January 2007 Archives

River revue

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The big story I've been working on is finally in print. This week's Urban Tulsa Weekly cover story is the epic tale of a century -- yes, a century -- of Tulsa's plans to do something interesting with the Arkansas River.

This story was a blast to research. UTW's Holly Wall and Siara Jacobs rounded up copies of articles and documents from the 1968 and 1976 plans from the very helpful folks at the River Parks Authority. I spent hours paging through Central Library's "vertical files" and repository of old planning documents. I had far more material than I could use. I was helped immensely by a conversation with architect Rex Ball, whose firm developed the 1968 River Lakes Park plan, and by my long acquaintance with Jim Hewgley III, who was Streets Commissioner when the Zink Lake low-water dam was built by Mayor Jim Inhofe.


It's my intention to scan and upload much of the research material and to provide some sort of bibliography to help anyone else who might want to do further research.

In the story I mention a river concept presented very briefly in a 1959 document called A Plan for Central Tulsa:

A page of that study was devoted to "The Marina," a concept for the river between 11th and 21st Streets. The accompanying illustration showed an artificial lagoon for boats near 15th and Riverside, a floating restaurant and boat club just to the south, a "picnic island" accessible by pedestrian bridge just to the north, and a larger island, accessible only by boat, where the west bank used to be.

Yes, used to be. The drawing showed the river almost twice as wide as its existing width at the 21st Street bridge, backed up by a dam at some unspecified location downstream, with the new shoreline just below the west bank levee. The resemblance to last year's "The Channels" plan is uncanny.

I took a photograph of the illustration so you can see for yourself. It's not as sharp as I'd like, but I think you can make it out. Click on the image to see it in its original size.

(Notice that in 1959, the location of the Inner Dispersal Loop, seen along the top of the diagram, has already been determined, although it wouldn't be completed until nearly 25 years later.)

My column this week is also about Tulsa history:

Oklahoma's centennial year ought to be a year when all Oklahomans -- natives and newcomers alike -- encounter our state's history in a way that engages our imaginations. While every year is a good year to study Oklahoma history, this is a year that ought to be hallowed to that purpose, a year for remembering where we came from and how we got to where we are today.

The June unearthing of the buried Belvedere fulfills that purpose quite well. I propose extending that glimpse back 50 years with the Tulsa 1957 project, which I launched here a while back and explain in detail in the column. I also mention a couple of websites which are helping to capture everyday life in Tulsa as it was. (But I neglected to mention Jack Frank's wonderful Tulsa Films series, which uses TV footage and home movies to bring decades past back to life.)

Also this week UTW gives a rave review to the source of the coffee and quesadillas that helped fuel my 6,000-word feature story. Katharine Kelly gives the Coffee House on Cherry Street five stars each for food, atmosphere, and service.

RELATED: A pretty thorough outline history of the Arkansas River in the Tulsa area.


This is not quite 1957, but it is certainly from the same era, and it will give you a sense of the kind of entertainment that was available in downtown Tulsa back in the day.

In June 1961, Patsy Cline was a passenger in a head-on collision and was thrown through the windshield. Just six weeks later, on July 29, still scarred and hobbled by her injuries, she performed her first concert since the wreck.

The venue was the Cimarron Ballroom at 4th and Denver in downtown Tulsa, in what was once the Akdar Shrine Mosque. (It was demolished in the '70s for parking, and the site is now home to the Tulsa Transit station.) This was the home of Leon McAuliffe and his western swing band, the Cimarron Boys. McAuliffe was steel guitar player for Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys during their formative years in Tulsa, but he started his own band in Tulsa after serving in World War II. McAuliffe and his band served as Patsy's band that night.

And that night in July 1961, the sound man decided to roll tape. Thirty-some years later, the reel-to-reel tape resurfaced, and in 1997 it was issued on CD: Patsy Cline: Live at the Cimarron Ballroom.

The Tulsa City-County Library has several copies of the CD circulating. I just checked it out today and listened to it for the first time.

The recording is not an audiophile's dream -- there are a few dropouts, there was feedback on a couple of songs -- but it's still a live performance by one of the most amazing vocalists of the 20th century, backed by a great western swing band. The CD includes the between-songs banter between Patsy and the band and the audience. And we get to hear Patsy Cline without the heavy production of her Nashville sessions. The liner notes include photos of Patsy at the Cimarron, a transcript of the spoken parts of the recording, and, on the back, a facsimile of a poster advertising the event.

For those used to strict segregation between musical genres, the set list will be a surprise. It includes some of her hits ("I Fall to Pieces," "Walking after Midnight," "Poor Man's Roses"), and covers of classic Dixieland ("Bill Bailey"), western swing ("San Antonio Rose"), and Hank Williams ("Lovesick Blues") songs, plus two rock-n-roll tunes: "Stupid Cupid" and "Shake, Rattle, and Roll."

Here are several articles that tell the story of this performance and how it came to be issued on CD, plus a couple of reviews of the CD.

From Guy Cesario's PatsyClineTribute.com
From the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
A short review by Robert Christgau
Providence Phoenix review (via Google cache)

This is the originally submitted version of a story that was published on January 31, 2007 as the cover story of the February 1-7, 2007, edition of Urban Tulsa Weekly, under the headline "The River Review: Planning Tulsa's Riverfront: A Brief History." The story as published can be found on the Internet Archive. Posted on BatesLine on March 23, 2016.

Planning Tulsa's Riverfront: A Brief History
By Michael D. Bates

The 12-year-old boy with a map fixation was entranced by the two-page-spread in the January 1976, edition of Tulsa magazine.

A stretched oval of water, held back by something called a "low water sill" was fringed top and bottom by belts of green. There were bicycle paths, ferry docks, an amphitheatre, a museum, restaurants. Best of all, there was a planetarium.

The article began with an imaginary conversation between a dad and his son, talking about their family's plans for a day on the river: Fishing, canoeing, archery, shopping, dinner at the floating restaurant - a fun-filled day capped by a concert at the amphitheatre, with a 150-foot-high lighted fountain providing a picture-perfect backdrop.

"If things go as planned," the article promised, "similar conversations will take place in and about Tulsa beginning as early as 1978.

The boy (the real one, not the imaginary one in the magazine story) flipped through the pages of the article. He scanned over words like "silt," "planning workshop," "contaminants," and "Urban Renewal funds" to get to the rest of the illustrations. There was the plan for the 21st Street Bridge, with nearby overlook and ferry landing. There were sailboats moored at a marina, down the bank from a gallery of shops. There was a cross-section of the museum and planetarium building:

"Portraying the natural and economic history of Tulsa, a museum will highlight the petroleum and transportation industries. A moderately priced restaurant will be incorporated in the upper floor to take maximum advantage of the river view. The planetarium will offer programs of the astronomical sciences, with emphasis on the aerospace industry."

It was already fun to ride bikes on the trails that were especially for bikes - he had thought that was a cool idea ever since he cajoled his parents into taking him to the Gilcrease Hills grand opening six or seven years before. Already you could even ride your bike halfway over the river on an old railroad bridge. But this plan - the "River Parks plan" - was going to be amazing when it was all finished in just a few years.

31 years later, that boy has a boy of his own, about the same age, and the 1976 River Parks plan, focusing on a two-mile long lake, has been superseded by an Arkansas River Corridor Master Plan, taking in the entire 42-mile length of the river through Tulsa County. And for a brief time last year, it seemed that a good third of that brand new plan would be wiped away by an even newer plan - The Channels - for a 12-mile-long lake and three high-rise-encrusted islands in the middle of the river.

The River Parks plan wasn't the first plan, and The Channels certainly won't be the last. For almost as long as there has been some sort of settlement near this bend of the Arkansas, there have been dreams of making the river more than the shallow, salty stream that it naturally is.

In 1962, Tulsa World Sunday editor Russell Gideon wrote, "The plus-and-minus values of the Arkansas River, so far as Tulsans are concerned, probably have added up to a whacking big minus figure over the 80 years of the town's existence."

Gideon enumerated the minuses of the river in the early days of Tulsa: It was an obstacle to travel, its water was unfit for drinking or even bathing, it flooded, it smelled from being used as a sewer, it attracted "shanty-boat dwellers" (Tent City on the water, evidently), it was "a source of worry to mothers of venturesome boys." Even when dry it was a nuisance: "During the dust bowl days the river bed contributed its share to the 'black blizzards' of the era."

Accordingly, Tulsa turned its back on the river, aligning itself instead with the railroad that was its lifeline to the outside world. Tulsa abandoned it as a source of water, built bridges across it, and piped sewage into it, but otherwise left it to its own devices.

Factories and refineries found it useful as a source of water for cooling equipment and a handy place to dump industrial waste. Views of the river were desirable, but not close-up views or the accompanying close-up smells. Oil barons like Josh Cosden and Harry Sinclair built mansions well up the hill from the river's bank.

Early hopes for improving the river were all about transportation, not recreation.
There had been a few successful attempts to navigate the river by steamboat in the 19th century . In 1834, the steamboat William Parsons made it all the way to the mouth of the Cimarron River (now in Keystone Lake) with supplies for Camp Arbuckle, a new Army post. In June 1878, the steamer Aunt Sally made her way from Little Rock to Arkansas City, Kansas. In July 1886 the Kansas Millers towed two barges of flour from Arkansas City to Fort Smith, Ark., but the pilot house had to be removed from the boat in order to clear the Frisco railroad bridge at Tulsa.

In 1909 , the Tulsa Democrat reported a plan to make the Arkansas River navigable from the Mississippi to the mouth of the Cimarron River (now part of Keystone Lake). It would have required a dam, a lock, and a harbor for loading at four points on the river: Little Rock, Fort Smith, Muskogee, and Tulsa. Each dam and lock was projected to cost $300,000.

The plan died a quiet death, but the idea lived on. In the 1920s , civic leaders from Oklahoma and Arkansas began to talk up the idea of Arkansas River navigation. It wasn't until 1946 that the Federal government authorized the project. Even then the two states' congressional delegations had to fight for funding a year at a time, one lock-and-dam at a time, fending off those, like Life magazine and President Eisenhower, who attacked the plan as a massive pork barrel scheme.

At long last, in 1971, the first barges arrived at the Tulsa Port of Catoosa. President Nixon arrived a few months later to formally dedicate the Kerr-McClellan Navigation System (and to mispronounce a few Indian place names - oo-LOG-uh? - in the process).

But the new barge canal bypassed the City of Tulsa, and while the port is certainly an important contributor to the local economy, there hasn't been the kind of development along its shores - New port towns! Industrial development to rival the Ohio Valley! Population growth in the millions! - that its boosters expected.

For the navigation system to work, they had to be able to control the flow of the river from upstream. That also meant the ability to prevent a catastrophic flood on the Arkansas River in Tulsa. In 1945, levees were built to protect industries and refineries in Sand Springs, west Tulsa, and along the Sand Springs Line. In 1950 Congress authorized the construction of Keystone Dam, which, it was hoped, would make the levees redundant.

Also in the late '40s, Tulsa's leaders began making plans for a US 66 bypass that would cross the Arkansas at 51st Street. Someone had the idea to build the bridge strong enough to buttress a dam big enough to create a five-mile-long lake which would reach all the way to the bend in the river near downtown. Perhaps the idea was inspired by Lake Austin in Texas, but wherever it came from, it seems to be the first appearance of the notion of using Tulsa's stretch of the Arkansas River for recreational purposes.
But the Federal government wasn't keen on providing the extra funds needed to make the bridge that sturdy, and the idea was dropped. (In 1964, the idea would re-emerge, this time using the Red Fork Expressway bridge as the buttress of a dam that would back the water up to Sand Springs.)

According to Tulsa architect Rex Ball, a mid-'60s feasibility study, prepared by his firm, retrospectively revealed some major flaws in the single-lake concept. A dam big enough to create that kind of lake would have endangered neighborhoods along Crow Creek (the brook for which Brookside is named, which enters the river near 32nd Street) and would have interfered with PSO's use of river water for their generating plant on the west bank at 36th Street. The larger dam might have raised the water table, something that wasn't found to be a problem for a series of smaller, low-water dams.

Meanwhile, the idea of a riverfront park began to take hold. In 1951, the city acquired land for a Riverside Park extending from 11th south to 51st Street, and the following year, city prisoners were working to clear underbrush, trash, and driftwood.

But the river was still not seen as an attraction or an amenity. In 1957, the chamber of commerce published Tulsa, I.T., a glossy 44-page tourism magazine aimed at visitors to Oklahoma's 1957, semi-centennial celebration. It included a driving tour ("The Tulsa Tour") of the city, and lengthy descriptions of the city's recreational attractions. The Arkansas River doesn't rate a mention. Water gets a page to itself, but only to make the point that Tulsa had plenty of it for residents and industry and had plans to get more.

If anything, the river was still a threat to life and property. The Arkansas flooded over three dozen times between 1907 and 1951. In May 1957, after a six-year respite, heavy rains upstream caused a near-record flood and forced the evacuation of part of Brookside. A flood of similar magnitude hit the city in October 1959.

Nevertheless, the idea of the river as a place for recreation continued to simmer. A September 1957 study by the Mayor's Committee on Recreation urged development of the east bank from Newblock Park to 51st Street for park use, recommending that the anticipated Riverside Expressway be built to preserve views and access to parking areas and picnic spots along the river.

The near-downtown riverfront was included in the 1959 A Plan for Central Tulsa, a document written by California architects and packed with daring new concepts in urban design. (Tulsa implemented those concepts decades later, waiting until other cities had had a chance to discover that they didn't work. How did downtown get so bollixed up? Read this book and you will understand.)

A page of that study was devoted to "The Marina," a concept for the river between 11th and 21st Streets. The accompanying illustration showed an artificial lagoon for boats near 15th and Riverside, a floating restaurant and boat club just to the south, a "picnic island" accessible by pedestrian bridge just to the north, and a larger island, accessible only by boat, where the west bank used to be.

