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Chapter 5
The School Years

It is almost impossible to keep my chapters from overlapping so please bear with me if I jump around a bit. Since my birthday was in October, I was put in a class starting at mid-term of the 1906-1907 school year. The classes were divided into the A and B classes, depending upon when you entered, at the beginning or at mid-term. As a result, all through my school years I was promoted to the next grade at mid-term.

My first year of school I attended North Side (Sequoyah) and then finished in Bristow. When we moved back to Tulsa, I entered my second year at the old yellow brick school at Fourth and Boston. All grades were taught at this school. When we moved from Lansing Street to Standpipe Hill, I again went to Sequoyah from the third grade through the eighth grade. There were no junior high schools so grades nine through twelve were taught in high school.

When I was in the second grade, there was a family that lived near the school and they had a grown son who was slightly retarded. He was always neat, well dressed and well behaved, but learning was very hard for him. He could not tell time, but he wanted a watch so his folks got him one and he was very proud of it. A lot of people would ask him the time and he would pull out his pocket watch and say, "You wouldn't think it was that time, would you?" 

Many of the children knew him and he would sometimes talk with us. Then, when I was in the sixth grade, Sequoyah was so crowded that our class had to meet in a large empty room in a brick building that was intended to be a store. We didn't mind though. In fact, we rather enjoyed it as it seemed to make us more of a family. The building was about one block west on Easton and about two blocks south on Main from Sequoyah school.

The grade schools had competitions or contests and they were generally held at the fairgrounds. These sports included Maypole winding, dumbbell exercises, races and a full day in general. Of course we had only one high school so their contests were with high schools in other towns. In the seventh and eighth grades, the girls took domestic science and the boys took manual training. This was mostly cooking for the girls and wood working for the boys. 

Once a week we had to go to Riverside School for these classes. By this time Tulsa had street cars running north and south on Main and east and west across Main to various destinations such as Henry Kendall College (now The University of Tulsa), West Tulsa, and Sand Springs (via the Interurban streetcar). We rode the street cars to as close as we could get to the schools. This left several blocks to walk at each end. These trips were unsupervised, but I don't recall any disturbances or commotions as we have now on our public school buses.

Our playground rules were also different from what they are today. The Northside school was a two story building with a basement. The girls' restroom was located on the north end of the basement. In between were storage rooms and the boiler room. During recess and play periods, the girls had to play on the north side of the building and the boys had to play on the south side. 

Some of the games we played were volleyball, captain ball and basketball. Captain ball was played in rings. One girl stood in the center ring while others standing in rings around the center one passed the ball trying to prevent the center girl from getting it. If she managed to get it from one of the girls, then that girl had to replace her in the center ring.

The boys had their own games as well, but the rules for their games were not the same as the rules for the girls' games. For example, the girls' basketball court was divided into three sections - the center section and two end sections. In the center section, each team had a guard and a jumper. The ball was put into play by tossing the ball up and the jumpers would try to knock the ball to their side. 

If you crossed a line, it was a foul. The centers, or jumpers, each had a guard from the opposite side guarding her. In the end sections, each team had a pair of guards at their opponents end of the court. The guards would attempt to get the ball away from the attacking team and throw it to their own side. It was a foul for any player to step over the line separating their section from the adjoining section. Since the boys and girls didn't play together, I was very surprised to see the boys running from one end of the court to the other when I witnessed my first boys' basketball game.

Back-tracking a little, in order to fill in some of the other things I remember about these times, I recall that I lost my hair and was very thin after I recovered from typhoid fever. In order to keep me outside as much as possible and to build up my strength, Dad bought me a bicycle and some roller skates. The skates had screw clamps which attached them to the soles of my shoes. These were real shoe sole destroyers. Later, I became very active in basketball and other sports which were also very destructive to my shoes.

