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Tricky Dick and Me

The Friday before Election Day 1972, the Nixon campaign scheduled a last-minute whistle stop rally in a huge hangar at the Tulsa airport. It was our junior year; school let out early, so I hitched a ride home (I thought). My friends thought it would be a great idea to go see the President. Super, I says.

The problem was, the rally was in the late afternoon. Our last football game of the season was that night.

The crowd at the airport was huge. We had to park two miles away and walk to the hangar.

Nov. 3, 1972 – A crowd of 20,000 greeted President Nixon in Tulsa. A huge traffic jam prevented an estimated 10,000 more people from reaching Tulsa International Airport, where he spoke …

In his speech, Nixon promised “a peace with honor” in Vietnam.

A small group of George McGovern supporters attempted to interrupt the speech with chants of “no more Nixon” and “Watergate.” Nixon supporters tried to drown them out with their own chants of “four more years” and the combined noise kept many from hearing the president’s speech.

In the election a few days later, Nixon defeated Sen. McGovern in a landslide. He also carried all 77 counties in Oklahoma by a margin of more than half a million votes …

Being short is a big disadvantage in a large crowd, and it seemed like I was surrounded by a basketball team. To top it off, the place had the acoustics of … well, an airplane hangar.

Never laid eyes on the S.O.B. Never heard a word he said.

Not only that, the rally didn’t matter one whit. The next Tuesday, the Nixon/Agnew ticket rolled to a historic landslide. Before three years passed, both men had resigned in disgrace.

In the football game the night of the rally, we got our asses kicked in a game we should have won. I got on the field for exactly one play, during which I got kicked in the ankle. By the end of the game it looked like a misshapen eggplant.

To this day, I don’t like crowds, I don’t trust politicians, and I’m glad I was never a fanboy.

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Claudette Rogers

by Peter Robertson

I’m 61 years old and convinced I know everything worth knowing. But assuming any self improvement is still possible, I want to be more like Claudette Rogers.

Claudette found a lump on her back, and began to document it on her Facebook page in the same even tones (and with pictures!) that she wrote about that evil, man-eating, thorn-encrusted plant she bought. I want to be more like Claudette.

The lump became more serious, but Claudette didn’t flinch: her posts remained brutally honest and without a hint of self-pity. I want to be more like Claudette.

Claudette over the past several months has called upon reserves of inner strength that beggar description. She, and her alter ego Dot, have kept their senses of humor when lesser people would have seen theirs fail. I want to be more like Claudette.

We spend our lifetimes building relationships with friends and family that are among the most important parts of human existence, yet many of us have trouble calling upon those relationships to ask for or accept help when it is offered. Claudette recognized when she could use help, and accepted it so that she could conserve her physical and emotional energy for the battle that really matters. I want to be more like Claudette.

Our bodies fail us as certainly as the seasons turn. Not a one of us can escape that truth. On my slow march to the grave, I noticed arthritis starting over a decade ago. Type two diabetes showed up five years ago, though it’s well controlled with medication. A skin cancer four years ago was little more than an annoyance. Four additional ones a couple of months ago, including a melanoma, were a little more sobering. Through it all, as my family can attest, I have whined and cried about each new malady like a mewling baby. I want to be more like Claudette.

Adversity doesn’t build character. It reveals it. Claudette’s struggle has cast a light on her extraordinary character. The six decades of my life have been blessed with ridiculously few things to complain of. When the troubles come to me, as they come to us all, I want to be more like Claudette.

June 24, 2017

I’m taking the liberty of cross-posting Peter Robertson’s beautiful tribute to our dear classmate, who passed into eternity on Saturday after a long battle with cancer. Well done, Pete. Well done, Claudette. Steve

Claudette’s obituary in the Tulsa World, July 13, 2017.

