Category: Reminiscences

Much of my mid-to-late adolescence was frittered away cruising with my buddies in Tulsa’s Southside, an area which during my extended abscence came to be known as “Midtown”, at least by Google Maps and real estate agents. (When my family moved to Tulsa in 1966, 51st Street was a two lane strip through the woods on the edge of town; remember Pickles? The Edison school district will ever be “the Southside”, at least in my memory.)

Bell’s Amusement Park was a frequent hangout for our group of dateless miscreants, mainly because admission was free and gasoline had become expensive. One pastime was to try to cheat the Ske-Ball machine out of tickets that could only be redeemed for cheap trinkets. Once we were caught red-handed by a Bell’s goon, our now gone-but-not-forgotten classmate Phil Hensley: “Your tickets are no good,” he informed us with finality.

Rats! Busted by The Man! (Although I’m fairly certain the statute of limitations has run on our criminal enterprise, I shall not name my co-conspirators, even though two of them have gone ahead of us to a reward that even Bob Bell couldn’t offer. Ava shalom.)

Bell’s occupied real estate on Tulsa’s Fairgounds next to the IPE Building. (The last International Petroleum Exposition was held there in 1973, IIRC. After that, Tulsa lost credible claim to the title “Oil Capitol of the World”, although front-bumper license plates paraded the boast for years after. Bell’s is history, too.)

Down the street the iconic Golden Driller held sentry over the IPE Building’s main entrance, a Tulsa landmark and stoic reminder of Tulsa’s pre-OPEC glory days.

One of our rituals, as we rolled down 21st Street past the light at Pittsburg Ave.: someone in the car would crack wise, “The Golden Driller has no drill,” more a genuflection than a joke.

Forty-five years later, the Tulsa World brings this article, which prompted this reminiscence:

Tulsa County to spend $1 million to enhance Golden Driller at Expo Square

Here’s hoping that long-overdue ‘enhancement’ helps the gender-ambiguous Driller cut a more macho profile, if you catch my drift. Good luck on your transition, old buddy.

1977, maybe? During a semester break, a gang of us, mostly Edison classmates, met at a small club in a strip mall in east Tulsa. Word had gotten around town that hometown hero Dwight Twilley would be playing an unannounced show.

But Twilley would play after the regularly scheduled out-of-town act, The Autumn People. I think it was a power trio: Spinal Tap minus the talent. All I remember was leather fringe and hair and loud music. And a very bored, impatient audience.

At the end of their set, it was dead. Silent. Then after about five seconds, Walt Kleinecke stood up, clapped three times and gave the Autumn People a very derisive cheer: “Rock and roll!! Woo!!

It was the only noise in the place except pinball machines and clinking beer glasses.

Autumn People: “Alriiiiight, Tulsa! You want more?!

Not no, but hell no.

We got the obligatory rock encore anyway.

At the end, in the Big Finale, the Autumn People unleashed some kind of pyrotechnics. Imagine setting off fireworks in a small, low-ceiling strip mall. It’s a miracle the acoustic ceiling tiles didn’t catch fire, but the tiny venue filled with that acrid stage-smoke that makes your lungs burn.

No contest. The Autumn People. The absolute worst.

Sorry I don’t remember who else was there, but Walt’s solo standing-O was unforgettable.

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.

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.


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.


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.





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.


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.

Richard Curby was an outstanding teacher with a brilliant head for math and science and a computer geek before geeks were cool. He taught me and a host of other minds full of mush the power of deductive reasoning and the art of dimensional analysis. In other words, Mr. Curby’s classes laid the foundation of my ability to think like an engineer.

In addition to teaching Geometry and Physics, Mr. Curby was our Junior Class sponsor as well as the sponsor of the Chess Club. He also took on the task of developing the first-ever Computer Science curriculum at Edison in the Spring semester of 1973. He would probably have been somewhat surprised that I learned enough html code to be able to manage a WordPress blog.

My thanks to David Alaback for forwarding Richard’s obit. I had no inkling of the challenges that confronted Mr. Curby in his life. May he rest in peace.

Richard Curby

December 23, 1941 – April 13, 2015

RICHARD, a life long resident of Tulsa, died peacefully at home. His was a life well lived in spite of repeated hospitalizations and major surgeries for a cranial tumor discovered when he was 37.

The result of these procedures left him with extensive lung damage, nerve injury to the right side of his face rendering him blind and deaf on that side, taking food through a J-tube, and breathing and speaking via a tracheotomy tube. His love of teaching math and physics at Edison High School ended when he could no longer project his voice. However, his stubborn determination won out. He learned ASL sign language, continued his computer interests, and worked to advocate for accessibility for the disabled nationally, in Tulsa, and in the Kansas-Oklahoma conference of his church. For hobbies, he went to Oilers ice hockey games and collected humor to send to friends by email.