I always loved pretty shoes but, being very active, I was very hard on them. My dad was very particular about getting good shoes which fit properly so he always went with me to buy shoes. Lyons (changed to Walkover in later years) carried a good brand of shoes so we bought them there. Dad never complained about the frequency of these trips and I paid little attention to them either. 

I remember his saying, "Brand new shoes just two weeks old and already needing to be resoled." In another two weeks a new pair would be required. I wasn't aware that I was so hard on shoes until one day Irene McLaughlin, a classmate, made a remark about how many different shoes I had worn to school during the same time that she had only one or two pairs.

When I started to work I was no longer active in sports, and my shoes lasted longer. Nevertheless, now that I was paying for my own shoes, I realized how hard I had been on them. As hard as I was on my shoes, Dad never once scolded me for wearing them out so fast. There are many tales about how the state capital was stolen and bodily moved to Oklahoma City from Guthrie in the dead of the night. Actually, there was an election held and its outcome determined that the capital would be in Oklahoma City which did not set well with Guthrie. This move occurred in 1910.

Mother and I spent most of the summer of 1910 in Beemer, Nebraska. We had traveled there to be with her brother, my Uncle Dick, as his wife, my Aunt Liz, had died suddenly of a heart attack and Uncle Dick was having a hard time adjusting to the loss. My mother was a practical nurse so we stayed with him as long as we could that summer. The doctor told Mother that Uncle Dick would not last long after she left. He was right. Uncle Dick died of grief less than a month after we had gone.

(*Note - the Uncle Dick mentioned was the GG-grandfather of Kathie Harrison -transcriber of the chapters of the book "Growing Up With Tulsa" for these pages.)

In the summer of 1912, we again made the trip to Nebraska. We went first to Weston where Motherís sister Clysta lived. Mother showed me where her father and mother, William Bryce (Brice) Harrison and Emma Osborn Harrison, were buried. Both had died before I was born. My grandpa Harrison died in 1898 at the age of eighty-five. We visited with the cousins and went to see places of special recollections and interest to Mothers, including the surrounding towns. From there we went to Omaha to visit Motherís niece and then to Beemer, where Uncle Dick had raised his family. 

Many of my cousins were living in Beemer, surrounding towns and on nearby farms. Mother was next to the youngest in the family and I was the youngest in our family, so that my second cousins were in my age group. From Beemer we went to Casper, Wyoming, to visit Motherís brother Sam and his family. Uncle Samís youngest daughter, Gladys and I were the same age, but her older sister Katherine had a son who was also our age.

Uncle Sam and Aunt Mayme decided it would be nice for us to go camp in the mountains for a couple of weeks. There were three wagons loaded with supplies and those of us who were going. The mountains are about eight miles south of Casper and there was a place there where a natural spring fed a mountain stream and there were log cabins in the area. 

We rode in the wagons until we reached the mountains and then we had to get out and walk, as the horses could not pull the wagons with the supplies and us both in them. The trail was winding and steep and we could often climb up to the next road and be there long before the wagon got there. We got to see many things, such as mica mines, which seemed to be right on top of the ground. 

When we arrived, we met some sheepherders tending their flocks. The shepherdís life is a lonely one, so our arrival was cause for a celebration. Then over the weekend, my cousin May and some of her friends rode horses up to the camp. She was about twenty years old. May later married and moved with her family to a small community near Pawhuska, named Nelogany. 

When she got homesick, she would come to Tulsa to visit our family. I once attended a teachers meeting at Pawhuska and stayed with her. Incidentally, this was the time that our school superintendent, whose name was Porter, also attended the teachersí meeting. He had a car and would ask me to meet him outside instead of attending the speaking and go for a ride. Of course, I enjoyed the rides more than the speeches. 

One of the shepherds asked us all to have supper with him. He had killed a lamb or two and cooked them. He even made biscuits and prepared a fine meal. He put wide boards between some trees to serve as a table. He was living in a covered wagon in which he had his bed, a stove, food storage and essentials. 

