Tulsa’s Historic Circle Cinema

Excited to have Footprints in the Dew: The Last Ten Tapes playing at this great theater!

Welcome back. This week I’m going back in time to 1928 when Calvin Coolidge was President and Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean. During this time an entertainment venue opened in Tulsa to showcase a new craze that was sweeping across the country known as “motion pictures.” Of course in 1928 all the movies were silent and equipped with a Robert Morton theatre pipe organ by all accounts this new theater on Lewis just south of Admiral was a big success. Known as the “Circle Theater”, the venue experienced many ups and downs through the years as the development of sound and then television brought big changes to the film industry.
In 1990 the Circle closed its doors and for 10 years this famous landmark on Route 66 remained shuttered. 2002 brought new life to the theater when a group of citizens formed a not-for-profit organization to operate the Circle and then reopened it as an art house to show works by independent filmmakers calling it the Circle Cinema. It was quite an accomplishment when thanks to their effort, in 2003, the theater was added to the National Register of Historic Places. In 2008 the Circle underwent a complete renovation which included the addition of two larger auditoriums, upgrading the projection screens and adding reclining seats in the screening rooms and friends I can tell you it is nice. Since its reopening the theater has received all kinds of awards including being named Oklahoma’s Main Street Business of the Year in 2016. It is truly an honor for me to have Footprints in the Dew: The Last Ten Tapes open there on Friday night for a 7 day run. If you go, be sure to check out the Walk of Fame sidewalk in the front where Oklahoma legends of stage and screen are honored. Brad Pitt, Ron Howard, James Garner and Roy Clark are all there along with Reba and Leon, just to name a few.
I could not leave this story without telling you that the Circle is the only not-for-profit cinema in the area and amazingly is open 365 days a year. In addition to a full roster of interesting films and a really good concession stand, the theater also hosts art exhibits and offers rental space for special events. To learn more and see upcoming films go to: circlecinema.com.
Last Saturday and Sunday found me at the Express Employment Professionals Invitational Bull Riding Championship which was held at the Chesapeake Arena in Oklahoma City and it was a hit. The event was televised not only nationally but around the world and I can tell you that the large crowd watching this growing sport saw bull riding at its best. As for who won the event it was twenty year old bull riding youngster Derek Kolbaba after a successful ride on the 2016 PBR World champion bull SweetPro’s Bruiser.
Next weekend the tour stops in Sacramento but look for a return visit to the Tulsa BOK Center in the fall when I’ll be bringing you a little more history about Express Employment Professionals’ involvement with the community and their ongoing support of this event.
As for me, the trail is still warm as I head to a gun show in Tulsa this weekend and then onto Norman where Wednesday is national signing day for high school football players. Bob Stoops and several past OU players will be there with Joe Washington and me for radio interviews at Balfour’s down on Campus Corner. After that it’s McAlester for another weekend gun show.

Hope to see ya somewhere along the way or till next time I’ll see ya down the road….

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The Mid Continent Building in Tulsa

Welcome back. With a couple of gigs coming up in Tulsa I thought I would bring you the story of a man and a Tulsa landmark which I hope you will find interesting.

At the time of its completion in 1918 this Tudor Gothic style 16 story building was the tallest in Tulsa. Known as the Cosden Building, it was constructed by the fabulously wealthy Joshua Seney Cosden who at the time was also known as the “Prince of Petroleum”. According to my research Cosden also owned one of the biggest refineries in the world in Bigheart, Oklahoma.

When the new building opened the Cosden Pipe Company, the Cosden Oil and Gas Company and Cosden Pipeline Company were consolidated and incorporated as the Cosden Company. Estimated to be worth fifty million, Cosden, who was considered to be quite a character, made more news with his building because it was the tallest building in the world made of concrete.

In addition to his Tulsa residence, Cosden owned fancy homes in New York, Florida and Rhode Island and he also maintained a stable of thoroughbred horses. With a private railroad car and a yacht by 1924 Cosden was living in high society, even hosting King Edward VIII. Not bad for a man who started out as a drugstore clerk.

