The Cuban Revolution

Through a simple twist of fate I have ended up with a personal connection to the events following the 1959 revolution……

Down The Road with the Original Buffalo Dale

 Welcome back. The date was January 1, 1959 and the hotels and nightclubs in Havana, Cuba were full. For years the Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista allowed Mafia controlled gambling to flourish in the country and received generous kickbacks in return. But unbeknownst to Batista, forces led by rebel leader Fidel Castro were preparing to attack Havana and overthrow his regime. It has now been fifty-five years since Castro seized power and began to nationalize all the U.S. owned businesses and properties in the country causing most foreign nationals and many Cuban citizens to flee the country.

In 1962 the Cuban missile crisis brought the world to the edge of nuclear conflict. This crisis was followed by the U.S. led Bay of Pigs invasion, a failed attempt to overthrow Castro’s government. Since then, hard line sanctions, economic embargos and several assassination attempts have all failed to oust the communist leader. Although age and ill health finally forced him to transfer power to his younger brother Raoul in 2006, Castro remains a major force in the life and culture of Cuba.

As for Raoul, he has made important strides in reforming the Cuban economy to encourage more private enterprise and he has also worked to make the island more open to tourism. However his efforts are hampered by a crumbling infrastructure and a lack of capital to make needed improvements to transportation and utility networks. Diplomatic relations with the United States remain cool and Americans are not allowed to travel to Cuba freely.

You could say that my connection to this story started twenty-two years with a chance encounter on the north shore of Long Island Sound but in fact this tale began years before.  In the late 1940s and 50s tourism in Cuba was thriving and Havana was one of the most popular vacation destinations for north Americans. It was a paradise for the wealthy with fantastic beaches, historic architecture and beautiful hotels and private clubs. The biggest stars of the time performed in nightclubs like Tropicana where the floor shows were legendary.

The construction business was booming as well both on land and at sea. In addition to new buildings, dredging in Havana harbor went on all through the daylight hours in order to expand the harbor for a growing cruise ship business and private yachts. Many of the contractors were U.S. citizens who were long time residents on the island and who had been encouraged to move there and make investments under the protection of the U.S. government.

One of these contractors was Robert McArdle who had moved to Cuba when he was 18 to begin working with his uncle who was a marine contractor. Eventually McArdle bought out his uncle’s business and expanded his work to other islands in the Caribbean and the coasts of Florida and south America. McArdle loved living in Cuba and made many investments there including the purchase of a small farm in the countryside overlooking the city of Havana. He had every expectation of remaining on the island until his death but his plans came apart that night in 1959. Although he managed to stay in Havana for about a year after the revolution, he was eventually forced to leave. Armed soldiers came to his apartment and took him to the airport where he boarded a plane for Miami with only a suitcase of clothes and a typewriter. He spent the rest of his life in New York City, waiting for the day he could return to his beloved Cuba. A reparations claim was filed with the U.S. government and like many others he was promised a settlement when normal diplomatic relations were restored with Cuba. When McArdle died in 1972 that day seemed far away and it still does.

Now comes the interesting part. I have been asked by some of his relatives to visit Cuba with the goal of determining the status of his farm and other interests. An interesting assignment and I’ll keep you apprised of developments.

On the local front, we lost a piece of Bartlesville history with the passing of Delmer Garrett who I just learned died on November 7th.  Delmer was one of the few remaining people who knew the outlaw Henry Wells. As a boy, Delmer used to sit on his lap and listen to Henry’s stories about robbing trains and hanging out with Frank Phillips. In one famous adventure, Henry had warned Frank that Pretty Boy Floyd planned to kidnap him and Henry was part of a shoot-out that spoiled the gang’s plans. Delmer was a blood relative of Henry’s and I heard many of these stories when I worked with him at Dunlap Construction in the early 1970s. He was a construction superintendent for the company and worked on many landmark projects in the community, including the airplane room addition at Woolaroc, Mnich’s Grocery (now United Foods) and the private homes of several Phillips executives. I could say much more but I’ll end with “if there was ever a man that everyone liked it was Delmer Bryl Garrett”.

