Tulsa 1957 request

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I'm working on a story in connection with the upcoming unearthing of the 1957 Plymouth Belvedere time capsule, and I need your help. I want to convey to readers who weren't around then what Tulsa was like and how it was different 50 years ago.

If you lived or worked or visited Tulsa in 1957, whether you were a child, a teenager, or a grown-up, I want to hear your memories. You don't have to be able to remember anything earth-shattering. I'm looking for things like favorite places to eat out, your school, your neighborhood (particularly if you lived just north of downtown, in Greenwood, west of Denver downtown, or in the Locust Park area), teen hangouts, where you shopped for groceries, what you did for fun in the summer time. If you remember anything about the big events of that year -- such as the massive May flood, the car burial, the Tulsarama semi-centennial celebration -- I'd like to hear about that, too.

My deadline is the day after Memorial Day, so the sooner I hear from you, the better.

You can post your memories as a comment on this entry or e-mail me at blog at batesline dot com. If you'd rather talk to me than write to me, e-mail me your phone number, and I'll give you a call. Thanks very much.

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XonOFF said:

Actually, the 'big' flood was in 1959, when the Arkansas River went well out of its' banks. There was no Keystone Dam then.

We left the house via motor boat from the front door after having been carried on my dads' shoulders from the kitchen table top. The water inside the house was just below the table top.

We had just moved to south Tulsa two weeks prior from downtown.

News reports showed video (film?) of the massive efforts to sandbag the river, which even at the time seemed odd to me. You can't contain a river, I thought.

slaw said:

Tulsa, Oklahoma was and is still very beautiful. My family lived in Brady Heights. The actual house we lived in has been torn down for newer homes and the highway. Our neighbors were Diamond Joe Wilson, The Brady Family, and The Vandever Family (Vandever's Store). Mr. Brady was Oklahoma's First Democratic National Committeeman. He built Cain's Ballroom and the Brady Hotel. Many of the men worked at the oil refineries - including my grandfather. We went to church at Centenary United Methodist Church on N. Denver Avenue and I loved this church and still do. The stain glass windows are something to see. They just had their 50th Farmer Brown's Bean Dinner in March. As a child we would Trick or Treat for UNICEF and walk the streets in the dark in Brady Heights and collect money for this cause. Many of the neighborhoods had Halloween parties and would leave huge bowls of candy and real candles burning all over the front yards and ask you to take one piece. We always did. The church parsonage was across the street from the church and I had many wonderful times in it with the Harold Leveridge Family. Reverend Leveridge now lives in OKC. Their daughter Jackie was my best friend since birth to about middle school when we moved to East Tulsa. We went to Mohawk Zoo every week. It was so much fun. We shopped at Crystal City Shopping Center. It even had a bowling alley, called Crystal Bowl, which was a big deal in this timeframe. Crystal City had the Zingo roller coaster. I volunteered at Saint Simeon's Nursing Home on Saturday's. Everyone square danced late into the evening. All the homes had huge back patios and this is where the square dancing took place. Milk was delivered to our front door. And you burned your everyday trash in an incinerator in your backyard and the kids always played in it while it was burning. Our home had a real floor furnace - with a real flame. We got burned many times. There were no fears, we played outside and in the neighborhood till way past dark. All of the families had cabins on Ft. Gibson Lake - the place to be. But much of our life surrounded Centenary Church and we loved it.

What great memories, slaw! Thanks for posting them.

sbtulsa said:

i lived in tulsa as a child from 1951 through 1957. In 1973, I returned here permanently. I have lived in Troyer's district since 1982.

What I remember is walking to McKinnlley Elementary every morning and runniing up the hill in front of the school. both kindergarten and first grade teachers were heros to me.

I remember my dad taking me to work with him aat the Roadway express terminal which he managed. I watched from the dispatch room as an elderly maintenance man walked around the dock wiping off the engine covers of the forklifts witha rag. When he came to my dads office, he took the rag out and wiped the inside of dad's coffee cup. "do I detect a hint of 10w-40 there?"

I remember my parents dressing up to go to movies downtown.

i remember the 950 square foot house on North 72nd east avenue being big enough for a family of five.

I remember that was the first address i memorized. my mother would not stop walking me to school until i could repeat it with no help and under duress.

I remember playing sandlot baseball where Billy Mitchell elementary now stands (stood?). mothers would yell out the door for us to come home.

I remember a family at the end of our block that had two daughters my age. When i came back to Tulsa in 1973, I met my wife at FBC Tulsa in the singles department. She was one ot the two daughters.