Mme. TenZythoff

Dina TenZythoff was Edison Jr. High’s French teacher. Learning French played hell on my spelling in English, but Mme. Tenzythoff’s old-school teaching method helped me understand concepts of grammar (e.g., “le subjonctif”) better than I would have in English class, were I to understand them at all.
On the rare occasion I attempt speaking a little French with my friends who grew up hearing/speaking Cajun French, they wonder why my pronunciation is inflected with Dutch.
I have only this to add: “Je voudrais du jambon, une salade … et une pâtisserie!” R.I.P. Mme. TenZythoff.

patrick-henry-6-3-1967-68

Top Row: Mr. Shepherd, Principal; Mrs. Lawson (Kennedy); Loni Rombach, Denise Birchfield, Tim Hannis, Mary Vruwink, Larry Seale, Claudia Lukken.

Row 2: Kenneta Claxton, ? Moore, Jill Nelson, Yolanda Nava.

Row 3: ? Talbert, Mark Gassaway, Cindy Polson, Bruce Zwahlen, Daneille Irvin, Harold Sanditen, ? Adamson, Mike Wilcox.

Row 4: Carol Clark, Vicky Pollok, Brett McCormick, Cynthia Hilst, Lisa Johnson.

Row 5: Nancy Noel, Me, Mark Bennett, ? Tillison, Paula Mashburn, Chip Allison.

(My memory is not that good; I wrote the names on the original…)

These are my mostly random memories of 6th grade at Patrick Henry.

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Blue Boy

The summer of 1967 was the Summer of Love in San Francisco. I remember being fascinated by the images of freaks and hippies in Life magazine, and by Blue-Boy the Acid-head getting his come-uppance from Sgt. Friday on Dragnet. Tulsa was still a white-bread city, just about as insulated and segregated as it could be; Admiral Place was the de facto demarcation line between White and Black. Schools were still segregated, and blacks were sparsely represented in popular culture, mostly in subservient roles. Julia was still in the future.

The first personal interaction I can remember with a black person was with Mrs. Lawson, who was Section 6-3’s homeroom teacher. (Later in the year, she would marry and become Mrs. Kennedy.) Mrs. Lawson was young, attractive and vivacious in an era when the typical teacher might be uncharitably described as a “schoolmarm”. Mrs. Lawson had a quick wit and she refused to treat her 6th-graders like babies.

At Patrick Henry the 6th grade teachers organized an end-of-the-year trip to Six Flags in Dallas for the graduating students. The bus left at 6 am and returned close to midnight. The trip was a privilege the teachers held over their classes’ heads all year long, as the teachers could blackball potential troublemakers for misbehavior. Mrs. Lawson told us, “I’d be afraid to send some of you kids off to Dallas — you might come home little mommies and daddies!”

Which reminds me of another rite of passage for 6th graders — “hygiene films” about our budding adolescence, one for boys, one for girls. We were given information slips to take home to our parents, so they could opt to hold students out, sex ed being very controversial. My slip got, uh, lost. If the boys’ film conveyed any information about the birds and the bees it was lost on me; all I remember was something about growing hair in my armpits and needing to use deodorant. My understanding of Mrs. Lawson’s “mommies and daddies” remark remained abstract.

1968 was a year of social upheaval: the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, the King assassination and the ensuing riots. If we talked about these issues in class, I don’t remember. We were, after all, 6th graders, and Mrs. Lawson had us focused on grammar and math.

One date I remember is March 12, 1968. I rode my bike to school that morning, wearing a light jacket. During the day a Blue Norther blew in; the temperature plummeted and wet, heavy globs of late-season snow started to fall. They let us out of school early, and I hitched a ride home in the neighbors’ car. Total accumulation was about 12 inches. It was several days before electrical service was restored.

(In my family, we remember that storm because that’s the day my brother Denny first met his future wife Dee. She was a senior at Edison and her car was stuck in the snow. Ever chivalrous, Denny offered her a ride home. They will celebrate their 48th anniversary in January.)

