Excerpt from editorial, "Tulsa can compare with best U.S. cities" by Jim
Sellars, 9/30/1992, The Tulsa Tribune
"A little research revealed that the title of America's most beautiful
city came from a 1957 Reader's Digest article, a bit of happy puffery
that was the payoff for some attentive wining and dining of the author by
local civic and business leaders. There also was a nugget of truth in that
article which is extremely important for this city today, and it has nothing
to do with titles.
"Tulsa east of the Arkansas River in 1957 didn't go much beyond 41st Street,
much past Sheridan to the east, or Pine Street on the north. Visitors saw
a tight little town dominated by the ostentatious, baronial mansions built
in the '20s, when oil was king and Tulsa's other title, Oil Capital of
the World, made more sense."
Randy Prahl, modern folk writer: "Miss
Randy caught our attention with his original
Beards and McCarthyism
Keith Bretz on the left
The Tulsa media were urged by the boosters to participate in Tulsa's 50th
anniversary in 1957. The big thing was to wear western clothes and to
grow beards. At KRMG, Program Director Keith Bretz and I were
the only ones to sprout beards, although an engineer from the transmitter
site may have done so, too. Keith shaved his off after several weeks because
he thought it looked too straggly.
Despite the big push to display facial hair, extremely few media people or
anyone else actually did it. Except for McCarthyism, people didn't take things
too seriously in the '50s. It wasn't exactly apathy. It was more like a
combination of cynicism, disinterest, and not wanting to look foolish.
An example of the hysteria caused by the McCarthy period and the Cold War
can be found in the preparation for a KRMG Newsmobile broadcast in
1957. Larry Strain had a lady friend who had an avocation of airplane spotting
for the government. Larry asked me if I wanted to go with him to watch her
perform her patriotic duty.
Frank covered the burial of the Plymouth in 1957.
We met the woman at the National Bank of Tulsa building, and ascended to
the tower, where we could see in all directions. It was a beautiful view
of Tulsa. But, we were not there to enjoy the view. We were on a mission
of helping to protect our fair city from the nasty Rooskies.
The lady explained that, because the Russians might fly airplanes under our
defensive radar blanket, we needed to observe the skies and report all aircraft
we could see. As we scanned the heavens for the approach of Armageddon, we
spied an airliner. She hopped to the phone, and made a long-distance report
to the Kansas City processing center. Alfa, Baker, Kilo, Kilo, Gulf.
I have an American Airlines flight heading northeast at about 3,000 feet.
She returned with a satisfied smile on her face. Larry then spotted a Piper
Cub out for a spin. Our heroine rushed back to the phone. Alfa, Baker,
Kilo, Kilo, Gulf. I have a single-engine plane--probably a Piper Cubon
a southwesterly course at about 4,000 feet.
I asked her why she reported all airplanes, even commercial airliners that
were landing at the airport as well as such a non-threatening thing as a
Piper Cub. She replied that those were her orders. The people at the federal
agency told her that atomic bombs possibly could be placed in any type of
We stayed there until it became dark, enjoying the darkening, soft view of
our beautiful city, and reporting on each aircraft we could see. I had qualms
about the long-distance telephone bill that the taxpayers had just paid for,
but I had a warm feel from knowing that, at least for now, the Tulsa skies
had been made safe from a Soviet attack and nuclear incineration.
I previously mentioned the McCarthy era and its effect on radio in Tulsa.
Here are two examples. I was doing my evening record show Music for
Listening on KAKC when the general manager came running in with a strange
look on his face. Get rid of all the Weavers records. We wont
play any music of Communists on this station.
Sen. Joe McCarthy had just named the Weavers folk singing group as being
on his list of subversives. Their transgression in reality had been mainly
to support the unions and union organizing. Conservatives and liberal Democrats
had used the Red-baiting Era to de-fang the unions by driving out the radical
members who were providing the energy for the successes of the labor movement.
Conservative union leaders had used it to take over power for themselves.
In this they all were successful. (There are many good books on the subject.
Scare!: Right-Wing Hysteria, Fifties Fanaticism and Their Legacy in
Texas by Don Carleton, who states that the only city in the country
that was worse than Houston in being affected by the McCarthy Period was
The good news is that, as a result of Joe McCarthy, I now have a nice collection
of Weavers music on 78rpm records.
