Welcome back. Reflecting back to 1997 which was the 100th anniversary of the official incorporation of the city of Bartlesville and the biggest year long party in the city’s history had just wrapped up. But there was still unfinished business for the co-chairmen of this big event Bill Creel and Tom Sears.
Both men had had successful business careers, Tom as a Vice President at Phillips Petroleum Company where his father had been one of the first engineers and Bill as a major player at Price Pipeline Company supervising projects all over the world. After retiring these two men dedicated themselves to volunteering in the community and they had a vision of what Bartlesville could be in the future which the Centennial celebration highlighted.
Yes friends, there was one more gathering but this one wasn’t open to the public; it was a private event just for the volunteers and sponsors. Over three years of planning and coordination the hundreds of people who had devoted themselves to making the Centennial a success had themselves become friends. From every walk of life, income level and social standing they had become one big family. Now Tom and Bill wanted to thank them for their long hours of hard work but they were looking for a special location.
Woolaroc was one idea as the Cow Thieves and Outlaws Reunion had just been revived as part of the Centennial and it had been a hugely attended gathering. They had another place in mind which also had a rich history in the area, a place that was founded when Oklahoma was still called Indian Territory. It was remote, beautiful and since 1970 the 400,000-acre property had been mostly closed to the public. One of the last huge ranches in Oklahoma, the Crossbell Ranch was owned by Katsy Mullendore Mecom who was friends with Tom[O1] and Bill.
Although she was living in Houston at the time Katsy was coming back to the area on a regular basis to help her mother and her oldest daughter run the Crossbell. She was a big supporter of the Centennial Commission and what her friends were trying to achieve so when they asked her about having the thank you party at the ranch she gladly agreed.
The party was a wonderful finale for everyone involved but when it was over Tom and Bill had one more big decision to make. They still had over 50,000 dollars in donations to the Centennial so the question was how should they allocate those funds? After some thought they came up with the perfect solution, a new facility for the Bartlesville History Museum. The museum had been looking for a larger space and with the money they received from the Centennial they were able to move to the new City Hall building and begin remodeling. Other donors joined in to create the professional gallery space which the museum currently occupies and which serves as a permanent legacy of the Centennial celebration.
That last big party at the Crossbell Ranch created its own legacy when Katsy and her mother Kathleen Mullendore invited Elder Care to continue the event as The Good, The Bad and The Barbeque. They hosted the Barbeque at the ranch for twenty-one years and it grew into one of the largest special events in the area, raising over two million dollars for seniors and caregivers in the Bartlesville community and beyond.
But the impact of the Centennial extended even further. Next week the story of other events and organizations that benefited including the Indian Summer Festival, Prairie Song, Woolaroc and the YMCA.
Till next time I’ll see ya down the road…….