Monday, September 21, 2009

The Gathering Steps

In its greatest days, these steps were the place where classes joined and crammed together for a class photograph that would appear the following spring in the Wah-Sha-She, the name given our school annual and the school newspaper.  We thought little about it when the photograph was being snapped but relished its appearance at the year's end when we saw ourselves and our friends together for the first time.  There were the class photographs such as our 1957 7-1, 7-2 and 7-3 groups, and then there were identifiable birds of a feather that flocked together, such as band, basketball, football, and all of the different opportunities that were open to us.  Seventh and Eighth grades had the numbered divisions of 1 for choir, 2 for band, and 3 for anything else that didn't fit the first two classifications.  I don't know if that continues today.Once we were freshmen, we had broader choices and if we were in band, it was the entire band, made up of all classes freshmen and above. 

Over the years, I have taken time to look at my collection of Wah-She-She books and those annoying moments of posing together then now take on new light and new life.  Those moments were silly and we acted silly, performing immaturely to prove how mature we were.  If we had behaved better, the photographs might be better.  But we were kids and behaved as kids and perhaps that is some of the greater charm today; that the photographs captured some of that giddy, laughing, teasing charm.  There would be time for maturity later.  It would come in the forms of the death of a president, a war that could not be won and would cost so many lives; maturity would mean marriages, births, divorces and even deaths. 

So those days, we were supposed to be just what we were.  I look at the photographs and I see gaps where a boy stands in the photograph.  The inimitable Henry Jones, a Pawhuska original, looks back at me and I laugh at him, just as I did at the flesh and blood Henry Jones.  I see him, yet I know he is gone, preserved only in photographs and in our memories.  The photograph is black and white, now taking on a bit of a yellow tone.  The picture in my memory is full color, with the blue tones of Levi jeans that most boys wore, the black and white plaid shirts, abundant then, the Lavender Blue of Doug Givens old chevrolet, once he finally finished his masterpiece.  I know that memory is not perfect and that in some way, those pictures I carry are just as faded as are those on the pages I see.  But what has faded seems to be the hard edges, the grudges we kept, the comparison to prove who was faster, tougher, better.  I remember only the laughter now, the smiles and a few stupid human tricks that we did, such as putting Bobby Lovelace's little blue car between two parking meters near the Dairy Queen. 

Left to our own devices, instead of being forced to pose together for school photographs, some of the kids would never have appeared in photographs.  Some were camera shy, some were poor and could not afford a camera and film.  Some were just too busy.  We did not have one person who carried a camera and constantly snapped photographs.  Some took photographs, which were dutifully left in the hands of their mother when they went off to college, military service, their own lives. Once in a while, some of these surface.  I found the simplest of all photographs of Jess Tomey and me.  We were in Long Beach, California and in an amusement park, we stepped into one of the old photo booths and for about $.50, we took four or five photographs. A quick glance at it and Jess comes to life again, as he is laughing in it.  Triggered by that photograph, taken in about 1963, I have a flood of memories, mostly in Pawhuska though some are of California.  We went to so many bad movies at the Friday night previews, mostly horror movies, and they were horrible indeed.  We didn't care.  We weren't movie critics; we were kids, and having the time of our lives in our way. 

I'm grateful for the gathering steps and now for the photographs we were forced to make, for they were often the only record of someone we knew, weren't best friends with, but knew, and now, the great gap of time since then makes them friends.  We have all lost so many friends and any connection to them keeps them alive, so now we clutch at stories to help us remember.  The boy that I barely knew who was standing five places away from me in the photograph has been moved closer to me by the gaps created.  He and I are now best friends as we tell stories about the boys we knew who stood between us in the photograph. 

One of my friends said, and I do not remember which friend, "There will be another gathering, later, in a better place, and we shall all get together then, to remember and tell stories as we once did.  Only this time, it will last an eternity."  Perhaps it too will be on The Gathering Steps.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

First Motor Scooter

This model is a 1958 version and that was my first motor scooter. The Cushman Corporation of Lincoln, Nebraska built the motor scooter and marketed it through their dealer network as the Pacemaker. This photograh is used with permission, courtesy of Howard33,
The model that I had was the Allstate Jetsweep, sold by Sears and Roebuck company. For a generation that gets information via television and the Internet, it may be difficult to grasp the idea of a large catalog that was mailed to your home each and every year and either took the place of a large store or complemented it with additional information. The stores from which we received catalogs were Sears and Roebuck (Sears), Montgomery Ward, and Speigel. There were others that were seasonal, or sold fruits, nuts, and gift baskets, but Sears and Montgomery Ward were the most interesting to a boy of twelve or so. The Sears' and Ward's catalogs had motor scooters in their pages. Sears always had one model of everything labeled as "Our Best," which meant it was the most expensive. I was desperately searching for the motor scooter I wanted combined with what I thought my mother would let me get. There was a Cushman dealer in Bartlesville and I wanted a Cushman Eagle but certain realities led to my getting the Jetsweep. My mother drove my friend Terry Rainwater and me (we always had to have a friend along) to Tulsa, to the newly opened Sears' store on 21st Street and Yale, and I picked out the Jetsweep. It was delivered on Wednesday of the following week and the wait from that Saturday until Wednesday was one of the longest in my life, not counting the four years to the end of my navy service.