Yes, used to be. The drawing showed the river almost twice as wide as its existing width at the 21st Street bridge, backed up by a dam at some unspecified location downstream, with the new shoreline just below the west bank levee. The resemblance to last year's "The Channels" plan is uncanny.

The plan evidently had some research behind it. Excluding the dam, construction costs were estimated at $117,300, and they projected annual revenues of $24,700, which could cover operating expenses ($8,000) and debt service ($9,300) with $7,400 left over.

The lake would accommodate boating, fishing, and water skiing. "The Marina would make living in central Tulsa the envy of every western city dweller."

In 1961, the City of Tulsa's engineering department began looking into the idea of low-water dams. Core drilling was done to test possible dam sites. A trip was made to Pennsylvania to see an inflatable "fabridam" in operation. Soon thereafter civic leaders began pitching the idea of "riverfront beautification" at meetings all over Tulsa.

By the end of 1963, a Chamber of Commerce subcommittee had designated low-water dams on the river as a priority project and set out to find funding for a detailed plan and to whip up public support for the idea.

In May 1964, things began to happen. The County and City jointly hired Hudgins, Thompson, Ball and Associates (HTB) to do a feasibility study and master plan for low-water dams. The Chamber sent a nine-member Tulsa delegation, including Street Commissioner (and future Mayor) Bob LaFortune and County Attorney (and future Governor) David Hall, to tour the Riverwalk in San Antonio, the world's largest inflatable dam in Bay City, Texas, and Town Lake in Austin, completed just four years earlier.

Austin's seven-mile lake, with its dam built into a road bridge, was described by news stories at the time as close to what Tulsa's leaders were wanting. The Tulsa Tribune recommended following Austin's lead in another important respect - establishing a plan for the kind of development desired for the waterfront and putting a commission in place to evaluate all construction permits for compliance with the plan.

The May 19, 1964, lead editorial in the Tribune enthused that the proposal would mean "a whole new pattern of commercial and civic stimulus for the very heart of Tulsa. If the pollution and planning studies make the concept feasible, there is no doubt that our turgid, smelly, desert-like waste of a river will become one of the beauty spots of the nation. And we shall find, as Texas has found, that beautification is very good business."

The "if" was a big one. A 1964 study identified 14 major sources of pollution upstream of Tulsa, including animal wastes from a packing plant, chemical effluents from refineries, oil storage facilities, and a fertilizer plant, sewage from Sand Springs. Completion of the Keystone Dam ended the heavy river flows which diluted the filth and washed it down the river. Low-water dams would only make matters worse. An April 2, 1967, Tulsa World, story on river pollution carried the subhead "Park Plans Moot."

But the planners pressed on. On April 11, 1968, the development plan for "River Lakes Park" was presented to the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission (TMAPC), and in August it was officially added to the region's master plan.

The HTB plan called for three low-water dams to be built - near Newblock Park, just upstream from the 11th Street bridge; near 36th Street; and at the mouth of Joe Creek north of 81st Street.

(A fourth dam, to be built by the Corps of Engineers upstream of the Sand Springs bridge, was mentioned in the plan. Its purpose was re-regulation, ensuring a consistent flow of water to carry pollutants downstream, regardless of the operating schedule of Keystone Dam. This dam was actually built in 1968, but was removed in the mid '80s as a hazard and no longer needed for pollution control.)

Shadow Bluff Lake would stretch upstream from near downtown Tulsa to the Sand Springs bridge. Adams Road would be transformed into the South River Parkway, tying together an expanded Chandler Park and the south shore, which would have baseball and football fields, tennis courts, a marina and boat ramps. The shore opposite, across the levee from downtown Sand Springs, would cater to hunters, with ranges for field archery, skeet and trap shooting, and "stalking."

Further east, across the river from Chandler Park, a "Marina Market" would be located on the natural harbor formed by a creek inlet, along with a community center and tennis courts. A large sandbar near 49th West Avenue, would be transformed into an island park with an amphitheatre - and even more tennis courts. An access road would run the full six-mile length of the north shore.

Four-mile long Southside Lake would have bike trails on both shores. On the east bank, near present-day Helmerich Park, there would be an amphitheatre and tennis courts, and a small community building. Peoria would be extended north from Jenks along the west bank to a new 71st Street bridge, providing access to campsites near the dam. Turkey Mountain would be incorporated into the park system, with hiking and horse trails and a trailer campground atop the hill, with a road along the east side of the hill providing easier access to the park from north and south.

Because the planned Riverside Expressway would run right up to the edge of the river bank, the east side facilities would sit on islands built out of sand banks - mainly open space with a few small buildings for community use.

Just north of the I-44 on the west bank, the plan showed an amusement park, and an inland marina along Cherry Creek west of Elwood Ave.

The centerpiece of the plan was Tulcenter Lake. (The name originated in the aforementioned Plan for Central Tulsa.) The lake would be dammed near 36th Street. Crow Creek's outlet to the Arkansas would be the site of a canoe center and an expressway underpass linking the riverfront to Brookside. An 18-hole golf course would straddle 23rd Street on the west side, stretching from 17th Street south to the Texaco Refinery.

The east bank between 11th and 21st would include a lagoon, an oil museum and museum of natural history, more tennis courts and playgrounds, and frequent pedestrian overpasses spanning Riverside Drive.

In comparison to our most recent river plan, the 1968 plan is remarkable for its lack of commercial development. River Lakes Park was all about open space and outdoor recreation, with one notable exception.

Linking the two shores would be Pier 15, a pedestrian bridge lined with specialty shops, sidewalk cafes, theatres, and restaurants, with a view of a spectacular water display in the middle of the river. Pier 15 would connect 15th & Houston to the west bank at 17th, near the west Tulsa urban renewal area, which was originally planned for high-density residential and commercial redevelopment.

The development plan predicted that "Pier 15 could become for Tulsa what the Farmers' Market in Los Angeles or the Vieux Carre District in New Orleans have become for those cities; nationally known areas which not only serve local residents but are major features that continue to attract tourists and provide the cities with distinctive identifications."
It's a commonplace claim nowadays - "This development plan is what we need to put Tulsa on the map" - but this seems to be the first time that river development was promoted as a potential tourist magnet, not just a local amenity.

The cost estimate for full implementation of the plan, including all the amenities, was $65 million. The basic cost to get started included $8 million for dam construction, and $7.5 million for land acquisition along the lakefront.

Once the plan was presented, it was heavily promoted with speeches to civic groups, models on display at banks and libraries, and a 30-minute TV special. $16.3 million for construction of the lakes, to be funded by a property tax increase, was included in a set of 15 city bond issues on the September 9, 1969, ballot. A record turnout - described as a taxpayer's revolt - defeated 13 of the 15 propositions; the River Lakes Park bond received only 29% of the vote.

River promoters began looking for ways to get federal grants to pay for part of the plan. Some minor improvements were begun - a bike trail was started on the east shore between 31st and 51st. But for the next few years, major river development was on hold.

In September 1969, Tulsa's voters forcefully rebuffed an ambitious set of bond issues for civic improvements. They said no to the controversial plan for a Riverside Expressway and its destructive path through the Brookside and Maple Ridge neighborhoods. They said no to a new municipal auditorium at the Civic Center.

And, by a 30% to 70% margin, they said no to $16.3 million to fund the beginning of a dramatic plan for three lakes on the Arkansas River - River Lakes Park - lined with marinas, amphitheatres, tennis courts, ball fields, a golf course, campgrounds, trails, and open space. Its centerpiece would have been a 100-foot-wide shopping and entertainment center spanning the river which would become a nationally-known icon, putting Tulsa on the map.

But the idea of riverfront recreation wasn't dead. There was an ongoing effort to find federal funds to implement part of the plan. And as the city's 1973 diamond jubilee approached, there was a renewed push by Mayor Bob LaFortune to make a river project the focus of the celebration.

1973 came and went, but in April 1974, the City Commission and County Commission created the River Parks Authority (RPA), tasked in its trust indenture with "development, redevelopment, preservation and/or renewal of the ... natural resources and community resources known... as the Arkansas River Lakes Park."

At the same time, the Tulsa Urban Renewal Authority (TURA) expanded its west-bank urban renewal area to include both banks of the river between the 11th Street and the Midland Valley railroad bridges, allowing it to supply $2.8 million from the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to the RPA for riverfront park development. Work began to extend the east bank bike trail north to 11th Street.

In July 1974, the city received title to the Midland Valley bridge and began plans to convert it to bicycle and pedestrian use. The same month, Jackie Bubenik, a city planner from Lubbock, Texas, was hired as the RPA's director, and the RPA began sifting through development proposals.

Unlike the 1968 plan, this development effort would be narrowly focused on the two-mile stretch between 11th and 31st Streets. Working quickly, in August 1974 RPA selected a group headed by Memphis architect Roy Harrover, whose firm planned the development of that city's Mud Island. The hope was to have a plan in place and construction underway in a year's time. Late that year the design team hosted public workshops to find out what Tulsans wanted along the river.

The resulting plan, unveiled in the fall of 1975, called for a low-water dam south of the new pedestrian bridge to create water depth of about 6', enough to support boating and a six-stop route for passenger ferries. Near Houston Avenue, there would be a lighted mid-river fountain, shooting water 150 feet in the air. The east bank would largely remain green space, with bike paths and playgrounds. A restaurant would extend out over the river, beneath the east end of the 21st Street bridge. A wide pedestrian overpass spanning Riverside between Houston and Indian Avenues would serve as the gateway to the park, connecting to a landscaped path to downtown.

Commercial and entertainment facilities would be located on the west bank between the 11th Street bridge and the McMichael Concrete plant, anchored at the south end by an amphitheatre. (In the original plan the stage was onshore, not floating.) North of the amphitheatre along the shore would be a small marina. Above the shore would be a row of specialty shops, and a three-story museum building with a planetarium and a restaurant on the top floor. The northern end of the development area, next to the 11th Street bridge, would be reserved for a hotel.

$30.3 million was the total estimated cost for park development and all the proposed amenities. The low-water dam, thought to be the key to the whole project, would cost $3.1 million. The initial $2.8 million in federal money would be used for west bank improvements, completion of the Midland Valley pedestrian bridge all the way to the west bank of the river, and, at Denver and Riverside on the east bank, a "model park" to give Tulsans a taste of what to expect when the plan was fully implemented.

While the plans were still being planned, Tulsans actually began recreating on the river, jogging and biking on the trails and attending festivals and special events. KRMG held the first Great Raft Race on Labor Day 1973, starting a tradition that would last 19 years. The Tulsa parks department started an annual sandcastle competition. The first Oktoberfest was held on the east bank in 1979 and moved to the west side in 1981.
Before the new plan ever got off the drawing board, it began to change.

In 1979, a parks survey of county residents revealed a lack of interest in large-scale commercial and entertainment development on the river:

"Tulsans view River Parks as a place to enjoy outdoor or somewhat unstructured facilities and atmosphere, and the possibility of formal entertainment or facilities through an Amphitheater or museum is not consistent with what they view for the River Parks area."

The low-water dam was still on the table. Funding for it was included in a 1979 one-cent city sales tax for capital improvements which went down to defeat. The following year, the sales tax was re-presented to the voters, with a five-year time limit, an ordinance that firmly committed the city to spending the money on a specific set of projects, and an oversight committee. It became the first in Tulsa's long-running series of "third-penny" packages, but it was stripped down to essentials and didn't include any funds for the river.

As soon as the 1979 proposal was defeated, Mayor Jim Inhofe began looking for another way to fund the dam. He found enough city money to pay for the engineering work, which kept the environmental permit active.

In November 1980, Lincoln Property Company proposed to purchase land from the city on the west bank - the planned site for the unwanted museum and retail development - and at 61st and Riverside to develop as mid-range apartment complexes. The city would use the $3.5 million raised by the land sale, plus private donations, to pay for construction of the dam.

By the mid '80s, the dam was completed, along with the adjacent Blair Fountain, the west bank festival park, and the amphitheater. At that point, the mid-'70s plan was as complete as it would ever be.

The River Parks Authority (RPA) continued to acquire more land, including Turkey Mountain, added playgrounds along the river, and improved and extended the trails, which became the starting point for a network of trails encompassing the entire metro area. But there was no grand plan in place and little interest in creating one.

Two developments in the mid '90s changed that attitude.

In December 1993, Oklahoma City passed a one-cent sales tax for MAPS - Metropolitan Area Projects - which included funding for a canal through the Bricktown entertainment district as well as money for low-water dams and shoreline improvements on the North Canadian River.

Oklahoma City's low-intensity riverfront plans didn't grab the imagination of Tulsans, but the Bricktown Canal did. We already had a river, but Oklahoma City built river and made it the centerpiece of a lively entertainment district. Dreams of replicating the success of San Antonio's Riverwalk seemed to be coming true just 100 miles down the turnpike.

The success of Baltimore's Inner Harbor development was in the national spotlight at about the same time with the 1992 opening of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the first neo-traditional major league ballpark. The public notion of riverfront development began to shift away from passive recreation and toward intense mixed-use development. The Bricktown plan contained strong echoes of Baltimore.

The second wake-up call for Tulsa was the Oklahoma Aquarium in Jenks.
In September 1984 , a group led by Doug Kemper, former director of the Seattle Aquarium, approached RPA with a concept for an aquarium and an adjoining wharf-like retail development, modeled after the Seattle facility. They only asked for the opportunity to lease land from the city for the development.

After six years of discussions and hearings, slowed by influential zoo supporters who wanted any aquarium to be built at Mohawk Park, in February 1990 the City of Tulsa gave the Tulsa Aquarium Foundation an option on 11 acres north of 71st Street and gave the group three years to raise the funds to build the aquarium. Wrangling over the aquarium's business plan, a lack of support (or, some say, outright hostility) from Mayor Susan Savage, fundraising difficulties, and concerns about the impact on the endangered least tern went on for four years. RPA finally rejected the plan, by a 4-3 vote, in November 1994.

Three months later, the City of Jenks reached an agreement with the aquarium group to provide land along the river between 96th Street and the Creek Turnpike and to have the city's industrial authority float revenue bonds to finance construction. Ground was finally broken in 2000.

