Oklahoma History Part I

Welcome back. With the end of another year approaching, in keeping with tradition I am looking back at lives of a few people who have had a big impact on Oklahoma and whom I hope we never forget.

Born in 1908, Admiral John Kirkpatrick was a man who made his fortune in the oil and gas but whose legacy lives on in the trusts he and his wife established for the benefit of all Oklahomans. Today he and his family are known for their philanthropy not only here, but throughout the country. If you haven’t heard of him it may be because he lived according to one of his favorite sayings:

“I don’t believe I need to be remembered. I have the satisfaction to have done what I’ve done.”

Another man of the era was born in a log cabin near present day Ada and would go on to make the Kerr name prominent in oil, science and political. He was even once mentioned as a possible Presidential candidate. During a 1942 campaign Robert S. Kerr is known to have said: “I am just like you, except I struck oil.”

A couple of my favorite Oklahomans are brothers who grew up poor, made fortunes in the oil industry and went on to be major philanthropists.

From Frank Phillips: “Those of us who have been more fortunate owe a debt to society.”

And from his brother Waite Phillips whose gifts to the Boy Scouts have enabled generations of young men to learn leadership and the many other skills needed to be successful in life:

“Real philanthropy consists of helping others, outside our own family circle, from whom no thanks is expected or required.”

Another oil man who started his career in Bartlesville and went on to become known around the world as the back half of the Kerr-McGee Corporation was Dean McGee. Oil made Dean but his donation of millions of dollars has insured that his name lives on.

Of course there are many other Oklahomans who rose to be giants in their fields such as the Branif brothers of Oklahoma City, E. W. Marland, Alfalfa Bill Murray, Gene Autry to name a few. Sports figures like Bud Wilkinson, Jim Thorpe and Mickey Mantle are also important of our state’s history. Mantle was once quoted “I guess you could say I’m what this country is all about.”

I could go on with a list of prominent women as well, including the first female  Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, Wilma Mankiller who kept my interest for years. Of course there are many famous female artists and entertainers from Oklahoma from Patti Page to Reba McIntyre and Kristen Chenoweth all of whom have given back to their home state. As did the five Native American ballerinas who were renowned throughout world.

In 1907 Theodore Roosevelt signed the official proclamation making Oklahoma the 46th state. In the early years of statehood Oklahoma also had its share of notorious residents including Henry Starr, known as the “King of Bank Robberies” who made the state the national leader in bank robberies during 1916.  In 1933 the outlaw Machine Gun Kelly along with a fellow known simply as Pretty Boy Floyd robbed 60 banks. Floyd became the very first public enemy #1 on the FBI’s most wanted list.

This is just a sampling of the many people who have contributed to Oklahoma’s distinctive history. The library is a great place to learn more about them and the many others I don’t have time to write about now.

Wishing you all a very happy holiday,

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

Winter Fishing in Oklahoma

Welcome back. I’ve been on the road steadily this past week and on Friday I was in Norman where Oklahoma and Oklahoma State were not only playing football on Saturday but also competing against each other in wrestling on Friday and friends it was bedlam. The Campus Corner restaurants were busy, the gift shops were full and the bars were packed. This also marked for me the last home game autographing books with my friend Joe Washington at the well-known Balfour’s clothing and gift shop. For all you Joe Washington fans we will be back at Balfour’s in February for high school signing day. Besides Joe and myself, there will be a live radio feed on OU Sports talk radio and several other legendary OU athletes will be joining in. I will bring you more details as the date gets closer.

The end of college football season marks the start of another popular sport in Oklahoma. For fisherman the cool weather means that crappie are coming close to shore and it’s time to hit your favorite heated fishing dock. Although I am no longer an avid hunter or fisherman, mostly because of my schedule, I do enjoy getting out to watch and visit. You can’t beat a good heated fishing dock in the middle of winter with blowing snow outside and the fish biting inside. Believe me it’s where fishing stories start!

If this sounds like fun Grand Lake offers three spots with heated docks that are open to the public. Blue Bluff Harbor and Resort, Indian Hills Resort and Marina and Lee’s Resort all have heated docks and provide onsite amenities like cafes and small stores where you can buy anything you have forgotten to pack. There are also cabins available for rent at all three resorts which are fully furnished, equipped with linens and silverware and all have water views.  The low winter rates make it even more inviting to be at the lake even if you don’t fish. Best of all, you don’t have to clean up after yourself. If the weather permits there are boat rentals available as well. A three day getaway on a premiere lake in a beautiful cabin right on the water with staff at your disposal for well under $200 this would have to be my scoop of the week.

Of course many of the other lakes in the region offer similar facilities. Lake Eufaula has the Lake Eufaula Marina and Belle Starr Marina. Keystone Lake has Salt Creek Marina and the new Mannford ramp. At Fort Gibson there’s Cypress Cove and there’s Hudson Lake Marina on Lake Hudson. I think I’m also safe in saying that there are hundreds of privately owned heated docks on several dozen lakes just in this area of Oklahoma and Kansas.

Moving along, the date was November 12, 1919. This was the date that officially ended World War I and it was during this year that the Nazi Party was formed in Germany. In America the long dry heat summer was gone and winter was setting in. Oklahoman Will Rogers was already making the Rogers name famous in New York in his performances as the Cherokee Kid on stage, screen and radio. He also became known as a newspaper columnist and radio commentator and as a person who was friendly with royalty and celebrities but never forgot his Oklahoma roots. This is a well-known story and you might think its old news but there’s still one person alive today who breathed the same air as Will and took the same steps he did while he held her hand. At the time this little girl was not in awe of Will being a big star in the movies or his friendships with famous people all around the world. No this little girl who was born 97 years ago and who grew up in the shadow of Oklahoma’s favorite son just called him Uncle Will and if you’re looking for that special Christmas present for a Will Rogers’ fan life just got easier. “I Called Him Uncle Will” was written by Doris “Coke” Meyer who grandmother was Will’s sister. As a youngster she travelled with Will and her stories about him are told in a straight forward manner that makes you feel like you are there with the two of them. This is a good book for sure and can be a bit hard to find but it’s worth the effort. Call (214) 926-1672 for more info.

