The 2018 Western Heritage Awards in OKC

Welcome back. In football the championship game is called the Super Bowl and it is usually played in a different city every year. Baseball has the World Series which is played in the hometown of the winning team. The National Basketball Association or the NBA also has a championship series which is played in the hometown of the teams which make the playoffs. Yes, I’m sure you all know this but do you know that what is called the “super bowl of gun shows” was held in Tulsa last week? Hotels were packed all over town and the giant Tulsa Fairgrounds parking lot was full and I mean full. In addition to all the cars there was every kind of motorhome you can imagine. Inside the main building both the upper and lower floors were full of vendors and people were elbow to elbow walking through the aisles. The vendors I talked to at the annual Wannamaker Gun Show told me it was the biggest crowd in years. As for me, I came away with a delicious bag of beef jerky and a lot of good exercise from all the walking.

As you may have read in last week’s column, the 58th Annual Western Heritage Awards will be held this weekend at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. Although there are a lot of ticketed events going on, the museum will be open to the public as usual and one of my favorite events which takes place on Saturday is free. This is an up close forum with the stars including everyone from actors Barry Corbin and Sam Elliott to John Wayne’s kids and famous directors. The late Ernest Bourgnine was always a fun person to listen to and after the presentations he would come out into the crowd and visit. This is what happens on Saturday and it is always very cool.

I understand that the black tie awards ceremony on Saturday night may be sold out but tickets are still available for Friday night’s cocktail reception with all the celebrities. You can’t go wrong at this fun event which also supports the wonderful museum.

Another event which I’m always happy to mention is Elder Care’s The Good, The Bad & The Barbeque which is coming up on May 12th out at the historic Cross Bell Ranch. At this party you get to walk the grounds of a ranch that was founded before statehood and was the beginning of a cattle empire. See the original house and barns. Smell the same air Gene Mullendore smelled and sit beside that well known swimming pool laid out in the shape of the Cross Bell brand. You also get to see hundreds of beautiful mustang horses along the ten mile drive to the party and friends the folks at Elder Care tell me that tickets have just gone on sale. Give ‘em a call at (918) 336-8500 and I hope to see you there.

Besides a couple of upcoming trips to state campgrounds in Oklahoma, my travels will soon be taking me once again to my remote getaway in New Mexico where I’m putting together another non-fiction book about a life that could have gone either way, good or bad. The story of one simple man among many different characters, some known for the good things they have done and others known for things they will have to live with. This tale had to be told for history’s sake and I’m hoping for a fall release.

Till next time, I’ll see ya down the road…..
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In Memory of C.J. “Pete” Silas

Welcome back. People and places in history will always be some of my favorite subjects to write about. Over the past seventeen years this column has covered topics from coast to coast, from L.A. when Whitey Bulger was captured to New York and stories about life on the streets there. I’ve also written profiles of many prominent people including Will Rogers, past Governor George Nigh, Bob Funk and his friend Chope Phillips who was also the son of Waite Phillips.

This week I’m bringing you a bit closer to Bartlesville with the story of someone else I was lucky enough to have met. Born on April 15, 1932 in Miami, Florida, Pete Silas was made for basketball. A high school star in Miami, Pete received a full scholarship to play basketball at Georgia Tech and play he did, winning several tournaments both in the U.S. and overseas. But Georgia Tech gave him more than a place to pay basketball and that was a B.S. in chemical engineering. After graduating in 1953, Pete went to work for Phillips Petroleum Company in Bartlesville but he wasn’t quite done with basketball. He joined the famous 66ers and also played for the Army basketball team in 1955 but soon his job with Phillips and a new wife whom everyone called ”Theo” took precedence in his life. Paris, Zurich, Brussels and London were all places that Pete, Theo and their four children called home as Pete rose through the ranks at Phillips. Along the way he received several international honors including a medal from Norway.

In 1982 at the age of 49 Pete became the President and Chief Operating Officer of the company, the youngest man since Boots Adams to have that position. Then three years later in 1985 he became Chairman. Pete Silas was the head guy for the next nine years, fighting off hostile takeovers and guiding the company through volatile market conditions. When he retired from Phillips in 1994 at the age of 62 he had been working for the company for forty-one years, beginning as a trainee engineer and ending up as the boss.