When Wednesday arrived, a large group of boys had gathered to see the new motor scooter and we waited as it was unloaded from the Sears delivery truck. There was a seemingly endless processing of papers as my mother read and signed and exchanged conversation with the senior delivery man, and then we started it and I took my first ride on it. I did not yet have a driver's license. I had turned fourteen in February and this was in April so I soon had a license and I was off on my rides. There was no passenger seat; just the back half of the cushion so a passenger and I shared that. I had the flat board to rest my feet on; the passenger had to fend for himself. The brake lever and headlight dimmer switch were the only controls on the floor as the throttle was a twist grip on the right handlebar. It was quite easy to ride. The Pacemaker and Jetsweep models did not require gear shifting as there was a single speed only. There was a simple centrifigal clutch with a throw out bearing that allowed the scooter to idle; as you increased engine speed the bearing moved out and engaged the clutch and the scooter moved under its own power. The problem was that, with its 4.8 brake horse power (BHP) engine and single speed transmission, the scooter was underpowered, so that it could climb only the hill at 18th Street in hilly Pawhuska, Oklahoma; or I could drive down Main Street, across town and take Tinker past the cemetery and over the gentle rises of the numbered streets from 15th to 18th. It was embarrassing sometimes to start up a hill, like Ki-He-Kah, with a flurry of noise and smoke, and end up pushing the scooter to the top, with the engine running and struggling to help while friends went by hanging out of their parents' car shouting "Get a horse!" I wanted to sometimes. Still, I was filled with pride that I had a scooter of any kind and this model had unique beauty. I suspect few of them survive and maybe that is fair. The scooter had many problems and eventually my mother helped me replace this with a 1959 Cushman Eagle with the 8 horsepower engine and two speed transmission. Everything was going well with that until I was hit by a car and nearly killed; but that's another story.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I Used to Live Here...

Prudom Avenue and 6th Street
I used to live here, not in the church van or the parking lot, of course, but once upon a time, long, long ago....Hold on! It wasn't that long ago. I'm only sixty-five myself. But once, a great, white house stood where this parking lot is today. The lot appears so much smaller with the old house gone, yet I know it must be the same size. The house occupied only half though, for there was an empty lot just south, between the house and the alley.

The east facing front of the house sat back about twenty-five feet to the west from the curb. That front was what we called the front door, but there really was no back door. We called one door the back door but it was actually on the north side (i.e. a side door) of the house, opening onto 6th Street, the trail that led downtown if I went west, and I heard "Go west young man." I did not know which way west was but four years in the navy and thirty years in the oil industry eventually taught me to think in terms of directions. But I knew which way to turn when I exited the side door and I could find my way to the end of the block.

There was a porch in front and two wooden steps that led up to it and about five adult strides led you to the door. There were often lawn chairs on the porch for two or three people to sit, but sometimes it was empty of chairs. Sometimes, we might just sit on the porch by the steps. The porch was made of wooden planks, probably one by four inches, that ran north and south and the porch and the columns on each end were painted gray; there were two columns on each side of the steps. The front room, as we called it, was ample but not overly large. The air conditioner, once we got our first one, was suspended from a window on the south side and the television antenna lead came in there, forever condemning the television to a place in the southwest corner of the room. There was always a couch against the east wall and a large chair, which my grandmother claimed, against the northwest half wall. I say half wall because the wall extended only a few feet since there was a large doorway that led into the next room which was the dining room. There were only the living and dining rooms, the kitchen, and a small back porch downstairs. It was a two story house with bed rooms and bathroom upstairs. Many people assumed it was a large house from its outward appearance but the house was divided in two and the west half was a single story, second apartment with a living room, bath, kitchen and two bedrooms. It was always rented to another family. Had it been the original house without the division, it would have been large. We moved there in about 1950 and I lived there with my mother and grandmother until March 9, 1961 when I enlisted in the United States Navy. My grandmother, Louisa Victoria Lessert, was outgoing and generous and the house was often filled with Revard and Hardy family members; for dinners, card games, drop by visits and for a drink. People rarely called to say that they were coming and just stopped by. My friends were often there to share games and play with toys. We raided the icebox and cupboards for anything to snack on and ice cold pop was kept in quantity. When I stop for a few minutes and let my mind wonder, I don't see a parking lot. I see a house filled with people, sharing wild stories and laughter, kids I knew, often Bobby Hughes and Donna Poulton, and my mother and grandmother. I see my dogs, George, Mitzi and Patsy, all terriers that were my best friends. I see the old Cocker Spaniel, Skippy who chose to live with us but would only come inside for visits, and one dog, Patrick, who followed me home and stayed for years. There was a cat who blessed us with kittens and entertained the kids of my fourth grade class as we counted the days until their eyes would be open. Those who are new to Pawhuska, those who have forgotten; they will see a parking lot, but I will always see and remember the old white house where I grew up.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Pawhuska Trails