I didn’t sleep a wink the night before the Six Flags trip. We had a blast. None of my classmates became little mommies and daddies as a result (as far as I know; maybe in the other sections). Mrs. Lawson-Kennedy had done her part to introduce us to the world beyond Patrick Henry Elementary School. The next year, most of us would be “7-B’s” at Edison Junior High.

 

 

 

 

My early childhood in Kansas was a mashup of the idyllic TV lives of Opie and The Beav. In summertime, boys played wiffle ball and rode bikes all day long. When it got really hot we swam at Wilson Lake (an old sand pit, really). I tagged along with my older brother and friends to the railroad trestle on the river — the Little Arkansas (pronounced ar-KAN-sas once you cross the state line) — to fish and catch crawdads. We shot firecrackers and BB guns and played games with no parental supervision. Dad’s back-porch whistle, which could be heard blocks away, was our dinner bell. After dinner, we held hide-and-go-seek marathons until way past dark.

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Skelly had the best road maps.

Then came the first of several oil-industry dips and turns that would shape my life. My dad labored over linen maps as a draftsman for Skelly Oil Company. Fifty years ago this month, in August of 1966, Skelly closed its Wichita District office. Dad’s next Skelly paycheck, they told him, could be picked up at the headquarters office in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the “Oil Capital of the World“.

Moving meant leaving Valley Center, a little bedroom community on the edge of the Great Plains outside Wichita. For me, it meant leaving friends and school. My older sister and brother opted to pursue their educations in Kansas, which was their home. In Tulsa, I would be an only child. The new kid.

First impressions of Tulsa from our house-hunting trip were not good.We drove the 200 miles in blistering heat. Our old Rambler lacked A/C. As we finally arrived on the outskirts of Tulsa, we passed Depression-era shotgun houses along U.S. 64 in Sand Springs. We continued on past refineries and Route 66 motor courts that lined Southwest Boulevard in industrial West Tulsa.

Goodbye to Opie and The Beav and the land where the deer and the antelope play. My 9 year-old imagination ran wild: Would the midwestern Maleys’ new neighbors be the Joads and the Clampetts of Bug Tussle (before Uncle Jed went a-shootin’ for some food)?

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Winston Court ca.1966. Not to be confused with the Windsor Court.

First blessing: the Winston Motor Court had a swimming pool.

I was miserable on that house-hunting trip. I couldn’t know it then, but the Maleys’ second blessing was an angel masquerading in the form of a real estate agent named Shatzie Wilson. Shatzie was pleasant, kind and patient with the whiny 9 year-old in the backseat of her station wagon as we scoured available housing in south and east Tulsa. In the days before realtor.com and Redfin, an agent’s only source of market intelligence was a 6-pound Multilist book.

Shatzie had good advice for Ann and Bob. She focused their search on areas with good schools. There were houses in their modest price range in an area called Ranch Acres. Patrick Henry Elementary was a feeder for Edison Junior and Senior High, all schools with great reputations.

Once they found a house they liked, Shatzie advised Ann and Bob to act quickly since the market was brisk. It would be a good idea, she said, to offer $100 over the asking price in case there were multiple offers. (In 1966, $100 was a lot of money.) The strategy worked; another offer had come in at the asking price at the same time.

The little brick veneer ranch on Louisville Ave. would be home for Ann and Bob for the next 30+ years.

To be continued in Part II.

Do Me a Solid

While everyone is in a party mood, please take the time to go to this link and fill out the form to update your contact info. Two lines: Name (incl. maiden name) and preferred email address. You can add phone numbers, physical address etc., even give up your friends in the comments, but all that is optional.

If you received an email from me around May 12 and are OK with my using that address, you don’t have to do anything.

If you don’t want emails, you can keep up with class events by joining the Facebook Group page. I assume that anyone who has a Facebook account and any interest at all can find it. We are, after all, grown-ups. Most of us.

Even without FB, anyone with a computer and access to The Google can find this blog. Want proof? Click here.