In July 2002, just as the aquarium was nearing completion and talk of nearby riverfront commercial development began, Tulsa Mayor Bill LaFortune convened a regional "Vision Summit." 1100 Tulsans attended and contributed their ideas toward a Tulsa vision, defined by keynote speaker Glenn Heimstra as "a compelling description of your preferred future."

River development was a frequently recurring theme in the long list of ideas supplied by the summiteers, and while there was still support for the river as a greenbelt and a place for passive recreation, it was San Antonio Riverwalk-style, Oklahoma City Bricktown Canal-style retail and entertainment that received the most interest and support.

In September 2002, the Indian Nations Council of Governments (INCOG), the planning agency for the Tulsa area, kicked off the development of a master plan for the entire length of the Arkansas River in Tulsa County. But selection of a planning consultant was delayed for a full year, yielding to the promotion and passage of Vision 2025, a downtown-centric tax package containing a token amount of funding for river development infrastructure. The selection of Texas firm Carter Burgess was announced two days after the passage of Vision 2025.

Phase I centered around a massive effort to gather public input. INCOG and Carter Burgess held a series of open house meetings, conducted a public survey, and held a design workshop with nightly opportunities for public review. For their work, Carter Burgess received an award from the Texas Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects.

The resulting plan, released in August 2004, reflected the desire of Tulsans for a balance between new commercial development and new on-the-water recreation opportunities on the one hand and retaining the environmental protection and outdoor recreation purposes that River Parks had been serving for over a quarter of a century. The plan also included, for the first time, concepts for riverfront developments in Broken Arrow and Bixby.

Another distinctive of the new plan: Rather than focusing on public developments, the plan designated some type of use for every inch of the river. And rather than planning a narrow belt along the river banks, this plan covered a swath extending in places as much as a mile from the banks, in order to plan for connections with surrounding neighborhoods and centers of activity.

That desire for better connections to the river is a kind of rebuff to the cherished dream of the Tulsa World, south Tulsa developers, and some city officials to turn Riverside Drive and Houston Avenue into a 100-foot wide high-speed parkway. That plan, added to the Comprehensive Plan in 1993, generated a huge public outcry from those who opposed encroachment on neighborhoods and park land. An ordinance sponsored by Councilor Dewey Bartlett, Jr., and named in his honor, stymied implementation by requiring a standalone vote on public funding for widening Riverside.

With the approval of the new master plan, it could be argued that the plan for a wide Riverside has been officially superseded.

Phase II of the INCOG plan got into the nitty-gritty of engineering, environmental impact, and funding sources, with detailed plans for major development areas along the river.

The Phase II plan was officially adopted as part of the Comprehensive Plan last year, not long before a challenger, The Channels, emerged in the fall of '06.

Phase III kicked off last September. According to the Corps of Engineers' website, this phase involves gathering data on animal habitat in and along the river, creating an inventory of existing cultural resources, and modeling different low-water dam designs.

The Corps says, "The objective of this effort is to achieve optimum water quality, fish passage, and other environmental parameters while optimizing public safety" - particularly by preventing the "drowning machine" effect that can capsize boaters and trap them at the base of a low-water dam.

As we wait for the study's completion, ideas for the river keep coming. In Jenks, Riverwalk Crossing developer Jerry Gordon showed that you didn't need to wait on massive public investment to create riverside development that attracts the crowds.

So far, Tulsa's side of the river has only attracted a convenience store, a strip shopping center, and a few restaurants, all of which turn their back on the river, which ought to be a clue that Tulsa needs an Austin-like ordinance setting development guidelines for our limited miles of shoreline.

The developers of Branson Landing in Missouri have proposed building a similar open-air retail and mixed-use center on the west bank of the river between 11th and 21st, suggesting creation of a tax-increment finance (TIF) district as a funding source.

The Channels, the $788 million big-dam-and-island plan which made a huge splash last fall, appears to have run aground - too expensive and too much doubt about the wisdom and feasibility of the idea.

But don't be surprised to find, in whatever is ultimately built along the river, elements of The Channels, alongside bits and pieces of the 1975 plan, the 1968 design, the 1959 concept, and every other river-related plan that's been proposed over the last century.

The Arkansas River could not be reached for comment on this story. It must know something, but doesn't say anything. It just keeps rolling along.

A postscript, added on March 23, 2016: In the online comments for the article, Steve Smith, known on online forums as "Waterboy" and "Aquaman" was aggrieved by my failure to mention him in my history of the river:

What does a man have to do to be included in a history of the river? I enjoyed your history. It paralleled the research I did before starting my boat business on the river in 2002. I spent 3 years of my life, over $100,000 investment and bankrupted myself in the effort. I carried over a 1000 riders upstream to the Keystone Dam and hundreds of locals on my ferry. I helped to renew an interest in developing the river through many interviews, and even merited a segment on Discover Oklahoma. Yet, no mention of my effort in your history? Who did I anger over there?

Smith ran airboat tours for several years. I regret overlooking his contribution and am happy to note it here for the record. I did devote an entire column, published in Urban Tulsa Weekly on September 20, 2006, to Steve Smith and his ideas about improving the river using wing dams to modify the flow without blocking the river entirely.


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On at least 10 occasions in the '90s, Osama bin Laden was within the grasp of U. S. operatives, but the Clinton White House (specifically Sandy "Padded Pants" Berger) refused to give the order to act. The situation was dramatized in a scene that was ultimately cut from the ABC mini-series, "The Path to 9/11":

(Video link via Danny Carlton.)

If you want to read what the 9/11 commission had to say about the Clinton administration's half-hearted pursuit of bin Laden, here's a link to Chapter 4, "Responses to Al Qaeda's Initial Assaults."

Policymakers in the Clinton administration, including the President and his national security advisor, told us that the President’s intent regarding covert action against Bin Ladin was clear: he wanted him dead.This intent was never well communicated or understood within the CIA.Tenet told the Commission that except in one specific case (discussed later), the CIA was authorized to kill Bin Ladin only in the context of a capture operation. CIA senior managers, operators, and lawyers confirmed this understanding.“We always talked about how much easier it would have been to kill him,” a former chief of the Bin Ladin unit said.

In February 1999, another draft Memorandum of Notification went to President Clinton. It asked him to allow the CIA to give exactly the same guidance to the Northern Alliance as had just been given to the tribals: they could kill Bin Ladin if a successful capture operation was not feasible. On this occasion, however, President Clinton crossed out key language he had approved in December and inserted more ambiguous language. No one we interviewed could shed light on why the President did this. President Clinton told the Commission that he had no recollection of why he rewrote the language.

It's a depressing read: Over and over again, you see the people on the ground reporting a solid opportunity to act, and the people at the upper echelons tell them to stand down. In May 1999, there were three opportunities in two days, but none of them were acted upon:

Replying to a frustrated colleague in the field, the Bin Ladin unit chief wrote:“having a chance to get [Bin Ladin] three times in 36 hours and foregoing the chance each time has made me a bit angry. . . . [T]he DCI finds himself alone at the table, with the other princip[als] basically saying ‘we’ll go along with your decision Mr.Director,’ and implicitly saying that the Agency will hang alone if the attack doesn’t get Bin Ladin.”

Evidently, Bill Clinton's motto -- "The Buck Never Even Got Here" -- was taken to heart by his cabinet and chief advisers.

Route 66 News is reporting that the Country Store, on the southside of 11th Street just west of Memorial (a site that was once on the very edge of town), may close soon:

Four decades of urban sprawl later, the Country Store’s location on historic Route 66 is considered part of midtown Tulsa. Farmers are an endangered species, and most of the city’s gardeners are out in the suburbs: Jenks, Bixby, Broken Arrow.

A perfect storm of big-box stores, urban sprawl, heavy debt, and crop-scorching drought is bearing down on the longtime Tulsa institution and its third-generation owner, Bill Sivadon, and barring any last-minute miracles, it looks as if the business may close for good.

If you aren't looking for the store, you may not notice it, as it sits up a rise and back a bit from the road, but it's been there for 40 years, selling plants, seeds, and animal feed.

There's a chance the business could be saved, but only if folks act now:

Sivadon and his wife, Kathey... reported Tuesday that the store is set to close any day. If they can sell off their remaining stock at retail prices, they may be able to raise enough to pay off their debt and save the business — but time is of the essence. Their creditors have been poised to pull the plug for the past week or so. Wait a day — or even a few hours — and it may be too late to buy one last souvenir and make one last effort to help keep a Route 66 institution alive.

One of the highlights of a July 2004 trip to Texas was an unexpected late-night excursion to a renowned San Antonio coffehouse and restaurant. We had stayed at Sea World until near closing, having spent most of our second day there at the water park. The kids wanted ice cream, and I promised we'd stop somewhere on the way back to the hotel downtown.

Only we didn't find anywhere on the way back to the hotel. No Braum's or Baskin-Robbins, no Village Inn or Denny's, and no frozen custard stand.

Then I remembered a place I'd driven past on a late-night grocery run a couple of days before. Even though it was after 10, it was still open. The place had beautiful mid-century neon, and it sat at a bend in the old highway like a lighthouse on a point.

(Flickr photo by bravophoto.)

So we headed north from downtown and made our way into Earl Abel's Restaurant. The interior was dark and woody. There was the requisite counter, behind which stood the lighted pie case and the kitchen window. It seemed like a bit of late '50s Hollywood had been plopped down in the middle of Texas.

We ordered pie and chocolate cake and ice cream. The ice cream was served in tall metal parfait cups with long spoons. My daughter, then not quite four, exhausted from a day in the sun and water, and a bit chilled by the air conditioning, fell asleep in her mom's arms. My son, then almost eight, had a fun chat with our waiter, who was a middle school science teacher working there while taking summer graduate school classes nearby. He had a special interest in insects.

That was one of our favorite memories from our trip, so I was sad to learn that the place was to be demolished for a condominium. That happened last summer.

But the neon was saved, and a new Earl Abel's is now open on Austin Highway in San Antonio. New ownership, but the same cool decor and the same recipes. Here's a link to a sketch of the new restaurant, and here's a picture of the neon from the side of the old building now mounted on the new site.

(Flickr photo by copazetic.)

I hope they make a go of it.

Here's a flickr search that will turn up a bunch of photos of Earl Abel's, both old and new.

Don't mess with the Mick

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Publishing O. J. Simpson's "hypothetical" murder memoir damaged Judith Regan, but it wasn't the final straw:

O.J. Simpson's kill-and-tell book sickened America, but it was the crass sullying of New York hero Mickey Mantle that finally toppled publisher Judith Regan, according to New York magazine....

"The supposed sullying of Mantle's name hit the cover of the Daily News," says the New York magazine piece, published tomorrow. And "[Harper Collins' CEO Jane] Friedman hit the roof."

"By this point, Friedman was sick of playing nice," the mag continued. "News Corp. executives were appalled, as was [News Corp. mogul] Murdoch."

"Mickey Mantle felt like another major blunder," says one executive of the book, which was to be called, "7: The Mickey Mantle Novel." "It just reinforced the sense that [Regan was] an irresponsible editor."...

The magazine said talk of Regan's firing at the holiday party was met with applause by many News Corp. staffers.

"Friedman told editors that she had fired Regan," says the article. "When she said it, people began to clap."

(Via Mike McCarville.)

One of the seven seats on the Tulsa Public Schools Board of Education is up for election on February 13. Incumbent Gary Percefull, a marketing consultant, is opposed by Brenda Barre, a retired Tulsa school teacher.

This Thursday at 7 p.m., there will be a candidate forum sponsored by the Southwest Tulsa Chamber of Commerce and Webster High School, in the Webster school auditorium. The address is 1919 W. 40th St.

This is an important race, a truly competitive election, and this is the last forum currently on the schedule. If you want to know where these candidates stand on educational philosophy, redrawing school boundaries, support for charter schools, you should make plans to attend.

The Whirled has endorsed Percefull.

MORE: If you want to understand why charter schools are an important issue in this election, read last week's column by Jamie Pierson, herself a graduate of Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences.

Providence plug

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There's a nice story in Saturday's Edmond Sun about Providence Hall, a Christian classical school serving the Oklahoma City area. The story does a nice job of summarizing the trivium, the central concept of the classical Christian school curriculum:

The Trivium refers to three stages of learning, each of which coincide with the natural learning abilities of children.

“Children in the first phase of learning, from the ages of (about) 4 through 11, have a tremendous ability for observation and memory,” Shipma said.

This stage is called the grammar stage, where students are taught the parts of speech, basics of math including multiplication tables, historical events, science, passages of Scripture from the Bible, and more by means of recitations and drills in addition to songs and chants.

“These are all activities that come naturally and are enjoyable at this age and build a framework of knowledge,” Shipma added....

Children in the second phase of learning, roughly the ages of 12 through 14, start to think abstractly and students begin to judge and critique the things they have learned.

“Quite frankly, they like to argue,” Shipma said.

This stage is called the dialectic or logic stage and fits with this phase of the students’ lives because it emphasizes formal logic, debates and putting together persuasive reports.

“The thinking is if the students are beginning to think abstractly and debate and argue, then let’s teach them to do that correctly and with an eye to the truth,” Shipma added.

Students in the last phase of learning, covering ages 15 through 18, have the desire to express themselves in interesting and creative ways. This stage is called the rhetoric stage.

It emphasizes the preparation and presentation of eloquent and persuasive arguments.

“Students at this point deal with more in-depth world view issues as they synthesize ideas, bringing together all they have learned and presenting it intelligently, coherently and biblically,” Shipma said.

If, after reading the story, you'd like to know where you can find an education like that in the Tulsa area, mark your calendar for February 8th, when Regent Preparatory School will be holding an open house. Call Regent at 663-1002 for details.

(The story from the Sun is via Brandon Dutcher, who serves on the Providence Hall board.)