Charlie Tooley said:

Tulsa - 1957

I was born and grew up in Tulsa; but long-time removed from living and working there now. A flood (pardon the expression) when I think back about growing up and what life was like in Tulsa in the late 1940's and early 1950's. I would not want to trade my youth and growing up in Tulsa for anything!! It was a marvelous place to live and grow-up and attend school during those years.
I lived in almost Downtown Tulsa in 1957 and I was present the day the Plymouth was buried in the Time Capsule. As a kid out of school in the summer months, I walked to the YMCA, which was just across the street at 6th & Denver. They had summer programs for us almost everyday. So, I was lucky to have been there when the car was put inside the vault. However, I cannot remember if I entered a guess at to the population of Tulsa in 2007 or not!! I guess I will eventually find out.
The "neighborhood" I lived in in sadly no longer there. My house stood approximately the Doubletree Hotel now is located. I lived on South Guthrie Ave. and walked each day to Riverview Elementary at 12th and Frisco. Our house had no air conditioning; just window fans. Some older ladies in the neighborhood still had Ice-boxes on the back porch and Ice delivery trucks used to come down through alleys' and men with big tongs and wearing rubber mats on their backs used to deliver ice to them. Summers were long and hot and sometimes "bugey". We played Hide & Seek at night under street lights and captured lightening bugs and put them in fruit jars to light up our bedroom after our nightly bath. Kids in the neighborhood used to improvise everything. We had backyard circus acts, turtle races and roller-skated down the sidewalk. Ice-cream men used to come to the neighborhood in large bicycles with boxes on the front to sell ice cream. They rang a bell on the handle bars. 11th Street near Denver had a lot of bright neon lights. A wonderful Crown Drug store with a real soda fountain for those favorite cherry limeades and phosphates. A vanilla Coke/Pepsi was also interesting. Next door was Quay's Deli that had all sorts of foods that you never ate at home! I walked everywhere in downtown Tulsa. I knew every nook & cranny in town and never was afraid to walk around in downtown alone! One of my favorite things to do on Saturday's was to go early to the YMCA, play, swim and then take my 50 CENTS to the Coney Island and get two Coney's and a bottle of pop and eat and then go to my favorite movie theatre..the RITZ Theatre. It was absolutely the most amazing place I had ever seen. It was built as a Vaudeville Theater and was decored in Italian Renaissance fixtures with moving clouds and stars on the ceiling to give the effect of sitting outside. Movies on the BIG SCREEN were incredible and large. Sometimes the old Pipe Organ was still playing at times and if you were lucky, the guy would play a silent movie and play the organ to give you a taste of movie life before sound! Heck, I didn't care what was playing; but I could get in for 10 CENTS and still have money left for popcorn after my two coneys. I cried when they tore down the Ritz theatre.
People came downtown to shop and live and work so it seemed to me that downtown was always alive. Store windows used to have TV sets in the windows to attract shoppers, esp. a night. Our First TV Set was a big Admiral console that we had for many years. I seem to recall getting it around the time the Coliseum burned down and saw the news reports about it
burning down.
Sometimes on Sundays we went to lunch with my grandmother and aunts and uncles after church. We went to a chicken dinner place on Admiral Blve that served food family style; but MY favorite place for Chicken was the "Golden Drumstick". While Glencliff may have had the corner on dairy products at the time, Hawk's Dairy was my favorite place for ice cream. One time I ate a "Pig Trough" which was a huge banana split serve in a wooden tray! I bet my dad I could eat all of it and I DID! I used to walk to and from the grocery store for my folks to get bread and small carry-home items. We carried pop bottles in metal baskets for credit returns and a wonderful old man down on Galveston Avenue ran a small grocery store that had penny candy for sale... the same stuff you now get for $1.00 or more!! The Milkman delivered milk and left bottles on the back porch where the refrigerator was located!
At the time our neighborhood was rather mixed ethnically. There was a Greek Orthodox Church nearby our house and they used to have bake sales with all sorts of interesting food you never ate at home...just like the Deli! They women were nice and gave us all sorts of sweet treats. I learned a lot about life and other people and respect their cultures. Not too far from the house was small Kosher Jewish store ran by a nice man that told me a lot about the Jewish faith. Gosh, he sold bread on racks without wrappers too! Rainbow and Wonder bread never came that way! TV shows were all new for us so watching TV in those old black & white days was special. Our school was also integrated with a lot of German and other European immigrants that fled to the U.S. after WW-II. I enjoyed being around to just listen to someone else speak a "foreign" language. We had a school cafeteria that had ladies that cooked real food everyday for us. I purchased a weekly "lunch ticket" for the whole week. It was $1.00 per week and the food was great. Sometimes in the winter months they would have "chili suppers" at night in the cafeteria with TPS Chili and cinnamon rolls. I became a Cub Scout at Riverview too. We had Pack meetings sometimes in the Gym. It was fun. I walked to the old Carnagie library and got lost in the books there at times. I thought the place was so incredible. It was fun reading the books at the library there; but I checked out books and brought them home as a part of the Summer Book Club.
In the winter months, Tulsa Central HS, used to have Saturday Morning Kid Matinees for grade school kids to attend. I remember taking my most favorite "love" at the time to one of those plays. This was shortly after she brought me a Valentine's Day card to my house since I had the measles and could not attend school the the 14th! I just KNEW then I was in Love with her!! We walked from her house to Tulsa Central to the play and then home in the snow together. On the way home we stopped by a small "Sweet Shop" downtown ran by a lady that appeared to be quite "English" who ran the small shop. The memory of growing up in Tulsa remains vividly strong as I recall turning the corner of the street where she livedafter going to the play, looking up to see large trees arching completely over the street with the snowflakes gently tumbling down on us, as though we were the only people on earth; the muffled silence that one begins to hear in the snow from the street traffic
sounds, holding hands with a 2nd grade girl in a bright red coat with the brightest blue eyes and dark hair you ever saw and remembering how good it was to be alive. Tulsa was indeed a unique and special part of my life for almost 20 of the years of my life. - Charlie Tooley, Cincinnati, OH