The effects of the McCarthy Period lingered on after the downfall of Tail
Gunner Joe. (His legacy continues even today.) In 1956, when I was
driving the KRMG newsmobile, Program Director Keith Bretz told me
that the general manager, a man whose last name was Lane, wanted me to have
a man (sic) on the street interview each day. I expressed my
doubts, but went ahead with the assignment. Night after night I would park
the Microbus on a downtown street, roll out my microphone cord, and stop
people walking by. After explaining what I would like for them to do, the
fear would immediately light up in their eyes, and they would say, I
dont want to go on record to say anything, or I keep my
opinions to myself. They then would rush off.
Meanwhile, Lane was putting pressure on Keith, who was pressuring me. The
only solution I could think of was to stage the interviews. I started going
to my Kappa Sigma fraternity house to do it. Occasionally one of the boys
girl friends would join us. The interviews would take an almost pre-determine
path: Two guys would express opposing views, start shouting, and end up getting
into a fight. I could have given Sam Avey a lesson or two in staging events.
Eventually the requirement the man (sic) on the street assignment was dropped,
but Ill never forget the fear on the faces of the people I approached
when I asked them to exercise their First Amendment rights.
Also on this site: Gary Chew reviewed "Good
Night, and Good Luck", a 2005 movie about the showdown between Joe
McCarthy and CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow.
I am glad that Jim Ruddle brought up Mexican food because it has been badly
abused by some from its original authentic roots.
I grew up in Arlington, Texas and remember the many Mexican restaurants in
the Dallas-Fort Worth area. All of them made everything "in house" and it
was wonderful. Nothing ran together on the plate.
When I came to Tulsa in 1957, it was much the same and the really good places
had been here for some time. I remember a place on 15th Street (just east
of Atlanta) run by a fellow named Victor Mendoza. He played a fair guitar
and sang. Alas, a better singer than owner. He later played and sang at La
Casa Bonita at 21st and Sheridan.
I had no idea that Martin Gardner had an Oklahoma connection, but
he's another unsung hero the state should honor with a monument.
His columns were the absolute antidote to much of the brainless material
that infests ordinary publishing. I can't think of anyone else who so
consistently made sense.
Although written in 1957, his book
and Fallacies in the Name of Science is still in print and should
be on everyone's required reading list--particularly for every journalist.
When you read about the Mexican clinic that was "treating" Coretta Scott
King at the time of her death, you realize that his voice is still needed.
Gardner (Wikipedia), long-time "Mathematical Games" columnist in Scientific
American, was born in Tulsa, was a reporter for the Tulsa Tribune pre-WWII,
and now lives in Norman. Here is a
in PDF format (I noticed that one of my OU math professors, Andy Magid, was
present during it.)
In 1957, Gardner popularized
The game was to have been played by HAL 9000 in
"2001: A Space Odyssey" (deleted
scene photo at link). Parker Brothers manufactured a pentomino game in hopes
the scene would be included, but chess was substituted for its
My memory was jingled by the mention of a bowling alley. There was one way
out on 11th Street in 1957 and close to it was a night club. Les Lampson
took me out there on a trumped up bachelor party. I was only single three
months when I got here. He fixed me up with an attractive lady and as I adjusted
to the dark I knew Les had found me a Female Impersonator. We had a good
laugh and a good time. Can't think of the name of the place...
Webmaster: I posed this question to Lee: Could the Club Orchid (near
the Rose Bowl) be the place?
That was the place! The interior was all painted in orchid and purple. Only
went there that one time.
I forgot to mention that Benny Aronov (billed in the ad above) was
a very talented piano player and singer. He was a Central graduate of 1950.
I met three professional wrestlers during my radio career, two of whom I
interviewed on the KRMG Newsmobile in 1957. Each was a memorable occasion.
The first one I interviewed was Gorgeous George when he was at the
height of his career. As I understand it, after writing his doctoral dissertation
on professional wrestling for a psychology degree, George decided that he
could really take advantage of his new knowledge.