TulsaNow, Monday night

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My column in this week's Urban Tulsa Weekly is about TulsaNow -- how it came into being and what it aims to accomplish. I describe the group as a kind of "See You at the Pole" -- a gathering point for people who might have wondered if anyone else cared about Tulsa's direction and future:

Perhaps you've felt lonely in your concerns about Tulsa. Doesn't anyone else care that we're turning downtown into a big parking lot? Isn't anyone worried about the impact of more ugly sprawling development on our city's livability? Shouldn't we be encouraging development of a more diverse assortment of businesses, instead of putting all our economic hopes in oil or aerospace or telecommunications?

There must be other Tulsans who share your concerns, but how do you find them? What's the equivalent of the flagpole for Tulsans concerned about our city's future growth and development?

It's an organization called TulsaNow, and instead of meeting around a pole, we'll be meeting around a pint next Monday, Jan. 29, at McNellie's Public House, 409 E. 1st St., from 6 to 8pm.

That's the annual meeting for TulsaNow. Here's the official announcement:

If you’d like to learn more about TulsaNow, or find out what you can do to get involved, don’t miss our annual meeting on Monday, January 29.

This year, we hope to engage our membership like never before, and we’ll be asking YOU to help us set our strategic priorities for ‘07. What’s important to you? What should TulsaNow focus on in the coming year? We know you’ve got opinions, and we want to hear your thoughts and ideas. See you there!

Read the linked article above, and if you share those concerns, come and join us tomorrow night.

1957 (almost) on the TV

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This entry isn't specifically about Tulsa in 1957, but this is what many Tulsans would have been watching on KOTV channel 6 on December 31, 1956. It's The Jack Benny Show, a weekly half-hour variety show, sponsored by Lucky Strike cigarettes.

The show features a cameo from strangely cantilevered Jayne Mansfield (sans lobsters), a song and dance number with The Sportsmen and Eddie "Rochester" Anderson, and a talent show segment featuring Mel Blanc as Stanley Gropff, animal impressionist. You'll see commercials for Lucky Strike ("It's TOASTED to Taste Better!") and Tareyton cigarettes, and in case you ignored the commercials, they even worked a pitch for Luckies into the song and dance number.

It's in three segments on the Daily Motion video site:

Part 1 (Jayne Mansfield, Rochester)
Part 2 (Mel Blanc, the "Landrews Sisters")
Part 3 (The "Landrews Sisters", the jujitsu expert)

The second part, with Mel Blanc, is the funniest of the three.

Via Mark Evanier, whose fascinating blog "news from me" is chock full o' vintage TV videos and anecdotes. You'll want to read his entry to learn something interesting about one of the actresses in the Landrews Sisters bit.

Oh, all right, here's another one, from 1960, set at a department store with Jack as the Christmas shopper from Hell, featuring Mel Blanc (as a long-suffering clerk), Frank Nelson (as a supercilious floor walker working his way down the ladder of success), Eddie Anderson, Dennis Day, Richard Deacon, and Don Wilson. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

The message board moderators on the BBC website are banning all entries that link to articles on Little Green Footballs, a blog that focuses on the activities of Islamic extremists and anti-Semitic groups around the world.

Here is the message that is replacing the deleted posts:

This posting has been temporarily hidden, because a member of our Moderation Team has referred it to the Hosts for a decision as to whether it contravenes the House rules in some way. We will do everything we can to ensure that a decision is made as quickly as possible.

The rule in question appears to be this one:

[We reserve the right to fail messages which] Contain links to other websites which break our Editorial Guidelines

The applicable guideline on unsuitable links:

A web page is unsuitable if it contains, or directly links to, anything which is... offensive... Hate sites (on grounds of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation)

Some of the anti-LGF members of the BBC board claim that if LGF were in print, it couldn't legally be published in the UK.

One poster sees this ban as part of a larger pattern at the BBC:

That the BBC does not allow a link to LGF will come as little surprise to those of us familiar with the BBCs output and editorial tone. What has come as a surprise to me, a relative newcomer to the 'blogosphere', is the degree to which the news the BBC chooses to present to us is filtered and censored. Whole stories that cause a sensation on the blogosphere and are of undoubted public interest are either mentioned in passing or not mentioned at all by the BBC.

Towards the end of last year I saw a BBC news report on the continuing anarchy in the Paris suburbs with protests by French police against the increasing number of attacks they were coming under. This was around three weeks after the same story first began circulating on the blogs.

By now all of us will have familiarised ourselves with the anodyne Mohammed cartoons that provoked such controversy last year - not through the MSM but through the blogosphere. Would any of us know about last years riots in Windsor, the Reuters fauxtography scandal or the home office ordering 12,000 nuclear protection suits for the Met over Christmas if it wasn't for the blogs? Do you know what one of the main uses of Polonium-210 is? Look it up on the internet because the recent Panorama programme didn't tell us.

And more recently have you heard about last week's conference in London hosted by the Mayor where Ken Livingstone was debating with Daniel Pipes on the topic of 'A World Civilisation or a Clash of Civilisations'? No? Didn't you hear about it on the BBC? Odd that, particularly since the debate was chaired by the Beebs own Gavin Esler.

However if you do rely on the BBC for your news coverage you will today know which Archbishop turned down an appearance on Celebrity Big Brother and that a photo of David Beckham slaying a dragon is on display at Disneyworld. You will also no doubt recall the story of motorists caught on CCTV driving into traffic bollards in Manchester and of the pelican that swallowed a pigeon.

Increasingly it isn't going to matter to the likes of Little Green Footballs whether or not the BBC links to them. The more pertinent question, in the not too distant future, is whether Little Green Footballs will allow links to the BBC.

Little Green Footballs was one of the blogs that inspired me to start my own. Blogger Charles Johnson has succeeded in calling attention to stories that are overlooked or deliberately ignored and in debunking stories that the mainstream media has gotten wrong. What's got Auntie Beeb's knickers in a twist is that the stories he posts interfere with their pro-radical-Islam, anti-Israel, anti-Western Civilization world view.

Calvey in Iraq

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Former State Rep. Kevin Calvey (R-Oklahoma City) is a captain in the Army National Guard, and he is finally getting his long-awaited opportunity to go on active duty as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. While he's there, he'll be keeping a blog about the experience, called "Calvey in Iraq: From State House to Bunkhouse." He received his deployment orders on Thursday and leaves today for Fort Bliss, Texas.

Kevin is a sharp guy and his departure from the State House (he ran for the Republican nomination for the 5th Congressional District) is a loss for Oklahoma. I'm looking forward to his reports from the scene in Iraq and hope he'll also share some reflections on his time in the Legislature.

Be sure to keep Kevin and his new wife (they wed on December 29) in your prayers.

Nelson's neon

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A photo by David Moos of Nelson's Buffeteria's beautiful neon sign, when it still hung on Boston Ave. Click the image to see the full-size version.


I'll have a chicken fry, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, a roll, and a slice of chocolate pie, please. Remember how they'd ladle cream gravy on the plate, put a chicken fried steak on top of it, then ladle more gravy on top?

Question for discussion: With Nelson's gone, what's the best place in Tulsa for chicken fried steak?

One of the most interesting artifacts I've found from 1957 thus far is a glossy, color, 44-page tourism magazine called Tulsa, I.T. (There's a copy of it in the buried Belvedere.)

I have photocopied all the pages and plan to scan and post a complete black-and-white version sometime soon. While it isn't directly representative of everyday life for Tulsans in 1957 -- which is what I'm aiming for with this "Tulsa 1957" effort -- it does tell you what the folks at the Chamber of Commerce thought was most important for outsiders to know about our fair city.

And these two pages, in particular, tell us what the tourism people at the Chamber thought visitors to Tulsa ought to see, even if they only had a few hours to tour the city. This is the Tulsa Tour.

If you'll click on those thumbnails, they'll lead you to Flickr, where you can download the humongoid 4 MB original images or smaller images if you prefer. I photographed those pages with a cheap Kodak digital camera on "best" setting. I did not attempt to press the book flat, out of respect for its fragility, so the images are not like you'd get from a flatbed scanner, but the text is still legible and the detail isn't bad.

Here is the text:

America's Most Beautiful City
By J. P. Arwood

You will enjoy a "Tour of Tulsa" . . . a city with wide, clean streets . . . towering buildings that gleam in the clear, fresh air of a smokeless industrial center . . . mile upon mile of residential areas as beautiful as a quarter million prideful residents can make them . . . one of the nation's finest vacationlands right next door . . . and general living conditions that are unexcelled in the United States.

This is Tulsa . . . the kind of city you'd plan if you could build your own.

The Tulsa Tour originated in the late '30s when the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce decided to show off this sparkling new city that had merged from obscurity to become a metropolis of international importance in just three decades.

The durable reflective signs that blaze a clear trail through the Tulsa of today were provided by the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce. These attractive markers were erected by the City of Tulsa and are currently maintained by them.

The tour, as now outlined, covers the downtown area with its clean, metropolitan canyons and "diamond sidewalks," the smart new residential areas such as Ranch Acres and the older palatial homes sitting far back from the streets on tree-covered estates.

Along the way, it takes the visitor to such places and points of interest as the ultra-modern national headquarters of the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce; Oklahoma's most photographed church, the Boston Avenue Methodist; the nationally famous Municipal Rose Garden with more than 12,000 plants covering symmetrically designed grounds; Utica Square with its acres of modern suburban shops; Philbrook Art Center where a treasure of paintings and sculpture is displayed in a setting of Italian Renaissance splendor; the International Petroleum Exposition grounds where the world's oilmen gather by the thousands every four years to buy, sell and see the newest tools of their fascinating trade; the Tulsa State Fairgrounds where the nation's largest exhibit barn is to be found; and the University of Tulsa, famous in the sports world for its might in the football bowl games of the '40s, but more famous scholastically for its outstanding curriculum, especially in the field of petroleum engineering.

In addition to the scenic and residential points of interest there is an alternate tour which leads across the 21st street bridge to Quanah Avenue in West Tulsa. To the left will be seen The Texas Company's refinery and tankfarm. To the left as you approach the 11th street bridge is the D-X Sunray refinery where a conducted tour may be made. As you proceed across the 11th street bridge, the first street to your right is Riverside Drive which will lead you to the point where you left the residential tour.

Tulsa county's new $4 million courthouse, the new inspiring YMCA, the fabulous Gilcrease Institute, Mohawk park and zoo, and the American Airlines Overhaul and Supply Depot are places and points of interest well worth seeing, even though they are off the beaten path of the Tulsa Tour.

Depending upon the amount of time spent at various stops along the way, the tour can take an hour or an afternoon or a whole day. But regardless of the time allotted for sightseeing, the best way to view the Oil Capital is to follow the red arrows on the Tulsa Tour markers.

Some notes:

The downtown skyline shot is looking north along Boston with 8th & Boston in the foreground. The tallest buildings in the background are the NBT Building on the left and the Philtower on the right.

Note the city boundaries. Everything fits within a 10 mile by 7 mile box, and most of the space in that box is empty. It's apparent why Utica Square would be considered "suburban" at the time. Note that New Haven Avenue, connecting dots 9 and 10, is within the city limits, even though it's on the fairgrounds (just west of Bell's, the Pavilion, and the Armory).

Note the highway locations in the map. The 51st Street bridge is open, but there's no Skelly Bypass yet. The Skelly Bypass really would bypass everything. US 75 and US 169 are swapped from the present day configuration in how they approach from the north.

Questions for discussion:

  1. Anyone else remember those signs? They were still in existence in the '70s, but I think they were blue by then. I am almost certain there was one near Holland Hall's old campus at 26th Place and Birmingham.
  2. What, if anything, strikes you as odd, amusing, or puzzling about this list?
  3. What were they overly proud of?
  4. What did they overlook that should have been a point of pride?
  5. How many art deco buildings do you see in this list?
  6. How many buildings or places do you see that we would now consider historic or worthy of preservation?
  7. Anyone want to create a turn-by-turn description of the route shown on the map? Is it still driveable today?
  8. If you were to create a modern day Tulsa Tour, what landmarks would be on it?

Briefly noting stuff that's interesting, but not needed, for an article I'm writing:

Irvin J. McCrary Collection -- city planning documents accumulated by a Denver city planner, includes "Oklahoma City - A report of its Plan for an Outer Parkway and a plan for an Interior System of Parks and Boulevards, 1910," and "A Five-Year Park and Boulevard Program for Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1927."

Tulsa World - April 27, 1924 "TAA and Tulsa World announce Flag Design contest. This idea, conceived by TAA, was to offer a $50 prize to the best design for a flag that was 'symbolic of Tulsa and its various activities'. This competition was judged by the TAA, the Tulsa World in collaboration with Mayor Herman F. Newblock and Chamber President J. Burr."

A brief history of Tulsa's planning efforts by Robert Lawton Jones.

Contents of the KVOO Voice Library in the University of Tulsa library's special collections.

Issues and Discussion Points Regarding the Comprehensive Plan Update -- that's the plan update which will get underway in the near future.

History of Oklahoma's turnpike system"

History of Keystone Lake

Flood stage on the Arkansas River near Tulsa, including five highest flood stages in history

From Harm's Way: Flood Hazard Mitigation in Tulsa, Oklahoma: includes history of some of our worst floods and the development of the stormwater management plan.


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I was happy to read that, for the first time in six years, AMR, parent of American Airlines, Tulsa's largest employer, turned a profit in 2006, $231 million on revenue of $5.39 billion.

It's funny to think, back in 2003, Tulsans were told that American Airlines needed our tax dollars in order to keep their maintenance facility in Tulsa. We voted to tax ourselves over 13 years to give AA $22.3 million.

Compare that number to AMR's annual revenues: It's only 0.4% -- four thousandths -- of AMR's 2006 revenue. That gift to AA was the equivalent to giving $200 to someone who makes $50,000 a year. It's not nothing, but it's a drop in the bucket, not even two days' revenue.

This coming March 15, three legendary country & western performers -- Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, and Ray Price -- will perform at the Mabee Center in Tulsa, backed by the western swing band Asleep at the Wheel. The concert is part of a month-long, coast-to-coast "Last of the Breed" tour. (Sorry, See Dubya, Vegas is as close as they'll come to your neck of the woods.)

