For the umpteenth time in the 1957 season, that was line score for the Tulsa Oilers.
Grayle Howlett, president of the most rained-out team in professional baseball, was worried. The team had only played 11 home games all season. Only one game had completed during the entire home stand. Rain meant no ticket sales and no concession sales, but it didn't mean no salaries and no expenses.
(All was not glum for Tulsa baseball aficionados, who could buy one of 700 tickets for June 16th's Mickey Mantle Special -- a package tour sponsored by the Tulsa Tribune and the Frisco Railroad.
Fans would leave Tulsa at 7am Sunday, ride in air conditioned comfort for the five and a half hour train ride to Kansas City, and be ferried by charter bus from station to stadium to watch the Commerce Comet and his fellow Yankees take on the Athletics. They'd be back in Tulsa around 10:30 Sunday evening -- all for $11, including game tickets.)
In the first five months of 1957, Tulsa had received 10 inches more rain than normal. A month earlier, the free-flowing Arkansas River had jumped its banks, flooding Brookside and endangering the new sewage treatment plant. Local officials blamed the feds -- if Congress had funded the long-authorized Keystone Dam, the city would have been protected.
The flood subsided but the rains were still coming. City officials announced that the sandbags along Riverside Drive would remain in place for another couple of weeks, until mid-June. Just in case.
Down at the 609 S. Boston headquarters for Tulsarama!, the city's week-long semi-centennial celebration, organizers were trying to decide whether or not to cancel the opening parade because of the rain. They postponed a few hours, but then went on with the show.
"Despite the heavy rain (the Saturday, June 1, Tulsa Tribune reported), a large turnout of spectators watched the mile-long parade.
"Clad in raincoats and carrying umbrellas, they huddled in doorways and under canopies until parade time and then lined the curbs."
Tulsarama! was more than just the burial of a time capsule. It was eight days of events and exhibits designed to celebrate the history and future of Tulsa. Making it happen required thousands of volunteers and a level of civic cohesion that nowadays is only seen in the wake of a natural disaster.
Tulsans were encouraged to wear pioneer dress. Men signed up to be Brothers of the Brush, growing facial hair in anticipation of a beard contest (12 categories) and a shaving competition to be held on the last day of the festival.
Over 150 businesses, civic organizations, and taverns sponsored "chapters" of this hirsute fraternity.
Gilcrease hosted a semi-centennial exhibit, and Philbrook held an exhibit of Indian paintings. Merchants all over town put historical displays in their front windows.
Scheduled events included three parades, an air show, an antique "horseless carriage" show, barbershop quartets singing downtown during lunch hour, a polo match at Southern Hills to benefit the Philharmonic, a flower show, a fashion show at the Ritz Theater, a kids' fishing derby at Lake Yahola, a model airplane contest, the state tennis tournament at the Tulsa Tennis Club, an AAU swim meet at McClure Park, a pioneers' reunion at the Blue Moon (3600 N. Cincinnati), a pistol festival (featuring 97-year-old "Pistol Pete" Eaton, the inspiration for the mascot for OSU, which had been renamed earlier in the year from Oklahoma A&M), drag races, and a hobby convention.
The centerpiece of the week was the Tulsarama! pageant, a nightly 90-minute show performed by a cast of 2,000 Tulsans on a 400 foot stage in front of the grandstand of the Fairgrounds race track. (This earlier track and grandstand were just east of Expo Square's Trade Center, the long, narrow exhibit building east of the Expo Building.)
The pageant consisted of 14 episodes tracing the history of the city and the state: the journeys of Coronado and Washington Irving, the Trail of Tears, the Civil War, the coming of the railroads, Tulsa as a haven for outlaws, the first churches, the first schools, the discovery of oil at Red Fork, Crazy Snake's protest of the Dawes Commission allotments, World War I, the Roaring '20s and bringing Spavinaw water to Tulsa, World War II, and the age of the atom and outer space.
The overture alone involved a massed choir of over 100 voices, drawn from Tulsa's churches, 10 narrators, eight men on horseback, a Marine color guard and escort, 50 cadets from Will Rogers High School, 24 trumpeters, and dozens of Rainbow Girls, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, majorettes, and baton twirlers.
Nearly every scene featured choreographed dancing -- Indian dances, the Charleston, the Can-Can, the Waltz, and ballet. Tulsa's young ladies performed as Golden Nugget girls, bathing beauties, Rockettes, and dancers from the Ziegfield Follies.
Each night's show featured pre-pageant activities appropriate to the day's special emphasis: Air Force Golden Anniversary Day, Faith of our Fathers Day, Pioneer and Homecoming Day, Industrial Progress Day, Ladies Day, Young America Day, All Sports Day, and Greater Oklahoma Day. Miss Tulsarama was re-crowned for the crowd each evening, and each night was capped off with a fireworks spectacular.
