Tulsa TV Memories

Living On

World Staff Writer

Mike Ransom's Web site has flourished to the point it no longer limits itself to television, but relates to Tulsa's pop-culture past through pages on radio, drive-in theater and the city's counterculture in the 1970s.

Photo by Tim Stanley

(Reprinted from the Tulsa World by permission of Tim Stanley)

Mike Ransom (photo by Tim Stanley)

Yahoo gets kicks at Tulsa TV Web site

Gone but not forgotten. That's the sentiment that drives Mike Ransom -- even in this case, where the not-forgotten are often quite forgettable. That's all part of the charm, he'll tell you.

Ransom created the Tulsa TV Memories Web site, a nostalgic nod to all the oddball local shows that filled area airwaves from the 1950s to the 1970s -- before the coming of cable.

Unlike the TV shows it eulogizes, however, Ransom's homage is alive and thriving. The site, which debuted in December 1998 as "Memories of Old Tulsa TV," recently garnered accolades from Yahoo! as one of its noteworthy Internet picks for June.

Ransom, a Tulsa native, said his site typically averages around a few hundred hits a day. But after Yahoo's mention, "it really blew through the roof," he said. "We got thousands and thousands of hits for several days."

Site surfers have access to photos and audio/video clips from old Tulsa standards like "Fantastic Theater" a late Saturday night science fiction/horror movie program, which showcased "fantastic" fare like "Sombra the Spider Woman" and "The Robot vs. The Aztec Mummy."

"The Uncanny Film Festival and Camp Meeting" starring Dr. Mazeppa Pompazoidi (Tulsan Gailard Sartain who went on to become a big-screen character actor) was another favorite, along with "Lee Woodward and King Lionel," a puppet-based kids show.

Ransom estimates that his interest in the subject was probably spawned at a showing of "Big Bill and Oom-a-Gog" on Oct. 20, 1960, which he got to attend as part of his younger brother's birthday festivities. The program featured live skits intermingled with screenings of cartoons -- with a studio audience of enraptured children looking on.

Like "Big Bill," most of the shows were assembled on shoestring budgets with low production values, Ransom said. They also weren't unique to Tulsa.

"Most cities had variations on the shows -- puppet programs, teen dance programs, horror movie theaters." he said.

The shows represent a time in TV history that's long gone, he added.

"There was a unique window of opportunity from the beginning of TV through about the mid-80s where local TV had more creative control; but gradually they surrendered control to the national corporate level, allowing it to dictate programming."

Ransom believes the surrender was primarily economical.

"The local stations found it easier and cheaper to acquire syndicated national programs like 'Solid Gold' rather than to rig up studio space for some local enterprise," he added.

Ransom said that some 50 former TV programs are referenced on the site. But some of the most popular features are the guestbooks -- there are 109 of them, some for particular shows, where site visitors can post messages and carry on lengthy discourses. Ransom said that many of the guestbook frequenters are people who were involved with the shows themselves.

Lee Woodward, star of "Lee Woodward and King Lionel," has long since retired from TV, but he's become a contributor to the site, posting occasional tidbits and memories.

"It's a TV site for TV memories. Anyone that worked in TV, even the cameramen and behind-the-scenes people, they all contribute and that does make it interesting," said Woodward, who when he wasn't on the set of his kids program, served as a weatherman on KOTV Channel 6.

Woodward, who still lives in Tulsa, added that it's flattering to have his work from the period memorialized on the Internet.

"It's incredible really that there would be so much interest. I haven't been on the air since 1983," he said. "It's a little hard to fathom, that you would have that much impact when you were just trying to make a living. But that's TV. When you're coming into people's homes every day you in a sense become like a member of the family to them; so it's not strange that they want to remember you."

"I never intended for this site to become the gigantic thing that it has," Ransom said. "TV is the one aspect of culture that seems to connect everyone."

It's no longer just about TV, however. The site relates Tulsa's past through a hodgepodge of other pop culture items; Ransom has added pages on radio, old drive-in theaters and one on Tulsa counterculture of the 1970s.

"Just oddball unique local things," he said.

But it's not easy to explain the nostalgic appeal of it all to younger generations, Ransom admitted.

"I turn 49 this month and I've noticed that people in mid-life reach a point where they start to look backward a lot," he said. "This site is a novelty in that it allows you to look back on these things -- you mumble to yourself repeatedly 'I can't believe that was 35 years ago; I remember it so clearly.' And then you can share that with other people."

Ransom said he has heard from some younger fans, though.

"People have written in to say 'I wasn't alive for any of these, but I find them interesting,'" he added.

Check it out: log online at tulsatvmemories.com.

Tim Stanley, World staff writer, can be reached at 437-0150 or via e-mail at tim.stanley@tulsaworld.com.

Copyright © Tulsa World, 2002

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