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…….

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!

Lake Oolagah, Oklahoma

Another beautiful part of our state…..

Welcome back. Oolagah Lake which was built in 1950 is still a well-kept secret for many but not for the campers who were at Hawthorne Bluff campground this weekend. Sold out is an understatement as the “full sign” was hanging at the check-in office from Thursday through Sunday. With fall break for the kids, good fishing for the adults and great weather for all, it was the ideal getaway for a long weekend. The fall foliage has started and with the heavy rain in Kansas which flows into the Lake Oolagah, water levels are high and with all the gates open sightseeing below the dam is quite interesting. Of course, a mile north is Dog Iron Ranch, the birthplace of William Penn Adair Rogers or as we call him Will Rogers. Will was born in the house on November 4, 1879 and he became the owner of the property when his father died in 1911.

Before the lake was created the house was moved to its current location about three quarters of a mile away from its original spot to a hilltop. Nowadays it’s a museum that is open to the public. You can tour the home which has been preserved from the time when Will and his family lived there for free. Narrated movies from his days in Hollywood are playing in both the house and the rebuilt barn and the view of the lake alone is worth a trip. There is also a barnyard full of animals for kids to play with, making a visit fun for the whole family.
While you’re over that way be sure to check out the old original town of Oolagah where there’s a history museum and a life size statue of Will on Main Street. He was the most popular man in American when he died on November 4, 1935 and for all you fans on November 2nd-4th the Will Rogers Museum in Claremore, the Dog Iron Ranch and the Friends of Will Rogers organization are throwing a birthday party for Will and we are all invited. Call the museum for all the details.

As for me, I’ve been staying on the old Dog Iron Ranch for the last two weeks. It’s a place I often come to write. Not as remote as Waite Phillips’ Philmont Ranch in New Mexico where I often travel to, Oolagah Lake is still a bit off the beaten track in places. As Waite used to say, “We do our best and most constructive thinking when alone, for it’s only in silence that God speaks to us” and this seems to work for me too.

I’ll end this week with one of Will’s epigrams:
“A man only learns in two ways- one is by reading and the other is by association with smarter people.”
Till next time, I’ll see ya down the road….

The Enduring Mystery of DB Cooper

Welcome back. My absence over the past four weeks and the rumors about where I might have been may have some similarities with another missing man whose disappearance you may have heard of. Here is his story, told in the first person.

The date was Wednesday November 24, 1971, Thanksgiving Eve. In order to conceal my identity I paid cash for a one way ticket at the ticket counter of Northwest Orient Airlines in the Portland International Airport. A frequent flyer, I took a seat in the back of the plane, ordered a bourbon and lit a cigarette which in those days you could do. I was dressed in business attire wearing a black raincoat over a dark suit, starched white shirt and black clip on tie.

The plane was one third full when we took off and shortly afterwards I handed a note to the flight attendant. Printed in neat capital letters, the note stated that I had a bomb in my briefcase. I let her peek inside the bag where she could see eight red cylinders I had attached to a large battery. I told her straight out that I wanted $200,000 in U.S. dollars, four parachutes and a fuel truck standing by in Seattle to refuel the plane. If all my requests were met the passengers could go free. When the plane landed in Seattle all my demands were granted and true to my word all but four people were released. The pilot, the co-pilot, a flight attendant, a flight engineer and myself all stayed on board. After take-off I told the four to get into the cockpit of the plane. I ordered the pilot to keep the plane at 10,000 feet, to cruise at the minimum speed needed to stay in the air and to keep the cabin depressurized and not to come out of the cockpit until we landed.

Moving to the back of the plane, I opened the rear doors to the outside. It was dark but in the shadows I could see the planes following us, two F-16 fighter jet behind and others above and on either side. It took about fifteen minutes to put on my parachute and tuck the money away. I knew I would have to free fall a long way to avoid detection and without any further thought I jumped.

This is one of the most written about aviation mysteries ever. Could I have survived the jump from a jet plane? If I did survive how did I get away? It was all wilderness along the plane’s route.

47 years later, after countless FBI probes, investigations by the Army and local Sheriffs’ departments searching the ground beneath the plane’s flight pattern along with offers of big rewards, the cloud that has covered this fascinating story just might be lifted. Now returning from a mysterious disappearance myself, could it be that I am D.B. Cooper, the man they are looking for? To find out the answer to that question and the reason for my disappearance, call Matt Tranquil, the Publisher of the Bartlesville Examiner Enterprise at (918) 335-8200.
Next week it’s another ‘who am I?” with a local twist. Till then I’ll see ya down the road…..

P.S. If you are interested in reading more about this story check out Marla Wynn Cooper’s book abut the man she says was her uncle. You can download the kindle version by following this link.

Express Ranch’s 2018 Big Event

Welcome back. Cattlemen from all over the world will descend on Oklahoma this coming Friday and Saturday as the 28th annual Big Event Cow Sales once again comes to Yukon where a hundred-thousand-dollar cow is not unusual. Express Ranches, which hosts this very important cattle auction, is the largest operation of its kind in the country. You regular readers know I’ve written about this sale and the great people I’ve meet there for the last few years.

These folks are the ones who raise the beef we eat and they are truly as American as you can get. Entire families come to the sale, not only to buy cattle but also to experience the hospitality that Oklahomans offer visitors. In addition to the friendly people, the folks I’ve talked to also enjoy visiting the many museums and other attractions the state has to offer, adding their dollars to our tourism revenue.

As in past years this Friday night after the sale there will be a big steak and shrimp dinner outside under the biggest tent I think I’ve ever seen. After dinner the thousand plus guests are always entertained by someone famous in the country music business and this year is no different. I first met Vince Gill in 1997 during Bartlesville’s Centennial celebration when he was the headliner for the Grand Finale Concert which was held on Bruin Field. In those days I was doing a lot of personal security for many entertainers around the country and Vince was just one. A few years earlier in 1990 he had his first big hit with “When I Call Your Name” which won both the Country Music Association’s Song of the Year Award and a Grammy and when he came to Bartlesville he was a hot ticket.
Of course, nowadays most of Vince’s fans know he has gone on to win 17 more CMA awards and four more song of the year awards. No one else has ever done that and when you throw in 20 more Grammy, well all I can say is he’s still big stuff and from knowing him just a little bit I can tell you he’s also a comic with great timing.

It’s all happening in Yukon, Oklahoma this weekend and although it’s hard to get a ticket for Friday night if you’re not buying a cow, the Saturday auction is free and open to the public. Don’t worry if the weather is bad the barn where the auction is held is more like a museum and its full of trophies won by youth who have made it big in the cattle business. It’s worth the visit just to see the ranch and the Express Clydesdales whose barn is right on the property. I’ve told you enough so call your banker, tell him you want to buy a cow and I’ll see you there.

For me, with a new book coming out soon its nonstop as I’ll also be at the Tulsa Fairgrounds Saturday and Sunday for the big Grand National Gun Show.

Locally on Friday morning either in the paper or on the radio you’re going to hear the name Mike Henry. Mike’s the guy who produce’s Barry Switzer’s TV show Coach’s Cabana and he will be in town Friday. Rumor has it that Barry will be with him and it’s a good bet the pair will be at Arvest’s Friday Forum and at Dink’s or Sterling’s for lunch.

Thanks for reading and till next time I’ll see ya down the road……………….