At the same time, at the other end of the Fairgrounds, the Pavilion hosted the T-Town Tom Tom Indian Show, featuring 150 dancers from various Oklahoma Indian tribes.
(Roger Devlin, writer of the Tribune's daily "Rambler" column, reported that Mrs. Hayes L. Whitley of 4212 S. 34th West Ave., a native of northern Arizona, attributed the heavy May precipitation to the weeks of rain dance rehearsals for the Tom Tom show.)
June 1 was supposed to be the first night of the big outdoor Tulsarama pageant, but the grounds of the venue, the Fairgrounds race track, had turned to six-inch-deep mud. County crews were working to replace the topsoil with gravel. The first two shows were canceled, with hopes the ground would be solid enough to perform on Monday night.
As it happened, the first performance couldn't be held until Saturday, June 8, a week late, and more rains postponed the final show until Monday, June 17.
The T-Town Tom Tom Show, along with the rest of the indoor events, went ahead as scheduled, and a few of the pre-pageant festivities were moved to the Pavilion.
As the heavy rains continued into mid-June, Bird Creek left its banks, and the zoo was flooded, resulting in the tragic but ironic deaths of three water buffalo. The flood waters once again swamped the city's water filtration plant at Mohawk Park; engineers used lime and alum to try to clear up the water.
The Tribune editorial board used the postponements to call for the construction of a city-owned indoor venue that could seat upwards of 8,000. A 1952 proposal for a six-block Civic Center included a new arena/auditorium, but voters had twice balked at funding the whole grand plan, which would have included a new facility for Gilcrease Museum, a national oil museum, and a new City Hall. So far the County Courthouse was the only part of the plan that had been carried out.
The time capsule burial was delayed a week, too, but not only because of the rain. According to the June 6 Tribune, experts were trying to find "some material for a vault which would assure that the 'time capsule' and its contents would remain intact for 50 years."
A compound called dicyclohexammoniumnitrite, used to coat special water-resistant paper, would be used to wrap the new 1957 Plymouth Belvedere. A representative of the Orchard Paper Company of St. Louis said, "It ought to last for 1,200 years, honestly. Nothing will be able to get in or out of the packaging."
The front page of the June 14 Tribune reported: "The automobile... will be swathed inside and out with the paper which is backed up with aluminum foil. Then it will be slid into a plastic Metalam bag 20 feet long, six feet wide, and five feet high. The bag will be heat sealed after a partial vacuum is created within."
Tulsarama! wasn't the only celebration in the state. As usual Oklahoma City had to outdo Tulsa. Their 24-day-long celebration kicked off with a week of performances by movie stars Mickey Rooney and Dorothy Lamour, the dancing girls of the Ziegfield Follies, and hot rod racing.
The Tulsarama! celebration included an Old Fashioned Bargain Bee on Saturday, June 8. Merchants all over town offered "thousands of unheard of bargains." Tuf-Nut jeans marked down from $3.49 to $1, Zebco fishing reels for $8.99 (normally $19.50), and an RCA color TV for only $199.99.
The 12-page promotional insert in the June 7 Tribune, is a snapshot of Tulsa retail in transition. Only two downtown merchants bought display ads -- Vandever's department store on 5th east of Main, and Harrington's ("One-Stop Store for Son and Dad") at 109 S. Boston. A sidebar advertorial called downtown the "largest shopping center in Eastern Oklahoma."
"The majority of the more than 200 member-firms of Downtown Tulsa, Unlimited, Inc., have prepared special store and window displays including historical items as a special feature for Old Fashioned Bargain Day on Saturday."
"Available at all times to shoppers in Downtown Tulsa are sporting good stores, furrier salons, home furnishings and appliance shops, perfume and cosmetic salons, millinery shops, art supply centers, luggage stores, costume and decoration suppliers, florists, and many, many hundreds more of the finest in stores and shops."
Several pages highlighted pre-war and no-longer-suburban districts (Brookside, Whittier Square, West Tulsa and Red Fork), but most of the pages promoted the new suburban shopping centers on the edges of town -- Sheridan Village (Admiral and Sheridan), Mayo Meadow (21st & Yale), Ranch Acres (31st and Harvard), Suburban Acres (46th St. North between Cincinnati and Peoria), and Bellaire Village (51st St. South & Peoria).
The Osage Hills Shopping Center, two blocks west of Denver on Jasper Street, now long vanished and forgotten, had half a page to itself. Nearly every one of the shopping areas had either a T. G. & Y., an Anthony's, or an Oklahoma Tire and Supply store.
(For more about Tulsa in 1957, keep an eye on HYPERLINK "http://www.batesline.com"; www.batesline.com, where I'll continue to post memories and artifacts over the course of this Oklahoma centennial year.)
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