The meal had been prepared in these crowded quarters. The cabins were deserted and people used them free along with the nearby spring water. While the adults and my older cousin and her friends were eating, Gladys and I stole their horses and went for a ride (remember, children waited until the adults were finished eating when there was a crowd). By the time we returned, the rest of the folks were getting anxious about us."

Since there were so many of us there for the night, the grownups decided to have a square dance on the board floors. Sheep herders came from all around. One of them played a fiddle or violin and I believe another one played the harmonica. The problem was that no one knew how to square dance except my mother, then over fifty, and an old man who was also well over fifty. Therefore, they led the dance. As the night wore on, we younger ones went to the cabins which were used for sleeping and went to bed. I believe that we all had a very good time on the campout.

When I was still in grade school, about 1911 or 1912, we had a cold-blooded murder in Tulsa. While we were playing on the school playground one morning before school, a car drove up and two young children got out of the car with someone and went into the school building. This caused a commotion among the older girls and they were surprised that they were bringing the children to school. But they didn't stay long. 

There was no radio or TV in those days and we didn't know that their father, Mr. Ruetter, had been murdered during the night. The Ruetter's lived on Cheyenne or Denver and, I believe, between Fairview and Marshall Streets. This was a very good neighborhood then and many prominent Tulsans lived in the area, including the Gillespie's, the Kennedy's, the Hopkins' and Dr. Webb.

I remember hearing people talk about how the murder was a planned murder but that they didn't know exactly what the trouble was or what the reason was for his murder. It seems that Mrs. Ruetter left a door or window unlocked so that a man named Blood Blue and another man named McKinsey could get into the house. Another peculiar thing was that McKinsey's sister had gone over to the house just after the murder and she and Mrs. Ruetter had tried to wash up the blood before the police got there. 

The McKinsey's lived on Boston between Fairview and Haskell and the father of the man involved in the murder was familiar to all of us at school. He was an old man who often walked with a long cane, but he always spoke to us and we at school felt that he was a friend. Our sympathies went to the old man. The case was a long and drawn out one. Pat Malloy was the prosecutor and Blood Blue was sent to prison. I don't know what happened to the other people who were involved.

I mentioned earlier that my father had built many of the homes and buildings in and around Tulsa. The addition of a roof garden to the old Brady Hotel was done by Dad. Dad also contracted with Flowers Nelson to build a home for him northwest of town. Before it was completed, the Nelson's sold the property to Thomas Gilcrease in 1913. Construction of the home was completed in 1914. 

Dad was the prime contractor and the painting and decorating were done by his son-in-law, Hiram I. Tracy. Hiram had married my sister Princess. The stone work was done by the Moran brothers, Jake and Pete, and the stone was quarried from a hillside a little west of the home. The home still stands in the southeast corner of the Gilcrease Museum grounds. It is currently being reconditioned as a historic landmark and is to be a permanent part of the museum.

Before moving on to my high school years, there is one other incident which comes to mind. Oil had become the way of life. The derricks were made of wood and four horse teams pulled long pole wagons loaded with pipe. The wagons had no side boards, just cross boards at the ends to support the pipe. I was about ten years old at the time and we were living on Standpipe Hill. 

My bike was built without brakes, but I was riding it down the hill. Once I got started I had no way to stop. I went downhill almost two blocks to Boston and began to slow a little, but, when I reached Main Street, one of these long pipe wagons was crossing my path. I was going too fast for the wagon to clear the intersection, but the man that was driving the team jumped off and caught me just as I hit the wagon. Needless to say, I didn't try that again -- nor did I tell my parents.

When I started to high school, it was back to the old yellow brick. My first three years of high school were spent there. In my first two years, ninth and tenth, I played second violin in the school orchestra. Our teacher was Mr. Charles Laughton. Our orchestra wasn't very big, but we won second place in a state contest in Norman, Oklahoma. 

The judges told us that we would have won first place if we had more members. I heard my first classical singer during the time I was a member of the school orchestra. Mr. Laughton had made the arrangements for the school orchestra to attend the performance of Galli Curi, a coloratura soprano, at the city convention hall.

