Archives for posts with tag: 1950s

I was born in December, 1945, which makes me 71 now. At this age, I have enough life lived to look back and get perspective on the good old days of my life. I can understand the good, the bad, and the ugly of the times, seeing how it shaped the world and my life and me.

My parents married at the end of the war, my father having served in the Army Air Force as a pilot, a Lt. Colonel returning heavily decorated for his missions over Italy. My mother had worked through the war for officers on the air base in Ardmore, Oklahoma. They met there and married soon after. He was 33 and she was 24. They had both lived through the Great Depression with his family building a business and her widowed mother raising three children in the worst of it. Without too much detail, I understand that this is why they didn’t talk about the past much. Their lives were about the future.

Actually, nobody talked much about anything, at least in front of children. We were sheltered from just about everything to do with the real world, which was nice when your life was pretty great, as mine was. The trouble was that there were other things going on that we didn’t see at all until years later, things we couldn’t begin to understand from our narrow world view.

My family moved from Oklahoma City to Tulsa in 1948 and lived in a nice house with a large yard and the white picket fence. 2501-s-birmingham-pl-tulsa-okMy father had his branch of the family business and my mother stayed home with me, my brother and, soon, my little sister. She had help in the house, the first Negro (as we knew them), I ever knew. We met others when we went to the country club where my father played golf and we dined, played golf and swam in the summers. More Negro helpers that we knew so well but didn’t really know at all. I don’t remember meeting any other people of different races or even different religions through the 1950s. It was a pretty white life in my little world, even when I went to visit my grandparents in Oklahoma City or my grandmother in Ardmore.

Everybody’s parents seemed nice in the 1950s. We played away from the grownups who were busy talking. In the 1950s, lots of grownups smoked and drank. The men came back from the war as smokers since the government practically gave them cigarettes. Daddy smoked a pipe, cigars, and finally just cigarettes. My mother never did. People drank a lot back then, but we were used to it. Daddy kept a bottle in his desk at the office and came home and had a drink. Everyone did that in those days. Except my mother, who wasn’t a drinker either. She made us clean the ashtrays when we were little so we could see the nicotine which was stuck to the ashtrays as it would stick to our lungs. It was an effective lesson for me at least. We didn’t know about cancer from cigarettes until later and we didn’t really know what an alcoholic was except that some of our parents’ friends seemed to drink a lot more than others and slurred their words. For most of us, drinking was something you would do when you were older to be as cool as our parents were. It was a rite of passage.

In the 1950s, we didn’t know much in my little world about the real world that would come soon enough. We had news on the radio, but what little kid was going to sit and listen to that? By the time we got television, it only came on at about 5:00 and went off the air at 10:00. There were short newscasts, but those weren’t too interesting either. Actually, we got most of our information from newspapers and magazines. In my home, we subscribed to just about everything, so I grew up reading both the morning and evening newspaper and magazines that ranged from my mother’s (Ladies Home Journal, McCall’s), my father’s (Argosy, Field and Stream), my brother’s (Boy’s Life) and the children’s magazines (Highlights). And there were Life, Look, Reader’s Digest, and Saturday Evening Post. I read more and more of them as I grew up, learning much about the world that way. We still didn’t talk much at home about anything in the world. I absorbed by listening and reading.

In 1955, my parents built a beautiful home and we moved to a new neighborhood. We changed from private to public schools so we could meet new friends and the world began to open up. I went from a class of 24 kids I had known forever to a class of 650. I was eleven years old and my world was changing. I was in junior high, thrown into a world of pre-adolescence that I embraced with great excitement. I made my first Jewish friends, I met kids who had grown up in other parts of town. I was exposed to the “facts of life” through raging hormones, changing bodies, and the giggling of girls as we awkwardly learned to dance, talk to boys (we always had but this was different). Everything was emotional, our parents didn’t understand, and we thought we were grown up. We were typical kids, living the American teen life.

