The Price Company, Bartlesville, OK

Welcome back. I could begin this week with Bartlesville’s treasured Price Tower but that story has been written by others many times before so I thought I’d take you back in time before this magnificent structure was built. The story of Harold C. “Hal “Price Sr. and the Price Tower actually started back in 1921 when Harold was the manager of the Bartlesville Zinc Company and lost his job when the plant closed.

With 2500 in borrowed funds, this entrepreneur opened the Electra Welding Company. With a small shop, Hal was living in a boarding house on Second Street when he got his first job repairing oil tanks. By 1926 he had the largest welding company of its type in the Midwest but he wasn’t done growing. In 1928 he secured the contract for the construction of his first major oil pipeline, 160 miles of 8” pipe down in Texas. The new pipeline needed cathodic protection to make it last and by 1936 Hal had added a coating division to his company called Somastic.Wherever he had pipeline projects going on, Somastic plants would be there to coat the pipe.

In the 1940s Somastic expanded its operations to 36 states. At the same time Price Company engineers were developing new ways to lay, weld and coat pipe with every job. The 1960s brought even more work to the Price Company which by now employed hundreds of workers. The coating division’s first international job was in a neutral zone between Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Just as the project was being completed the region turned into a battle ground during the Six Day War. Despite this experience the company continued to expand overseas and during my research I found the names of several people who contributed to its success who I hope you remember.
A new partnership was created in 1963 between the family of companies and the United Bredero companies based in the Netherlands. The Bredero companies had been founded during the industrial revolution to build housing for workers and had grown into an important construction company. Together the two companies created the Bredero Price plant to focus on pipeline coating and the plant became a major operation in Europe.

Now Hal Price had business all over Australia and the Far East as well as in France and Germany and who was the first man he sent to Europe to head up this important operation? No it wasn’t some out of towner but Bartlesville’s own class of 1947 graduate Bill Creel. Bill traveled the world with the Bredero Price Company eventually becoming a senior manager.

I’m sure you’ve all heard of another person who played a big role in Harold Price’s story, Jim Curd, Sr. Jim had been doing all the advertising and promtion for the Price Company since 1950. As the result of this relationship Jim and his family moved to Bartlesville from Denver and he opened his own business. Over time the Curd family became very involved in the community and opened two landmark restaurants, Dink’s and Sterling’s Grille.

Yes friends the legacy of the Price Company is not only in a building. Next week, Bill Creel’s role as a community leader after retirement.

Till next time I’ll see ya down the road…….
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Whitey Bulger and Me

Welcome back. The year was 1981 when Roger Wheeler, the new owner of World Jai Lai, was shot to death in the parking lot of Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa. His was the first of four murders ordered by James “Whitey” Bulger to hide the fact that he was skimming money from the World Jai Lai organization. John Callahan, Brian Halloran and an innocent bystander named Michael Donahue were next.
By now I’m sure you readers have heard most of this gangster’s story, including how after sixteen years as a fugitive he was arrested in a rent controlled apartment just a block off the beach in California where he had been living under an alias with his girlfriend Katherine Greig. You long time readers may also remember that I happened to be in Santa Monica at the time and just a mile way from the apartment where they had been living. I wrote about the arrest in my weekly column including a few minor details that weren’t covered in the national press.

Bitten by Whitey’s story, in 2013 I traveled to Boston, Massachusetts to attend his trial. For three months I sent back stories from the courtroom about the sensational proceedings. While most reporters focused on Whitey and his eventual conviction on eleven counts of murder, I had another goal. By meeting some of the big time national reporters who were covering the trial I hoped to promote my book Footprints in the Dew which at the time hadn’t yet been published.
Wearing my western hat, boots and jeans into the federal courthouse in downtown Boston I didn’t look like a big city reporter and my accent didn’t make me sound like one either. Most of the news people were friendly but they were intent on interviewing any of the key witnesses or family members of victims who entered the courthouse. My own reluctance to rush up to witnesses resulted in two of the biggest scoops I could have hoped for.

The first person I met was a CBS national correspondent. We stayed in touch after the trial and I went to NYC several times to meet up with her. The other person I met opened a door into Whitey’s world. This meeting was a chance encounter in an elevator on the way to the courtroom where the trial was being held. This man who all the other reporters wanted to talk with approached me. “You’re not like one of them are you?” he asked. No I wasn’t and that short exchange had big consequences for me.