Despite his professional accomplishments Pete is best known in this community for his philanthropy. After retirement he and Theo both gave generously of their time and money, serving on the boards of so many organizations it would take an entire column to list them all. Bartlesville’s crown jewel, the Price Tower, is one that sticks out to me along with the new Boys and Girls Club which bears his name and that’s where I’m going with this week’s column.

Coming up on April 6th, 7th and 8th people will have the opportunity to buy stuff from Pete and Theo’s estates. This is not an auction but an estate sales located at 2201 Kristen Lane in Bartlesville and a portion of the proceeds will benefit the C.J. “Pete” Silas Boys and Girls Club. What an honor to own something that was significant to the Silas. I may be a bit sentimental about stuff like this and I think you may be as well. For questions call Patti Grissom at (918)440-0436 or Laura Nelson at (918) 510-2787.

For me, this weekend it’s Tulsa, Oklahoma where the world’s largest gun and knife show will be going on. Then it’s on once again to New Mexico and the story of a movie theater I think you will find interesting.
Till next time I’ll see ya down the road…..

Parsons, Kansas: A Rich History Shaped by the Railroads…

Welcome back. There are several big events coming up and one of them is held at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. I have been covering The Western Heritage Awards for the past eight years and it has become one of my favorite weekends of the year as I always meet an interesting group of people there. This year the awards will be held on April 13th and 14th and it’s not too late to get tickets. How would you like to hang out with your favorite western film and T.V. stars and be entertained by the cowboy singers and poets who will be on hand? Friday, which is the more casual of the two nights, is really cool as all the celebrities are there and everyone comes decked out in their finest western duds and jewelry. Saturday night is strictly black tie and usually sells out quickly. It’s all great fun and you have the choice of attending both nights and just one.

Coming up a little closer to home is Elder Care’s big fundraiser, The Good, The Bad & The Barbeque which will held out at the Mullendore Cross Bell Ranch on Saturday May 12th. I understand that tickets will go on sale April 6th and reserved tables of eight are also available which is what I recommend. This year is the 20th anniversary for the Barbeque and Elder Care is bringing in a great band of renowned musicians including the band leader who I know personally and who is known around the world for his musical talent. It should be a night to remember and I hope to see you there as well.

As for me, I’m currently traveling up north for a few days working on a story that again relates to death. However that’s only one side of the story, there’s also fame, money, love, adventure and of course, history. What would Coffeyville and Cherryvale, Kansas along with Nowata, Oklahoma have to do with it? Well, what I can tell you is that at one time long ago these communities were all connected by an electric railroad based in Parsons, Kansas.
The Missouri, Kansas and Texas railroads along with the Kansas City and Pacific railroads and the Memphis, Kansas and Colorado railroads also had major hubs in Parsons. Yes, Parsons which was founded in 1870 was a booming railroad town that even had its own railroad hospital. The railroad was king until 1980 when ownership of the lines changed. Thanks to the citizens the railroad hospital got turned into the Parsons State Hospital and Training Center encompassing 43 buildings and hundreds of employees which helped with jobs. During World War II the large Kansas Ammunitions plant was built to support the war effort and that also helped with unemployment but the railroad system that once took people and supplies around the country is no more. Through it all Parsons has done well and a museum in town tells the story of Parsons and the railroad magnates who built the community which is a must see for sure.

In addition to its rich history Parsons also offers a lot of outdoor activities with three lakes in the area. Big Hill Lake to the west, Lake Parsons to the northwest and the Neosho State fishing lake all attract visitors for fishing and even more just to enjoy the countryside in southeast Kansas.
I found Parsons also has its share of notable residents including Walter Davidson, the co-founder of Harley Davidson Motor Company, George Pepperdine, the founder of Western Auto and Pepperdine University and many others.

For now I have to leave you but if you can’t make the trip I’ll be bringing you more on Parsons and what I’m doing in the area soon.

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