I realize now that we learned so much from each other about love, sex, relationships, but our information was scattered. My mother talked to me a little, but I probably didn’t want to hear it from her. How embarrassing! We still didn’t know so much, so very much. One of my dear friends lost her mother and I went to the funeral. I remember it well, but it was hard to absorb. I had no frame of reference for anyone losing a parent. By the time I was in 9th grade, I lost a friend to suicide. I didn’t understand why until 40 years later when I learned she was pregnant. Nobody talked to us about it. And, how sad is it that she thought she had to die rather than face her friends, family and society. Such were the norms in those days when your family’s reputation was everything. Everything. You didn’t say anything that would make anyone look bad. You keep secrets.

In high school, we still kept secrets. If you didn’t, it was gossip and nothing could destroy you more quickly. If you were fast or wild, you got that reputation and I can guarantee that we will still remember you that way today, even if we can at least understand now. There was no perspective when everything was black and white. There was little compassion when you were either right or wrong.

Years later, I learned a lot of the things I didn’t know back then. Gradually through the years, friends have talked about the abuse in their homes, the alcoholism, the secrets. There were fewer divorces because there was really no place for the women to go. Whether you agree or not, a lot of people stayed in marriages that were damaging to everyone stuck there. The abuse of women and children was hidden. What could women do? Where could children go if their mother or father was destroying them at home? We didn’t know anything. I found out later that one of the popular boys used to spend his nights at a relative’s, sneaking home in the morning so that he could be seen leaving for school from his parents’ home so that nobody knew the hell he was living in. We didn’t know.

So many things I’ve learned since those days. I made a new friend when I was in my 50s who is Native American. She grew up across town from me, left on a doorstep and raised by foster families. We didn’t know that was going on and nobody admitted they had Indian blood back then. I live in Oklahoma and didn’t know that friends of mine were Native American. It wasn’t the popular thing to admit because people would look down on you.

By high school, we had lost friends to car wrecks (driving too fast with no seat belts because there were none or driving while drinking) and everything in our world was changing quickly. We danced and listened to music our parents hated and drove around in cars looking for other teens to follow and flirt with. We were the kids you later saw in American Graffiti. Here is the music we were listening to my senior year. kakc_1962-10-15_1Most of it was fun and silly. Some of it was sexy. We had learned to do the Twist and we were listening to folk music. We had progessed from The Kingston Trio to Peter Paul & Mary. We were on the verge of Joan Baez and Bob Dylan and songs with messages. Our world was about to be rocked.

I graduated from high school in 1963 and left for Oklahoma State University, formerly an agricultural school but known for engineering and business by now. It was the heartland and the university was in the middle of the Oklahoma plains, formerly land rush country. Now I met cowboys, real cowboys, for the first time. My first roommate was from a class of 6 in a small town. I had traveled to Europe for the first time when I was a senior so my world was expanding and now I was learning the other side of my own state, meeting kids who grew up away from the cities I knew. We talked for hours, sitting on beds in the dorms, learning about new people.

In November of that year, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. I remember the shock and horror. We had never experienced anything like this in our lives. Presidents didn’t get assassinated and here it was being shown over and over on television. We watched the accused assassin shot in front of us. To be on a campus of young people when this happened was the rude awakening we didn’t see coming. Our world was not what we had been led to believe at all. Everything we felt secure about was thrown up in the air and floated down around our confused young selves. Our music changed and the messages got deeper. By spring, we had met The Beatles on Ed Sullivan’s show and the sounds and the beat was driving us. We had rock & roll, folk music, and now the British influence. As those college years went on, we were shaking up our parents’ ideas, questioning everything.

In the 1960s, we faced the Viet Nam war and the boys in my class could suddenly be drafted. The ways to at least postpone it were to be in college or to be married. If you left college, you could be called up immediately. To say this had an impact on us is an understatement. Although many of my friends served since the war dragged on, many were able to avoid it. There were weddings all the time, either because the guy was leaving or to keep him from going.

