Tulsa History: March 2007 Archives

Over on the TulsaNow forum, Steve, who has collected some very interesting material on the history of his current neighborhood, Lortondale, has written some of his memories of growing up in Tulsa in the '60s and '70s and is inviting others to do the same. He grew up in Moeller Heights and attended the very modern St. Pius X Catholic school and parish in that neighborhood. (The neighborhood appears to be named after the owner of the farm on which the neighborhood was built; the parish met in the barn before the building was completed.)

Also, there's a discussion about the origin of Tulsa's street and avenue names. If you're curious to know who named the streets and why the names were chosen, or if you have some knowledge to share on the topic, click on through.

From the March 11, 1957, Tulsa Tribune we learn which Lewis gave his name to Tulsa's Lewis Avenue:

Services for Mrs. Elizabeth Bell Lewis, widow of S. R. (Buck) Lewis, pioneer Tulsa attorney and real estate developer for whom Lewis Avenue was named, will be at 3 p.m. Tuesday in the Musgrove Funeral Home at Claremore.

Burial will be in Woodlawn Cemetery there.

Mrs. Lewis, 84, died in a Claremore convalescent home Saturday after an illness of six months. She lived in Tulsa for many years before returning to her native Claremore last fall.

Her husband died in February, 1950. He had lived in Tulsa since 1887 and was a Democratic Party leader for many years.

He organized the Cherokee Land Co., a real estate firm which developed the Cherokee Heights Addition north of Archer Street and west of Lewis Ave. He also helped write a three-volume "History of Tulsa" and wrote "History of the Cherokees."

Mrs. Lewis was a first cousin of the late Will Rogers, former state Sen. Clu Gulager of Muskogee and the late John Gulager, Muskogee County judge, and a second cousin of former state Sen. Dennis Bushyhead of Claremore.

She was a sister of Mrs. A. V. Robinson of Claremore.

Blogger Kirk Demarais of Secret Fun Spot has long been fascinated by Phantasmagoria, the dark ride at swiftly vanishing Bell's Amusement Park. He detailed his history with the ride, along with photos and sketches, in this entry from February 8.

As sometimes happens when you post something on a blog, he got a reply from someone else with an interest in the topic -- long-time Bell's electrician Buddy Stefanoff, who offered Kirk the chance to come look around inside the ride as it was being dismantled and packed to move. In the process, Kirk learned more of the history of Phantasmagoria and some of its intriguing secrets.

"Farewell" may not be the right word, actually. Toward the end of that second entry you'll find a sneak preview of a concept for a new dark ride at Bell's new location, wherever that may be.

On a related note, a couple of days ago my wife and six-year-old daughter were driving past Expo Square on 21st Street, and as they went past Zingo, my little girl -- and she's small for her age -- started talking excitedly about all the rides she could ride this year that she was too short for last season. That's when my wife had to break the news -- Bell's was going away. She sobbed the rest of the way home.

From my years of involvement with the Midtown Coalition of Neighborhood Associations, I know how relieved the immediate neighbors are that Bell's is going away. Personally I never wanted to see it leave entirely; I liked one Sunrise Terrace homeowner's proposal to have Tulsa County accommodate Bell's expansion toward the interior of Expo Square, along the State Fair Midway and away from the neighborhoods. Neighboring homeowners very reasonably wanted to prevent any encroachment into the open space buffer along the west side of the Fairgrounds.

There was a long legal fight to revoke the county's permission for Bell's to construct a new coaster closer to the neighborhood, and it was finally resolved this last year with a compromise. With Bell's gone, the neighbors won't have to worry about Bell's expansion plans anymore.

They will have to worry about whatever County Commissioner Randi Miller plans to put in its place. Oh, she says they don't know what's going to be done with the land, but you don't throw away a revenue source without something in mind to replace it. My intuition is that Miller has known what will be going in there since long before she announced that Bell's was being evicted, but she isn't yet willing to take the political flak for the decision.

(The neighbors will have more say over what will replace Bell's if the City of Tulsa annexes the Fairgrounds. Without annexation, only the County Commissioners and officials directly appointed by them will have a role in choosing the new use. With annexation, any change in zoning, any special exception, or variance would have to come through the City of Tulsa's zoning process, and would be more likely to be compatible with the surrounding neighborhoods.)

Would it have killed Miller and the Fair Board to give us just one more summer to say goodbye to the park as it has been for decades?

MORE: Kirk has a new post up about the White Lightnin' log flume ride.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Tulsa History category from March 2007.

Tulsa History: February 2007 is the previous archive.

Tulsa History: June 2007 is the next archive.

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