Till next week, I’ll see ya down the road………………….




Creedence Clearwater Revisited and the Fabulous Mid Life Crisis Band

Like many others around the country, I’ve discovered that the event centers and clubs at the casinos are some of the best places around to hear live music.

                           Down The Road with the Original Buffalo Dale

 Welcome back.  With a Little Help from My Friends is a song that was first performed by the Beatles and then became even more famous when Joe Cocker sang it at Woodstock. After that every garage band in the world began playing it. Saturday night at the Osage Event Center that must have been running through the heads of all available security officers as over 500 people went wild listening to Creedence Clearwater Revisited.

This band is a version of Creedence Clearwater Revival and includes original band members Stu Cook and Doug “Cosmo” Clifford and let me tell you from the first song the commotion started. Girls rushed the stage screaming wildly and a couple of them climbed on it, some people actually passed out and through it all the band played on driving the already worked up crowd into a frenzy  Suzie Q, Proud Mary, Down on The Corner, Who’ll Stop The Rain, the band played them all in a ninety minute set that was one of the best shows I’d seen for a long time.

The original Creedence Clearwater Revival band started in the 1960s in California and today they have sold 26 million albums, been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and is heard around the world on the radio. It’s a success story about four guys who gave a generation of young people music to dance to.

As for a report on the Osage Casino & Event Center, you’ve got to like this place even if you’re not a gambler. They bring these great musical groups to town, the food is fabulous and they put a lot of people to work. This show had started at 7 PM and when it was over I was hopped up for some more music. The night was still young and my next stop while in Tulsa would be to catch a band that plays the same sort of music and is coming to Bartlesville.

As I’m sure you’ve heard, the Creek Nation has recently begun a 335 million dollar expansion of their River Spirit Casino on south Riverside Drive and that was where I was heading. The Creeks say that Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville Lounge is coming to town next year along with a 26 story tower with a 500 room hotel. They will be creating 800 new permanent jobs and have even told Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett that they’ll help pay for a new dam upriver so that water will always flow through Tulsa. If you haven’t been in that part of Tulsa lately its well worth the trip just to see the stuff that is going on. Restaurants have popped up all along the drive and construction is booming. I’m planning on coming back for a visit with the marketing people for both the Creeks and the Osage in the near future to discuss all their expansion projects and I’ll likely be bringing you an update.

Back to the reason I was going there. I was first introduced to the Fabulous Midlife Crisis Band back in 2000 when I was doing some volunteer work for the Nature Conservancy. The Conservancy was holding an annual fundraiser called Wild Brew in an airplane hangar at the Tulsa Airport and Midlife Crisis was the featured band. I could tell right away that these seven guys had some magic. They were playing 60s rock and roll with a sound so pure that you could close your eyes and picture the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Beach Boys and all the other great bands from that era.

On Saturday night they did it again as the happy crowd packed the dance floor and spilled out over the walkways at River Spirit Casino’s Mystic River Lounge bar. Like Creedence Clearwater Revisited, most the guys in Midlife Crisis are older but that sure doesn’t mean they can’t rock and roll. When I finally gave out around midnight the crowd was still dancing. I’ll have more on these fellows as their September 12th show out at Woolaroc gets closer.

You may also be wondering about Youth & Family Services, the organization that’s benefiting from this dinner dance at Woolaroc. First off, after a little research I learned that they help a lot of kids throughout this area. They give temporary shelter to kids aged 7-17 and provide food and counseling services to these young people who are homeless and basically are lost in life. Many of these kids show up with nothing but the clothes on their backs. You wouldn’t think it could happen here but it does.

I’m about out of room but before I go I want to mention the R.K gun show which I also attended in Tulsa this past weekend. Their director told me he had rented over 500 vendor tables and there were lines of people waiting to get in throughout the day. While I was at the Tulsa fairgrounds where the show was held, I noticed a lot of improvements to the property. There are new exhibit buildings, animal barns and roads and there were events of some kind going on in all of them.

Till next week I’ll see ya down the road………………….