For girls, college life was restrictive in these days when we were testing our new sense of idealism. On my campus, girls had to wear skirts and couldn’t live off campus until they were 23 unless they were married. We rebelled. As fashion changed in those years with skirts going from mid-calf to mini and micro-mini, the rules eased. We signed petitions for more realistic curfews and questioned why we couldn’t do what the guys could. During my college years, Gloria Steinem visited campus, bringing us the messages of women’s liberation. I listened to her and absorbed so much, wondering how this would fit in my life. The world was changing all around us. There was the sexual revolution and birth control and so much to absorb. Abortion was around and girls got them. Some of my friends were unable to have children afterwards. Do I believe in abortion? It’s a private and personal decision and it should be safe. Abortion will always be an option, but let’s make it safe.

I married my high school sweetheart in December 1966, soon after he was home from the Navy. As he worked on his degree, I taught English as a graduate assistant, and we had our first child, our oldest daughter, while we were in school. I was the oldest mother in the hospital at 22 in this time when birth control was new and everyone was marrying at a younger age.

By 1970, we had moved back to Tulsa, where my husband went to work for my father, we purchased our first home, and had our second daughter. I stayed home with the children, leading a life much like my parents had done. The difference was that I was one of a generation of women who had gone to college and been exposed to all these new ideas. We had birth control and education and degrees and what were we going to do with it? I played bridge and kept the house and did all the things I was supposed to do. I was bored and found volunteer work, which was to sustain me for the next couple of decades as an outlet to use my brain, network with the community, and expose myself to the rest of the world while growing into leadership positions. I worked with women, domestic violence, the arts, a nature center, water conservation, historic preservation, and diversity while working with community leaders, the media, and donors, developing skills and relationships I had used as I entered the work world in the 1980s and 90s.

My other salvation in the early 1970s was a group of women I met who formed a “discussion group.” We met once a week in the Presbyterian church half of us belonged to. The other half were members at the Unitarian Church. We had a sitter for the morning and our goal was to discuss anything but children. We took field trips, discussed books and ideas and used our brains, a welcome relief from our lives with toddlers and babies at home. I still love these women and the special bond we formed. We all went on to have interesting lives while raising our families. We were each other’s salvation for many years. One thing that happened in that group was that an older woman asked us to read a book that was being talked about, The Total Woman. A woman was going to use the church to have a lecture on the book and she was skeptical. I was asked to go to the lecture and report back to the group. The theory of the book was that women should be adoring to their husbands and cater to them so that they will adore you back. That’s simplistic, but one of the ideas was to meet your husband at the door dressed in saran wrap with a drink ready for him. Really. I don’t think that was going to happen in my house where I had three daughters by now. Where were they going to be during this? Anyway, I went to the lecture and took notes and reported back. My main takeaway from this was that it was really demeaning to men and gave them no credit for anything. It was manipulative, to say the least.

By the 1970s, we were talking about everything. We had learned from our own childhoods and were going to raise our children differently. When Our Bodies, Ourselves was published, we read it cover to cover. Who had ever talked about our bodies with us? I had learned everything from women’s magazines and talking to my friends. Doctors didn’t even talk about this stuff with us.img_0481We were talking now. And we were raising our children differently, just like we wanted to. By now, I had three girls and a boy and it was just 1975. I wanted them all to grow up with choices, all kinds of choices. They were raised with this…img_0521Yes, life was different for my generation. We talked about things and we learned about all our choices. By the time we were in our 30s, lives were changing. A friend lost her husband and all those years she had spent home raising the kids were now a challenge because she was a single mother having to enter the work force when she had lost ten years or so of career advancement. Other friends faced divorce because men now had the freedom to leave their wives for the girlfriends they had found. These women also found that they had to reinvent themselves. Life was not as simple as we thought it would be.

I won’t go on with the details of what I’ve learned, but it does make you reflect. Were things better back when men worked and women stayed home and nobody talked about anything? Were we better living in a world full of such dangerous secrets?

