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Chapter 12
Odds & Ends
Part 2

Cincinnati street houses were built going east on Jasper street. The hill in general wasn't really settled. In 1900, the school was a small frame building which housed all the grades. A fee was charged for each pupil. Now Tulsa is a city full of public schools, as well as several private ones. These are functional, modem plants. Some even have air conditioning. The Catholic schools also have grown from one school on Third between Elgin and Frankfort where the students could also be boarded. 

Now they too have beautiful school plants and grounds as do the public schools. Both public and private systems have neighborhood schools. In 1917, Tulsa Central High School was the first Tulsa public school to have a gym with a swimming pool. Kendall College (now The University of Tulsa) was the only college here as I grew up. Of course we had business schools, including Tulsa Business College and Draghan's School of Business. Kendall College had three buildings -the classrooms, a dorm for girls, and a dorm for boys. Kendall was a long way from town, but a streetcar did go to it. 

This school is now very close in as Tulsa has built up for miles on all sides of it It is now a well-known university allover the world, especially for oil-related subjects. Law, the arts, sciences, mathematics, music, and the education of teachers all are areas fully accredited. The university has expanded with state of the art equipment for each area. TU, as it is familiarly called, is in a beautiful campus setting. Tulsa is proud of it Now we have a relatively new college -Oral Roberts University, built by Oral Roberts, an evangelist. 

It is made up of outstanding buildings which cover many acres. This university also strives to be considered tops. It is a show place of Tulsa. We now have Tulsa Junior College which has expanded in answer to student needs to cover three campuses. This school offers students a variety of subjects at a reasonable price. The college does not go into the specialized areas such as TU and ORU offer because it is a two-year program, but it has answered a definite need for many Tulsans.

In my early childhood the horse and trains were our means of travel. Today planes and cars are most commonly used. We now have rockets that travel the celestial sphere and we have found that the moon is not made of 'green cheese,' a remark we used to use in jest. Our way of life has been changed by the inventions made in my lifetime. I would not like to go back to "the old days" and leisurely pastimes. However I must say here that Tulsa has always been a fast moving town, quick to make changes for progress and the people are always on the go. 

Communication in my early days was by letters. Before 1903, long distance calls were limited, because very few homes had phones. We depended upon telegraph for news of the outside world. If you were in the waiting room of a small town train depot, you would hear the clicks of the telegraph. The stationmaster had his ears tuned to hear and read the clicks even when selling you a ticket Now the voice can be heard allover the world as you talk and the pictures of what you are doing are shown on the TV screen. This was done when our men were on the moon. We saw them doing their job of collecting materials to bring back and people here on earth were talking with them. 

Both the ones on the moon and the "earth people" were visible and their voices could be heard. By satellites we now can see happenings and hear what is going on nearly any place on the earth immediately. Instead of walking up stairs or getting on an elevator with an operator to run it, we now use elevators where we punch a button for the floor we want and the elevator stops at the desired floor and even opens the door for us. Escalators are also used. All these things have come into use during my lifetime. Even our way of washing clothes has changed. 

No longer is rubbing on boards or putting clothes into a hand-operated washer necessary. Automatic washers and dryers have given us many free hours. Most families have their own washers and dryers, but this too has changed things as we used to have laundries that did our clothes and dry-cleaned those that needed dry-cleaning. Summing up, there is no end to the advances that have been made during in my lifetime. Computers have completely changed our methods of data handling. 

Some sort of airplane travel has been in Tulsa since the early twenties. Tulsa is easily accessible by plane and cars, but the dependable and comfortable train travel is at a minimum. The days of fancy train cars, owned by celebrities, pulled behind Pullman cars and side-tracked at the desired destination for their booked appearance at a theater are now gone. Many such people now have fancy mobile homes instead. No wonder most people use planes and stay in hotels because within a few hours they can be anywhere on earth. 