He was the first to invent the bizarre school of wrestling. Before he would
enter the ring, he had a valet who would spray disinfectant in the ring,
followed by bursts of perfume. Next, rose petals were dropped around the
wrestling mat. George then would make his dramatic entrance, wearing long,
glittering, expensive robes, and looking like Liberace if we all had been
on LSD. He had long, curly, blonde hair, which he had "done up" perfectly
before the match. George was a villain who also could be cowardly. People
hated him. All this made him famous and rich.
Jeff Archer, who wrote the best book on professional wrestling"Theater
in a Squared Circle"tells me that "George was the FIRST wrestler to
identify television as the future for wrestlers creating a persona and becoming
household names. According to world famous legendary wrestler Killer Kowalski,
Because of his antics, most people did not realize the Gorgeous George
was one great wrestler. There were few who could match him in wrestling
skills. Kowalski attributes all the notoriety he and others received
to Gorgeous George putting wrestling on the TV map."
Because I was almost always scrambling for subjects to present on the KRMG
Newsmobile, I decided to go out to the fairgrounds and interview Gorgeous
George before the matches, which would start in about two hours. He was not
the friendliest guy in the world, particularly after I asked him before we
went on the air if he preferred to be called Gorgeous, or Mr. George, or
a combination of each. After an introduction about the matches later in the
evening, I asked him when he was going to get his hair done. His eyes flashed
lightning. "It already IS done!" he snapped. The interview didnt last
for much longer.
Unidentified pro wrestlers at the Tulsa Coliseum in the 1950s.
The Coliseum was also home to KAKC at that time.
Courtesy of the Beryl Ford Collection/Rotary Club of Tulsa
The next wrestler I interviewed was the opposite of George. It was "Farmer
Jones." He was a good-natured man from Arkansas who wore overalls with
only one strap holding him in. He was an awesome sight: He was huge---well
over three hundred pounds. Jones was so big that he couldnt fit into
the front seat of the VW Microbus to do the interview. I had to open the
sliding side door so we could sit inside the vehicle with our feet resting
on the ground. I sat down first. When Farmer Jones followed, the poor Microbus
tilted so precariously that I had visions of the Titanic and Lusitania.
But it didnt faze the jovial Jones. He said, "I shore love to scramble
with the boys"---his term for wrestling (or "rassling" as it generally was
known, to differentiate the "grunt and groaners" from the legitimate high
school and college wrestlers). "Once I git on top of em, they aint
My first contact with a professional wrestler occurred in 1952 at KAKC when
I was doing my night disk jockey show, "Music for Listening." It sometimes
could get a little lonely and a bit scary down in the basement of the coliseum
all by yourself, with nothing to keep you company but the sounds of your
music, your voice and the scrambling of the rats on the other side of the
wall behind you. During such a moment I heard the buzzer from the front door.
I looked through the control room window and the large studio and down the
long hall to the door. I could press a button and let the door be opened,
if I chose. A huge figure in a long, black overcoat was pressing the buzzer.
I didnt recognize him, and continued to look at him while trying to
decide whether to let him in. He then started to bang on the door. That convinced
He strode toward the control room with the confident steps of a man who was
used to getting his way. As he threw open the door, I saw an enormous man
with menacing eyes and black, bushy eyebrows. He had very large hands which
looked like they could snap anything in two. But the most impressive thing
was his neck, which was larger than his ample head. There was no flab.
"WHERE'S SAM AVEY?" he roared in a deep, cavernous voice. (Avey was the wrestling
promoter and owner of KAKC.) It was eleven
oclock at night. Not only would Avey certainly not be at his piddling
radio station at that hour of night, he didnt even have an office down
here. This is what I was thinking. I merely told the man that Avey was not
there and I didnt know where he was.
"Well," he said, fixing me with a look which could make you incontinent on
the spot, "When you see him, tell him that Ed Strangler
Lewis is looking for him!"
With that, he turned and strode out of the control room, through the newsroom,
and down the hall. A sonic boom accompanied his closure of the front door.