My own children’s generation is a mixed bag. They saw divorce up close and many chose to either wait or not marry. They have so many choices. They don’t have to hide the fact they are gay or lesbian as many of my friends did back in the days when you married as a cover because it was too dangerous to live your life the way you felt. We have more technology, different types of jobs, more ways to raise our children, more ideas to absorb and it all changes quickly. There have been movements to get back to basics, back to the earth, back to priorities.

My sons-in-law participate in their children’s lives as my generation’s men were only beginning to be able to experience. My father’s generation would never have left work for ball games or plays or stayed home to raise the kids while the wife worked. In that way, women’s freedom has freed up men to be better people, better parents.

The diversity of our world has changed so much in my lifetime as we learn to be proud of where we come from, to understand our ancestors, to see that we all want the same things for our children. I see families with parents from mixed races, same sex parents, old and young parents, and I see families who understand that love is love is love. We learn more about other cultures, other countries, other people. What we should be seeing is that we all want homes, food, water, security and education for our children. We’re not that different at all.

In times of fear and anger, I look around me and reassess once again what I want. I want to leave this world a better place than when I arrived. I want my grandchildren and their children to have the beautiful wild places to visit to restore their souls from the fast pace of human life. I want their lives to be rich with experiences and friendships and love. We’ll never be perfect as human beings, but we can progress. Or at least try. That’s what I see when I look way back at my life’s experiences and then turn around and look to the future.

We keep trying our best and doing good things and loving, loving, loving.



When I was a child, we would drive by the most exotic place I could imagine – exotic for Tulsa, Oklahoma anyway.  I had no idea what went on in there, even when I was old enough to know that it was a bar.  It was called the Green Dragon Lounge and on the outside wall, the Green Dragon followed me as I stared out the car window.

green dragonEven when the door was open, all I could see was darkness with a few lights and people.  What in the world was going on in that interesting place? By the time I was old enough to go inside, it was gone and only the memory stayed with me.

I found this photo of the dragon and it all came back to me.  I’m imagining myself as a little girl, staring out the back window of the car, watching for it to appear and then following it as we passed.  I never asked my parents.  I quietly imagined and wondered.

Sometimes in life, having an imagination is better than the reality.

Listening to my 4 year old granddaughter repeat the old Halloween taunt…Trick or Treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat…in all its variations was a cute reminder of Halloweens past. I looked it up to see when we started celebrating this strange holiday and found it was brought to America by the Scots-Irish at the end of the 19th century. It’s been around a long time, being celebrated in ways that haven’t changed so much. I see vintage Halloween decorations at antique shops and flea markets, vintage surely meaning before my time…


When I was little, we dressed up, mostly in homemade costumes. I remember witches, cowboys, gypsies, devils, wolfmen and vampires,ghosts and being a hobo. Does anyone even know what a hobo is these days? We had store-bought costumes that were silly plastic masks and some kind of cheap material to wear and Superman and Batman were popular then as now…


And we had our paper dolls to play with…


When my baby sister was maybe six months old, my Daddy carried her around…she was dressed in a pink snowsuit with a rubber monkey mask…to show the neighbors. I still remember how adorable that was. That may be the only time I remember Daddy going with us although I’m sure there were a few other times. Mostly we grabbed pillow cases and ran house to house as fast as we could, filling the case and then unloading it at home and going for more. Those were pretty safe times in the 50s. We’d bring the candy home and lay it out on the floor or the bed, organizing it by treat to see how we did. Some of the neighbors made popcorn balls or caramel apples for us and we had banana bites, root beer barrels, candy bars (real size ones – none of those little bitty bite-sizes), tootsie rolls, tootsie pops. There was no Halloween packaging although sometimes people bought little Halloween sacks and filled them with unwrapped candies like candy corn. I heard rumors of people giving dimes although I don’t remember getting them. We snacked from the candy we kept under the bed for days, weeks.


