Remembering Riverview

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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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» Tulsa 1957 from BatesLine

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 popula... Read More

2 Comments

Kevin Carson said:

One of the big things neglected by the names-and-dates histories is all the ways that the big muckety-mucks changed the structure of everyday life for the rest of us. The corporate state has "professionalized" so much of life that anyone born post-1980 probably has a hard time when self-organized play by neighborhood kids was still a common thing. Now adult-supervised "extracurricular activities" and homework take up much of the time previously available for pursuit of private interests, and the budding little careerists choose their "community involvement" based on how impressive it will look on a college ap. Worse, as if this isn't enough, the educrats talking about "year-round learning" and dismissing "ownlife" as just another atavism that interferes with being an efficiently processed human resource.

Anon said:

Well, I have to turn myself in....

I attended Riverview in 1957 as a kindergartner.

Lived right on Frisco just a block and a half from the school, so could walk to school (with one of my older siblings).

That was it, I went to 1st grade at Holy Family, then the family moved to 'suburban' Tulsa, just south of 61st Street. It was outside the city limit at the time (IIRC, 51st Street remained the city limit until about 1959 when it was moved to 61st Street). I-44 was just completed in 1959.

Two weeks after the move came The Flood of 1959. There was no Keystone Dam then and the river came over us. Left the house being carried to a boat at the front door.

Anyway, Riverview was something I had fond memory of, but little actual recollection other than the building always being there and some playground activities.

I remember being able to look out my sisters' bedroom window and see "The Weather Tower" around the First National Bank (or, was it National Bank of Tulsa?) tower which is now 320 S. Boston Building. It would change color from green to red to flashing red depending on weather conditions. When it flashed red, it was time to head to the basement.

The Sophian Plaza was at the end of the street and had valet parking, guys in uniforms. Real crusty. As kids, we mostly spent a lot of time running around, riding bikes around the blocks and through the alleys. Never really got beyond Riverside Drive, Denver Ave, 15th or 11th Streets at my age.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on January 1, 2007 11:22 PM.

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