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…..






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