There were Halloween parties decorated with black and orange crepe paper, cardboard decorations or maybe those kind of paper decorations that fanned out into 3-D pumpkins or black cats. And pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns. We bobbed for apples and munched on Rice Krispies treats or cookies. Houses were decorated with pumpkins, jack-o-lanterns and those cardboard decorations taped in windows. In high school, there were a few costume parties. Hayrides were popular, real hayrides on big wagons loaded with piles of hay. These were popular because it was a great make-out date, even on church hayrides. Think of laying in the lay with your boyfriend, snuggled up against the cold, bouncing along under a starlit night…

Halloween has evolved during my lifetime, an understatement to say the least. When my four kids were little, we had more decorations, there were more pumpkin patches and we made an annual trip to find our best pumpkins. The carving took place close to the day, putting them out on Halloween night. If we put them out too early, they got stolen or withered. We didn’t care who took them after Halloween, just not before! There were no fancy cutting tools or designs, just pumpkin faces you made up. Pumpkin contests and Halloween parties were a big deal at elementary school.

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My post-war generation threw Halloween parties for adults and kids alike. There weren’t too many, but, right after having our fourth child, we dressed as rabbits to laugh at ourselves in an age when birth control and zero population growth were the ideas of the moment. We didn’t plan to have four children, but there we were…my 6’4″ husband was a cute pink bunny and I was the prolific mommy bunny.

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Sometime when my kids were little, the stories of razor blades in candy and drugs slipped into treats began and we had to take more cautions. The dads went with the kids, standing in the street talking while the kids ran to familiar houses for treats. The freedom of being on your own like in the days of my childhood was gone. Sure, there were scary houses in every neighborhood back then, enhanced by our imaginations, but we weren’t in real danger. It was a scarier world now. My son and his friends were allowed to travel in groups by the time they were 9 or ten, but they had to check in often and we inspected their candy.

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In the early 90s, I opened a gift shop, about the time that Halloween was becoming a billion dollar industry. It became one of our biggest shopping seasons with decorations, specialty foods, and novelties exploding onto the market. The candy companies learned that packing items for the holiday made a big difference in sales and costumes became more sophisticated for all ages. Halloween was celebrated in bars, on airlines, in offices. Adults loved acting like kids, playing make-believe.

By the time I had grandchildren, Halloween was a big deal. In the age of political correctness, when people decided that this was a pagan holiday celebrating evil, Halloween parties changed to Fall Festivals in schools and churches. Only the name changed in the long run. We had our little goblins…

Marc & Jeff

Marc & Caroline - Halloween 2003

…the adults dressed up…


and the holiday continued to grow. And grow.

Yesterday, I was at a Halloween costume parade in the neighborhood, marveling at the costumes on all ages. There are a lot of super heroes and movie monsters and princesses and even the dogs have a costume contest. I had just looked through a brochure of different ways to make hot dogs look Halloweeny, food being one of the creative ways we celebrate these days. Television is full of Halloween movie festivals, Halloween episodes of your favorite show and scary movies are scarier than ever.

The holiday permeates our culture these days. It’s a celebration of harvest and fall colors and shorter days and cooler weather and imagination and creativity and acting like a kid and facing the scary things in life with a sense of humor.


There’s a lot of talk these days about our need for more mass transit or rapid transit.  Way back when I was little, the bus was a big part of my life.  Not that I took it all the time, but it was a pretty fun way to travel or get around town.  One of my grandmothers drove a little, around Ardmore, but not on the highway, so she always took the bus to come see us or stay with us while my parents were on a trip.  We would pick her up or drop her off at the bus station.  I loved the bus station when I was little.  It was such an exotic place to go and watch all the people coming and going.  Tulsa had the beautiful Art Deco bus station – and airport – in those days.