I’m also sensitive to the fact that, for any one of about 114 reasons, someone may not wish to reconnect. I can relate. High school was painful at times. For many years I believed I was exclusively attracted to girls who were either maternal or into good grooming. That’s because whenever I asked a girl for for a date, the answer I got was either “I’m babysitting that night” or “I’m washing my hair.” Once I got “I have to babysit and wash my hair.” Talk about covering all the bases.

Anyways, thanks for your help in keeping the contact info current. Since I don’t live in Tulsa, I’m not always running into someone at the grocery store, at the liquor store at the gym or at church.

 

 

 

 

Updated Lists

Go to page Where Are They Now? to see who we’re missing, and to send email address updates for you and your friends. (Email addresses will not be published.)

The organizing committee asked me to remind everyone of a class-wide Happy Birthday gathering, Saturday June 25th, 7 pm until, Mayo Hotel rooftop bar. See below.

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No charge. Free cake. Cash bar etc. There will be dancing until someone needs a hip replacement.

Keep up-to-date with current events at the Edison Class of 1974 Facebook page. Just click on the button to join if you haven’t already.

Edison74.com is a blog; if anyone would like to contribute pictures, memories, rants or anything of mutual interest, send it to me at this address.

If you found this website but are not receiving emails, log in and leave a comment below. I will automatically get your email address.

Steve

For one who spent a considerable portion of his awkward adolescent phase hanging out at Southroads Mall, this article and the accompanying photo gallery recall the tag line from The Twilight Zone.

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I haven’t spent a significant amount of time in Tulsa since I last lived there in 1984. My parents moved south in 1997; since then my only trips back have been for high school class reunions and funerals. From those trips I see Tulsa going through a recognizable corporate homogenization: a Walgreen’s on every major corner that isn’t already occupied by a McDonald’s or a Starbuck’s. Enclosed malls are definitely passé.

When my family moved to Tulsa from Pumpkin Center, KS (h/t Kenny Koch) in 1966, Woolco had just opened. It was the anchor tenant on the west end of what was to become Southroads Mall. (If you’ve never been to a Woolco, think “low-rent K-mart”.) Giant store , everything cheap, always with stale, well-trodden popcorn on the floor. My family had a daily trek to Woolco to buy brooms, cleaning supplies, etc., every day for the first month in Tulsa. (In the olden days, there were no Wal-Marts or Family Dollar stores.)

When I was older but too young for a summer job, I spent most of two summers hanging out at Southroads/Southland with Peter Robertson, Clint Hughes, and Dean Harms. Southroads was preferred because it was enclosed and AIR CONDITIONED. We were preoccupied with girls, fashion, records, and girls. If a movie were to be based of our adventures, it would be “Stand By Me” meets “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”, with me playing the part of the awkward chubby kid with glasses. I will leave the other casting choices to Clint, a/k/a “Clifford DeHaven“.

I never did much actual shopping at Southroads; it was a little upscale for my family’s budget. Never bought a thing at Orbach’s. Only bought shoes at Renberg’s because Bostonians ran wide. Looboyle’s, on the lower level, was the best spot in town for Zebco reels and tackle. Saved a journey to Oertle’s, which was on the edge of civilization.

Those names are gone now, or so I assume. Many of the friends from those days are gone too, and we the survivors are rapidly turning sixty. There are supposed to be benefits that go with grey hair and a middle-aged paunch. I’m not convinced. After all, my awkward adolescent years failed to end on schedule; some say they lasted until sometime during President Clinton’s second term.

Dobe

Dobelbower JackDobelbower

This clipping from The Tulsa World Sept. 20 1995 was in one of my old files. Thought I might share it here for posterity.

Jack Dobelbower was definitely a teacher of the old school, and quite unapologetic about it. He taught math at Edison since it opened in 1955 until his retirement in 1986.

Two facts about his life impressed me. One was that he and his wife married three weeks after they met. Dobe was not big on indecision. And if I’m not mistaken, the Dobelbowers opened their house and took in quite a number of foster and/or adoptive children. You’d have thought that he’d had enough of kids on his day job.