Do Pawhuska trails really exist? If they do, what are they, where do they lead, where do they begin? And more importantly, where do they end? Perhaps trail is too narrow a word making us think of a single, narrow and dusty trail where hikers tread. How about The Oregon Trail? It crossed the western states and brought promises to Americans who longed for a better life somewhere else. Was it a single trail? Probably not. It was probably a series of trails, wide enough for a number of wagons to travel side by side, although in its toughest spots, it probably was a single trail. Should we have said Pawhuska Highways, Pawhuska Roads or Pawhuska Paths? I just like trails better as it gives more of a feeling of adventure, a sense of we don't know where we are going but the way looks interesting. Do the trails lead into Pawhuska, or do they begin there and lead to other places? I remember the first world map we were shown, perhaps in third grade, and we could not see Pawhuska on it. It was too small, not worthy of a dot. But Pawhuska was the center of our world, so its trails had to lead outward. And they did. For some of us, those trails led to other towns and cities, such as Ponca City and Tulsa, but those were short visits and we always seemed to come home. Later, the trails would lead further, to colleges, to OSU and OU, and for one young woman, to Wellesly. For some, they would lead to Germany, France, Japan, the Philippine Islands, Korea, and sadly, to Vietnam. Yet we seemed to come home again, even if just for a visit. For others the trails would lead to careers, marriages, births, and divorces. For some, the trails led to losing a child, yet we seemed to come home again. The trails have led to great highs as we climbed corporate ladders, rose to high military rank, became doctors, lawyers and teachers, wrote our names in sports record books, and preached from mighty pulpits. And in small ways, we always helped our neighbors, whoever they were. And the trails have led to dismal lows as we saw a President gunned down and lost our innocence. That was not enough and we saw his brother killed and the preacher and we wondered when it would end. The trails led to Vietnam for many of us, yet we seemed to come home again, some to rest under the earth on the hill where we honor them each year with words and songs and twenty-one gunshots into the air. We play taps for them and the solemnity we feel is real, and we miss them; some came home again. We follow the trails that lead outward from Pawhuska to, who knows where, for it is an adventure, but at the end of the trail, we always seem to come home again, and for us, home is Pawhuska.

Friday, August 7, 2009


The truth is that I did not remember exactly how the name was spelled, but modern miracle, I researched it quickly on the Internet via and confirmed the spelling I had chosen. When I began my career at Pawhuska High School we had essentially three choices for lunch. It was bring it yourself, eat in the cafeteria in the brand new elementary school, or eat at the Huskie Grill just across the street on Lynn Avenue and 15th Street. During my 7th or 8th grade year, the new Tastee-Freez was opened just down the road a piece (three blocks) on Lynn and 12th Street. The Huskie Grill was fine and I had eaten many a hamburger there, topped off with a soft drink and Fritos or some chips, or a Snickers candy bar. But at ages twelve, thirteen and so, our need for variety was great and also, the Huskie Grill was just difficult to get into some times. Standing room only and elbow to elbow. The Tastee-Freez took some pressure off of the other eateries and was still close enough that we could get there, stand in line, order, get our food, eat and get back to school on time. And there was an abundance of social life while you were there because you were with a mix of classes, older and younger. Some were there on bicycles, some in cars, so we saw older class members, some that we looked up to, some that we feared, and we were seen as well by younger kids who felt the same about us; we just didn't know they did. The Tastee-Freez faced to the west, had a window where we could bark our orders and where they would call us when it was ready. When there was time, we could go inside and sit at the five or six stools that adjoined the small counter that was on the south side of the building. Sometimes on a longer ride on the motor scooters we might stop in there and have something, especially on cold winter nights. The ghost of the Tasteee-Freez is white now, but in the beginning, it was a rough brown, which looked fine on it. The fare was similar to the Dairy Queen with hamburgers, hot dogs, chili pies, soft ice cream and sundaes. Once the Dairy Queen added the additional room, it became larger than the Tastee-Freez and parking was more abundant downtown around the Dairy Queen, so the DQ had more business, but the Tastee-Freez was so convenient from school and it was welcomed when it opened. The last time that I really spent much time there was in the middle 1970's when Carl Core operated it and David Meriable and I would make a run there to provide lunch for us when he lived just off of 12th Street. When I pause long enough and look at the ghost left behind, I still see kids I knew, now senior citizens, and the laughter, the songs and the noise echo through time, and as Ronnie Havens says, prove that they existed.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Red Bud