Union Bus Terminal Tulsa, OK

Sometimes, I would go home with my grandmother, riding the Greyhound with her all the way to Ardmore, which must have been about a 6 hour drive in those days.  It was fun to sit beside her watching the landscape go by, different than from the back seat of my parents’ car.  As I got older, and I’m talking about 9 or 10, I got to ride the bus by myself.  I would take it to Oklahoma City to see my other grandparents and my cousins.  Once, I took it all the way to Ardmore.  On that trip, my aunt in Oklahoma City met me at the station there and waited with me until it left again for Ardmore.  I remember sitting next to a window, reading a book and looking out the window.  And watching the other people on the bus.  Quite the adventure.

While my grandmother stayed with us, we took the bus downtown.  I think she could have driven my mother’s car, but that was a scary thought for all of us.  She wasn’t the best, an understatement, driver, even in her own car.  She walked a lot at home.  Anyway, we’d walk about two or three blocks to the bus stop and ride downtown to eat and shop at the Kress store, walk around,  look in all the store windows, and come home.  It’s hard to describe how much fun that was.  I guess it was just different than driving downtown with our parents and because she always bought us some little thing at the store.  She didn’t have much money, so it wasn’t much, but it was a treat.  And, we weren’t in any hurry so the waiting and slow pace was nothing to us.

As I got older, my friends and I rode the bus downtown.  I can remember being in Oklahoma City when I was about 12 and going to a movie downtown with my cousin.  My aunt dropped us off and we were to take the bus home.  We got tired of waiting for our bus, so we just took the first one that came along and ended up somewhere other than where we were supposed to be.  On purpose.  Not that we were scared…we often did stupid things together, giggling all the way.  We walked for a long time after getting off the bus and I can’t imagine how we found a phone to call my aunt to come get us when we realized we were probably in trouble.  No cell phones in those days!  My aunt wasn’t too happy with us…giggle, giggle.

As shopping centers popped up and I became a teenager, we began to walk to those places for hanging out with our friends.  Waiting until we could drive cars.  No more buses after that!

It’s been a long time since I’ve taken a city bus in Tulsa.  We’re very much a driving city, which doesn’t help those who can’t afford cars or don’t want the hassle of parking or driving in traffic.  The only thing that will change our driving habits is the cost of cars and gas, although that doesn’t seem to matter to most people. I drive a small car that costs almost as much as my first house.  And it’s a cheap car comparatively…a hybrid.  Getting places quickly is the main issue, I think.  Nobody has or takes the time to wait for a bus… or anything else.  The age of instant gratification extends to getting places, too.

The buses I take these days are mostly charter buses or tour buses or shuttle buses. Taking the bus long distances has the reputation of being dirty and dangerous.  Pretty sad.  Oklahoma State has wonderful buses, the BOB (Big Orange Bus) system, for those who commute to the university in Stillwater.  I rode one with a group and they are plush compared to what I remember.  A comfortable place to study on your way to class down the highway.

I rode the buses a lot in Seattle when I used to visit my son, later son and daughter-in-law, there.  I easily learned the bus routes and loved the ease of jumping on and riding downtown or back rather than fighting that traffic or finding an expensive place to park.  They were colorful trips to say the least.  The diversity of Seattle was seen in force on the buses, a never ending parade of humanity.  I looked forward to it actually.


I still have a little origami bird that an elderly Chinese man made for me while we rode.  I was sitting across from him, watching him create this little treasure from a piece of newspaper.  I found out later that he was known for riding the buses, giving away his little birds.  He quietly folded the paper, then looked up at me, smiled, and handed me the bird.  Charming!  One of those serendipitous experiences in life that we should treasure!


I don’t know where the bus system will end up here in Tulsa or if my habits will ever change or have to change.  All I know is riding the bus was a special part of my childhood, one that I wouldn’t trade.  As I sing “The Wheels on the Bus” with my granddaughter, I’m sure what I see in my mind is so different than her vision…the wheels go round and round, round and round, all over town.



This one’s for Patsy, who reminded me about paper dolls.

