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Chapter 6
WWI

I was in high school when the first World War began. It was about this same time that Dad was one of the Republican nominees for Commissioner. I remember that I was home when Dad received a phone call telling him that he had been elected to the post. He asked who the other elected commissioners were and was told that all of the others were Democrats. 

Dad told the caller, undoubtedly a member of the election board, to give the post to the Democrat as he wouldn't be able to accomplish much as the only Republican in the group. Later, in a school assembly, I had to sit there and listen to the girl whose father had been given the post my father had turned down being congratulated for her father's winning of the election.

In the summer of 1916, since Tulsa had no summer school, I decided to go to the Edmond State College summer school so that I could graduate at the end of a normal school year rather than at midterm. Graduation at midterm offered none of the frills--banquets or cap and gowns--and you had to wait until the spring exercises were held in order to participate in the graduation services. Also, attending summer school would allow me to graduate in 1918 instead of 1919.

The semester at Edmond State was a nine week course. I had already taken plane geometry but needed a semester in solid geometry. After having had plane geometry, solid was a whiz. I also needed a semester in Latin to complete the two-year requirement to graduate. I had quite a bit of difficulty in getting through one and one-half years of Latin under Mr. Hake, my high school teacher. 

Since some of us had already had a year and a half of Latin, and others were starting their second year, he decided to teach the fifth book of Caesar so that it would be new to all of us. I had just finished translating a much harder book of Caesar and, since the fifth book of Caesar is the easiest of the Caesar books, I made a grade of 97. I also took American history in two classes to complete the requirement for one year in this one semester. 

This was sometimes a little confusing because the second class might require a knowledge of things we hadn't covered in the first class as yet. The Latin, geometry, and two history classes made four credits, but these credits had to be okayed by our former Tulsa teachers.

I entered our new Central High in the fall of 1917 and we were the first class in the new school. As I mentioned, my credits from Edmond had to be approved by our former teachers. History and math were always included in my favorite subjects and my teachers approved these credits with no reservations. 

This was not the case for my Latin credit. Mr. Hake, our Latin teacher, knew that Latin was hard for me as I had only scored in the middle 70's for the year and a half I had studied under him. So he wouldn't give me credit for the semester unless I took six more weeks of Latin under him. This, of course, I agreed to do.

This was my senior year and I was taking teacher's training along with the subjects I needed to graduate. To get our diplomas to teach we had to have a certain number of hours of practice teaching. To earn these hours we substituted in the Tulsa Public Schools and were paid three dollars a day. I earned about fifteen dollars a month for practice teaching.

Our school was new and something new had been added. Phones were installed in each classroom so that the office could call any classroom at any time. My Latin class was my first class in the morning. It would just get started and the phone would ring. Sure enough it would be a call for me to teach somewhere in the Tulsa schools. 

Sometimes this would be for only one day while other times it might be for a week. During the last month of my senior year, I taught the last three weeks. These calls were finally too much for Mr. Hake and he said, "Take your Latin Credit. These constant interruptions cause too much disturbance in the class and it's not worth it." So I didn't have to attend that class anymore. What Mr. Hake didn't know was that the easy fifth book of Caesar was the culprit. I had really earned the grade of 97.

When the high school was moved from the old yellow brick building to the new red brick on Sixth Street, the old yellow brick was again used for teaching the elementary grades, but another class was added for teaching retarded children. This was the first such class in the Tulsa school system. I was called to substitute for a week for this group. 

Whenever I would write on the blackboard, one very large boy would move from desk to desk to be near where I was writing and he would say, "I like you." Later, when I finished my week of substituting, I learned this boy had beaten up the regular man teacher, so I guess that I was lucky that he liked me.

When we moved into the new high school building, Mr. Laughton wasn't teaching orchestra anymore, but he organized a group for fun and we went to his house once a week to practice. This group was of various ages. We performed in theaters in the neighboring towns near Tulsa. The principal at the old yellow brick school played in it; a kettle drum player who worked at Jenkins Music Store was a member; Mrs. Laughton played the harp which was made by Mr. Laughton. Mr. Laughton made beautiful harps and had even sent one to President Theodore Roosevelt. We enjoyed these weekly get-togethers.