Gary D. Lunnon said:

I was in Jr. High in 1957 attending Bell. Sheridan Village was new then and as the other comments, it was safer then than now. We would go outside and play till dark and our folks did not seem to worry about us. The one thing I remember most about 1957 was the wooden nickels that were in circulation during part of that year to celebrate 50 years of statehood. We did not eat out as much as families do now, but I remember my dad taking us to East Side Cafe a few times. They were well known then for their chicken dinners. My mother use to shop at the Humpty Dumpty for all of the food stuffs. There was not much beyond 21 street as I remember when it was still dirt and they were building the 1st Sears store. My parents helped run the baseball batting range that use to be on the corner with the golf driving range. My how times have changed.

sbtulsa said:

One more from my own time capsule.

When Sheridan village was new, my mother promised she'd take me there if I behaved in some way. I behaved, we got on a bus and rode to Sheridan. For lunch we went to one of the drug stores and sat at the counter. Just one hamburger each and the biggest milkshake of my life. Mine was vanilla. Don't remember the name of the drug store, but I remember the waitress name tag said Arlene. In the afternoon we rode the bus back home. Both ways, there at least a dozen people waiting at the bus stop for transportation. I don;t think you see that kind of rider ship today.

To this day, I frequent restauraunts that mimmick that lunch counter. Petrick's in BA used to have a soda fountain and counter. Talley's at 11th and Yale has a counter. Brownie's near 21st and Harvard has one. The Jenks resauraunt on Main Street in Jenks America has one. I ahve always taken my kids to these places to eat and they now have a set of memories as I do. I find these place more friendly than other eating establishments.

When you write your piece, you might consider the following. People my age grew up in an era where daily life was somewhat comfortable but was plain compared to now. We had to make our our memories, for lack of a better phrase. When in public, I think we were more likely to include other people in our experiences. The technology of today allows us to make a specatcle out of an event we attend or participate in alone. In this trend we have lost a sense of connection with our fellow citizens and neighbors. If we wonder why voter participation, attention to public affairs, and charitable acts have waned in the past 50 or years, maybe we should look at the loss of our common social experiences. We now converse with our radios, i-pods, dvd's, etc. We find the requirements of interacting with people to burdonsome.

When they open the time capsule, observe how many items have pictured or rerquired the cooperation of many or mulitple people working together. Consider how many of the activities pictured don't happen much or not all today.

Bobby Ewing said:

Here are some high resolution pictures of the car and the items that were stored inside it. Looks like a "fixer upper"


Patty Dismuke Needham said:


I grew up on N. 72nd E. Avenue as well and went to McKinley. My brother John and I and my family lived across the street from the vacant field there. We could view the Airview Drive-In with ease and many a softball game was held on that field.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on May 22, 2007 1:17 AM.

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