All of this ended in 1925 when Cosden went belly up as they say and lost his company. His other assets were soon gone as well when Mid Continent Petroleum Company acquired his refinery and other assets including the Cosden Building. The landmark building was renamed the Mid Continent Tower and in 1984 the interior was completely remodeled and an addition was constructed in the same architectural style which rises 21 stories above the original building. The construction of this addition was an engineering marvel as the tow structures do not touch each other and a separate support system was designed to carry the weight of the new building. It really is amazing and the building is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Getting back to Cosden, although he had lost the majority of his fortune he managed to relocate to Fort Worth, Texas in 1928 where he put his money into drilling in the newly discovered West Texas oilfields. Cosden made another fortune estimated at fifteen million only to lose everything again during the great depression of the 1930s. He died of a heart attack on November 17, 1940 while traveling by train from Arizona tot depression of the 1930s. He died of a heart attack on November 17, 1940 while traveling by train from Arizona to El Paso. The Daily Oklahoman reported that hi last assets had just been sold at public auction.

It’s quite a story and I’ve just scratched the surface but the next time you go to Tulsa check out the skyline and look for the distinctive green top. Tours of the building are available so you might want to put it on your to do list.

As for me this Saturday I will be at the Tulsa Historical Society at 10AM and 12PM and then in the evening it’s on to the toughest sport on dirt, the PBR which will be held at the Chesapeake Arena. If you are unfamiliar with downtown OKC, the arena is also home to OKC’s Thunder basketball time and it’s a big place. The Express Employment Professionals bull riding championship comes to OKC once a year at the start of the season and winds up at the BOK Center in Tulsa near the end of the season. If you’ve only seen bull riding on TV I can tell you that when you are watching it live the energy level is unbelievable. I’ll bring you the scoop next week along with some history about the oldest movie theater still in operation in Tulsa.

Till then I’ll see ya down the road…..
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The Historic Coleman Theatre on Route 66 in Miami, Oklahoma

I’m excited about my upcoming film showing at this great theater!

Welcome back.  While traveling through several communities last week I found a true Oklahoma treasure that you may not have heard of. Built in 1929, alongside the famous Route 66 highway, the Coleman Theatre in Miami, Oklahoma was designed to be the most elaborate entertainment venue between Kansas City and Dallas.  The theatre was constructed by George L. Coleman, Sr., a native of Miami who made a fortune in the mining industry and was placed on the National Register of Historic places in 1983.  I learned all this before I got there as well as the fact that the Coleman has operated continuously for 88 years and has never gone “black” as it is called in the industry when a theater shuts down.

From the street when I saw the Spanish style exterior, the spiral staircase and bell tower on one side and the twin bell towers on the other side I knew I was in for something special. Entering the building through the magnificent front doors, one is immediately mesmerized by the beauty of the carved winding staircase which lead to the balcony level and the two sculptures that point the way. Giant chandeliers hang from arched ceilings and the walls are decorated with carving of gargoyles, dolphins and masked figures along the hallways that lead to another set of large wooden doors. When the doors are open the entire theater lays before you and it is a truly breathtaking sight. I would never have guessed that a small Oklahoma town with a population of only 13,570 residents would house such a treasure. For me it was like finding gold and while I was admiring the historic stage I discovered even more.

It was a vintage pipe organ called “the Mighty Wurlitzer” and friends they are rare and beautiful both to listen to and to look at. It was a special experience to see one up close. True vaudeville theaters from this era had these organs to accompany performances but most closed down over the years when movie theaters became popular. Fortunately, the Coleman and its Mighty Wurlitzer have survived.

I also learned that the Coleman heirs donated the theater to the City of Miami in 1989 and a not for profit organization was formed to manage it. Through a successful fundraising campaign, the group secured grants and individual donations which allowed them to restore the exterior of the main structure and then replace the carpet, clean and paint the inside to bring all of the beautiful details of the building back to their former glory and what a great job they have done.

As their guest book shows, tourists from around the world who are traveling Route 66 make a point of stopping at the theatre and like me I’m sure they marvel at what they see. From the second story balcony to the fancy seating everything at the Coleman is top of the line and it is easy to envision the many famous actors who appeared on their stage. Will Rogers played there to a full house of course. Tom Mix, Bing Crosby, the magician Harry Black and even Jim Thorpe had an act which was presented at the Coleman and on January 14th Footprints in the Dew: The Last Ten Tapes will be shown there as well. What an honor it is for sure.

