a close.The annual Great Raft Race, sponsored by Tulsa radio station KRMG, began in 1973 as a radio promotion to draw attention to the river and continued on Labor Days through 1991. That first Great Raft Race from Sand Springs to Tulsa on Sept. 3, 1973, marked the first time in modern times the river had been open for public use and became an immediate hit.  Although the river wasn't quite ready for such an event, the rafters and spectators found it fun, and twice as many rafts were entered the next year. The Arkansas was little more than a trickle on Labor Day 1973 because of a miscalculation about the time it would take for the water to flow along the river after its release from Keystone Dam.  Many of the rafts got stuck on sandbars and spectators waded out for closer inspection.The fire department was busy that day, pulling rafts off the sandbars back into the small stream."It's kind of like being a part of history," one of the rafters told a Tulsa World reporter after that first race. Sunburned, bedraggled and exhausted, she said she and her husband and three friends had entered a raft."I don't know how they are going to let us know who won," she added. "But it doesn't matter anyway. I didn't enter to win."That was the mood at the first raft race and at all subsequent races. There were some serious racers in each raft race, but for most it was a fun time, not a serious event."The first race attracted 330 rafts with 1,000 people afloat. "I honestly thought we would have only about 150 entrants," KRMG General Manager Ron Blue said. There were more than 600 rafts the next year.When Blue first presented the idea of a raft race on the Arkansas to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers "they thought we were crazy." But as entries began to arrive, the Corps got more interested. At its height, the race attracted more than 900 rafts, but in 1991, only about 100 rafts were entered, possibly because of lightning and thunderstorms. That's when KRMG decided to pull the plug." KRMG has decided to focus its time and dollars on other areas," a spokesman said, "like Mayfest, the Career Fair, Octoberfest and the Tulsa State Fair." A former race director said the station had provided a community event that was one of the largest single-day events in the state. River Parks Director Jackie Bubenik said it was sad to see the race end because it "showed people that the Arkansas River can be used for recreation and generated a lot of enthusiasm for the creation of an agency to overlook development of the banks of the river to more usable park areas." That agency became Tulsa River Parks. Over the years, originality and individual taste shone everyplace. One raft carried a plastic pink flamingo as a mascot, another featured a mermaid with her left hand missing. One year a raft was built to look like a shark from the movie Jaws. A raft entered in 1987 by the Oak Hill Baptist Church was built to resemble Noah's Ark. Raft names often involved plays on words. B'nai Emunah Synagogue entered its Emunah Schoonah one year. The Marriott Hotel had the Merry-Yacht.  Gov. George Nigh, his wife, Donna, and their daughter, Georgeann, and several friends made the race in 1979 on their raft named "Ship of State." Nigh's raft was escorted by staffers from the governor's office on rubber rafts as a security flotilla. Perhaps they were to protect the governor's raft from his foes from the House of Representatives, who also entered a raft. But no battle ensued.Water fights between rafters were a traditional part of the race early on.  One raft had a large slingshot mounted on its deck to use for ship-to-ship water balloon fights.Another raft had a pump that its crew used to force water through a hose to aim at other floaters. People were knocked off their rafts just before reaching the finish line. After that, mechanical devices were banned. The race never had a fatality and only a few cases of heat exhaustion and minor bruises. A team of inspectors made sure every floater had a life vest and that rafts were river-worthy. About 15 safety boats patrolled up and down the river.

For some great photos of that era, click HERE.   

This is one of two videos from KOTV's vault.  I can only post one at a time on this blog, so I will add the other one tomorrow.  This is from 1980: NOTE: Video's are not wanting to load here. I will try posting them in another entry.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Parking Lot Mystery Solved!

Almost two years ago I posted the first of several blogs concerning a mysterious parking lot hidden behind the Harvard Apartments.  For a quick recap of the mystery and follow-up posts, click HERE then scroll down to the bottom of the page to read them in chronological order.  Since that first post, I have visited with a lot of great people and listened to many ideas, theories and suggestions regarding this piece of asphalt, but had no concrete (pun intended) evidence to support any of them.  Until today!  Reader Jeff S. did some sleuthing on his own and came up with the answer and a link to explain it all.  He writes:
It's minutes from a 1975 BOA (Board of Adjustments) meeting where the Doctors Hospital was trying to get a variance to build a shuttle overflow parking lot on the abandoned rail road right-of-way south of 25th St. So that confirms what the neighbors said. They were apparently also concerned about drainage on the site which probably explains the complex storm drain system. It's also interesting that their original request included the right-of-way one block north as well.