You see this man who shunned the press was the only member of Whitey’s family to attend the trial. He was Whitey Bulger’s brother John Bulger and in my soon to be released new book Before the Dew you’ll read how our meeting along with help from Gentner Drummond, the Examiner Enterprise and a dozen others played a role in the development of Footprints in the Dew.

Starting Thanksgiving weekend for the next five weeks I will be on the road to promote the new book starting with book signing events at Best of Books in Edmond, Full Circle in Oklahoma City and Brace’s Books in Ponca City. Then on December 1st I will be at Moxie’s on 2nd street in Bartlesville. Friends if you haven’t been in downtown Bartlesville lately you need to check it out. Shops and restaurants are springing up everywhere and there are big plans for holiday events. I hope to see you there.

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

Before the Dew Book Release

My new book Before the Dew will be available soon. These are the book signings I have scheduled so far:

Brace Books, Ponca City: November 23rd 1:30 PM
Best of Books, Edmond: November 24th 12 PM
Full Circle Books, OKC November 26th 6:30 PM
Moxie, Bartlesville December 1st, 10AM
Grand Nat’l Gun Show, Tulsa December 2nd 9-5PM
Jude’s, Bartlesville December 5th 6:30-8:30 AM

Not Fun But Necessary

Welcome back. This week I’m back in town for a medical procedure that’s about three years overdue. For those of you who like me are over fifty it’s something most doctors recommend and it’s easy. No solid foods on the day before the procedure but you can have clear liquids like broth and soup. No coffee for you though but on the good side the Miralax mixture you have to take isn’t nearly as bad tasting with apple juice as it used to be.

By now most of you know I’m talking about having a colonoscopy so the day of the test all you can have is basically water. From what I remember from six years ago, with the anesthetic there was no pain involved or side effects. Getting my body flushed out actually felt beneficial to me and getting a good report, at least on that part of my body, was a plus of course.

There is a sad note to this story and that is because the fellow who has done this procedure for me the last two times, Dr. GopiVasudevan, is moving his practice and as of the end of November he will no longer be in Bartlesville. If he’s your doctor I’d recommend giving his office a call pretty quickly because I found out that he’s filling up his schedule fast. I’ll let you know next week how everything goes.

On another note of interest to you readers I’ve recently discovered after it happened to me that you can’t shoot down a drone. Yes, even if you live out in the country with few neighbors close by, if a drone is hovering over your property and in my instance just ten feet off the ground and about fifteen feet from the bedroom and living room windows, according to the Washington County Sheriff’s office I would be breaking the law if I shot it down. With the cameras these flying machines are equipped with, I thought this had to be either a peeping tom or a thief looking for a target. I’ve contacted Senator Julie Daniels and she is looking into how you can legally defend your privacy from these intruders and I’ll let you know what she says.

On the local front I’ve heard that my friend Mike Henry’s visit to town may have resulted in the donation of some fancy new scoreboards for several of the town’s athletic fields. If you read Mike Tupa’s sports column a few weeks ago, Mike Henry and Barry Switzer have been business partners for over thirty years and they have been donating scoreboards around the state. I heard about the program while hanging out with Mike and Barry during the Coach’s Cabana TV show that I’ve been lucky enough to attend. It sounded like this would be a great opportunity for Bartlesville and from what Mike has told me, Barry usually comes into town for the dedication. Check with City Council member Jim Curd or City Planner Lisa Beeman for updates.

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

P.S. If you’re thinking about a visit to the Dog Iron Ranch after reading last week’s column, they have closed the campground for the season but Will’s house is still open on most days from 10-5

Before the Dew Book Release

My new book Before the Dew, a Memoir is about to be released. These are the book signing events I have scheduled so far:

Brace Books Ponca City: November 23rd 1:30 PM
Best of Books, Edmond: November 24th 12 PM
Full Circle Books, OKC: November 26th 6:30 PM
Moxie’s, Bartlesville: December 1st 10AM
Grand Nat’l Gun Show, Tulsa: December 2nd 9-5PM
Jude’s, Bartlesville: December 5th 6:30-8:30 AM

Hope to see you soon!