Here again is a change I have witnessed, horse and buggy to trains to planes. Growing up with Tulsa has let me see fast changes in all ways of life and has shown me many ways of doing and seeing things. In 1882, Tulsa was set up as a community because of bringing the train tracks to the town. Thus the community had service to the outside world. In 1889, a picture shows Tulsa's population as 200. In 1898, Tulsa had grown in size to -by counting close-in farmers -1000, enabling the citizens to incorporate as a town. 

In 1903, the MKT (Missouri, Kansas, and Texas) railroad was brought into Tulsa and a little later the Midland Valley line was added. Thus when I was still in the grades we had three depots -the Katy depot, north of Main between Cameron (north Third) and Easton on the west side of Main nearer Cameron, the Frisco and Santa Fe depot across Boston between Archer and First streets, and the Midland Valley depot just off Third to the south of Frankfort street The Katy (MKT) was red brick and the size of a small town depot with two waiting rooms, one for whites and the other for coloreds. 

The Frisco and Santa Fe was a bit larger but of the same type. A larger red brick depot had been built for the Frisco and Santa Fe when my husband and I came back to Tulsa in 1925. In the early 1930's, the new consolidated depot was built between Archer and First streets across Boston. This depot I felt outdid even Kansas City's depot but of course I'm a Tulsan and proud of her achievements. For some years, since train traffic was almost at an standstill, this beautiful depot had been empty and talk of tearing her down had been prevalent. 

The design of steel frames around the doors was all beautiful and substantial. Finally it was decided to redo the depot leaving many things as they were, but making an office building out of the depot. The grounds around the depot have all been done to fit in with her setting. The inside has been carpeted and made usable for luxury office space. The Manhattan Construction Company had done the original building of the depot and this same company also did the renovation. Once again Tulsa can be proud of its depot. 

Up until 1925 Oklahoma had no manmade lakes. As I have said water was scarce. The YWCA and YMCA had indoor pools in the twenties. The YMCA was at 4th and Cincinnati. The YWCA was near 5th and Denver as I remember. Swimming was mostly in rivers. Sand Springs Park had a lake more like a pond. As I have mentioned before, the lack of water made a big difference in our way of life. Those things I have brought out in a previous chapter. 

However, with the forming of so many manmade lakes, our way of living is different The central and eastern parts of Oklahoma have many such lakes. The total shore line around these lakes is now larger than around the lakes of the northern lake states and only in seasons of small amounts of spring rains are we limited to the amount of water we use. These restrictions are mostly on the amount used for lawns. For a state that had very few natural lakes and which now has plenty of manmade lakes, Oklahoma is amply supplied with water for all necessary needs as well as for recreation. 

Due to the many lakes Oklahoma now possesses, we do not have the anxiety of possible dust bowl days as we had in the thirties. About 1910, Tulsa's "downtown" was two or three blocks north of the Frisco tracks to about Fourth street. Not many businesses were further north or south except places like lumber yards. There were four theaters then on each side of Main street -the Lyric, First and Main, the Strand, almost to the corner of Second and Main, the Palace almost to the Third and Main, and another theater on the west side of Main between First and Second streets. 

These theaters showed mostly silent movies. However, there was some live entertainment at the Palace and the Lyric. Of course the Convention Hall (Old Lady of Brady) had classical programs and high class musicals and plays. My initiation to its attractions was in 1914, the year the hall was built, when the high school orchestra went to hear Galli-Curci, the coloratura soprano. The Convention Hall hosted many celebrities such as Guy Bates Post, Will Rogers, Heifitz, Maud Powell, Ted Shaun and Ruth St. Dennis, Pavlova, La Scalla Grand Opera from Italy (that came for a week's stand), Drinkwater's Abraham Lincoln, Ziegfield Follies, The Merry Widow, Madam Butterfly, Student Prince, Ethel Waters. 