It is a Subway Restaurant now but once it was the Redbud, and I do not remember if it was the Redbud Cafe or restaurant. It is one of those things I am photographing that I can not, because it no longer exists. In a sense, I am photographing the ghost of the Redbud, but it is as close as I can achieve now. Mrs. Irene Looney was a widow and had an adopted son, Joe, and Looney Trucking Company. Their trucks were for oilfield supply and they were often parked on a vacant lot across from the Chevrolet garage. Perhaps Mrs. Looney did not want to stay in the trucking business because she felt it better for a woman to be in, well, the restaurant business. She sold Looney and built an original restaurant just west of the Clear Creek bridge on highway 60 towards Ponca City. It was the first restuarant that I recall being built from the ground up as a restaurant and it was pretty popular for some time. It was far from the high school, which was on north Lynn Avenue, the opposite end of Pawhuska, but one day, Ernie, some other boys and I mounted our Cushman Eagle motor scooters and raced to the Redbud for lunch, probably not the smartest idea any of us ever had, but we went and had a nice, leisurely lunch. It turned out that one thing in the new restaurant that did not work was the wall clock and our leisurely lunch had gone over. We made a desperate dash to the motor scooters and a more desperate dash across Pawhuska, through downtown, up Lynn Avenue and arrived in class about thirty-five minutes late, for which we were ridiculed, but not punished. I think our teacher was Jim Minor and the year must have been 1959. All of us were still be riding scooters together and once we turned sixteen, mostly during 1960, that changed, so that suggests 1959.

The restaurant was painted a reddish hue outside, and the front door did not have the wind shielding entrance that the Subway does. As you walked inside, there were booths going around the walls and tables in the middle. The cashier and counter were deep inside, where Mrs. Looney and sometimes Joe cheerily took our money. Liquor was not served although beer might have been, but I was about six years away from being able to buy a beer legally, so it didn't matter. For Pawhuska at the time, it was a pretty good restaurant, certainly in competition with the Manhattan Cafe downtown. Joe Looney and I were close friends at one time but by the time the restuarant opened, we had become more acquaintances than friends. That happens to us as we grow, age and change, and it's usually not bitter, just a process. Mrs. Looney bought Joe a 1959 red and white Ford hard top convertible, the car we called a "flip-top" as it had a true hard top that was lowered into the body of the car as opposed to a folding canvas top, which was the norm for convertibles. Joe had an accident a few years later during a liquor run from Ponca City and the car did a flip-top as it turned over and was destroyed. They boys in the car were lucky and had only minor injuries, but the car was gone.

My favorite meal at the Redbud was friend chicken with a chicken fried steak smothered in gravy next in line. There were few diet drinks then, so we drank Cocoa Cola, Pepsi Cola, 7-Up, and Dr. Pepper with the sugar that was in them. There was a telephone in the restuarant but no one had mobile telephones so a meal was fairly enjoyable, with people seated at the table actually talking to each other. Dining at the Redbud was comparable to dining at the Manhattan, downtown allthough the Manhattan still seemed a little more special, perhaps for the catttleman's flavor that permeated the Manhattan.

For a time, the Redbud had become a Lot-a-burger, from the franchise in Bartlesville, and now it's a Subway, but in those first days, it was the Redbud and an unmistakable dining place in Pawhuska, Oklahoma. We lost Joe Looney in the latter 1980's. Like the Redbud we knew, he is missed.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Unknown but not Forgotten