And there you have it.  It may take awhile to find answers to the past, but what I have learned that there are great readers and history buffs around willing to help out.  Thank you Jeff and everyone else who contributed ideas and stories about this area.  If you would like to read the meeting minutes click HERE.  

Friday, February 10, 2012

Brookside In The 70's

In my high school days, cruising the Restless Ribbon (aka Peoria in Brookside) and/or hanging out in various parking lots socializing, was just one of those things that we did Friday and Saturday nights.  I have fond memories of getting a bite to eat at Pennington's Drive-In as well as playing on my friend's CB radio while we cruised.  

As KOTV prepares to move into a new building they are going through all of their old video and sharing some of what they found.  Filmed in Bellaire Village 1979, catch glimpses of the Camelot, the cars and the styles of the day.  

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Tulsa Trolley Restoration Project

Southwest Tulsa Historical Society President Roy Heim has taken on yet another project for the Route 66 Village:

From the Tulsa Trolley Restoration Facebook Page:
Two old Birney style trolley car shells have rested patiently in the north yard of the Spring Loaded Brewery building at Main and Morrow Road in Sand Springs, Oklahoma for years, waiting for patient hands to bring them back to life. Their story began in 1918 when they were built for the Tulsa Street Railroad Company to transport passengers around the growing city. 
The single truck trolley worked hard for years, until the change from steel wheels on rails to rubber wheels on roads took place. Trolleys as primary transportation quickly gave way to Model T's and A's. Door to door convenience replaced trolley waiting rooms and stations in Tulsa. The Tulsa trolleys, with two and three digit numbers started to fade. They were put on sidings for a while and then off the sidings to obscure lots. 
Some, like the two old Tulsa trolleys, were converted to makeshift storage places and even temporary homes. Once the trucks were removed from under the trolleys the dreams of clickety clack, clickety clack began to fade. For some people the sound kept coming back into their thoughts and this is the sound that drove the beginning of the restoration of the Tulsa trolley.
Two of the original trolley car shells remain. Two will be sent to a restoration barn by several interested groups to be combined in the trolley barn into one shining restored car. The Tulsa Trolley Restoration Story will be followed on this site. The story will be told by volunteers who work on the trolley and those who donate to the restoration. 
Follow along with us as we watch the restoration in words and pictures.

Roy shared that the goal is to make these a beautiful exhibit at the Route 66 Village, to show the trolley history of Tulsa, right next to the Frisco 4500 Meteor that was moved there last June.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Nelson's - Take Two!

A couple of years ago I wrote about how excited I was that the Nelson's chicken-fried steak was back.  Well guess what?  It's back again!  As reported by Scott Cherry in the Tulsa World earlier this week,  Suzanne Rogers has brought the old buffeteria back to the South side and we couldn't be happier.  It is located at 44th and Memorial, where Betty Ann's used to be.

I remember when Betty Ann's opened back in the early 1970's.  My dad often scouted out places to eat during his lunch time and returned with the family if he liked it.  Betty Ann's was named after a teacher at Memorial High School, I'm told.  I am unsure of the ownership history these past 30+ years but I do know it has been an excellent location despite the decline in it's last years.  Breakfast and lunch crowds were usually good.

Ironically, one Sunday a few weeks ago after having lunch downtown, my spouse and I decided to cruise around some.  He wanted to check out the Nelson's Ranch House over on 3rd to see if it was still open on Sundays.  Owner Nelson Rogers has been playing around with the hours on weekends and we weren't sure what they were anymore.  It was not open and, in fact, we weren't sure if it was still in business - I noted that the signs and memorabilia that used to be by the entrance were gone.  We continued our drive and ended up on Memorial Drive heading home.  We both saw the sign at the same time:  Nelson's Buffeteria - !!  What?!  The sign had just been put up that afternoon.  We high-fived each other at our luck in having this so close by.  Breakfast was served one week later and we were there.  