I played with all kinds of dolls when I was little and paper dolls were one of the best.  I had a box I kept them all in after I carefully cut out the dolls and their costumes.  It’s kind of amazing to think that I did that as I didn’t exactly excel at scissors.  My kindergarten report card gave me a low grade in that area, so maybe I was trying to compensate in my later years.  I’ve always found that to be so funny.  I was a very good student, but I’ve chosen to focus on the fact that I was a little weak in scissors when I was four or five years old.

We got books of paper dolls, but what I remember the most is Betsy McCall.  My mother subscribed to all the ladies magazines, including McCall’s.  Each month, they featured a page with Betsy with a story and new paper dolls and clothes.  It was something to look forward to.  I had to wait for my mother to read the magazine and then I could tear out my page and start cutting.


I also found some pictures of old valentines with paper dolls.  Those were a special treat in our decorated shoe boxes of valentines from our classmates.


I remember spreading all my dolls out and dressing them with the various outfits, bending the little paper tabs that kept the clothes on the doll.  I think we used to paste the dolls from magazines onto cardboard to keep them strong enough to stand up and be in the stories we made up about the lives of these paper people.  We got cardboard from our daddy’s shirts when they came from the cleaners.  We used those cardboard pieces for all kinds of activities.

In this fast paced world, it’s hard to imagine kids sitting for hours cutting those very intricate little pieces of clothing and patiently standing up the dolls to show off their newest outfit or making up a story for them to act out.  The other day, I was watching my granddaughter play with a Mickey Mouse iPad app where she dressed him in different rock star outfits.  Pretty cute, but not the innocence of Betsy McCall.   When she gets older, I’ll try to explain about paper dolls.  She’ll listen, wide-eyed, and wonder about that old fashioned world her grandmother grew up in.  Or, if I wait too long, she may just roll her eyes.

Sometimes I have to admit what an antique girl I am.

I must be starving for hamburgers.  There are lots of great hamburgers in the world and we’re lucky to still have some of the ones I grew up with here in Tulsa.  They’re probably still my favorites, maybe because they come with a side order of memories.

Van’s was great, but Van sold his location on Peoria to Claud’s long ago.  It’s nice to know he was passing it along and it still is owned by the family.  I love the tiny space where you can watch the whole operation while you wait.  Nice to get a bag of burgers and fries just like the old days.

38 and peoria 1950 c


Across the street is Weber’s with its unique history.  Dating back to the 1890s, Mr. Weber made his own root beer and invented the burger.  That fact was validated by the governor of Oklahoma and I love the fact that it’s still owned by the family and they use the same grill he used way back when.  They still make their root beer and their onion rings are awesome.  That little orange building has moved a few spaces since I was a kid, but it’s a welcome sight…gives me sense of stability to see those two families still in business at 38th and Peoria after all these years.


Hank’s goes back even further, 1949.  Nothing has changed in there, for sure.  Still a great burger, great fries and a malt like I remember them.  Way out on Admiral, but fun for an occasional fix.



My husband was a big fan of the original Ron’s on 15th.  He would head over there on Saturdays to pick up his burger with chili.  I miss the little diner, but at least we can get the burgers at all the locations now.


I discovered Ted’s, over on Edison, many years ago while doing volunteer work in the area.  Great hamburgers.


Brownie’s started as root beer stand, according to a friend who lived in the area when we were kids.  It became a hamburger and root beer place way back when.  My husband and I spent many a weekend lunch or dinner in there.  We loved the staff that had been there forever, the atmosphere with all the little toys on the shelf, pictures of customer’s children lining the check-out and the food.  When Brownie died, it floundered a little, but a young couple bought it and it’s as good as ever.  My favorites are the hamburger and fries with a frosty mug of milk.  And the pies…I try to resist the chocolate meringue but that’s always a weakness of mine.  They make a lot of pies and they even have a food truck now.