It is possible that I have some old black and white photograph of Union Grade School, but I do not know where it is now. I may find it, but again, I may not. There are many things that I wish I had photographed because they are gone now, and it is the case that they are not so much forgotten now but unknown. They are not unknown to my contemporaries, but unknown now to the young people of Pawhuska. I chose to begin photographing things that I can not, because they are gone, but I can photograph where they were, whether the place is now an empty field, as some are, or a nice residence, as this is. This is the corner of 7th Street and Rogers Avenue, just to the north of the block; at the opposite end is Revard Avenue, and this was where Union Grade School once stood. It was where I began my public education, starting in the first grade with Bobby Hughes, Donna Poulton, Sue Nan Noel, the Mitchell brothers, Roy and Ray, Sarah Bowen, Bobby Cole, Chuck Carnegie and others. From where I shot this photograph, we would be looking at the front of the old building and the east side, though I did not know east from west then. Our first grade class room was up one floor and all the way to the back of the building, on this same east side. Our teacher was Mrs. Sauter, an elderly, white-haired lady, slightly chubby, though I would have never told her that. We were generally six years of age, a great gap between our ages and experience, so, naturally a few of us said she was old, again, something I would have never said to her. I didn't know what old was but she didn't act old to me. She didn't get down and play on the ground with any of us, but she kept a certain pace, and I don't remember her being ill or taking time off. I don't know if teaching first grade was a reward or a punishment for we came to her with a wide array of backgrounds and some of us were barely housebroken. I think about how difficult winter must have been for her as we all needed some help in getting dressed with hats, gloves or mittens, and heavy coats, for our brief recess outside, only to have to help us in reverse when we came in. But I also remember how cold old Union could be and perhaps we remained in our heavy clothing on those bitter cold days. Our lockers were inside of the class room, on the walls that closed us in and the black board was on the west side of the room so that we faced west. The room was always filled with our seasonal art work, our best efforts at making suns, flowers, people, and animals, usually dogs, for all of us had seen dogs up close. Few of us had seen the lions, tigers and elephants that some drew and painted, and finger painting was the most fun of all. She would proudly exhibit our best work and have our parents, or just our mother in many cases, come in and see it. I know that gave some hope that we might actually make it through the entire school system and that our parents had not made a mistake. Mrs. Sauter, like Union, is unknown by many today, but not forgotten by us who knew her then.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Meet You at The Circle A Pardner

When I was a kid in Pawhuska, certainly in the earl 1950's, we had three movie theaters downtown, plus the Corral Drive-in Theater a few miles out of town on Highway 99 near the Osage County Fairgrounds. I rarely got to go to the drive-in then because we did not have a car. But the downtown theaters were in walking distance and bicycle range. Everyone my age, and I am now 65, remembers the Ki-He-Kah and State theaters, but there was a third theater along Main Street, just across the street from Clifton's Gift Shop, the Pullman Cafe and Shamrock Billiards, just to locate it. I do not know for how long it was open, but I must have been around eight years old when I remember going there a lot. It had certain draws for me at that age for it had wooden hitching posts outside at the entrance, a wooden floor next to the ticket booth and the western or cowboy theme was consistent throughout the theater. Once we were inside, old time lanterns were suspended overhead and I think I remember wagon wheels. The concession stand was against the west wall just after you went in. I saw a number of movies there, but unlike those I saw at the State and Ki-He-Kah, I remember none of the movies by title or actor. I remember that we went on Saturday and it was always a cowboy movie and always a double feature. I do not remember seeing cartoons and documentaries, news, and other things that I do recall from the other theaters. It is possible that the movie theater was opened only on Saturdays but I have few facts about it as I just have not found articles or literature that described this old friend. The name of the theater was The Circle A Theater, so it carried the western theme throughout. Years later, I had become friends with Eugene Malloy, whom I recall as older than I was but we were still pretty good friends at the time. One day, he showed me that there was a break in the wall in his father's business, which was Malloy's Dry Cleaning, and we went through it into the abandoned Circle A Theater. It was dark with a persistent musty smell about the building and there were only ghosts from our past then but it was fascinating, nevertheless. As my friend Ronnie Havens has said about a few things in Pawhuska, you go back to see them just to prove to yourself that they really existed. Ronnie said that about the Old Reservoir when we were inspecting it, and I understand what he means. There are so many things we do as children and they then disappear due to economic reasons usually, and we don't trust our memory. We are suddenly twenty-five or forty-five years old and we wonder: Did I really do that? Did that really exist? We have to prove it to ourselves, and part of what Eugene Malloy and I were doing that day and a few others, was proving to ourselves that it did exist. We had a great time talking about it although we did not know the word "reminisce"then. The last time I was able to go into this old building was in 1987 when our Pawhuska High School class of 1962 held its 25th reunion and on Friday evening, it was started at the Elks Club, then downtown and in the old movie theater. There were no traces remaining that I could identify as the Circle A theater. Still, it was nice to have been that close to it once again and it brought back memories, old and imperfect as they were. It was a warm and fuzzy feeling, once again, Pawhuska of the 1950's, our small and imperfect version of Camelot. It was a good time to be in Pawhuska.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Panhatchapie, The Life of a Princess