All the top celebrities and musicals of the times were on the Tulsa circuit, but there were too many to mention all of them. Besides my memory can't recall many of them. Later the Rialto and another theater (the alley between them was on Third street between Main and Boulder) were movie places. The Majestic and the Orpheum theaters were built about this time. The Orpheum was strictly a vaudeville theater. There was a franchise on the "Orpheum Vaudeville Circuit" Many famous actors and musicians started on this circuit. 

Again I can't be sure who they were. Funny thing though, "Sally Rand and Her Fans" sticks in my mind. The Majestic had the first talkies -1928 I believe. It also had a pipe organ. It was noted for its large electric marquee. The Ritz theater between Main and Boulder facing the north on Fourth was plush. The ceiling was blue with lights scattered around that looked like stars. They also had a very good orchestra. Tom Herrick was the maestro. 

In my chapter about oil I have described how these theaters were plush and people dressed up to go them. As Tulsa grew, neighborhood theaters were built. The Akdar theater was on Fifth at about Denver. It was another plush theater and attractions were f1fSt class. Many of these theaters have been torn down now. Oh, yes. We had an ice rink at Sixth and Elgin, the Coliseum, for ice skating and hockey games in the twenties and thirties, but it has since burned. We have since erected the Tulsa Civic Center in the heart of the downtown section of our city. 

This center is equipped for hockey, rodeos, basketball games, as well as for circuses, conventions, graduations and proms, to name just a few. The Williams Center has taken over with facilities for ice events, large plush theaters, a fine hotel, a bank building, and ultra modern in all respects. The face of the old Tulsa has changed. The buildings are very tall - fifty stories in one. The Tribune and The World newspapers used to fight all the time but now are housed together in a very up-to-date building many stories high. 

Main street has been made a walking mall for a few blocks which includes a fountain and many trees and flowers. Many of the old downtown stores have moved to the plush new malls in the suburbs. Some are covered so that you can shop in all kinds of weather. Some of the malls have theaters. Tulsa is now truly a modern city. 

THE GILCREASE HOUSE - My father was established in Weston, Nebraska as a contractor and builder before he came to Tulsa in 1894, as has been already put forth in a previous chapter. He also had a shop in Tulsa where from 1894 to 1898 the family lived overhead. Born in 1859, he was 35 years old when he moved to Tulsa. He was married and had two children, Harry born in 1885 and Princess born in 1893. He built many of the early day Tulsa buildings, business and otherwise. He took part and was interested in the progress of Tulsa. He was even a city alderman in the early days. 

In 1913, he had a contract for the stone house (a mansion) called The Gilcrease House in later years. This contract was with Flowers Nelson, a prominent lawyer, also a trustee of the University of Oklahoma and personal friend of Dad. In the early 30's, Mr. Nelson wanted Dad to come to Mississippi and stay with him (my mother had passed away in 1929), but Dad didn't go. I often went to work with my dad and so the summer of 1913 was no different, except we sometimes picked up Joe Moran who was my age. Joe and I had grown up together. He was Pete Moran's son. 

Pete's brother Jake was the stone mason and he and Pete cut the stone from a hill northwest of the house. On the 80 acres of land Joe and I watched them cut the stone. In 1913, cars were plentiful, but my dad preferred to drive a buff colored horse hitched to a rubber tired buggy. The two seats were back to back and had a buff colored fringed umbrella that was fastened to the back of the seats. As the seats were back to back, there was only one back for both. This arrangement gave protection from sun to both seats and from rain if it was a gentle rain with no wind. This was our means of transportation to the jobsite. 

Tom Gilcrease bought the land before the house was finished and Dad completed building the house. I knew Tom Gilcrease had bought it but was not aware the transaction took place before the house was finished. When an article and picture appeared in the paper before 1974 saying Tom Gilcrease hired Indians to cut the stone and build the house, I wrote the museum giving the record of my father being contractor, the Moran's the masons and my brother-in-law, H. I. Tracy, interior painter. Gilcrease had built a museum about 200 feet north and west of the house and 20 years ago, maybe longer, deeded it to the city of Tulsa. 