The lines have been out the door every day since that opening.  I knew that if we wanted lunch I was going to have to get there fairly early (before 11:30) to get a booth.  I was pleasantly surprised that sitting by the door entrance were 3 fellas playing tunes, just like they used to have downtown.  And the food did not disappoint!  The chicken-fry/mashed potatoes/gravy were just as I remembered them from years ago.  This meal was just a little bit better than the same at the Ranch House and it's because of the gravy, I think.  The new restaurant's gravy has more flavor. The fried okra was fresh and wonderful.  We each got a piece of Suzanne's pies (chocolate and coconut cream) to go.  Awesome.  

Come to find out, Nelson's Ranch House is not out of business, just not open on Sundays.  And that missing memorabilia?  Why, it's all over at the new restaurant!  The old Nelson's neon sign has been located and is being readied to put up in it's new home.  Can't wait.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Got A Minute?

If you have the time and the interest in looking through old photos, then why not help out the Tulsa Library and the Historical Society at the same time.  How?  By looking through the hundreds of unidentified photos from the Beryl Ford Collection and seeing if you can help identify any people or places.

The Tulsa County Library has posted over 1,000 of these photos onto Flickr and is asking for your help.  There are two categories Unknown People and Unknown Places.  It is asked that you leave a comment on a specified photo with the identifying information or email them  ( and they will work with you to conclusively identify the photo in question.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Tulsa Banks: The Farmers/Exchange/NBT/BOk

Tulsa's first bank was born July 29, 1895 in a brick building that sat amid the dust and prairie chickens, cooling themselves near the foundation.  Called the Tulsa Banking Company, it boasted when deposits reached $65,000 from a population of 1,300 later that year.  

Oil had not yet been discovered and loans were given mainly to those ranchers with a large herd of cattle and horses.  A few short years later, though, banks were everywhere.  This diagram from the Nina Dunn Book "Tulsa's Magic Roots" helps illustrate how just this one bank grew in a few decades:

Then Came Oil Money
In 1909 the intersection of Second and Main was known as "Financial Row" with banks on all four corners.  The Farmer's National was on the southeast corner, the First National in it's "skyscraper" 5-story building sat on the northwest corner 

First National Bank
with Planter's National  on the southwest and the National Bank of Commerce  on the northeast corners.  

The Farmer's National Bank was organized in 1903 by the Marr's brothers.  Oilman Charles Simmons took the helm in 1909 and the bank rose to be one of the largest in the city.  Controversy over connections with the failed Columbia Bank in Oklahoma City however, caused deposits to drop and the doors were closed.  The night after the failure, thirty of Tulsa's wealthiest oilmen met and formed a plan for reorganization.  In February of 1910 the bank reopened the same doors, but with a new name: Exchange National Bank.

In 1917 the fast-growing bank moved into it's new twelve-story building at 302 S. Boston.   
As Exchange Bank absorbed more and more of the smaller neighboring banks, it's home grew as well.  During 1922-23 the second section of the building was extended to include the full block from Third to Fourth Street on the west side of Boston.  

Artist pen and ink drawing of the future bank building.
In 1927 a four hundred foot tower was completed atop the building, making it the tallest in the city and dominating Tulsa's skyline for the next thirty years.  It was during this time that a new vault weighing 55 tons was added, requiring intricate construction.  It is said that temporary railroad ties were laid from the train station to the construction site to transfer the vault to the bank.

In 1938 The Exchange was illuminated creating an impressive nighttime picture.  The weather lights were added to the tower in 1960's, changing colors to give the forecast.  Although sources give the years 1967 to 1973 as the time period for the "weather teller" this postcard indicates that the idea, anyway, was much earlier.

Even when the Depression hit, many of the large stockholders advanced money into the bank to help meet demands and remain in business.  In 1933 the Exchange National Bank was reorganized and the name changed to the National Bank of Tulsa.

Forty two years later, the name was again changed, this time to Bank of Oklahoma and in 1976 the bank's business was moved into a brand new 52-story skyscraper.  They celebrated 100 years of business in 2010.

Sources:  Tulsa's Magic Roots by Nina Dunn; Tulsa World; Bank of Oklahoma