In the midst of the tour a CD called Last of the Breed will be released:

Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson and Ray Price will release a double-disc album together on March 20 on Lost Highway Records. Titled Last of the Breed, the 22-song set was produced by Fred Foster. The recording sessions included contributions from the Jordanaires, steel guitarist Buddy Emmons and fiddler Johnny Gimble. Haggard, Nelson and Price have also scheduled tour dates, backed by Asleep at the Wheel, in New York, Nashville, Las Vegas, Detroit and Colorado Springs in March. The album includes two new songs and newly recorded versions of songs made famous by the three artists, including Price's 1959 hit, "Heartaches by the Number" (with Vince Gill on backing vocals). Kris Kristofferson provides backing vocals on "Why Me."

People my age will probably best remember Ray Price for his mellow 1970 crossover hit "For the Good Times," written by Kris Kristofferson. But he made his name with honky tonk hits in the '50s and '60s, and his band, the Cherokee Cowboys, launched the careers of Willie Nelson and Roger Miller, among others.

Here are a couple of YouTube videos from back in the day. First, his 1950s hit, "Crazy Arms,"

And here's a great uptempo western swing instrumental, "Silver Lake Blues." Dig those cowboy outfits and synchronized moves.

I'm at Shades of Brown tonight, drinking coffee and working on a column, and I'm listening to Rod Saunders playing guitar. Rod is the director of the Tulsa Guitar Society, which is dedicated to fingerstyle and classical guitar. His repertoire tonight has ranged from calypso ("Jamaica Farewell") to the Beatles ("Here, There, and Everywhere") to classical ("España") to sacred ("Morning Has Broken"). It's the perfect music for a coffee shop -- you can listen intently or let it serve as background to writing or conversation.

Unrelated to that, but at one point, a group of young women sitting near me broke out into a spontaneous and beautifully harmonized rendition of "Down In The River To Pray" (from the baptism scene in "O Brother, Where Art Thou"), but they got embarrassed and lowered their volume when they realized that people were listening in. (Turns out they're sisters -- two from Chicago, one from here, and the one from here, Joy, performs at Lola's on Tuesday nights. After the guitarists finished playing, they were prevailed upon to sing so we all could hear them.)

Sorry, by the way, for the silence of late, but in addition to the usual column, I've been doing research for an upcoming cover story in UTW, digging through some fascinating documents and newspaper clippings. I think you'll find it fascinating, too.

Another cancellation

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I've suspected this for a long time:


(Received via e-mail from Kirk Jordan's Mighty Works Project. Kirk was staff photographer in Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's administration. You can see a few of his more artistic work here.)

Feel free to submit your own unintentionally funny cancellation notices, real or imaginary, in the comments.

Coburn in GQ

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In the February issue of Gentleman's Quarterly there's a lengthy and generally positive profile of Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn, focusing on his campaign against wasteful spending.

This early paragraph in the piece illustrates the myopia of many in Washington:

But for many of Coburn’s colleagues, what is most surprising is not that he has become a thorn in the party’s side; it’s the issue with which he has made his mark. Back in 2004, when Coburn was first running for Senate, fiscal prudence wasn’t supposed to be his issue. In fact, the last thing anybody expected him to become was a voice of restraint in a body of excess. If anything, Coburn was the one known for his excesses, for making pronouncements so outrageous, so far from the mainstream, that at times he seemed like a cartoon of the fanatical right—declaring his own Senate race “the battle of good versus evil,” calling for “the death penalty for abortionists,” and suggesting that the country was under attack by a secret gay conspiracy that had “infiltrated the very centers of power in every area across this country.” Back in 2004, Tom Coburn was the last man anybody expected to rise above politics and try to lead us back to common sense.

Anybody, that is, except the voters of Oklahoma. Yes, his most enthusiastic supporters shared his concerns on social issues, but it was his determination to fight against waste and corruption that differentiated him from his nearest Republican rival, Oklahoma City Mayor Kirk Humphreys. Anyone who paid attention to his service in the U. S. House, anyone who bothered to read his no-punches-pulled book Breach of Trust would have known that his willingness to stand firm and, if necessary, alone, on fiscal issues are at the heart of why Oklahoma Republicans urged him to run and why he decided to get in the race.

The article covers his medical practice, growing up helping with his dad's business, his living arrangements in Washington, and this about the connection between his social positions and his fiscal stubborness:

Having entered the public spotlight for his social positions, far from the mainstream and widely condemned for his views on abortion and gay rights, he had long since adjusted to the outrage and indignation he aroused. If anything, his social views had bolstered him for the fiscal fight. In a world as upside down as Congress, where waste is the norm and prudence on the fringe, where a man fighting pork and fraud can be ostracized by his peers, maybe it takes someone who is comfortable with that, and has spent most of his adult life on the fringe already, to speak out in spite of the risks.

Go read the whole thing.

(Via Mike McCarville.)

... who believes the garbage truck is coming tomorrow morning. No one else has put out their trash cans.

School will be out again in and around Tulsa for the fourth day in a row, not counting the early dismissal Friday. Although the arterial streets in Tulsa have at least one clear lane, turn lanes and outside lines still have refrozen slush atop solid ice. I dared to take the Broken Arrow expressway this morning and found that what had been a clear lane for almost a mile suddenly wasn't, right on the bend just west of the I-44 interchange.

Side streets and parking lots are still nasty. There is no plowing through an inch of ice. Someone tried to use a front end loader to clear part of our lot on Tuesday, and the best they could do was scrape a bit off the top. They put some sand down, so it's not as much of an ice rink, but I still need my ice cleats to walk on it. (I thought they were silly when my wife bought them, but they sure have come in handy this week.) The traction control system and anti-lock braking system in our minivan has worked like a champ.

The kids have enjoyed their unexpected vacation and have spent some time sledding on the ice. They even tried to get on our goldfish pond, which is only partially frozen over, but Mom caught them before the ice began to crack. (And yes, I told them about the little girl that the fire department had to rescue because she walked out on the ice over a creek. Evidently the lesson didn't sink in.)

We had a short burst of flurries today, and more snow is expected over the weekend.

UPDATE in response to questions: My cleats are Weissenfels Snow Spikes, but it appears that Weissenfels no longer makes traction products for anything as small as a foot.

Recognize these words, western swing fans?

The light is in the parlor,
A fire is in the grate;
The clock upon the mantle
Ticks out --"it's getting late" --
The curtains at the windows
Are made of snowy white,
The parlor is a pleasant place
To sit on Sunday night,
To sit on Sunday, Sunday night.

Those are from an 1878 courting song called "Sunday Night," by Frederick Woodman Root. Here's verse 2.

Fine books are on the table,
And pictures on the wall;
And there's a cushioned sofa,
But then that is not all;
If I am not mistaken,
(I'm sure I must be right)
Some people now are sitting there
This pleasant Sunday night,
This pleasant Sunday, Sunday night.

And the last verse:

The lamp is burning dimly,
The fire is getting low,
Somebody says to some one
"It's time for me to go."
We hear a little whisper,
So gentle and so light,
"O don't forget to come again
Another Sunday night,
Another Sunday, Sunday night."

You might know it better if the verses were shortened up a bit and followed by this chorus:

Ida Red, Ida Red, I'm plumb fool about Ida Red.

The Bluegrass Messengers has an attempt at tracing the origins and evolution of the music and lyrics that became "Ida Red", but they have a different date and writer for the song that provided the verse lyrics.

Ida Red didn't stop changing when Bob Wills recorded it in 1938. In 1950, he borrowed the name, but not much else, for "Ida Red Likes the Boogie," which became a top ten hit for the Texas Playboys, with Tiny Moore's vocal backed by Skeeter Elkin's boogie-woogie piano.

A few years later in East St. Louis, Chuck Berry was finding new words for the old fiddle tune:

The St Louis club-goers cared little for the provenance of the cowboy numbers they heard. That allowed Berry to improvise around the melodies and concoct his own stories. Gradually, 'Ida Red' became a Berry composition, 'Ida May', a teen tale of a two-timing girl and a chase between a Cadillac and a V8 Ford. In 1955, on a recommendation from Muddy Waters, Berry signed with Chicago's premier R&B label, Chess. He thought it would leap on his blues material, but, to his surprise, it was 'Ida May' that had the proprietor, Leonard Chess, reaching for a blank contract. The label was looking to cross over to the white market, and Berry was the artist to do it.

With the blues legend Willie Dixon on upright bass and the pianist Johnnie Johnson, Berry and his guitar set off to record 'Ida May'. There was just one problem: it was still too close to 'Ida Red'. 'I changed the music and rearranged it,' Johnson says. 'Chuck rewrote the words.' The hillbilly two-step was converted into bristling, early rock'n'roll. The title, with a little adjustment to the spelling, was settled when, according to Johnson, someone noticed the cosmetic Maybelline in the room.

I don't have a better finish for this than Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, from 1951, performing Ida Red, with Joe Andrews on vocals, and solos by Skeeter Elkin on piano, Cotton Whittington on guitar, Bobby Koefer on steel guitar, and Joe Holley on fiddle, with Bob Wills himself starting and finishing the song.

Congratulations to Cain's Ballroom, which is once again is one of the top ticket-selling concert venues in the world. According to Pollstar, Cain's was 38th in ticket sales among venues with a capacity under 3,000, selling 84,746 tickets in 2006.

The numbers tell me that Tulsans will get out and support live entertainment, and the people at Cain's are doing a great job of booking the wide variety of acts that Tulsans want to see. (Me, I'm looking forward to the Bob Wills Birthday Bash on March 2nd and 3rd, featuring Leon Rausch, Tommy Allsup and the Texas Playboys.)

To give you an idea of what kinds of places are included in this category, nine of the top 25 small venues are House of Blues outlets, including the flagship in Chicago. The Chicago House of Blues sold 219,083 tickets in '06. Cain's ranks just below The Avalon in Hollywood and just ahead of Metropolis in Montreal, Hard Rock Live in Orlando, and House of Blues in San Diego.

Cain's capacity is only about 1400, which means they must fill the place pretty often to generate those kinds of ticket sales.

Here is the latest news on precinct elections for the Tulsa County Republican Party, which are scheduled for tonight, from Tulsa County Republican Chairman Jerry Buchanan:

The bi-annual Republican Party Precinct Caucuses will still be held Tuesday night at 7:00 p.m. in Tulsa County. However, some Precinct Chairmen of the 262 precincts in Tulsa County will have the opportunity to hold their bi-annual Caucus through next Tuesday, Jan. 23rd due to the road conditions from the weather.

Republicans should contact their Precinct Chairman or the Republican Headquarters for further information Tuesday from 1:00 until 4:00 for more information if they are unsure of the time and date of their Precinct Caucus.

Due to the many calls and email to the Republican Headquarters with concerns to icy conditions, Jerry Buchanan, Chairman of the Tulsa County Republican Party, has asked Precinct Chairmen to evaluate the situation in their own Precincts and contact those in their Precincts if they wish to change their meeting dates and times.

The Republican Headquarters can be reached by phone at 627-5702 or email at chairman@tulsagop.org.

If you are a registered Republican voter in Oklahoma, you're entitled to participate in precinct elections. If you're a Republican who cares about the direction of the party, about its strategies and tactics, about its principles and positions, you need to participate in precinct elections.

Republican precinct elections occur three of every four years and are the first stage in a multiple-stage process for electing party leaders and establishing a party platform. Precinct officers are elected and resolutions are considered for inclusion in the party platform. The precinct also elects delegates to attend the county convention, although typically a precinct will vote to be an "open delegation," so that anyone who wishes may be a delegate to the county convention.

The next step in the process is a county convention. In odd-numbered years the county convention elects a chairman and vice-chairman, along with the county's two representatives on the state Republican committee (the governing body of the Oklahoma Republican Party), and the county's two representatives on the 1st Congressional District committee. The county convention also votes on a platform which deals with local, state, and national issues.

The final step in odd-numbered years is a state convention, at which a state chairman and vice-chairman are elected and a state party platform is approved.

(In presidential years, there is also a congressional district convention which elects delegates and alternates to the national convention, and the state convention elects the state's two representatives on the Republican National Committee and chooses at-large delegates and alternates.)

Precinct elections are usually held in the home of the precinct chairman. Typically they last an hour or so, and most of that time is spent considering resolutions for inclusion in the party platform. All resolutions approved by a precinct election are forwarded to the county convention's platform committee, which assembles the planks supplied by the precincts into a coherent platform.

I particularly want to emphasize the opportunity to influence the platform. It can be a tool for holding our elected Republican officials accountable, for expressing the collective opinion of the Republican grassroots. Historically, the local section of the platform has been rather brief as Republican activists have tended to focus on social, economic, and defense issues at the state and federal levels. If you feel we shouldn't raise taxes for river development, for example, this is a way to make that opinion heard.

To find out where your precinct election is being held, contact the Tulsa County Republican HQ at 627-5702.

Even if you can't attend a precinct election, you can still participate in the later stages of the process by signing up as a county delegate through the end of the week, by contacting your precinct chairman or Republican Party HQ at the above number. (This is assuming your precinct votes to send an open delegation to the county convention, which is almost always the case.)

Yesterday, Michael Spencer posted five reasons he doesn't like Martin Luther King, Jr., Day. He writes as an admirer of King, not a detractor, reflecting on reactions to the annual observance from African-Americans and from white Evangelicals.

Spencer says that the observance has been treated as the exclusive possession of African-Americans, when it belongs to all Americans:

My African-American students almost universally resent that we do not dismiss school in deference to “their” holiday. (If any holiday should be celebrated by GOING to school, this one should.) When we’ve been asked to have MLK programs, students protest if the program is not all African-American, and for African-Americans. Virtually every image of MLK, Jr. day on the media is dominated by African-Americans.

It’s an American holiday. Dr. King said he wanted to see the day we stopped celebrating skin color and made up a community of love based on character. To make MLK, Jr. day an African-American holiday has the potential to increase the resentment many Americans- particularly in poor, rural areas like ours- already feel toward minorities.