His family and friends will celebrate his life 10:00 a.m., Saturday, April 25 at Fellowship Congregational Church, 2700 S Harvard. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to TSHA (formerly Tulsa Speech and Hearing) or Evergreen Hospice.

Herndon DAt long last, the story can be told. At the recent reunion, I was approached by a guilt-ridden miscreant who, once he was assured that the statute of limitations had run out, agreed to spill the beans on our class’s 41-year-old mystery: “Who salted Memorial’s courtyard?”

Today the promised email arrived. Read on. Continue reading

Another trip down Memory Lane…

— By Ken Koch

imageFor better or worse, the other excellent posts in this blog [see here and here] have spurred me on to offer my own reflections…

I was heavily recruited to leave Edison and be part of the grand experiment that was getting underway at Booker T. Washington: “the best teachers”; “more special classes from which to choose”; “great facilities”; “your very own TV studio”; and “a show on Tulsa Cable”.

Mr. Crowell, though, made a more compelling case for me to stay at Edison. We cobbled together our own, albeit very crude, studio… black-and-white cameras, bang box switcher, and a 3/4 inch machine that we set up in the hallways for playback.

As a senior, I arranged to have two periods of Instructional Media (which was unheard of). Mr. Kirby was very unhappy that I wasn’t signing up for Calculus with Mr. Dobelbower… he was convinced I was making a huge, life mistake spending so much time in IM.

As it turned out, Mr. Crowell did me a huge favor… the experience I gained helped me get my first job in broadcasting (while still at Edison) and, 40 years later, most every turn in my career has had a connection back to those days on the third floor. Likewise, Benson let me write articles for the newspaper that got her called on the carpet (but earned me scholarships). Mrs. Landry let me be her teacher’s aide as she amazed students by unraveling the arcane world of Algebra, while taking time for sing-alongs of The Red River Valley and railing against racism as only a child of the South could.

My path was not the usual one (remember the bluegrass and country/western performances?), but it was one that received guidance and support that were pure Edison. I’m fairly certain that each of you had a similar experience. I look forward to hearing stories about your Eagle journey next weekend.

by Peter Robertson

imageMy friend Steve Maley threw down the gauntlet, challenging me to write something for this site after Julie Price Davidson wrote her eloquent eulogy for Sandra Benson. Julie’s piece was so well written, and so affecting, that I was disinclined to write anything because it couldn’t possibly measure up! But I’ve been thinking a lot lately about our upcoming reunion, and thinking back to our graduation as well. It’s not just the reunion that has spurred this – it’s in part an accident of timing.

I had my children later in life than many of you did – we just lived through my older daughter’s high school graduation in June and then dropped her off at Tulane University a few weeks ago. Leaving her in New Orleans was an emotionally difficult thing to do, and I know that’s not news to any of you who have already gone through this. As Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson put it when he dropped his son off at college: “I put on my best face. But it is the worst thing that time has done to me so far. That moment at the dorm is implied at the kindergarten door, at the gates of summer camp, at every ritual of parting and independence. But it comes as surprising as a thief, taking what you value most.”

The emotions of parting from my daughter drew my thoughts in a straight line back to our graduation from Edison. As I’ve thought about the years 1970 – 1974, one notion most stuck with me – that is, everything useful I learned in high school, I learned outside the classroom. And I learned it from you, my classmates.

Chief among those lessons is the value of genuine friendship. That lesson, though, couldn’t become clear to me until I was able to look back decades later on our experiences at Edison. Though I left Tulsa for college, and ended up living in Virginia, I have stayed in touch with a number of our friends from high school over the past forty years. The importance of those relationships startles when I realize that, with very limited exceptions, I’m not really much in touch with anyone from my college graduating class, except those few who were also Edison graduates.

Time has not diminished the value of those relationships; if anything, it has enhanced them. It’s hard to overvalue a friendship you’ve kept for forty years. And it doesn’t really matter how often I see those friends. The relationships are so firmly established and so strongly grounded on collective experience and memories that we can pick right up where we left off, even when years go by between visits. It has been a decade since I last saw Clint Hughes, until he was in town a few weeks back. But you might have thought we lived just around the corner from each other, so familiar were our thoughts, so comfortable was our meeting.

In any case, it has made me look forward to our reunion with a degree of excitement that has surprised me. I’m hoping that many more classmates will sign up for the reunion in the next few days, and show up Friday and Saturday. I’m anxious to reconnect, not just with those friends that I’ve stayed in touch with, but with everyone that I haven’t seen or spoken to for ten or more years. If you’re at all on the fence about attending, please do come! I send my enormous thanks to all those classmates who have worked long and hard to make this event a success. I hope I can buy you a drink on Friday night!