But there’s more to the Coleman than the theater itself as a large ballroom adjoins the main building. Folks, you can rent this space and it comes complete with a pocket garden containing a fountain and benches which are all designed in the same style as the theater. It is elegant to say the least.

 

Put a stop at the Coleman Theatre on your list of things to do in 2017 and take one of their free guided tours of the building which also bring you behind the scenes. Coming up next week: who was George Coleman, the man who had the vision and the money to build such a fine theater in what was at the time a fairly remote part of the country.

As for me, there will also be a command showing of my film on January 15th at the Poncan Theatre in Ponca city, Oklahoma which is often called the sister theater of the Coleman. If you haven’t been to the Poncan it’s a must see as well.

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

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Highlights from Oklahoma’s History

A few things that struck me from our state’s history and a schedule of upcoming screenings of Footprints in the Dew: the Last Ten Tapes.

Welcome back.  As the year 2016 comes to an end, many of you may be looking back at the highs, lows and adventures you’ve had during the past year and I hope that the upcoming year is as good, if not better for you. In 2017 as my schedule develops I’ll be traveling once again, bringing you stories about interesting communities, people and history. Looking to the future is great but time goes by so fast that before you know it next year will be just a blur in your rear view mirror so this week I’m taking you back in time to a day that may seem like yesterday to many Oklahomans. On April 19, 1995 I’d just moved back to Oklahoma after living on the north shore of Long Island Sound, just outside of New York City for several years. Hard to believe but it was 21 years ago that the Alfred R. Murrah federal building was bombed and 168 people were murdered.

Going further back in time to the 1970s some of you may remember the opening of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation system in Oklahoma. It turned out to be the third largest expenditure of federal dollars as only the construction of the Panama Canal and the landing of men on the moon cost more. The 455 mile inland waterway stretches from the Port of Catoosa in Tulsa southeast through Oklahoma and Arkansas to the Mississippi River and was constructed at a cost of 1.2 billion dollars.

I was a young man in the 1960s when the civil rights movement took center stage in the state and Hannah Catkins became the first black woman to be elected to state office.

A few may also remember when after 40 years as a dry state in 1959 Oklahoma voted to repeal prohibition putting an end to the lucrative bootlegging business in the region. Hula hoops, hot cars and Oklahoma football were all big in the 1950s, when the Sooners won three national championships and on the way had winning streaks of 31 and 47 straight games.

Many of these next events happened before my time but I have learned a lot through research at the library, particularly in newspapers from the past.

I wasn’t born in 1941 when 415 men died on the battleship Oklahoma and the U.S. went to war with Japan. Nor was I around in 1933 when George “Machine Gun Kelly” Barnes kidnapped wealthy Oklahoma City oil man Charles Urschel. Urschel was released unharmed after a ransom of $200,000 was paid. Kelly initially got away with the money but was later arrested and sentenced to prison where he eventually died.

Tulsa was in the national headlines in the 1920s when race riots broke. Records show that at the time there were over 100,000 Klu Klux Klan members in Oklahoma.

During World War I, Oklahoma’s Native American code talkers made history and were indispensable to the war effort.

In 1910 the first planes flew the skies of Oklahoma and the state became known for early aviators such as Wiley Post. In Bartlesville Phillips Petroleum was one of the first producers of aviation fuel during this period and sponsored many cross country flights.

Yes friends, I love to look back on history but I also enjoy looking forward to new travels and stories they bring. Starting on January 14th I will be visiting Miami Oklahoma’s historic Coleman Theater where Footprints in the Dew: The Last Ten Tapes will be showing. The next day I’ll be at the Poncan Theatre in Ponca City for a Sunday matinee showing. Then on January 21st it’s a return to the Tulsa Historical Society which will be followed by a 7 day run at the legendary Circle Cinema in Tulsa which starts January 27th.

I know you’ll enjoy learning about these historic theaters as much as I will and hope to see some of you there. Till next time I’ll see ya down the road…..