With all that I’ll say till next time I’ll see ya down the road…….



The Death of Fidel Castro

Welcome back. The news of the death of Fidel Castro last week reminded me of the life story of a man whose personal experience with the dictator have become a part of my family history.

Robert McArdle was born in Brooklyn, New York to first generation Irish American parents. After attending West Point for a year, he moved to Cuba when he was 18 to begin working with his uncle who was a marine contractor. One of his early projects working with his uncle included salvaging the battleship Maine which had been sunk in Havana harbor during the Spanish American War.

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. After a time he married a young American girl he met while she was on vacation on the island and together they had two children, a girl and a boy. The family enjoyed a very comfortable life that included frequent trips to the United States to visit family.

McArdle and his wife loved living in Cuba and made many investments there including the purchase of a small farm in the countryside overlooking the city of Havana. 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 the many private yachts coming in.

The McArdles had every expectation of remaining on the island until their deaths but those plans came apart on January 1, 1959 when Castro took over Havana. Robert McArdle had supported democratic reform on the island and believed Castro’s promises of free elections after the coup. However, as Castro’s new government began to seize private property and many people began fleeing the island he became disillusioned. Mrs. McArdle left a few months after the revolution because she needed medications for a chronic health problem that were no longer available because of the upheaval.

Although Robert McArdle 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 thousands of 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 although Fidel Castro is deceased now, in many ways for his family it still does.

Always on the move to find an interesting story, this week I’ll be in Norman for a book signing at Balfour’s on Friday before the last OU home game from 12-3 PM. Then Saturday and Sunday for me it’s the Grand National Gun & Knife Show at the Tulsa Fairgrounds. December 8th will find me in Dewey at the Heritage Theater & Café for a showing of Footprints in the Dew: the Last Ten Tapes. Seating is limited so call918-440-2393 for reservations.

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


Footprints in the Dew: The Last Ten Tapes at the Heritage Theater in Dewey, OK

It was an outstanding night on Tuesday at the Tulsa Historical Society. They sold out two showings of Footprints in the Dew: the Last Ten Tapes and have scheduled another showing for Saturday January 21st. They told me this was the second largest crowd they had had for an event like this-second only to Ree Drummond’s appearance there. I seem to come in second behind the Pioneer Woman a lot!

In the meantime I’m looking forward to showing the film at the Heritage Theater and Cafe in Dewey at 7PM on December 8th. Tickets are $12 at the door and 50% of the proceeds will be donated to Crime Stoppers.

The Emmett Kelly Museum and The Tulsa Historical Society

Some points of interest in my travels. Hope everyone had a great holiday!

Welcome back. Unsure what to get someone for Christmas? How about a gift of travel to the Emmett Kelly museum in Sedan, Kansas? Emmett Kelly was a famous clown in in the 1930s, 40s and 50s who performed with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus and also appeared on Broadway and in the movies.  His signature character was “Weary Willie” a sad clown whom Kelly portrayed without the traditional whiteface makeup that other clowns were wearing at the time. Kelly was born in Sedan in 1898 and today the museum that is dedicated to his life and work is housed in the historic Sedan Opera House. I took the opportunity to check it out when I was in town last week and it is well worth a trip.

Built side by side in 1919 by oilmen Dave and Sam Travis, these two homes were constructed in what was a remote and mostly undeveloped part of Tulsa but today 32nd and Peoria is one of the city’s main drags. The Travis brothers left Tulsa in the mid-1920s but their homes would become landmarks. Dave’s residence eventually became the home of the Tulsa Garden Center and Sam’s is now the Tulsa Historical Society and Museum. In addition to the interesting exhibits about Tulsa at the Historical Society, both homes are surrounded by beautiful gardens and walking paths making this a great destination for a day trip.

After some research I discovered that the Historical Society is involved in other projects outside of the museum and one of these is maintaining the oldest private cemetery in Tulsa. The neighborhood at 32nd and Utica is full of homes and businesses now but back in 1848 this was a rural area when Tulsa’s first cemetery was established here after a cholera outbreak. There are roughly fifty markers in the graveyard and the Historical Society makes sure that they are well maintained, preserving the memory of these early Tulsans. It is called the Perryman Cemetery after Lewis Perryman who built a log cabin in the area after running a successful cattle operation, all in a time prior to the Civil War.

I will be at the Tulsa Historical Society and Museum on Tuesday November 29th at 7PM for a Tulsa premiere of Footprints in the Dew: The Last Ten Tapes. It is a small theater so please get your tickets early at www.tulsahistory.org, click on “events”.

The early reviews of the film are coming in from audiences and so far they are very good. A sold out showing in Sedan was followed by a showing to several hundred enthusiastic people in Ponca City which means that the December 8th showing in Dewey will be a hot ticket. Call the Heritage Theater, Café and Pub for reservations at 918-440-2393 You can also enjoy dinner and drinks while you watch the movie in this unique setting. If you haven’t been in downtown Dewey lately, you’ll find several new shops and as I’ve already said, with Christmas around the corner you may just find that gift you’ve been looking for.

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