If we can’t celebrate it as an American holiday, then let’s just don’t.

Neither, says Spencer, should it be a liberal holiday to celebrate liberal solutions:

Dr. King’s ideas on social justice hardly resemble the solutions of today’s race baiters and misery pimps. The dignity of suffering, the advocacy of truthful speech, the refusal to whine, the call for conscience and action: these things, not government spending on more and more government programs and employees, are what Dr. King advocated. A role for government? Sure. Government as the savior and solution to every injustice? No way.

He goes on to say that the day ought to celebrate and acknowledge King's legacy in the progress that has been made in the 43 years since his march on Washington, but too often is marked with speeches that suggest that King's work was all in vain; that teaching the history of the civil rights movement would be more valuable than another day off; and that white Evangelicals need to fix their attitude toward the man, warts and all:

We ought to be glad King’s vision was of the peace of Christ and treating people as the images of God. We should thank God he was willing to suffer, be bold and go to the cross. We should see him as an American martyr and thank God for his faith, Christ’s power in his life and his love for all persons, especially his enemies. We can learn a lot from him and we should embrace him.

Spencer suggests marking MLK Day by reading his "Letter from Birmingham Jail," so I did, for the first time. It is a reply from King to white ministers who wrote him to question his promotion of non-violent civil disobedience. In response to their criticism, he defends his decision to come to Birmingham, where he was regarded as an "outside agitator," and his decision to lead sit-ins and marches to challenge the laws of segregation. Here are a few excerpts that grabbed my attention, which I present in hopes that you'll read the whole thing.

King explains how pressure from "gadflies" is sometimes required to bring about negotiation:

You may well ask: "Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches and so forth? Isn't negotiation a better path?" You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent-resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word "tension." I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, we must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.

Then he responds to their counsel to have patience, to wait for southern whites to decide to obey the Constitution's guarantees of equal protection:

We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God-given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse-and-buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, "Wait." But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six- year-old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son who is asking: "Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?"; when you take a cross-county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading "white" and "colored"; when your first name becomes "nigger," your middle name becomes "boy" (however old you are) and your last name becomes "John," and your wife and mother are never given the respected title "Mrs."; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of "nobodiness" then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.

Regarding the morality of disobeying unjust laws:

Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court's decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer lies in the fact that there fire two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all." Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distort the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority.... Thus it is that I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court, for it is morally right; and I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances, for they are morally wrong....

King cites openness as an essential element of civil disobedience and sets out honorable examples of such disobedience in history:

I hope you are able to see the distinction I am trying to point out. In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.

Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was evidenced sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar, on the ground that a higher moral law was at stake. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks rather than submit to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire. To a degree, academic freedom is a reality today because Socrates practiced civil disobedience. In our own nation, the Boston Tea Party represented a massive act of civil disobedience.

We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was "legal" and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was "illegal." It was "illegal" to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler's Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country's anti religious laws.

King expresses his disappointment with "peace at any price" moderates:

I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

... and his disappointment with the white churches of the South:

So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church's silent and often even vocal sanction of things as they are.

But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.

No one had left the house since I got home from work Friday afternoon, and the plan was that no one would leave the house at all today, until my daughter woke up complaining of a very sore throat. So I made a trip to the drugstore late this morning, hoping to get there and back before the freezing rain began.

Our driveway has a bit of a slope, and I had my doubts as to whether I could get back up the hill on the Zamboni-quality sheet of ice that had been laid down on Friday. To avoid that problem, I even considered walking to the drugstore, only about 3/4 mile away, but I didn't like the idea of walking back through an Icee downpour.

While it's certainly possible to get hurt walking on ice and snow, you can't do as much damage as you can with a car, and you have more possible paths to follow. On foot, you're not as likely to get stuck behind someone trying unsuccessfully to get up a hill.

The new supermarket in our neighborhood is scheduled to open on Wednesday. It will be wonderful to be able walk a couple of blocks, without going onto a major street, to pick up necessities.

In the winter of 2004, I spent several weeks in East Aurora, New York, about 20 miles southeast of Buffalo and just as susceptible to heavy lake-effect snows. A heavy snow was already falling as I flew in for my first trip, right after New Year's. I took it slowly and made it to the hotel all right. But now there was at least a foot of snow on the ground, the plows had yet to catch up, I had yet to get anything for dinner, and the hotel didn't have a restaurant.

If I'd been in a typical suburban hotel, surrounded by parking lots and office buildings, I'd have been stuck with eating from the vending machine. In East Aurora, there was no problem. I put on my snow boots, walked one block up to Main Street, and stepped into a cozy tavern, where I read the newspaper over a slice of prime rib and a Guinness. I had three or four other good choices within a couple of blocks. It didn't hurt that, with the snow falling, East Aurora's Main Street is like a scene out of It's a Wonderful Life.

EAST AURORA EXTRA: Photo sets of the whimsically painted fire hydrants of East Aurora, Arts-and-Crafts movement inspired trash cans on the town's Main Street, and the town's classic five-and-dime, Vidler's. And, finally, here are my photos of East Aurora from January and May 2004.

Encouraging news from new Tulsa County Commissioner Fred Perry, in a January 11 press release:

Due to numerous requests from the media and others, newly sworn in County Commissioner Fred Perry today announced his position on a river authority. “I do not support an additional river authority. The taxpayers and voters elected us, and other elected officials in Tulsa County, to make the hard decisions and I am confident, from comments by many citizens, that they don’t want us to relinquish any of that decision making to non-elected, appointed members of an authority no matter how competent the individuals might be. At a minimum an authority puts an additional layer in place which can slow up the decision making process,” Perry said.

The Tulsa County Commission has, by statute, the responsibility of calling for an election if the county sales tax is to be raised for river development (or any other project such as the 2003 Vision 2025 vote).

“Having taken a stand against a river authority, I want to make it clear that I welcome good advice from any quarter whether that be INCOG, the River Parks Authority and/or Chambers of Commerce. In fact, I look to INCOG for technical advice and evaluation, just as they have been doing with the proposed Channels River Plan. I have met at length with River Parks Authority Executive Director Matt Meyer and have a high regard for his opinion. I have also met with INCOG Executive Director Jerry Lasker and have worked with him during my time in the legislature, and I also have a high regard for his opinion.”

“It has been said that the County Commissioners and the Mayor need help in evaluating any proposed plans. I agree with that but I don’t agree that there needs to be a new authority. I welcome help from any group in evaluating river plans that have been proposed and are expected to be proposed. These could be City Councils, a group of Mayors located in Tulsa County, engineering associations, civic or other groups but I don’t see the need for an authority. And before a plan is put to a vote by the people, I would want public hearings and suggestions for improvement on any proposed plan.”

Perry said that he believed that public money should only be spent on infrastructure that “cleans up the river and the river bank and/or puts more water in the river and possibly other structural improvements to the river itself. If that is done, private developers and philanthropic individuals and foundations will facilitate the development as they would in any private sector endeavor.”

In a related area, Commissioner Perry said, “At the suggestion of Skiatook developer Ron Howell, I visited Branson Landing last October. Shortly thereafter I met with Rick Huffman, along with Commissioner Miller and Mr. Howell, and encouraged him to seriously consider Tulsa. Subsequently he came to Tulsa, toured the river and began talks with the City of Tulsa regarding a site within the City of Tulsa. The Branson project is extremely impressive and something similar would be great for Tulsa whether or not more comprehensive river infrastructure work takes place. I stand ready to help as it relates to any potential development in Tulsa County,” Perry said.

Perry said that he expects to see more river plan ideas come forward soon. He credited INCOG for their previous work in developing a river master plan and the Stakeholders for their time and effort in the Channels and for “re-energizing talk about comprehensive river development.”

Note that next to last paragraph -- a Branson Landing type project on the west bank would be possible without any changes to the river itself.

I was especially pleased to see that Commissioner Perry appreciates the importance of keeping decisions in the hands of those who are directly accountable to the voters. Recall that when the Vision 2025 proposal came before the County Commissioners in 2003, they (Dick, Miller, and Collins) treated the recommendations of the "leadership team" as immutable, even though as the elected authority responsible for putting the propositions on the ballot, they could have put the arena on a separate ballot to stand or fall on its own merits.

Crossposted from Tulsa TV Memories, with some further elaboration:

I was listening to some old Johnnie Lee Wills transcriptions from 1950, and I heard the announcer (Frank Sims) say to Johnnie Lee, "Our first tune was written by a good friend of mine and a good friend of yours. What do you say we get under way with the Coyote Blues, written by Lewis Meyer."

I knew bespectacled Brookside bookseller and biographer was a multitalented man, but I never suspected he was a western swing songwriter.

Here's a link with the lyrics of "Coyote Blues", which contains these immortal words:

I can't sit down, I'm black and blue
My gal kicked me on the kickaroo
I got the old coyote blues

And these:

She took me when I was helpless
She tried to build me up
But when she got me housebroke
She got another pup

TTM webmaster Mike Ransom notes that the song is on the Johnnie Lee Wills CD Band's A-Rockin'.

This week in Urban Tulsa Weekly, I've written about the historic preservation issues surrounding the proposed 85-room boutique hotel to be built on the grounds of the McBirney Mansion on Riverside Drive. The entire facility is under a special scenic, open space, and facade easement, a kind of conservation easement held by the City of Tulsa and the Oklahoma Historical Society. (Here is a PDF with the text of the easement.) The column explains what a preservation easement is, what restrictions this easement specifically places on the property, and who would be involved in any decision to change the terms of the easement.

Conservation easements can be used to protect a place's historical character, ecological qualities, or archeological artifacts. When a conservation easement is used specifically for historic preservation, it is usually called a preservation easement.

Donation of a preservation easement on a recognized historical property can qualify the donor for a tax benefit. You can read more about preservation easements on the websites of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the National Park Service (which oversees certification of historic properties for the National Register of Historic Places.)

The state law governing easements generally is 60 O.S. 49. Among other things, you can own an easement entitling you to a seat in church.

In 1999, the Oklahoma legislature adopted the Uniform Conservation Easement Act, which is codified as 60 O. S. 49.1 through 49.8.

My Tulsa World was at Monday's Tulsa Public School Board meeting and has video of the debate over the resolution that would stop the approval of new charter schools and the growth of existing charter schools.

Matt Livingood, school board president, brought the resolution to the board. If I understood him correctly, he was arguing that the Charter School Act might be unconstitutional, TPS won't fully implement the terms of the act, but because it might be constitutional after all, TPS won't shut down the existing charter schools either. Barbara Gamble, dean of Dove Science Academy, pointed out the damage to teacher and parent morale that would be caused by passage of Livingood's resolution. Perhaps that was his real intent -- cast more FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) over the future of charter schools, so as to dissuade parents from applying. If he could stimulate a decline in enrollment, it would be easier to shut the school down.

If the school board really wanted to support charter schools, they could pass a resolution assuring the teachers, parents, and students that the TPS board will do everything in its power to keep the charter schools running, regardless of what the courts do with the Charter Schools Act. Harold Roberts, director of development at the Deborah Brown Community School, noted that TPS could seek an opinion from the Attorney General. If the AG were to find constitutional defects with the law, the legislature would step in to cure those defects. TPS could help expedite this process, eliminate the uncertainty, and put charter schools on a firm footing for the future.

Jamie Pierson, my fellow UTW columnist and a graduate of Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences, urged the board to do as much as possible to support charter schools as an asset to the students and to the community, to be proud of what these schools have accomplished.

Instead it was clear that at least four of the seven board members are hostile to charter schools: Livingood and the other three white women -- Cathy Newsome, Ruth Ann Fate, and Bobbie Gray. Oma Jean Copeland and Lana Turner-Addison, the two African-American women on the board, spoke against the resolution. Copeland said that the matter should be left to the legislators and the Supreme Court, that Tulsa's charter schools are excelling, and that it is important to offer parents and students choice. Copeland also called for lifting the moratorium on new charter schools. Turner-Addison called the resolution a "renegade approach," ignoring the existing Charter School Act.

The supporters of the resolution were careful to avoid saying they opposed charter schools, but Cathy Newsome let the mask slip when she said that the Charter School Act discriminates against large districts because only large districts can have charter schools.

Gary Percefull, the only board member who is up for re-election next month, avoided giving his opinions by serving as chairman in lieu of Livingood while the board considered Livingood's proposal. In the end, he did vote against the resolution, but as the last voter he knew that his vote would not have an impact on the outcome, as four members had already voted yes.

The videos are short, well organized into segments, and small, so they won't suck up all your bandwidth. If you've never seen your school board at work, you need to watch these. And don't miss Steve Roemerman's coverage -- he was there too and has summaries and quotes from some of the speakers and the board members.

There are times when I'm torn between the urgency to write about a topic and the fear of not doing the topic justice. This is especially true when, because of family and work demands and home chores, I don't get to sit down to write until it's late, and I'm tired and distracted. It's even more true when doing a topic justice has an impact on someone's life and reputation. The difficulty is that, in this case, not writing about a matter also has an impact on someone's life and reputation.

In late December, someone tried to post a comment on my entry about Jamal Miftah, the Tulsa Muslim who published an op-ed piece in the Tulsa World condemning those who commit terrorist acts in the name of Islam. You'll recall that, for his trouble, Miftah was the target of an angry confrontation after prayers, and it was communicated to him that he was not welcome to come back. I wrote several entries about Miftah, and made the controversy the subject of my column in the December 13 Urban Tulsa Weekly.

The comment, posted from a Tulsa IP address by someone named Riaz Noor, accused Miftah of being guilty of murder and immigration fraud. Specifically, Noor claimed that his sister was Miftah's wife and that Miftah had murdered her, then used a visa obtained in the dead woman's name to bring his second wife to the United States.

By e-mail, I asked Miftah to respond to the accusations, and I asked some very specific questions of Noor, and both responded by e-mail. I had no way of verifying the claims, and I chose not to publish Noor's comment or to say anything about it.