I felt my body to make sure that I was all there, and checked all my orifices
to see if any further action was required. I felt lucky to be alive, having
survived this encounter with the man who for many years was the terror of
professional wrestling in the heavyweight class. His nickname was his signature;
his technique very simple. Although he had retired, he looked like he could
handle anyone, anywhere. All these images about this man are still so clearly
engraved in my mind. Ill never forget those menacing eyes, that
fear-instilling voice, and particularly that enormous neck.
The mention of race records reminds me of 1957 when I first came to work
at KOTV. There was a "Coney Island" just up the block at 3rd and Elgin. My
first trip up there found me in line behind a black soldier. I looked around
and saw that there were some vacant seats so I wouldn't have to stand. The
soldier's turn came to order, which he did. The order taker put his order
in a small sack and handed it over the glass partition. The soldier said,
"I didn't want it to go!" The man shook the sack at him and said, "You can't
eat it in here!" The feeling I felt at that moment matched the look on the
face of the soldier who much to his credit handed the sack back to the man
and walked out. Wish I had of.
The second thing that rang my bell was around 1958 or 59(?), I had just finished
interviewing Louis Armstrong in our studio. We were out in the lobby and
I asked where he was staying (I assumed the Hotel Tulsa or the Mayo, etc.)
One of the people with him gave the name of someplace over on the north side.
I said; "What!" He said that there were "no rooms" at any of the downtown
Well, "Pops" was more famous and lasted longer than all the hotels in Tulsa
if that helps.
1958 radio spot advertised apartments in downtown Tulsa "for colored people".
Unbelievable, but here it is. We don't want to get too nostalgic about the
"good old days", because they were some very bad old days, too.
Former KAKC jock Steve Suttle said via email:
I got that spot from Henry Mark (son of then-owner of KAKC, Carl Mark).
He told me he took it off an old transcription disc he found at the Tradewinds
Studios (at one time there were hundreds of them stacked up on the production
room shelves). I believe he told me the spot aired in 1958. Tulsa was
considerably different in the 1950s. I remember watching the NAACP picketing
the Piccadilly cafeteria in the very early 60s when Okla. had the same
segregation laws as the other border states
In 1957, when I was driving the KRMG newsmobile, a B-52 crashed on the outskirts
of Skiatook, killing all but, perhaps, two crewmembers. By the time I heard
about it, the road to Skiatook was clogged with traffic. Even emergency vehicles
could not get through. Keith Bretz at the control room was screaming at me
to get to a telephone and tell them what was happening. Not only was I not
near a phone by that time, there was no place to park the newsmobile. There
wasnt even a shoulder on the narrow two-lane road.
It took me over an hour to reach the site. And what a sight! The bomber had
exploded in mid-air, scattering debris over more than a quarter-mile square
area. There was an unopened parachute dangling from a tree. What was left
of the cockpit was lying in an open field. When I got there, the rescue crew
had just extracted what remained of the bodies. Inside the cockpit were pieces
of flesh and a lot of blood. The houses in the area had pieces of the airplane
in their yards. A few homes had large sections of metal which were resting
on their roofs, while others had large chunks of debris leaning against the
walls or lying on open porches.
Because I was out of range of the newsmobiles FM signal to our relay
installation on the National Bank of Tulsa building, I called Keith and told
him that I would stay and get interviews on our tape machine and bring them
back to the station later, rather than rush back to the station and give
a description of what happened. I got some great interviews with people who
had seen the whole tragedy from before the time the plane had exploded until
the crash occurred. Some of the people were actually running from the falling
debris, while others were in their houses, watching huge chunks of metal
descending toward them. I also talked with rescue personnel and police to
get their perspectives.
By the time I took these interviews back to the station, it was dark. Doc
Hull played them on his evening show, and some were presented again the next
morning on our news programs.
It seems strange to me that in all the stories mentioned in the Tulsa World
in their excellent special history sections during Tulsa's 100th anniversary
year, I could not find a single reference to the crash of the B-52. By the
way, I still have the audio tape containing the crash interviews.
Killer on the loose
At the end of a Sunday 10pm newscast on KRMG in 1957, I was handed a bulletin,
the first sentence of which read, A man who was serving a life sentence
for murder has just escaped from the state prison in McAlester. There
was nothing particularly new or interesting about that.