The schools here were paid so much for each student with Indian blood. A high school teacher, Miss Snidow, asked me to stay after class and what she said to me floored me. "Opal, why don't you admit you are Indian? We receive so much money for each student who has Indian blood." I have high cheekbones, but I'm English and Holland Dutch.

One of the subjects required to obtain a teacher's certificate was agriculture. I took the course in my junior year while we were still in the yellow brick high school. One-room frame buildings were built on the lawn or yard around the school. I had two classes in these buildings, English and agriculture. The agriculture class was our last class before lunch. DeLarue Baker was the teacher. 

He also was the athletic director and the coach of football, basketball, and track. Sometimes he would give us a project to work on and then he would slip across the street to the YMCA and eat, getting back in time to dismiss the class.

The frame buildings were heated with gas stoves. One day Mr. Baker gave us popcorn to test and write about. After he was gone we found a pan and popped the corn on our stove instead of doing the exercise. He was a good-natured man, or else it was because he had left the class to eat his lunch, and he didn't say anything. My impression was that he saw the funny part of it. Also he was a young man, not too far from being a student himself.

In this class each of us had to make a small garden which certainly was not my cup of tea. Dad always managed to have a spot for a small garden and he gave me a space to plant. The ground was already prepared. All I had to do was poke a few seeds into the ground and they grew. The teacher came to our houses to check our crops. I guess Dad weeded and took care of my patch. I don't remember anything except planting the seed. Anyway, I made a passing grade on it.

This normal training was taken by eight of us in the class. We acquired our practice teaching by substituting in the Tulsa grade schools. When I substituted at Sequoyah grade school, I was in charge of the 8th grade home room. Classes from the 6th grade up by this time moved from room to room and the teacher stayed in the same classroom.

In the spring of 1918, I was graduated from high school with a 2-year certificate allowing me to teach through the 8th grade. This certificate was granted to those of us who were taking normal (teaching) training along with high school. The giving of these certificates was discontinued a couple of years later when college degrees became a requirement for teachers.

At our commencement exercises, held in Convention Hall (now Old Lady of Brady), there were 118 graduates. As I crossed the stage for my diploma, I was handed a lovely bouquet. It was from my 8th grade pupils. My pleasure overcame my embarrassment.

Following my high school graduation, I taught my two years at Lombard School just north of where the Osage apartments are now. We were not under the Tulsa school system. Lombard is in Osage County. Our school had 3 rooms. A new 2-room brick had just been built and the one room frame of the previous years was used for the first grade. Mrs. Stipp was its teacher. 

I had second, third and fourth in the new brick. Lenore Shannon taught fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth grades. The second year, Mrs. Stipp taught first and second; I had third, fourth and fifth; Lenore taught sixth, seventh and eighth grades. Lenore taught art to both our rooms; I taught both music. Since there was a war, we also had to teach drill. I taught the boys; Lenore taught the girls. We even had a basketball team and had games with surrounding area teams. I was "Coach."

During the school term I took my classes to watch a bulldozer perform. We were amazed watching it push the persimmon trees and shrubs over, really uprooting them. A very bad flu epidemic broke out in the fall of 1918. Many schools were closed for 6 weeks. Lombard was one of them. Thus I was home on the day the Armistice which ended World War I was signed on November 11, 1918. Lenore and I went "downtown" to watch the celebrations. Church bells were ringing, cars loaded with people were racing back and forth on Main Street. Sidewalks were crowded, like a New Orleans Mardi Gras celebration.

After the grief and wounds of World War I began to heal, life seemed to go pretty smoothly for a while. The Charleston, Black Bottom, etc. came into style. This was the "Flapper age." Life was fast moving as if there would be no tomorrow. Tulsa boomed, or exploded, in size and progress.

When I was in high school, if my father was going to be out of town for a while, he would tell me to go to Jim or Sam McBirney at the National Bank of Commerce if I needed money during his absence. I didn't have the privilege of writing checks, but Dad had arranged for me to get money if I needed it. 

