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