In 1916, my sister and her husband traded their Tulsa home near Sixth and Trenton streets for a farm a little northwest of Keystone, Oklahoma. Keystone was a small town which was about nineteen miles west to Tulsa and it consisted of a few homes and buildings on both the north side and south side of the Cimmaron River. 

Prior to statehood, it was in Old Oklahoma, being just a little west of the line of division between Indian Territory and Old Oklahoma. There were no paved roads and, with Oklahoma's climate being what it is, we had either mud or dust. At best, the road conditions were unpredictable so the trains were used a lot. Trains were dependable and service was good.

The Frisco train ran from Tulsa proper to West Tulsa, across the Arkansas River, and then through a very small place called Fisher and on into Keystone. Mother, Dad and I often went over to Keystone. We could go over early in the morning by train and catch another train back the same evening. The Cimmaron River passed through Keystone and emptied into the Arkansas River between Keystone and Tulsa. 

We had to cross the Cimmaron River in order to get to my sister's place north and west of Keystone. In about 1916 or 1917, the Cimmaron flooded and washed out the bridge. The only access to the other side was by a small rowboat. My brother-in-law had come to Tulsa by train and I decided to go home with him to see Princess. Since we had no radio or TV in those days, we didn't know that the bridge had been washed out. 

When we arrived in Keystone and saw what had happened, we hired the man with the rowboat to take us across to the north side of the river. By this time the river was pretty high and getting swifter. He had to just let the boat go with the flow and keep pulling to the north as much as possible. We were all glad to reach the north bank and were lucky to have made a successful crossing. The river had become too dangerous and no more rowboat crossings were made.

In a few days the river had gone down enough for me to take the rowboat across the river and go home. I didn't like the idea of returning across the river because I didn't know how to swim. As I remember, it took a very long time for the bridge to be rebuilt. When the rains quit and summer came, the river would get so low that you could walk at least halfway across on the sand. Saw horses, like those used by carpenters to place their wood on for sawing, were placed close together and wide planks were placed on top of them to provide a walkway across the river.

Just a few yards west of the northwest corner of my sister's farm there was a large drop-off opening into a valley surrounded by hills. You were not aware of this until you were right on top of it. At the bottom of this hill, extending eastward into the hill, was a large cave approximately 25 to 50 feet wide and about 10 feet high. 

It slanted down to the ground at the back and, unless you were very familiar with the landscape you could approach from any direction and never know the cave was there. In earlier days, the Dalton brothers, who were bank robbers, used this cave for a hideout. I mentioned this cave in science class one day and my teacher asked if she could see it.

I invited her to spend the weekend with me at my sister's. We went by train to Keystone. Then we crossed the river on a boardwalk and walked on to the farm. Princess was not at all surprised to have me bring a stranger for a visit. Visitors were always welcome, whether expected or not. The next day we walked down to see the cave. 

I was surprised to see how interested my teacher was in the formation of the cave and its location. I was just beginning to learn a little science and had not really appreciated this natural cave before. In traveling back and forth between Tulsa and Keystone, I had noted that men carrying gunny sacks filled with what sounded like bottles would get on at the Keystone station and ride the train to West Tulsa where they would get off.

One day, while we were in the Keystone station, I asked my dad what these men were carrying in their gunny sacks. He pointed to a small frame building standing off from the other stores. I hadn't been conscious of this building before but across the top of the building front was the word "Saloon." Liquor was permitted in Oklahoma Territory but not in Indian Territory. 

These men were buying liquor in Keystone and hauling it to West Tulsa. They always got off in West Tulsa because law officers always met the trains coming from the west into Tulsa and anyone caught carrying liquor would have been arrested. For some reason they never bothered with checking in West Tulsa so bootleg liquor was plentiful in Tulsa proper.

Reproduced by 
Kathie Harrison
Ancestral Whispers
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