And then there’s Goldies.  It first opened as Goldies Patio Grill at 51st and Lewis with a par three golf course adjoining.  My dad was invited to the opening and set the first course record.  Their steak is a great bargain, but it’s the hamburgers, the Goldies Special being my favorite.  Whatever the secret spices they use are, you can’t mistake that flavor.  The quality has been consistently terrific through the years.  I forgo the fries and get the slaw, unique for it’s creamy dressing.  And there are the pickles.  Where else do you get a pickle bar?  Where else do you sit and munch on a bowl of pickles while you wait for your order?



I guess that’s my tour of my favorite local burgers with memories fried in.  There are lots of great burgers, but I like mine the way I remember them.  Who knows how long these places will be around…I’m going to start taking my grandkids.  A little Tulsa history with a yummy burger thrown in.



On my list of things to have with me on a desert island are hamburgers – not the most practical or healthy choice.  Hamburgers are comfort food, loaded with memories.

When my grandmother would stay with us, she would cook hamburgers and make french fries.  We would get little cups of ketchup, just like going out.

The first hamburger place I really remember was Van’s.  They had more than one location eventually, but the one I loved was on 15th Street, east of Lewis.


On special Saturday nights, I could go to Van’s with my Daddy.  We stood in line, waiting for our order, listening to the waitress with her droning question, “do you want onions on that?” The guy who cooked the hamburgers was an artist with his spatula.  He had long dark hair, combed back under his hat.  Watching him take a ball of ground beef and throw it on the well used griddle, where he proceeded to flatten it, shape it and turn it, was an endless fascination.  He worked like lightning with skills that I still admire.  When they were done, the burgers were wrapped in wax paper and the fries were placed in the little paper envelope.  Riding home with that greasy brown bag of burgers makes me drool even now.

But Pennington’s was the place where memories of the food mingle with all kinds of rites of growing up.  Pennington’s Drive-In Restaurant was on Peoria and was the heart of my life for many years.


I started going there with my parents, but caught on easily that this was a cool place to be.  We would order our hamburger in a basket with either onion rings (Pennington’s were uniquely thin and delicious) or fries.  Whoever invented the basket for hamburgers deserves a place in museums of industrial design.  Those colorful plastic baskets have never been improved on for ease while eating in the car.  Our order would come with a stack of baskets of chicken, burgers, shrimp or any of Pennington’s favorites.  Early on, the carhops were on roller skates, when that was the newest thing.

As I grew into junior high, Pennington’s became the hangout for Tulsa’s teens.  When you’re not quite teen-aged, it was embarrassing to be there with your parents.  Soc Row was the middle row, with pole position being the spot at the end near the restaurant.  Here you could wave and honk at your friends as they cruised through, looking for a parking place and everyone could see that you were there.  I confess that Daddy thought this was hilarious and I can remember him parking in the prime place, yelling “Whee” as the teenaged girls giggled by.  I, of course, was sitting on the floor of the car, mortified and sure that my future life was ruined.  Daddy, Daddy.  Silly Daddy.

This was my home away from home all the way through high school.  We raced to get there and back on our 30 minute lunch hour.  If I ran an errand for my mother after school, it involved picking up a friend and stopping at Pennington’s.  We went on dates that began or ended there, we piled in cars after football games to drive through, honking our school honk.  We decorated our parents’ cars with our social club colors and drove through during our annual rush of new pledges.  In the summer, we cruised Peoria in the evenings, looping through Pennington’s as we searched for our other cruising friends.  It was where you could see who was with who and you could be seen.  Reputations were made there!

We knew the Penningtons, Arch and Lola, and could see them inside behind the counter.  Sherry was everyone’s favorite carhop and I’m sure she got more than her share of cocky teenaged boys trying to show her how grown up they were.  We weren’t allowed to get out of our cars, for fear of being approached by Jake, the security guard.  It was a time when we listened to the rules, although some tried to push him to his limits.

Pennington’s had great food, but my hamburgers, dinner rolls, vanilla Dr. Peppers, black bottom pie and onion rings are interwoven with the memories of first dates, special dates, cruising through with cars full of friends just to see who was there or who could see us, and, even the times with my parents.  I miss the old places…