I love the phrase, "we celebrate the life of...." It is so much better a remembrance than, "we gather to mourn..." Panhatchapie was not really an Osage Princess, but she was my princess. She was born Emilly Belle but some man in her early life began to call her Panhatchapie which was shortened to Pan, the name I knew her by all of my life until last year when I asked her if her given name was truly Pan. From the first time I remember seeing her, I thought she was beautiful and then I would see movies with actress Ann Blyth (The Helen Morgan Story, The Great Caruso) and think how much alike she and Pan looked. She was a mystery woman in my young life for she would appear with a gift from some strange land and then dissappear again. Pan had little formal education but she was a voracious reader and quick learner. She understood which clothes augmented her natural beauty and educated, wealthy and powerful men were attracted to her. She was married to an air force colonel, a diplomat, and a doctor. She lived in New York and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil where she learned to speak Portuguese. Pan was not above telling a lie, even on an official document for someone catching her beauty suggested she apply to work as an airline hostess. With no experience and her limited education, she basically fabricated a history complete with college education and several years experience as a flight attendant. My mother received a letter from Flying Tigers asking for verification of Pan's story and she didn't want to lie but ultimately, she confirmed Pan's lie as a truth and then worried that the FBI would come and get her. Pan went to work for Flying Tigers and traveled around the world, adding to my toy collection as she did. She kept in touch with me through my navy career and when my son Stephen was born, she visited us in Bartlesville and took us to our favorite restaurant, which we could not afford. She was with us through many visits to Pawhuska, her home town, and Bartlesville and I was able to meet her in California at different times. She never seemed to age to me and I was stunned when she told me that she had told her doctor that she was eighty-three and did not want heroic treatments to fight the cancer that had invaded her pancreas, liver and kidney. How could Pan, who never changed be eighty-three? But I had not seen her in years, although we talked on the telephone often. The last time I had seen her was when her brother, Bud Purvis, had called me at work and said that Pan would meet us in the great hall in the Adams Building and I dropped everything to rush over to meet them. There was Pan, radiant, laughing, beautiful as ever. She was my guardian angel, someone always there for me, when I was a good kid, and when I was confused, lost and in trouble. My brother Charles called me last night to let me know that she had left us yesterday, leaving a hole in our lives that will not be filled. I knew she was going to die for the machines, CAT, PET, and other had told us so, and had even told us she would be here six months. The selfish part of us wanted her to have that six months and more, for ourselves, but now she won't suffer longer and that's good. I have seen too many suffer, especially with cancer. As much as I miss her, and will miss her, I am grateful that she won't suffer longer. Pan was a princess, and an angel to me and mine, and now she rests with the angels. We celebrate the life of Pan Purvis Ray, 1926-2009.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Silent Sentinels

In an earlier post, I had mentioned the Silent Sentinels that guard the entrances to Williams Park, the wonderful and well maintained park in Pawhuska, Oklahoma. They are not monoliths for a monolith is a single stone, like the Washington Monument, yet there is a monolithic quality about them, something from ancient Mexico when the Aztecs and Mayans ruled in the Americas. Each sentinel is made up of many stones placed together, and each has a ramp leading up that could be climbed by a small boy, especially one outfitted in Keds, for the rubber sole gripped fast, allowing us to run up from the back side and climb to the top, a plateau from which we could stake our claim to the tower that had become a fortress for us to defend. It wasn’t so high that it was very dangerous; yet just scaling its heights was an adventure. Once atop it, we usually had a friend or two join us and we fought off all pretenders to keep the sanctity of the tower we had just captured. It was much more exciting if we had just come to the park from a movie at the State or Ki-He-Kah Theaters when there had been a fort in the movie. It could have been a western fort, with General George A. Custer, for we knew few generals by name then, or it could have been a castle fort if we had just seen Ivahoe or Robin Hood. Sometimes we were forced off by bigger, stronger boys but there were several of these Silent Sentinels and we usually just moved to a new one. Once in a while a genuine fight broke out because someone refused to yield their trophy, but that was rare for we were seldom in the park without adult supervision, and that usually meant moms for most of the men worked somewhere during the day. The best times were actually during the school year, in late spring or early autumn, when the weather was still cooler and so many of our friends were together in one collection. The arrival of summer sent many families on vacation or working the oil fields and pipelines; some kids went to summer camps. It was harder to find a group and a mother to take a bunch of us to the park, yet sometimes there might be a church function, although those tended to be over supervised. As I look at this old friend from my childhood, I still see mystery in it and perhaps that is why these great stones attracted us so much. Like the wrinkled face of an old man, the weathered rocks, their cement filled interstices, seem to write a story and make us want to read more, to know how all of those marks and scars came to be and what lies beneath them. The other thing I see when I look at them is kids I knew, though I can’t remember their names or faces, but I remember them, and it brings me joy to see these old rocks doing so well still.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Willams Park and The First Boy in Space