It was the next sentence that sent chills down my spine. The escaped
killer, Frank Sawyer, is said to be heading east from the city. If
I had seen the story before the very end of the newscast, I could have related
the rest of the story.
In mid-1933, a man came up to my grandfathers farm located halfway
between Binger and Gracemont, Oklahoma, southwest of Oklahoma City, and asked
for a ride to the road going to the state capital. My aunt Lois Goodfellow,
who was an Oklahoma A&M student, and her brother Bob were headed toward
Anadarko, and said that they would drop him off at the Y where
the road splits to go to Oklahoma City. My grandfather and aunt were suspicious
of the man, particularly because the radio was full of reports of a big jailbreak
in Kansas, where some of the escapees were said to be headed to Oklahoma.
Their suspicions were justified, because after several miles, the man pulled
out a gun, and told my aunt, who was driving, to take him to Oklahoma City.
As my uncle unsuccessfully tried to grab the gun, Lois drove the car into
a sandy ditch beside the road. While the escaped killer fumed, he ordered
Lois to get the car out of the ditch. She pretended that she couldnt
do it. He said that he had already killed some people; so, killing her would
be no big deal.
Meanwhile, a car containing two state police officers pulled up beside them
and offered help. The killer grabbed my uncle and fired some shots. The lawmen
answered, with one of their bullets hitting my uncle, who fell over, and
pulled himself to the other side of the car, bleeding from a wound in his
The state officers jumped onto the man and wrestled him to the ground. However,
the killer was too big and strong, and soon was getting the best of the two,
and was trying to reach for his gun which was on the ground nearby. The lawmen
cried out to my aunt for help. Lois jumped onto the killer's back, pummeling
him with her fists, pulling his hair, gouging his eyes, and shredding his
face with her fingernails.
This was too much for the escapee. He gave up and was taken into custody.
But before he was taken away, he vowed that one day he would escape, and
would come after my aunt and kill her.
My aunt became an international celebrity. The story and her picture made
the front pages in newspapers worldwide. There were articles in magazines
about her. She received many letters, including marriage proposals, from
all over the world. She received one letter addressed simply, "Lois Goodfellow,
The reason I had chills from reading the story on the 10pm news? The escaped
killer whom my aunt subdued in 1933 was Frank Sawyer, the newly escaped prisoner
OK, Mike, you asked-----
There are two other twists to the story of escaped killer Frank Sawyer and
my aunt, Lois Goodfellow.
A few years after Sawyer was captured when he tried to abduct Lois and my
uncle in 1933, she saw him again. She had a state government job, which on
one occasion required her to accompany a visitor to the state prison. While
there, she saw Sawyer in a hallway about twenty feet away. Their eyes met.
Lois said she had never seen so much hate in a mans eyes.
Fast forward to about five years ago. My aunt, now in her 80s, is watching
TV in her Arlington, Virginia, home. A story on the 10pm news states that
convicted killer Frank Sawyer, serving a life sentence for murder in
Oklahoma, was paroled today. Sawyer, who is in his 80s and in very bad health,
was placed into the custody of his daughter.
The chills returned to my aunt. All the memories of that dreadful day came
rushing back. She wondered if, even in bad health, Sawyer might try to make
good on his promise to seek her out and to kill her.
Sawyer died several months later, but the vivid memories and frightful dreams
of my aunt live on.
How much coincidence and irony is there in the fact that two news bulletins--one
in 1957 in Tulsa and the other in the Washington, D.C., area in 1995--could
still have such an emotional impact from an event that occurred in south-central
Oklahoma in 1933?
Last night I was listening to a tape of a broadcast Bob Wills made at Cains
Ballroom around 1957. At the very end the announcer comes on and says...."This
is KVOO Tulsa, Oil Capital of the World."
My favorite John Trotter story occurred during the floods of 1957 when I
was driving the KRMG Newsmobile. It was a
very exciting time, because the floods were accompanied by tornadoes. Trotter
was at KAKC, the main competitor of KRMG, particularly for news reporting.
KAKC also had a newsmobile, but
it was quite limited. KRMGs had a transmitter in the Volkswagen van
which would send a signal to the National Bank
of Tulsa building, the tallest in town. (Now, this once majestic
structure looks like a rather ratty, headless, pygmy chicken amid its taller,
[and personality-challenged] mutant progeny.) This signal was relayed to
the studios, allowing us to go on the air immediately with a superb signal.