I thought no more about this until 1974. On April 20, 1974, another article appeared in the Tribune. Nothing was said about the builders, but in 1979 the home - "Stone House" -was again in the paper. The heading of the article was "Gilcrease Home Due Historic Honor" and the article was written by a Pat Edwards. At this time I wrote to the Tribune and also to the museum and again gave them the names of all concerned in building the house. This time a Mr. Ford from the museum called. I told him to go to Pawhuska (the county seat of Osage County) and look up the records which would show what transactions were recorded. 

Evidently Mr. Ford did because on November 19, 1982, the Tulsa Tribune had a picture of the house and the records showed that Gilcrease bought the property in 1913 after Dad had started the house and that Dad finished the house for Gilcrease. They had even found where the stone had been cut. This was a very good article. My only objection was that in the paper and in an article which appeared in the Gilcrease Museum magazine dated October, 1982, it was stated that my dad was the "supervisor carpenter." This caused me to write another letter to the museum, complimenting the article, but also sending Xeroxed prints of early day - 1900 and later -paper clippings from history books of Tulsa, mentioning Dad as "contractor builder," and of my previous correspondence with the museum. 

Also enclosed were Xeroxed copies of J. M. Hall's book before 1920 as it showed our addition at 213 Fairview, Joe Howell's clipping of Dad's building, and Nina Dunn's comments in her book "Tulsa's Magic Roots." Following is a copy of the letter which I sent to the Tribune and to Gilcrease Museum on April 24, 1979: Editor: The Tribune In regard to the April 19 article, "Gilcrease Home Due Historic Honor," My father Charles Wesley Kern, a contractor and builder, had the contract for that stone house. Flowers Nelson was the owner. Pete Moran and Jake, his brother, cut the stone from the hills west of the home. Pete Moran, who owned sheet metal and furnace companies, was the father of William O. Moran and Joseph Moran. 

Joseph Moran and I were the same age, (I was three months older than Joe). Many days my father took me to work with him. As Pete and Jake stayed overnight sometimes, we would pick Joe up on the way to the house and we played all over the place, sometimes watching Pete and Jake cut the stones. Both Joe and I were 12 years old the summer of 1913. My brother-in-law, H. I. Tracy, did the inside decorating. I sent this information to the museum some time ago. My father, the Moran's and Pete's sons, William O. and Joseph, and my brother-in- law are dead now. My sister, widow of H. I. Tracy, lives in Muskogee, Tulsa, Blanche Opal (Kern) Schad Dec. 13, 1982. 

My sister Princess, then 89 years old, her son Ben Tracy and his wife Colleen (from Tyler, Texas) came to Tulsa to see the Gilcrease house and museum. Ben was about 10 years old when our father died. The house was in danger of being destroyed unless the Tulsa County Historical Society could arrange to take it over and remodel it That Monday was a very cold day and few people were at the museum. Colleen, Ben's wife, explained to one of the officials about Ben and that his father had done the interior painting and that his grandfather had had the contract for the Gilcrease house. 

He took Ben and Colleen over to the house and showed them through it. On the way home Princess wanted to see our old home at 302 N. Frisco, built in 1898. This house has always been in good shape. At this time someone had graded the street about three feet lower than the original level in front of it. The house was empty, boarded up, painted red, and ready to be moved. The other two houses Dad had built on the block hadn't been disturbed. 

This property is close into town and it looked as if a parking lot is to be made on the comer. So two places Dad built -Gilcrease house, 1913, and our home, 1898, might be destroyed. Fortunately both were saved. As you can see from the pictures of our house at 302 North Frisco, the house is still in good shape. The roof of the Gilcrease is over seventy years old and has never been altered. In my dad's time, builders were craftsmen who used simple tools, but made their houses of materials that were intended to withstand all kinds of weather. 


Reproduced by 
Kathie Harrison
Ancestral Whispers
Copyright 2012 
All rights reserved.