The entry into Pawhuska's Williams Park is of classic beauty. Pillars of sandstone silently guard the entry way, standing like sentinels on each side of the road. They have been there for as long as I can remember, so at least sixty years for as small boys, my friends and I would climb them, easily done for there are step like structures that lead to the plateau at the top. It was especially rewarding if we had just come from a movie where we had seen a fort and a raging battle for our imaginations took hold and the movie became our real life as we fought, first to gain the high ground, and then to protect it from those dastardly pretenders trying to dislodge us. We had imaginary rifles, bows and arrows, grenades, and dynamite; whatever the movie had suggested. Inside of the park itself were lush green carpets of thick grass that allowed us to run free, play some kind of a ball game, and I suppose it offered some protection for those times we fell from a swing or off of one of the merry-go-rounds there. A graveled road ran around the perimeter of the park and just outside of the perimeter, especially on the north side, were slopes that let our adventures go further. The slope on the north side was steep, rocky and in the bottom was a small stream where we could watch tadpoles, frogs and small fish. We saw snakes there that challenged our manhood but I know now that they were harmless snakes, seeking only to feed themselves on small rodents and nuisances. Then, all snakes were poisonous and dangerous, to be feared, and we escaped, barely of course, with our lives.

We took Williams Park for granted but when I go there now, I simultaneously go to two places. I go the quiet place where nature is at its best and I can relax and breath in the freshness of the park. I also go back in time fifty to sixty years and see boys I knew, having fun, laughing, being the best of friends to each other and making silent vows to each other that they would always be there for each other.

I remember the big swing sets and how we boys tried to outdo each other as we went higher and higher and Bobby Hughes went so high that the tether of the swing set was almost parallel to the ground. Boys on the ground were shouting to him, "Jump! Jump! Jump" and laughing so hard that they almost fell down, and then Bobby moved forward, left the seat and the tether behind and went sailing out into space, the greatest leap to which I was ever witness. I can still see him suspended in air, for a moment, as he laughed and then the wide grin on his face slowly turned to fear. He seemed to sail forever as his arc went above the plane of the swing and then began to level out, and then to sink. He shrieked as the ground moved upward to meet his re-entry to earth and then there was the thud. No sounds came from him as we ran to him, for he had knocked all the air from his lungs. We thought he was dead at first, but he soon began to gather color, and then breath, and then he was on his feet, no harm done, and a smile began to spread on his lips, and for a moment he was our hero, the boy who had gone further, higher, and faster than any of the rest of us.

"Do it again!" said one of the boys.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Triangle Building, north side

Triangle Building, Pawhuska, Oklahoma

This building, more than any other, seemed to symbolize Pawhuska when I was growing up. I took this photograph in September, 2004, when I had fears that the building might be razed. As a boy and young man, I took the old building for granted, assumed that it would always be there, but recent times have been difficult for it. It is old and cranky, with the many problems that beset all structures created by the hand of man. One of its flaws is, and has always been, that there are no parking spaces near the building. When I was a kid, I would see someone park in front of the J.C. Penney store, exit their car and walk over to the Triangle Building to conduct business. My elderly Uncle Franklin Revard once had an office somewhere upstairs and I would stop to visit him, smell the law books that lined the shelves, the clinging odor of his powerful cigars, and step carefully around the brass spittoon resting beside his rich, oaken desk. I often had to reintroduce myself to him. I, along with many others, continue to hope that someone will step in to rescue the building. Time changes everything, including me, but my heart would suffer if the old building was no more.

Court house and its imposing stairway

From when I was a small boy, I was in awe of this building. It sits slightly less than half way up Grandview Avenue's hill, on the west side of the street and faces east; parking is not allowed along the street. I marvel that any adult would start at the bottom of the steps and walk up. I did it as a boy, have done it as an adult but I was breathless from my climb, and I was in good shape then, running more than six miles a day. The building itself is stately, with a sense of humor. Inside, on one of the walls above a stairway is a sign warning about "No spitting" and a subsequent fine of $.25. I was in the building a few times when a trial was in session. Ronnie Havens's father was an attorney and a few times we went to see him. We did not understand much of the trial proceedings, but we watched for at home, he was a quiet man, scholarly to me; in the court room he was speaking emphatically, emotionally, almost angrily and he was a very different man than the one we saw in their home.

Atop the building is the framework of a star and every Christmas it was lighted and could be seen from many places about town. The hill next to the stairs is covered with small boulders of native stone, sand stone, and ivy grows between the rocks. I used to climb the rocks rather than use the stairs as it was both challenging and fun. It was fun except for the times that I stirred angry swarms of bees or wasps and I could not escape their wrath for the uneven surface of the rocks, the tangle of vines, kept me prisoner and so I was stung on a few occasions.