When I started teaching, I naturally opened my own account with National Bank of Commerce. During my last year of teaching, a representative from a business college in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, came to our school and told me I could pay a monthly fee for tuition and board so that I could go to school there after my graduation.

For some reason this appealed to me and I signed the contract, sent my monthly payment, but when I wrote to make arrangements for my living quarters, I received a letter saying they were not included. I took the letter to the Bank of Commerce and spoke with Mr. Mac Rupp about my dilemma over my signed contract. Mr. Rupp took my letter and contract and drew a sight draft on a bank they dealt with in Ft. Wayne. 

The draft was honored just as Mr. Rupp said it would be. If I had tried to collect what I had paid in, they would have ignored me and my hard earned money would have been gone. Thanks to Mr. Rupp, a naive girl got her money back. I went instead to Tulsa Business College which I feel sure was every bit as good as the college in Ft. Wayne.

General Pershing was here after the war. After his speech, we were allowed to walk across the stage and shake his hand. I remember thinking that his hand and arm must be very tired. Will Rogers was here also. His relatives from around the area came to hear him since he was originally from Oolagah near Claremore.

Tulsa had access to many of the top musicals, artists, and plays. These road shows were usually from New York, but could be from as far away as La Scala Opera Company in Italy. Caruso was featured about the time following the ending of World War I. One of my beaus named Frank Braswell took me to hear him.

In remembering places of interest, I believe Orcutt Lake Park (now Swan Lake) was one of the most popular with the young folks. It had a swimming pool, a dance hall and amusements. Our school held an outing there when I was in the grades.

Beane-Vandever Dry Goods Store was next to the old Lynch Building which had a movie theater in it. Our favorite was the Palace theater near 3rd and Main. We went there each Saturday to see "Pearl White's Perils" silent movies. As the movies always ended with the heroine in trouble, we naturally had to attend the following Saturday to be sure Pearl got out of her predicament. Talking pictures didn't arrive until 1929. The Majestic theater was the first to offer them.

Movie theaters were plush. The Ritz had a ceiling of blue lighted in such a way as to appear to have stars in the dark sky. There were carpeted floors, upholstered seats, a balcony and a fountain--even a full orchestra directed by Tom Herrick who was later manager of the Akdar Temple. The Akdar Temple was very ornate and also offered top road shows. 

The Majestic had a good organist. The Orpheum had the top acts on the vaudeville circuit. The Rialto was not as plush but much better than the movie houses are now. Theaters dressed up and so did their patrons. Hats and gloves were a must for the ladies.

Later, around 1920, Tulsa had jitneys. These were 7-passenger autos with cloth tops and solid running boards to get into the cars. The first fares picked up got the seats and the rest could stand on the running boards.

For a while we had two streetcar companies. I believe they were named OUR and Tulsa Street Car Company. Their tracks crossed on East 11th near Trenton. One went to Orcutt Lake; the other east on 11th Street. Often in the morning it was apparent that one or the other had torn up the opposing car tracks in the crossing overnight.

Enough books have been written about oil and the famous people connected with it, so I'm going to try to picture what I saw and felt from the bearing oil had on the community, not only economically but also socially. Many people became rich, some very rich, and some went broke through the finding or not finding of oil here. The homes built during the oil rush were grandiose, many actually mansions. Tulsa still has many of these beautiful homes privately owned, but in the days of the oil boom, their owners had a life style geared to match the style of the mansion.

One of the things practiced by the wealthy was the leaving of personal calling cards if they called to visit someone and that person was not at home. In spite of the Oklahoma heat without air conditioning, the women of that time dressed up in corsets with stays. Nowadays the Tulsa society matrons can feel just as luscious in their jeans---in spite of air conditioning.

Many wives of the wealthy had electric cars. These were enclosed and required no "cranking" to operate. Cranking was the process of putting a pipe fitting in the socket at the front of the car and turning until the engine started. This required physical work which was too strenuous for women. Since the electric cars had glass on all sides, it was like riding in a showcase. One of the early styles required that the driver and passengers enter and leave by a back door rather than by side doors.



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