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 www.Google.com 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.