On the south side of the building is an empty lot, but when I was a kid, it was where the old State Theater stood. I have no photographs of my own of the State Theater as I did not know that I would need them. My memory was good and I knew that the State Theater would live in my heart and mind as long as I lived. It still lives for many of us but the number is fewer. I wish I had known more about the future then but I thought Pawhuska would always be the same. Time marches on.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Top of the Stairs

Downtown Pawhuska, Oklahoma lies on a flat and fairly even surface. Downtown is where the business section was and is, where city hall and the police department are, where the doctors, dentists and lawyers are; in short, most of the working part of Pawhuska. Grandview Avenue, with its severe hill heads directly into the city hall building and runs in front of the Osage County Court House. This marvelous old building sits about half way up the hill and faces towards downtown, towards the east. On the west side of Grandview hill were once a number of stately residences. Many of them are gone now and even as a boy, I wondered how they stayed on the hill. My Uncle Franklin Revard and his wife, Aunt Manzie, had such a house not far from this stairway. It was old then, almost as old as they were, and I loved to go there as we did for many family things. I would go down below, in the cellars of the house, and the earth had begun to move under it and I had concerns that it might slide down the hill. A cousin, Bobby Revard, told me that this could not happen but I was never sure. One day I went by and the house was gone, razed, I'm sure, but those early memories returned to me and I wondered, did it slide down the hill? There are three of these stairways that connect Ki-He-Kah Avenue, down below, to Grandview Avenue, atop the hill. One is about a third of the way from Main Street up the hill, this one is at the top of the hill and a third likes about two-thirds of the way from Main, near the other end and where a house stood that was occupied by the Post family. Others will remember other families that lived there, but for me it was Charolette of my class, her brother Richard Post, who would later play professional football, and their younger sister, Susie. Things change.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Ormand Beach Stadium

Pawhuska, Oklahoma and the stadium where the Pawhuska Huskies played football at home. The stadium is named after Ormand Beach, who played football in Pawhuska and a friend told me that he was a hero in World War II. There is an award, also named The Ormand Beach award that was given to the best football player of the year. In 1960, the award went to Wimpsey Gilkey and the following year to Jay Lynn Hurt. I have not tracked it each year, but I know about those two years. Wimpsey was an outstanding running back and leader; Jay was an outstanding quarterback and leader.

The stadium is not large but adequate for our school size. The school colors are black and orange and for dyslexics, orange and black. The outside of the stadium is beautifully assembled native stone which offers more character than simple concrete. I have sat through many things there and I advise taking something comfortable to sit on for the seats are stone and take a toll on humans, especially older ones, in short order. The field lies from north to south and the home spectators sit on the west side. The visiting spectators sit in a smaller set of stands, on wood, which, ironically, is much more comfortable. Still, it's home.

Street Sign for Grandview Ave

I wish I had made photographs of the street signs when I was a kid for I don't think I recall how they appeared. I know it was not like this sign, with a blue background so that you can easily see the letters of the sign. This has large, all capital letters and it is clearly an avenue. I had a Kodak Baby Brownie 127 then which took rolls of film and I did not always have a roll. I usually used all of the film I had, rushed downtown to send my film off in the hope of Kodak returning photographs, and when I could afford it, I bought another roll of film. It never occurred to me to take as many photographs of the town of Pawhuska as I saw it around me. I assumed without knowing that I assumed and my assumption was that Pawhuska would always be the same. I erred.

Pawhuska Trails

I live near Pawhuska, so when I have time or reason, I visit and habit requires me to travel certain streets. I always drive past a few houses of old friends, such as Bob Hughes (and his big sister Kay), Jay Hurt, Butch Daniels, and a few others. It is nearly impossible to not drive downtown and cross the great old streets: Ki-He-Kah Avenue, Main Street and the numbered streets such as 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th. I feel compelled to go by or over Flanagan Hill. There is no official hill called Flanagan as it is the short (325 feet) but oh so steep hill that rises between 10th and 11th streets and is actually Prudom Street. At least I knew it as Prudom Street but for my book, I labeled it Prudom Avenue as that is what my official sources told me. The needs of the 911 calling system required some things to be changed though, and maybe it was "Street" when I was growing up. No matter though, as whether we called it a street or an avenue, the name of Prudom was there for as long as I could remember. Some one whose last name was Flanagan lived near or on the property that became the hill and it was named Flanagan Hill in honor of that family. I have never heard it called Prudom Hill although the other hills in Pawhuska are named by the street where they reside. We called them Ki-He-Kah Hill, Grandview Hill, 12th Street Hill, which made sense. We had Dial Hill, Castle Hill and Flanagan Hill.