The van also had a built-in tape recorder and an extremely long cord which
could be unwound for extended coverage where necessary.
KAKCs station wagon, however, only had a mobile telephone which connected
to an operator who manually patched in the connection so that the announcer
could go on the air. The main problem was that, because there were many other
customers using this service, the KAKC announcer frequently had to wait until
a connection became available. It must have been frustrating. Finally, the
newsmobile did not have a person who was dedicated only to operating the
vehicle. (Im sure that Dick Schmitz could verify if all this is correct.)
KRMG was having a field day with the weather reporting. Additionally, during
the flood Bob Parkhurst and one other person had a mobile telephone put into
their cars, giving us four mobile news units. The fourth was a car with a
phone which was always kept at the transmitter. That is why the painting
on the side of the VW Microbus said, KRMG Newsmobile #2---a real
stretch of the truth, because #1 was never used.
The reporting coup de grace occurred when Larry Strain took a tape recorder
up in an airplane which was piloted by a friend of his. Although the engine
noise was quite strong, Larrys reporting of the flood scene down below
was very impressive.
The next day I heard a report by John Trotter on KAKC. He, too, was in an
airplane, reporting on the situation below. I asked Larry Strain about it.
He told me that a KAKC employee, (perhaps Trotter, himself) had informed
him that Trotter had found a recording of an airplane engine, and had played
the noise in the background while he faked an in-air report. Like an ostrich,
KAKCs Airmobile never left the ground.
Hearing from Larry Strain again has been great. I'm looking forward to hearing
what happened in Tulsa radio after I left in 1957 for the Navy.
Larry's enthusiasm and initiative knew no bounds. As part of the KRMG Newsmobile
duties we had to interact a lot with the Tulsa police, and got to know some
of them pretty well. (An older man, Sgt. Haddock, was particularly nice.
He later was elevated to lieutenant after the huge scandal that resulted
in the indictments of the Tulsa Police Commissioner, Police Chief, and a
couple of detectives.)
Larry became enamored with police work. He went so far as to buy a white
Ford that looked a lot like the police cars. After he added a long, whip
antenna to the rear of the vehicle, Larrys car could almost pass for
an unmarked cop car.
Tulsas new uncommissioned police officer would cruise the
streets, with his antenna flapping ominously in the wind. With a grin on
his face he told me that he would pull up behind a car, then cup his hand
over his mouth to make it look like he was transmitting over a police radio.
Upon seeing this, some cars would pull over and stop. Larry would insouciantly
continue on his way.
I spoze thats about as close as you can come to impersonating a police
officer without violating the law.
KRMG had tornado coverage starting in 1957 from the airport via its Newsmobile.
Although the radar was rather rudimentary, it still showed returns that could
indicate a possible funnel, i.e., a cloud with a hook or a doughnut.
Meteorologists were readily available, and there also were reports via spotters
on the ground.
The (KFMJ) studio moved to the transmitter
site on West Edison in 1957. The format changed around that time to religious
programs in the morning with the remainder of the day country music.
Billy Parker, Jay Jones and Will Jones,
three KFMJ disc jockeys from the late 50s to the late 60s, became Tulsa radio
legends. In the 70s and 80s, they made KVOO one of the top country music
stations in the nation. Another popular announcer was David Ingles, who now
owns KYND and KDIM radio in Tulsa.
KVOOs "Eggs at Eight" featured, not only Frank Simms and Walter
Teas, but also the Entertaining Eight, the Tune
Toasters, and Edie Washburn singing. Frank and Walter would always
tease her, introducing her as Edie Washbucket or Edie
Sideburn. She always took the bait and complained. Tubby Young
played bass and did the weather. Lorraine Bynum played the harp. Joe
ONeill directed. Cy Tuma played
clarinet for the Tune Toasters, and Simms sang with the
Entertaining Eight. It was quite a production, five days a week
for 45 minutes each day.
My last month of announcing in Tulsa was June, 1957, after which I entered
the Navy, had mostly overseas duty, and never returned to Tulsa media.
