Tulsa TV Memories      

Tulsa skyline in the 1950s, courtesy of Frank Morrow

Tulsa 1957

1957 Plymouth destined for the Tulsarama time capsule at 6th & Denver, opened June 15, 2007
Courtesy of the Beryl Ford Collection/Rotary Club of Tulsa

KOTV buried car coverage

Michael Bates of BatesLine.com had the brilliant idea to create a Google file from the 1957 Polk's City Directory showing Tulsa's restaurants as of 1957, marked with a knife-and-fork icon: Google Map of Tulsa eateries in 1957.Belvedere DVD

At left: DVD documentary by AVCOM about Tulsa's Buried Belvedere. Click to learn more or to buy.

6/23/2007: Read comments from readers of this site and see photos of the Belvedere in GroupBlog 244.

More at The Buried 1957 Plymouth, and a newspaper article at the TulsaNow.org forum. BuriedCar.com is now viewable only via the Wayback Machine.

A Wichita blogger made the trip to Tulsa for the event: WichitaVortex.com/tulsa

To take you back to the Tulsa of 1957, here are some vignettes from the TTM Archive. Special thanks to Frank Morrow, Lee Woodward and the other contributors.

Related TTM pages are shown in bold face, these, for example:

Tulsa Car Dealers

Tulsa Radio in the 50s

Lost Cultural Aspects of the 50s Generation in Tulsa by Frank Morrow

50s Generation National Radio Memories by Frank Morrow

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."

from Randy Prahl, modern folk writer: "Miss Belvedere".
Randy caught our attention with his original "Mazeppa" song.


Beards and McCarthyism


Frank Morrow:

Keith Bretz on the left

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 in the KRMG Newsmobile

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 Cub—on 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 aircraft.

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 won’t 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. One is Red 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 Tulsa.)

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 don’t 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 boy’s 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 I’ll 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.


Mexican food


Lee Woodward:

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.


Mathematical recreations


Jim Ruddle:

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 Fads 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.

Webmaster: Martin 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 2005 interview in PDF format (I noticed that one of my OU math professors, Andy Magid, was present during it.)
Tulsa In 1957, Gardner popularized "Pentominoes" (Wikipedia). 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 recognizability.


Female impersonator


Featuring the talents of Frances Hite ('AcroXotic'), Jules Savoy, Sabia, Gerry Perry, The Two Notes, The Daffy Dills at Club Orchid, 7131 East Eleventh, courtesy of Frank MorrowLee Woodward:

Orchid Club matchbook, courtesy of David Bagsby 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?

Lee responded:

That was the place! The interior was all painted in orchid and purple. Only went there that one time.

Frank Morrow:

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.

Ben Aronov "The Best Thing for Me" is on CD at Amazon, a 1998 original release. It's a good one. Ben backs Tommy Newsom from the Doc Severinson-era Tonight Show band on "The Feeling of Jazz".

Mr. Aronov played the Club Orchid near the site of the future Rose Bowl in the late 50s. He has played with jazz notables Lee Konitz, Warren Vache and Paul Bley, to name a few.

Here's a photo of Ben playing in France last year.


Pro wrestlers


Frank Morrow said:

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 didn’t last for much longer.

Unknown pro wrestlers in the 1950s

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 couldn’t 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 didn’t 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 ain’t goin’ far."

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 didn’t 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 me.

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 o’clock at night. Not only would Avey certainly not be at his piddling radio station at that hour of night, he didn’t even have an office down here. This is what I was thinking. I merely told the man that Avey was not there and I didn’t 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. I’ll never forget those menacing eyes, that fear-instilling voice, and particularly that enormous neck.

More on this topic: The Rasslin' Page.


Race relations


Lee Woodward:

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.

Louis Armstrong

Louis Armstrong, courtesy of Louise Bland

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 hotels. Right!

Well, "Pops" was more famous and lasted longer than all the hotels in Tulsa if that helps.

Greenwich Village apartments radio adThis 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. (RealPlayer info).

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


B-52 Crash


Frank Morrow:

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 wasn’t 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 newsmobile’s 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


Frank Morrow:

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 grandfather’s 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 couldn’t 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 leg.

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, USA.”

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 in 1957.

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 man’s 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?




Steve Bagsby:

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."

Frank Morrow:

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.

Frank Morrow in the newsmobile KAKC also had a newsmobile, but it was quite limited. KRMG’s 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.

KAKC’s 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. (I’m 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, Larry’s 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, KAKC’s “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, Larry’s car could almost pass for an unmarked cop car.

Tulsa’s 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 that’s about as close as you can come to impersonating a police officer without violating the law.


Frank Morrow:

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.


Wayne McCombs:

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.


Frank Morrow:

KVOO’s "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 O’Neill 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.


Frank Morrow:

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 haven’t 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.




Nate Wilcox:

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 McFarland showing "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 was indeed.


From Greg Corarito's TU masters thesis:

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 market area.

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 named KTUL-TV.

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 1, 1955.


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.


Jim Ruddle:

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 29:

"Didn't Will Rogers Jr. host an early morning show? (probably late 50's)"

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 Lionel!

Lee tells all about Lionel's origin and more in the history of Lee and Lionel on this site.


Lee Woodward:

...in answer to "when I joined KOTV?" June, 1957!

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! (Roy Dieterlen...webmaster)

I think I also saw Ruddle's "Space Show" set? (see "Zeta, On Satellite Six"...webmaster)


Ma Barker:

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.


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