In the meantime, Noor continued to publish the same accusations, verbatim, on seemingly every web page that mentioned Miftah. Miftah phoned me and asked if we could meet, as he wanted to show me some documentation that would rebut Noor's claims. We met a week ago, on New Year's Day.

Miftah told me that he had indeed been married to Noor's sister back in Pakistan, and that she died in Karachi in May of 1987. It was an arranged marriage, and Miftah never accepted her as his wife. He decided to send her back to her village. The morning of her death he was at work, and she phoned to plead with him to allow her to stay, but he refused. Sometime later he got a phone call that his sister-in-law had been gravely injured and had been taken to the hospital. But when he arrived, he learned that it was his wife who was there -- she had tried to kill herself. Two surgeries were performed to try to save her, but without success.

In a comment on In the Bullpen (one of the blogs where Noor's accusations appeared), Miftah wrote:

The fact of the matter is that at the time when [Riaz Noor's] sister attempted suicide, his other sister (Shahida) was there along with others. They took her to Jinnah Hospital in Karachi and after struggling with life for more then 10 hours and two major surgeries to save her life; she died on the night of May 21, 1987 (which can be verified from Hospital record).

So he knows how his sister died and that’s why never challenged her suicide before.

Miftah showed me a faxed statement from a specific Karachi police station setting out the police record in the matter.

It was a year and a half later, during a visit to Pakistan by his sister, who lived in Tulsa, that Miftah and his new wife went with his sister to the American consulate to apply for an immigration visa to the U.S. Miftah showed me the stamped and dated receipt from the consulate, establishing that the visa was obtained for his second wife. The document makes Riaz Noor's claim -- that Miftah obtained the visa for his first wife, then fraudulently used it for his second wife under his first wife's stolen identity -- an impossible scenario. The timeline doesn't work.

Miftah showed me other documents and provided me with some additional information. There is another thread to the story, a fascinating thread, but it will have to wait for another day. From what I was shown, and from what I was able to verify independently, I believe Jamal Miftah is an honest man and is telling the truth.

The Tulsa public school district is fond of calling itself the "District of Choice," but the board and school administration has always been hostile to giving parents in the district the choice of charter schools -- schools that are publicly-funded and tuition-free, but are independently governed. Other than home schooling or private schooling, it's the only opportunity to choose for your child a different educational philosophy than the one-size-fits-all plan crafted by the educrats at 31st and New Haven.

Tomorrow (Monday) night, the Tulsa School Board will consider a resolution protesting the fact that Tulsa is one of only 20 districts in the state allowed by law to have charter schools. More than protesting, the resolution sets out policy for dealing with the existing three charter schools in the district (Deborah Brown Elementary, Dove Science Middle School, and Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences), policy that would stop any further growth and endanger their ongoing viability.

The school board meeting is at 7:00 p.m. on the first floor of the Educational Service Center, just north of 31st Street on New Haven Ave. (between Harvard and Yale).

The author of the resolution believes the law establishing charter schools is an unconstitutional "special law," in much the same way as the early '90s county home rule bill, which allowed only counties between a certain minimum and maximum size to establish its own form of government. The numbers in the county home rule bill were deliberately set so that only Tulsa County qualified, and the Oklahoma Supreme Court ultimately ruled the law unconstitutional for that reason.

The charter school act is not so narrowly drawn as the county home rule law was, but whatever its flaws with regard to being a special law, it's telling that some board member or perhaps the administration is not seeking to mend it to allow charter schools to continue and expand the service they offer to Tulsa's students, but is using the constitutional issue as an excuse to throttle the three existing charter schools.

The proposed resolution, which you can read in full at Tulsa Chigger's blog, would set the following policies toward charter schools:

  • Renewals of charters with existing schools will be for at most three years, with a provision that funding from the school district will end the minute that the charter schools law is found unconstitutional.
  • Charter renewals won't be considered if the request includes plans to expand the number of students served.
  • No new charter applications will be considered.

This will probably pass overwhelmingly, since our school board members see themselves as there to prop up the administration, not to hold the administration accountable on behalf of parents and taxpayers. It shouldn't pass, and people who care about Tulsa, even if you don't care about public education, should be there to protest tomorrow night.

If you're a student or the parent of a student in one of the charter schools, or an alumnus or alumna, you should be there to talk about how you've benefitted from that educational opportunity and to urge the board to allow more children to have that opportunity.

If you're concerned about the City of Tulsa's competitiveness with its suburbs, you should be there to explain how important the existence and expansion of charter schools are to keeping young families in the district. Charter schools allow parents and students to experience the same kind of administrative responsiveness and parental participation in school policy that they would enjoy in the suburbs.

If you're concerned about the vitality of inner city neighborhoods, you should be there for the same reason. I know many couples who started out in midtown, but as their first child approached school age, they stayed in the city of Tulsa, but moved into the Jenks or Union school district and left midtown behind. They hate to leave behind the shaded streets and the classic homes, but their children's education comes first.

For that matter, school board members and administrators and teachers should realize that the regular schools benefit from charter schools. Charter schools -- and more of them -- will keep people from moving out of the district, which means the homes are more valuable, which means higher property tax collections from homes. It also means that businesses catering to these families stay in the district, and that helps property tax collections as well. Then, too, more parents and grandparents who are happy with the school district will be more likely to help the passage of future bond issues. Not every parent wants their child in a school where, for example, the French class, by design, avoids actual instruction in French.

Voters in Board District 1 should pay special attention to how your board member, Gary Percefull, votes on this proposal. Percefull's term expires this year, and he has drawn an opponent in the February 13 election, and his position on charter schools ought to be an issue in this race. (Here's a PDF map showing election district boundaries. And here's a page listing the names of the board members. There's an email link for each one.)

For the area within the Tulsa Public School district to thrive, it needs to become truly the District of Choice. The proposed resolution would turn it into the District of Hobson's Choice.

Fly it proudly

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According to the Flags of the World website, this was the City of Tulsa's flag from 1923-1941. (Can you guess why it might have changed in 1941?)

While there's a dated quality to the flag, the same can be said for our current seal and flag, which are very, very '70s. I rather like the boosterism and optimism in this one. It has the added advantage of being contemporaneous with our city's best architecture, while the current flag is closest in time to our ungracefully aging City Hall.

Perhaps we could revise this flag with a new slogan. Here's one idea: replace "Unlimited Opportunity" with "Straight Ahead" in honor of the song written by Jimmy Hall, fiddler and vocalist with Leon McAuliffe's band. ("Take Me Back to Tulsa" is a great song, but I think this is a better candidate for official city song.)



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Another blog meme.

My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
His Grace Lord Michael the Wholesome of Withering Glance
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title

(Via His Most Noble Lord Shane the Sonorous of Leper St George. Leper St. George must be a chapel-of-ease somewhere in the Oklahoma panhandle.)

Keep in your prayers...

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...Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, who is recovering from pulmonary embolism. His condition is improving, but still serious.

... and D. James Kennedy, pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church (PCA), who suffered a heart attack on December 28, had a pacemaker implanted on Wednesday, and is now recovering.

No one is indispensible, but these two men have made valuable contributions to their own denominations and to the broader evangelical world, particularly in applying a Christian worldview to American culture. I pray that each have many more years of fruitful ministry ahead of them before their homegoing.

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. -- Philippians 1:21-24, ESV

An ecumenical pianist

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Today I attended the funeral of Doris Oler, in the Rose Chapel at Boston Avenue Methodist Church. Doris passed away on Tuesday at the age of 76. Doris was an alto and a charter member of Coventry Chorale, and my wife and I sang with her in that group for many years. She always had a smile and a friendly word for us. Doris also sang in Boston Avenue's choir, taught vocal music in the Tulsa Public Schools, and was very active in Sigma Alpha Iota music fraternity. (Here's a link to the obituary that appeared in the Tulsa World yesterday.)

The presiding minister, Bill Tankersley, shared a funny anecdote. Doris grew up in Inola in the '30s and '40s. She learned to play piano at an early age and was good enough that she wound up playing at a few of the churches in town. The churches staggered their service times so that she could play the opening hymns at one church, slip out the door, walk to the next church, play their opening hymns, and so on, until it was time to play the closing hymn at the first church and start over with the rotation.

As part of the service, we read the 23rd Psalm responsively, but sitting there with nine other members of Coventry Chorale, there to honor a departed member of the Chorale, it seemed wrong not to be singing Thomas Matthews' setting of the psalm. (To hear a lo-fi version of it, scroll down to the bottom of that page and click the link with the text "The Lord Is My Shepherd.") I'm sure the others felt the pull, too.

This is beside the point, but... the first hymn we sang was "Praise My Soul the King of Heaven." We sang out of the current edition of the Methodist Hymnal, and it was hard not to laugh out loud at the lengths to which the editors went to avoid any use of the masculine pronoun in this version of the hymn. Most of the time it was a simple substitution of "God" for "him" and "God's" for "his." But "to his feet thy tribute bring" becomes "to the throne thy tribute bring." "In his hand he gently bears us," becomes "Motherlike, God gently bears us," to balance out the word "Fatherlike" at the beginning of the third verse. (Here are Henry Lyte's original lyrics, and here is the inclusified version.) There was nothing on the page to indicate an alteration. I don't like it any better when the Trinity Hymnal editors monkey with the lyrics to eliminate a suspected Arminian overtone, and I will stubbornly sing the original lyrics anyway*, but at least they note when a verse was altered by the editors.

I tried to stick to the lyrics as printed, but I found myself singing the familiar original lyrics instead. Knowing Doris, I think she would have understood, and probably even approved.

* I don't do this when I'm leading singing, however.

Here's a puzzler for long-time Tulsans. I'll give you the answer in a day or so.

The floors of Tulsa's Central Library, starting at ground level, are numbered from 1 to 4 nowadays. (There are two basement levels below ground.) But when the building opened, and for many years thereafter, the elevator buttons had initials for each of those four levels, corresponding to the non-numeric name given to each. Can you name each level?

UPDATE: Answer after the jump....

How I scored on the Nerd, Geek, or Dork test:

Pure Nerd

69 % Nerd, 13% Geek, 26% Dork

For The Record:

A Nerd is someone who is passionate about learning/being smart/academia.

A Geek is someone who is passionate about some particular area or subject, often an obscure or difficult one.

A Dork is someone who has difficulty with common social expectations/interactions.

You scored better than half in Nerd, earning you the title of: Pure Nerd.

The times, they are a-changing. It used to be that being exceptionally smart led to being unpopular, which would ultimately lead to picking up all of the traits and tendences associated with the "dork." No-longer. Being smart isn't as socially crippling as it once was, and even more so as you get older: eventually being a Pure Nerd will likely be replaced with the following label: Purely Successful.


Link: The Nerd? Geek? or Dork? Test written by donathos on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test

(Via Charles' MySpace blog.)

The Tulsa Whirled has rearranged the deck chairs on the Titanic moved editorial pages editor Ken Neal into semi-retirement as "senior editor and columnist." Neal has been an editorial writer for the Whirled since 1976 and editor of the editorial pages since 1994. He will be replaced as editor by David Averill, who has been an editorial writer since 1985.

Don't expect much to change. The five members of the editorial board (including Julie Del Cour, Janet Pearson, and Mike Jones) all march in lockstep and proudly so. At a speech given by Neal in early 2005, I asked him about the lack of disagreement between the Whirled's local columnists:

I commended Mr. Neal on the diversity of his syndicated columnists but asked why there was a lack of diversity of opinion on local issues. He seemed puzzled by my question. I pointed out that you never read Julie DelCour writing that Ken Neal was wrong about something or Ken Neal writing that David Averill was wrong about something. The board is uniformly supportive of any tax increase -- something Neal openly acknowledged a few weeks ago. The board is also uniformly negative about the reform majority on the Tulsa City Council.

His reply was about what I expected: The Whirled is a private company, not a public institution. We have the right to push our opinions and our ideas.

I wasn't questioning the Whirled's right to publish what they wished, just suggesting that the lack of diverse opinion on local issues was a flaw in need of correction. Neal went on to cite the decades of experience of each of the editorial board members, many of them with years of experience covering City Hall. Because they're all so intimate with the way City Hall works, naturally they're all in agreement over how City Hall ought to be run.

He went on to say, regarding the public subsidy of Great Plains Airlines, that "everybody in town thought it was a great idea. It was a Chamber deal." This was a revealing comment. Of course there were people who publicly objected to the plan, including two members of the City Council:

To the Whirled editorial writers, and their allies in the Cockroach Caucus, city politics is utter simplicity. If it's a "Chamber deal," it must be good, and of course, "everybody in town" thinks it's a good idea. Anyone who disagrees is by definition a naysayer, an anti-progress crank, and therefore is beneath notice, no matter how well he can argue his position. The result is an inbred intellectual environment with imbecility as a predictable result.

As for Mr. Averill, I received an education in his mindset when he and Del Cour interviewed me during my 2002 run for City Council:

Given my opposition to "It's Tulsa's Time", I figured a new downtown arena would be the dominant topic. Instead, they were most interested in my positions on three issues. First, they wanted to know my position on abortion. I told them I am pro-life, and that I believe that we have an obligation to protect innocent, defenseless human life. They told me not to worry and that the Whirled sometimes endorses "anti-choice" candidates.

The second key issue was whether I approved of the use of government condemnation to "assemble" land for private redevelopment. Clearly they supported the notion. I told them I felt it was an abuse of the power of eminent domain. And they wanted to know where I stood on the six-laning of Riverside Drive, a pet project for them -- I oppose it because of the effect on the park and neighborhood, and said so.

After the Whirled made an unusually early endorsement of my opponent, I called Averill and asked him why:

He told me that my support for neighborhood empowerment (through the use of urban conservation districts) was why they wouldn't endorse me. Averill said that neighborhoods had opposed every good thing that had happened to Midtown, and they shouldn't be given any more clout to oppose progress. I cited several counter-examples to his assertion, but he was not interested in discussing the matter further.