I wonder what the modern radio station control room looks like? I havent
been in one since 1957. If I were to visit one, I would probably feel like
Wilbur Wright being plunked down into the cockpit of a 747.
I was on Kwaj for several miserable hours in 1957 on my 36 hour trip at 122
mph from California to my first duty station on Guam after OCS. It was miserably
hot and humid. There were no stores, and no amenities. There were still some
WWII rusty relics here and there on the beach.
The poor people who were stationed on that almost flat surface didn't even
have enough water pressure to provide water for the upstairs bathrooms of
their Capehart housing. They had to carry water up the stairs to fill the
bathtubs and to flush the toilets.
Someone asked for memories of Romper Room.
I worked on the floor crew at KTUL-TV when Romper Room first started on the
station in early 1957. The first Romper Room teacher/host was very nearsighted
but wouldn't wear glasses on camera.
In one segment she was showing pictures the children had drawn and making
comments about them. She had thumb tacked them to a cork board. On one picture
she pointed out what a nice sun the child had drawn. The director cut to
a close-up and it was a yellow thumbtack that she had used to put up the
picture. We had huge cue cards we would use so she could see them from a
distance. Contact lenses were not so common in those days but they would
have dramatically helped her performance.
Joe Langley said:
Some memories to share. My family moved to Tulsa in 1957. Children's programming
in the afternoon included Spanky McFarlandshowing "Little Rascals" on KOTV, "Popeye Theater with Captain Hal" on
KTUL and another show which was a predecessor to "Big Bill and Oom-A-Gog"
on KVOO. My first visit to a TV station was my sixth birthday at KTUL to
be on "Popeye Theater."
I also remember meeting Spanky at the Tulsa State Fair when KOTV did live
remotes from the fair. I remember the balloon head exploding, but didn't
recall that being a suicidal gesture.
In 1992, I was on a plane from Nassau to Atlanta. Spanky was in the seat
behind me. We chatted briefly--I told him that I had met him when I was about
six or seven years old. He said it must have been in Tulsa. I told him it
Early in 1957, manager Michael Shapiro requested permission from the FCC
to transfer the entire KTVX operation from Muskogee to Tulsa. This request
was immediately protested by KOTV and KVOO-TV as an infrinement upon their
Throughout the spring and summer of 1957 the FCC considered the KTVX proposal,
as well as resultant arguments by the protestants. In addition to the proposed
move, Shapiro also requested that the name of the station be changed to KTUL.
Finally, on September 12, 1957, the FCC gave its approval to both requests.
From that date Channel Eight has been located solely in Tulsa and has been
In July of 1957 KVOO moved from temporary quarters in the Akdar Building
at Fourth and Denver in downtown Tulsa to the elaborate Broadcast Center
studios at 37th and Peoria in the Brookside section of Tulsa.9 KVOO-TV shares
the facilities of Broadcast Center with KVOO Radio.
From the fall of 1955 until January of 1957 KVOO-TV scheduled "The University
of Tulsa Presents," a weekly half-hour program prepared as a laboratory project
by the TU television production class.
The webmaster had stated "Channel 2 went on the air December 5, 1954 as KVOO-TV.
It was Tulsa's second VHF station."
Chief nitpicker Don Norton points out that the last statement is true
"only technically--it was the second VHF to transmit from inside the metro
Tulsa area. KTVX went on the air in Muskogee on September 18 with almost
as powerful a signal as KOTV from a tower halfway between Tulsa and
Muskogee--obviously to serve both areas. And KTVX did, like a local, which
it really was."
KTVX was renamed KTUL on September 12, 1957, though the station had operated
from Lookout Mountain (site of the ill-starred UHF station KCEB) since November
The webmaster said:
We know a bit about KOTV's "Shock Theatre".
It signed on in October 1957, was on at 10:30 p.m. Saturday nights and lasted
a couple of years; Bob Mills (real name: Robert A. Millisor) played "Igor,
Your Ghost Host"; cameraman Leon Meier, Lee Woodward and others played Igor's
assistant, "Hornstaff", outfitted in rubber masks from Ehrle's Party Barn...
