Snippets From
Tulsa Spirit
# 6

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Chapter The Quest For Water by Ina Hall

<Pg 142> A City In Spite of Arkansas River Water. Early Tulsans thought their water problems would be over when the pipes they had bought were connected with the Arkansas River. The Democrat reported October 12, 1904: "The waterworks plant now being put in is sufficient for a city of 30,000. Tulsa is now having constructed the best pumping plant and best system of waterworks in the two territories. An examination of it at any point will show the very best workmanship and best material. Over seven miles of mains, nothing less than six inches (pipes diameter) are now being laid down and the two and one half miles of 10 mains."

Tulsans were glad to hear on November 25, 1904: "The water system was given a trial Thursday and proved that the plant was well built. Only a few leaks were found in the several miles of pipes. The engines pumped that water like they were used to the work and the pressure was sufficient to give the city all of the fire protection needed and the system was declared a success.

"Service will commence early next week. It will require some time to put in all the small service pipes that have been ordered. Those getting their orders in early will get the service first, because the demand for plumbers will increase from now on, and it will take some time to install water pipes where they are wanted. ...."

Finally the water was delivered through the pipes from town to the river. [probably should be from the river to the town]. The Democrat reported optimistically on November 30, 1904: "Antle's livery stable was the first Tulsa business to be supplied with water from the water system ... The men around the barn announce the water is of excellent quality and that it is soft and the animals seem to like it."

The Democrat's optimistic predictions about the quality of the Arkansas River water proved incorrect. Years later, May 1926, when the city had been connected with Spavinaw the Spirit recalled what it had been like before: "Tulsa became a city in spite of Arkansas river water, the whole city got drinking water in $5 gallon bottles. The city built a purification plant in 1918, however, some months it wasn't able to cope with the water it became non-potable."

[Oklahoma has a large number of man made lakes (many within easy driving distance of Tulsa), more shoreline than most coastal states. And an inland water navigation system that allows landlocked Oklahoma (via the Port of Catoosa) to ship goods all the way to the coast at New Orleans. This chapter is devoted to discussing the development of these things and the development of the drinking water system that allowed Tulsa to continue to grow.]

Chapter 12 Culture: High Road to Livability by John Hamill

<Pg 150> ... Reviewing the famous names who have appeared since Tulsa's first Opera House on Second Street opened on February 1, 1906, reveals the spirit of those who built Tulsa and their desire to make their city something more that just another cow town or oil patch boom town. It's like tracking the cultural footprints of early Tulsans - for the names of the great and near-great playing Tulsa show the kinds of entertainment early Tulsans enjoyed - or at least thought they should enjoy.

It was, to early Tulsans, culture. And it was, to Tulsa's pioneers, culture with a capital "C". .... quality of life according to the "civilized American way" had not [yet] developed. As a result, capital "C" culture had to be imported.

... the result was an early day Tulsa which found entertainment and the necessary dose of culture by bring various classical events and artists to the Tulsa stage. Tulsa did not set its sights low. As early as 1911, not that long after the Glen Pool brought oil to Tulsa in a big way, the City's finest heard the New York Symphony ...

... Tulsa Philharmonic Society was found in 1914 ...

... Possibly more than anything else still standing in the late 20th Century in the city of Tulsa, the old Municipal Theatre on Brady Street is pointed to as an historic symbol of Tulsa's culturally inclined citizenry.

... Actually ... up until it was refurbished in the early 1950s it was called Convention Hall - not the Municipal Theatre. ... [the building of] a Convention Hall was endorsed by the Commercial Club, (founded in 1902) ... "that the city could not properly entertain conventions without such a building, and the Commercial Club went on record as favoring a bond issue for Convention Hall."

... It was not until 1913 that a bond issue was passed and Convention Hall was built as a combination Convention Hall and auditorium. ... Opened in 1914, at Brady and Main streets, Tulsa Convention Hall showed itself to be unsuited for convention purposes and barely suited (some said "less unsuited") for the staging of cultural events. It was frankly, in the words of a latter day analyst, "somewhat of a white elephant from the beginning, even though the great names of the entertainment world came and went."

Appropriate or not, the Convention Center/Municipal Theatre became the center for Tulsa's cultural pursuits in the area of the performing arts. And became the stuff of which legends are made.

Many of the stories have to do with the original stage of the Convention Hall. In an apparent attempt to improve the audience's view, designers tilted the stage toward the audience - it was higher in elevation at the back. The total tilt was in excess of one foot which resulted in the case of ballerina Mme. Pavolova, dancing downstage and hardship when trying to return. ... roller skater ... nearly became a new member of the orchestra on one downhill run.

... Despite corrective surgery ... in 1953, when her names was officially changed to the Tulsa Municipal Theatre and her listing stage was leveled, the "Old Lady of Brady" never regained the luster she once had.

<Pg 155> ... 1924 .. a garage was built at 423 N. Main ... later became Cain's Ballroom under the ownership of Madison W Cain.

... 1934 - One block of Main Street could boast of a theatre, a J C Penny, a Kress store, and a photographer, jeweler and other businesses. ... While at the same time the camera caught a round-up crew in the Osage Hills near Tulsa ... six men surrounding a campfire, and their horses. To the right is a chuck wagon.

Despite all of its outward urbanity and urbaneness, Tulsa still had a touch of the cow town in it. Urban, yet rural. A town far more comfortable with the humor of its nearby native son, Will Rogers, than with the music of the St Louis Symphony.

... In many ways, there could be no more perfect environment for the nurture of a new kind of music which blended the swing orchestrations of a Paul Whiteman with the twang of country and western (or, as it was commonly called then: hillbilly).

In September, 1934 Bob and Johnnie Lee Wills and O W Mayo arrived in this city both urban and rural. Tulsa was going to be their Alamo. On September 23, 1934, opening night on KVOO radio for Wills, a new school of American music was introduced: western swing. This new melodic substance combined the swing dance style and horns of a city dance band, with the county twang of steel guitars and fiddles. It was an amalgamation, to be sure. And it could not have found a home more hospitable than that former garage at 423 N Main. Cain's became the leading ballroom in the Southwest and Bob Wills was its leader. During the Depression, Bob Wills became the highest paid bandleader in America. And, while he would go on to Hollywood to make movies, brother Johnnie Lee would keep the radio show going over KVOO. Originating from Cain's Ballroom, it would become America's longest running radio show.

It was a new music that, while it was not born here, found its home amid the cultural environment that was Tulsa in the mid-1930s.

<Pg 162> Theatre in the early years of this Century was considered to be a less than admirable pursuit. As professions go, acting was barely a cut above panhandling. It is no surprise, then, that the churches of early day Tulsa rallied to put a stop to the unholy presentation of theatrical events on Sundays in Tulsa.

The year was 1911 and Tulsa's church and theatres began their battle over Sunday closings. First, the church forced the issue of "Sunday closings" onto a ballot. They lost. By a margin of less than 100 votes, Tulsa's theatres could continue to perform on Sunday.

... Theatre Tulsa, formed in 1922 ...

... Over the years, both the churches and the theatres won.

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