The bottom line for the Whirled was this: If elected to the Council, I would be an obstacle to their vision for the redevelopment of Midtown, because I would work to protect the rights of homeowners and other property owners and make them a part of the decision-making process. I believe that we can accommodate growth and new development without endangering the character of our older neighborhoods, and with a minimum of red tape and regulation.

Of course, the Whirled's endorsement editorial was not so plain-spoken and made no mention at all of land use, zoning, or eminent domain. These issues did not figure in their news coverage of the race or in their last minute editorial, which blasted me for making no constructive contribution to the community, in their view. They did not dare give zoning and planning issues any exposure, because they know that their position is unpopular, particularly in Midtown.

Under David Averill, as under Ken Neal, the Whirled will continue to back higher taxes at every opportunity, to fight broad public involvement in making important city decisions, to work against the interests of ordinary homeowners and in favor of special deals for special people, to ridicule traditional values and conservative opinions on social issues, and to support the Culture of Death. Despite improvements in other sections of the paper, the editorial pages under David Averill will continue to drive subscribers away.

(For a walk down memory lane with Ken Neal's pontifications, click this link for a Google search of the BatesLine archives.)

Our new County Commissioners, John Smaligo and Fred Perry, will be sworn in this morning at 9:30 at the Tulsa County Courthouse, in Room 119 of the Administration Building at 6th & Denver. It's a good time to show your support and appreciation for a change in direction for County government and an end to the empire-building that characterized the commissioners that are leaving office.

My Urban Tulsa Weekly column, out today, is a salute, of sorts, to outgoing Commissioners Bob Dick and Wilbert Collins, a look at their legacy and at the kind of changes we hope the new commissioners will make.

One issue that the new County Commissioners will face, although the decision is ultimately out of their hands (the City can act unilaterally, under state law), is the possibility of the City annexing the Tulsa County Fairgrounds, aka Expo Square.

Contrary to some statements that this land has ever been unincorporated territory, subject only to the jurisdiction of Tulsa County, in looking back at old maps as part of some other research, I've found confirmation of the fact that large parts of the Fairgrounds have been within the city limits of Tulsa at various times in the past.

The overview map for the 1932 Sanborn Fire Map of Tulsa (I can't link to it directly, but if you're a Tulsa Library card holder, you can access it over the Internet) shows the western two-thirds (160 acres more or less) of the Fairgrounds within the City of Tulsa. That area included all the developed parts of the fairgrounds, including the International Petroleum Exposition grounds (where the Expo building is now), the Pavilion, cattle barns, and other buildings.

(UPDATE: This link will take you right to the map, zoomed in to the Fairgrounds and its surroundings. If you're not already logged in to the library website, you'll first be taken to a screen to type in your last name and Tulsa Library card number. You can use the arrow icons to pan around to other parts of the map, including the bottom where you'll see the date of the map. And here's a link to a PDF version of the same map. Sheet 317, showing the detail of the fairgrounds, is here. Keep in mind that the racetrack and grandstand shown on the map was just east of where the half-demolished Exchange Building now is, an area which is now a parking lot for Fair Meadows.)

Then there was an article in the January 16, 1960, Tulsa Tribune, about the changes in the city limits over the previous decade. (You can find it in the annexation vertical file at Central Library, and it's also reproduced in a City Council report on annexation from a couple of years ago.) The map accompanying the story shows an area apparently west of New Haven Ave from 17th Street to 21st and west of Pittsburgh (the mid-section line) between 15th & 17th Street as within the City of Tulsa in 1950, but out of the city in 1960, except for a very small tract around the city water tower at 21st and Louisville. This would have been about 60 acres of land. The story says:

A section of the Tulsa County Fairgrounds (located at Yale Ave. and 21st St.) is the only area which was disannexed from the 1950 limits.

Owned by the county, the fairgrounds usually is not considered for annexation to the city, but special problems have caused it to come and go from the city limits.

Annexed to permit construction of Veterans' Village following the war, it was removed from the city after the buildings in the Village were removed.

City Engineer W. R. Wooten recalled the same area was taken in and then thrown out again some years earlier when horse racing was a debatable activity there.

"The city wouldn't permit the betting," Wooten recalls, "so the area was disannexed. Horse racing finally was ended by calling out of the National Guard."

The story doesn't say when the disannexation occurred, but a 1957 Rand McNally map shows the section I described above as still within the city limits.

A friend who has heard about western swing, but hasn't actually heard much of it, has asked me to put together a sampler as an introduction to the genre. To keep from overwhelming her, I decided to limit it to what would fit on a single audio CD -- 74 minutes. Here's my working list thus far -- title, band, album:

Opening Theme Featuring Tommy Duncan, Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys, Radio Days
Narration(Ross Franklin), Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys, Radio Days
Lone Star Rag, Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys, Radio Days
New San Antonio Rose, Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys, The Essential Bob Wills (1935-1947)
A Maiden's Prayer, Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys, The Essential Bob Wills (1935-1947)
Miss Molly, Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys, The Essential Bob Wills (1935-1947)
Texas Playboy Rag, Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys
Take Me Back To Tulsa, Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys, Tiffany Transcriptions Volume 2
Roly Poly, Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys, Tiffany Transcriptions Volume 2
Ida Red, Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys, Tiffany Transcriptions Volume 2
Fat Boy Rag, Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys, Tiffany Transcriptions Volume 5
Trouble In Mind, Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys, Tiffany Transcriptions Volume 8
Blackout Blues, Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys, Tiffany Transcriptions Volume 1
Three Guitar Special, Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys, Tiffany Transcriptions Volume 5
What Is This Thing Called Love?, Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys, Tiffany Transcriptions Volume 9
Stay A Little Longer, Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys, The Essential Bob Wills (1935-1947)
Sweet Georgia Brown, Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys, Tiffany Transcriptions Volume 5
I'm A Ding-Dong Daddy, Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys, Take Me Back To Tulsa - Disc 4
I Laugh When I Think How I Cried Over You, Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys, Take Me Back To Tulsa - Disc 4
Faded Love, Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys, Boot Heel Drag: The MGM Years
Rag Mop, Johnnie Lee Wills, Band's a Rockin'
Cadillac in Model 'A', Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys, Boot Heel Drag: The MGM Years
Lonesome Hearted Blues, Billy Jack Wills And His Western Swing Band, Billy Jack Wills And His Western Swing Band
Dipsy Doodle, Billy Jack Wills And His Western Swing Band, Billy Jack Wills And His Western Swing Band
Blue Guitar Stomp, Leon McAuliffe
Tulsa Straight Ahead, Asleep at the Wheel, 10
Way Down Texas Way, Asleep At The Wheel, 10
I Had Someone Else, Hot Club of Cowtown, Swingin' Stampede
Playboy Theme, Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys, For The Last Time

It begins with the opening of a 1945 Texas Playboys radio broadcast (on the 2005 release Radio Days). There's a section intended to highlight the Texas Playboy's offshoots and the style's evolution in the '50s, followed by a few cuts representing the modern revival. My intention is to represent the breadth of styles encompassed by western swing and that demonstrate the connection to the genres that influenced it. And of course I included some of the biggest hits and my personal favorites.

Anything you would have included that I missed? I realize that there have been plenty of western swing bands besides those of Bob Wills and his brothers, but my collection isn't that diversified yet.

Tulsa 1957

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I've had this idea of trying to capture life in Tulsa as it was in a particular year, before freeways, urban renewal, and the flight to the suburbs began to change it. It's hard to believe today, but Tulsa was once one of the twenty most densely populated large cities in the nation. It might help us reimagine what a revived, dense urban core for Tulsa would look like if we could get a vivid picture of what Tulsa's urban core looked like when it was dense and full of life. It seems a fitting project for our state's centennial year.

For this thought experiment, I picked 1957 as the target year. That was the year of the state's semi-centennial. The new County Courthouse had opened and the first massive redevelopment project -- the Civic Center, originally just four blocks between Denver and Frisco, 4th & 6th -- was just beginning to take shape. Early suburban neighborhoods and shopping centers, like my own Mayo Meadow, had been opened. The city's first freeway plan was drawn up -- it still isn't finished, and part of it never will be. A master parks plan called for a massive park along 71st Street from the river stretching through the hills to the east. In June 1957, a Reader's Digest article about Tulsa mentions that Tulsa had taken to calling itself "America's Most Beautiful City." 1957 is recent enough to be in living memory -- childhood for the early Baby Boomers, high school and young adulthood for my parents' generation -- but distant enough to be a very different world.

While I wanted to fix on a particular year for the sake of creating a snapshot in time, reminiscences from earlier and later years, like the memories of the early '60s at Riverview School, will help to make the picture vivid.

I'd like to flesh out this idea with maps -- big maps showing where the city limits were, little maps showing the stores, schools, and churches in a neighborhood -- photographs, news stories, and lots of personal reminiscences. The Sanborn Fire Maps, the city directory, the phone book, and newspaper ads can be used to help refresh and correct those reminiscences.

(It would be a big help if someone had software that could be used to create a base street map of Tulsa and environs in 1957.)

I'm not only interested in the memories of Tulsans, but also those of people who lived in surrounding towns, rural Tulsa County communities (like Alsuma, Lynn Lane, Union, Rentie Grove), and outlying Oklahoma towns like Nowata and Tahlequah who remember trips to the big city as a big deal.

This idea is inspired in part by a cartoon map that appeared in the very first issue of Urban Tulsa. The map showed the adventures of a group of boys, maybe 10-12 years old, who took the bus into downtown Tulsa on a Saturday morning in the early '60s -- they saw a movie, explored the seedier parts of downtown, had a Coke at a soda fountain, browsed through comic books. The map promised "To be continued" but it never was. Those are the sort of memories I'm hoping to capture.

I wasn't around in 1957, and I can't devote a lot of time to this, so I'm looking for help. Anyone interested?

The stuff of everyday life is usually overlooked in history textbooks, which rightly focus on the big picture -- names, dates, places. What you had for breakfast, where you shopped, what you did with your free time -- you take it all for granted while it's happening. But, happily, some folks write down those kinds of reminiscences and share them with the rest of us.

Roland Austin, an early-'60s alumnus of Riverview Elementary School, which stood on the south side of 12th St. between Frisco and Guthrie Aves., has set up a website to collect his reminiscences and to catch the attention of old classmates who might be websurfing by. (Note the trolley tracks and overhead power line in the photo at that link -- there was once a streetcar line on Frisco Ave.)

Riverview neighborhood is a thriving area with a rich history, although it was damaged by blanket upzoning (reversed in recent years) and the construction of the south leg of the Inner Dispersal Loop, which cut it off from downtown.

Fifty years or so ago, downtown west of Denver Ave. was a mixture of residential and other uses toward the north, becoming more exclusively residential going south toward the river. It was one big neighborhood, with Riverview School in the heart of it. Over time, the Civic Center, the State Office Building, the county jail, and finally the BOk center displaced the neighborhood north of 7th Street. Between 7th and the IDL, urban renewal replaced a low-rise neighborhood with the high rise Central Plaza towers (now known as Central Park Condominiums), the Doubletree, and the Renaissance Uptown apartments. A few remnants of the north part of the old neighborhood remain -- the Blair Apartments, and the other buildings on that same block.

The memory book page on the Riverview School site recalls the places where the neighborhood kids played and where their families shopped. Judy Roberts tells this sweet story about riding bikes on the grounds of the McBirney Mansion:

Some of us kids used to take our bikes down to the big old house that ran along Houston on one side and Riverside Drive on the other. That place took up a whole city block. We had no concept of private property, and we used to go down to the bottom of the hill where there was an old concrete pool that was empty. We'd ride our bikes around and around faster and faster until we were way up the sides, turned almost sideways. It was so exciting! One day the old lady who lived there came out as we came back up the hill to leave, and boy did she look mean. In a very stern voice, she informed us that we were on her private property and did we have any idea how serious trespassing was? Then she told us to come in the house. Let me tell you, we were shaking in our boots. But once we got inside, she had tea waiting...old fashioned high tea in a silver pot on a tray with china cups, sugar cubes, little finger sandwiches, cookies and the works. We had tea (although I'm sure we were very rude about it!) while she brightened up and told us she didn't mind us playing in her yard as long as we didn't destroy anything and came to visit her once in a while. Then she wanted to know how fast we thought we were going down there and was it scary? She actually turned out to be very nice, but lonely maybe, and I think she wished she could join us! Gosh, that brings back memories.

I want to know more about what Ronnie Mead's childhood was like:

I lived at 3rd and Boulder, in the Mead Hotel. My bedroom was right above the Rialto Theater sign.

Webmaster Roland Austin confesses a childhood crush and the lengths to which he went for the queen of his heart (the aforementioned Judy Roberts):

Anyway, I thought I had won your heart, as one day after school you came home with me and we played in my room and yard, then I walked you to your home on Galveston.... I gave up my cinnamon rolls for two whole weeks to save $1.00 for your birthday present. I was at a loss for what to get you. Since I was into playing board games (and I had just learned to play chess), I went downtown to Kress' and bought you a chess set, then walked to your house to give it to you. I remember when I gave it to you, you looked at it, then you gave it to your big sister. I felt so stupid. What in the world was I thinking???!!!

Judy's reply:

I do, I do, I do remember you! I knew your face looked familiar, and I remember going to your house. I had a really good time, and I did like you. And...now don't have a heart attack...I remember all the way home thinking maybe you'd hold my hand, but I couldn't make the first move...I was the girl! I am SO sorry about the chess set, and especially about you giving up your cinnamon rolls just for me! Wow, now that's true love! (giggling) I don't know why we didn't spend more time together, maybe you just weren't as pushy as the other boys, LOL. I always did pick the wrong ones, and believe me have I paid for it. I really am sorry for hurting your feelings, it seems I did a lot of stupid things like that growing up. Forgive me?

Click here to read more about favorite teachers, Christmas pageants (yes, at a public school), burger joints, and the ice cream man.

UPDATE 20170710: members.aol.com is long gone along with Roland Austin's pages. Internet Archive captured them, at least in part, circa 2008, and I've updated the links above to go to the Internet Archive.

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