John Wooley on Shock Theatre:
In 1957, Screen Gems -- an outfit that sold old theatrical features to television
-- packaged up a bunch of horror movies from the '30s and '40s and offered
them to stations under the collective name "Shock Theater."
The package included such classic Universal Pictures titles as "Frankenstein,"
"Dracula" and "The Wolf Man," offered to TV for the first time.
To help popularize the "Shock Theater" features, Screen Gems also suggested
that individual stations use creepy hosts to introduce the films, a narrative
device previously used to good effect in horror comic books and radio shows.
Dozens of stations across the country heeded that tip, and scores of announcers
done up in horror drag began shambling across TV screens, kicking off a horror
craze among America's youth.
Another KOTV tidbit from the past: In 1957, Suzanne Bettis, whose husband,
Larry, was well known to many who
attended TU, asked me if I could arrange an audition for a young lady who
was one of her ballet students. The girl also sang, and, as we were looking
for a female vocalist, I said I'd do what I could. I prevailed on Dick Campbell,
the program director, to set aside some studio time and the young talent
arrived and did a piece for the cameras. As I recall, it was "Many a New
Day," from OKLAHOMA!
She was a little nervous, and the song, while charming, is not exactly a
show-stopper. She was delightful, nevertheless, and wide-eyed pretty.
Dick was not impressed. He looked at me, rolled his eyes and said, "I don't
think so." End of story, sort of.
The girl's name was Susan Watson, and within three years was starring
with Dick Van Dyke and Chita Rivera in "Bye, Bye Birdie," on Broadway. That
was followed by leading roles in "No, No, Nanette," "42nd Street," "Celebration,"
and other musicals, including a television special of a fairy tale, not
"Cinderella," but something like that. My memory ain't what it used to be.
Anyway, she had a great career and, even now, is appearing with Andrea Marcovicci
in a series of so-called "Lost Musicals" with the 42nd St. Moon, a popular
San Francisco group that plays at the New Conservatory Theater.
Another KOTV non-discovery.
"Uncle Sherman" of KPIG radio in California posed this question in Guestbook
"Didn't Will Rogers Jr. host an early morning show? (probably late
An item in today's "Answerman" feature in the World answered this question
and brought up a very interesting bit of Tulsa TV history as well:
"From January 1956 to April 1957, Jack Paar, Walter Cronkite and Will Rogers,
Jr. were hosts of the two-hour "Morning Show" on CBS. Cast regulars included
Edie Adams, Dick Van Dyke, and the Bil and Cora Baird Puppets."
So Will Rogers, Jr. was on a national, rather than local TV show. But even
more interesting to readers of this site is the mention of Bil Baird.
A marionette neamed "Charlemane" was created by Baird and featured on the
show. Charlemane was popular enough that puppet versions were sold in stores.
One of them was discovered in a storage bin at KOTV by Lee Woodward and became
When I drove up from Abilene Texas (KRBC-TV, The "Outhouse of the industry")
to audition for Dale Hart, I had to wait for the close of the "Time for Richut
Show" with cartoonist Richard Ruhl. The fellow who wore the Claribell Cow
costume on that show was Ralph Bardgett. Either he or Dave Davis directed
my audition. Lawwill ran the boom mike. Don't remember the cameramen!
For three years from about 1957 to 1960 I was a staff director at KTUL-TV
in Tulsa. We rotated shifts but I worked from 4 to midnight most of the time
so I directed the News and Weather at 6 and 10. In those days Jack
Morris was our "ace-in-the-hole." He brought us great ratings and his
secret was his "kicker" on the end of the show. Viewers sent him jokes, and
nobody could resist the big grin on his face when he started to read them
(whether they were that funny or not). We cut to a close-up for this kicker,
and the audience got a good laugh to close the show.
Then it was time for Don Woods and
Gusty for the weather. Way back then practically no weatherman on
television was a real meteorologist, but Don was. And he could draw the little
cartoon character he called "Gusty." Don was a great guy. So were most of
the people I worked with in Tulsa. In those days it was very unusual to have
a woman in the controlroom, telling men what to do and exposed to all their
"bad" language. From what I have learned I think I was one of the first two
or three women in the U.S. to be a television director. It was a lot of fun
and hard work.