Sunday, February 26, 2012

Great Raft Race Video #2

There was always a parade before the Raft Race event, held in downtown Sand Springs.  Were you a Pokie Okie?

Great Raft Race Video #1

Let's see if will let me load this first video taken in 1980

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.