Sunday, November 24, 2013

Bellmon Memories

      To use a Bellmon term, in 1960 Democrats “ruled the roost” in Oklahoma. Gov. J. Howard Edmondson was a Democrat, the Democrats had a stranglehold on the Legislature, and most Oklahomans were Democrats.
      The joke at the time was that Republicans held their state convention in a phone booth.
      Republicans were quarantined as much as possible, lest the dread disease spread. It was the day of yellow dog Democrats. The 1st Congressional district stretched from Enid to Tulsa to isolate as many Republicans as possible.
      Into this political world came a big, ruddy, wheat farmer from Billings, Okla. by the name of Henry Louis Bellmon.
The Democrats never knew what hit them.
      Bellmon was elected chairman of the state GOP in 1960 and set to work immediately. His job brought him to Tulsa. He was so lightly regarded that the Tulsa World did not want to waste a real reporter on him, so they sent me.
      That meeting is my lasting impression of him. I don’t remember what I wrote. I just remember telling my city editor that “if this guy can shake enough hands” he will go somewhere. And he did. Governor, U.S. Senator, DHS head, Governor, and then elder statesman.
      I had contact with him in all those phases of his career, but I could never call him “Henry.” It was governor, senator, sir. I always felt like he should have a title. Henry Bellmon was genuine. Honest to a fault. He was so determined to do what he thought right that he commanded respect – and votes.
      He spoke the language of Oklahoma. I owe this story to my lifelong friend and mentor, Alex Adwan: When Bellmon ran for governor in 1962, he was the first Republican candidate ever invited to a big political event of mostly farmers in Sasakwa.
      When it came his turn to speak. He thanked his hosts and said, “you know, in Oklahoma we Republicans have always sucked the hind tit.”
      He wowed that audience. Alex and others decided that if he could win that group of Democrats over, he had a chance to be governor.
      He did, beating millionaire businessman W. P. Bill Atkinson. Remember Bill? We called him Dollar Bill.
      Others will remember far more than I about the first term. My next encounter was with U.S. Senator Bellmon, running for re-election in the troubled year of 1974. You will remember it was Watergate, Richard Nixon, his price controls, busing, and the Panama Canal, all in all a tough year for a Republican in still Democrat Oklahoma.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

November 22, 1963
by Ken Neal

I was the newly minted State Editor at the Tulsa World the day Kennedy was assassinated. I had just turned 28 and was overwhelmed by the editor’s job, having had no desk experience.
So I showed up for work early to get a jump on the mountain of wire copy and news events of the day, preparatory to putting out the State edition of the paper, my responsibility.

Tulsa World, November 23, 1963
As I walked into the lobby of the World building at 315 S. Boulder Ave., Nita Connors, our newsroom receptionist, told me shots had been fired at the President.

I hurried to the third floor World newsroom. I am sure every newsroom in the country was beginning to come alive with the breaking news.

The wire room was dinging and chattering when I walked in. In those days, the wire services would ding several times before an important item. The more important the coming flash, the more dings.

United Press International was still a competitor to the Associated Press, owned by newspapers and of course the dominant news service.

Even I knew of the famous Merriman Smith, who stole the story of the Kennedy Assassination from Jack Bell of the AP. I later learned how Smith had the telephone in the press car, got off a flash and held onto the only telephone until the car arrived at Parkland hospital. 

I digress. My memory is that the first flash, from UPI, was “shots fired on Kennedy” or something similar.
We huddled around the teletype machines, which clacked out the story. By about 1 p.m., our time, we knew President Kennedy was dead.
We had no television in the newsroom so we had to see the famous Walter Cronkite announce the death later on our home televisions.

'JFK': Stone's Docufantasy Distorts History

The Tulsa World
Ken Neal

JFK,” the movie, is rip-roaring entertainment. It is also an infuriating revision of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy by a paranoid director trapped in his own Vietnam time warp.

Oliver Stone’s docufantasy presents his theory of the assassination, which is that nearly every part of U.S. officialdom participated in the murder of Kennedy. Those who didn’t help plan it helped cover it up. 

The cover-up continues to this day, through the writings of the U.S. media, presumably right through this column. 

We all somehow are either willing confederates or dupes of the ephemeral “they” who killed JFK. 

And further, the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy are parts of the same gigantic plot. 

Lyndon Baines Johnson, who benefited from the JFK assassination, seems to have been a willing partner in the plot.

JFK, Stone’s movie says, planned to pull the U.S. out of Vietnam. “They” wanted this war to make millions out of munitions so “they” killed him.

But “they” also wanted him dead because JFK planned to make peace with communism. And restore relations with Fidel Castro.

The theory is at best bizarre. If JFK planned - as some of his political friends later claimed - to get out of Vietnam, he failed to bring his secretary of state and secretary of defense in on the secret.

Johnson fought the entire Vietnam war with the active advice and urging of Defense Secretary Robert McNamara and Secretary of State Dean Rusk, both Kennedy appointees.
LBJ lost his presidency because he couldn’t extricate the United States from the war. It is not an exaggeration to say that his anguish over the war shortened his life by years.

Monday, November 18, 2013


by Ken Neal
 My dad was a Chevrolet man at a time when  Chevrolet and Ford were the two most popular autos for most people. Plymouth was a distant third.
       It is difficult today to understand the arguments between fans of the two. Fords and Chevies today have much in common. Indeed, without the markings, mechanics would have difficulty distinguishing a Ford engine from a Chevy engine.
       That wasn’t so when I first got interested in autos.
       Henry Ford designed the iconic Ford flathead V-8, putting it in a few Model B Fords in 1932. That engine powered Fords through the rest of the 1930s, through World War II and was finally discontinued in 1953.
       Chevrolet introduced an equally iconic engine in 1927, replacing a four-cylinder, overhead valve model.
       That engine was dubbed the Stovebolt Six, so called because of the large headbolts on those engines.
That Six in various disguises drove Chevies until 1962.
       The version with which I am most familiar was the 216 Cubic inch version brought out in 1937, lasting pretty much in that form through 1952.
       Dad started work for American Airlines early in 1946 when American moved its overhaul base to Tulsa from LaGuardia Airport in New York City.
       He was driving a 1939 Chevrolet that had served us during the war years when automakers quit making autos and shifted to airplanes, tanks, and other war material.
       By 1948, the automakers had built enough new cars that the shortage during the war was beginning to ease. Dad had to have a new car. He bought us a Fleetline torpedo sedan, a jet black beauty.

Sale, but No Sale

by Ken Neal

I often think of a black 1941 Dodge automobile and when I do I remember what a fine man my father was. I have many memories of dad and automobiles. We spent a great deal of time together talking about or working on autos.
My first car, described elsewhere, was a 1933 Chevrolet coupe. I sold the old Chevy in the spring of 1953 for $60. I worked in Tallent’s Snappy Service station that summer and managed to accumulate about $400, so I was looking for a “new” car.
Pop was my main resource. Before I tell the Dodge story, I have to tell about a 1934 Ford coupe that I did not buy.
A Dr. Allison was a well-known Sand Springs physician and he drove the Ford. It was a beauty. I think he had bought it new and it still looked new.
When he died, the old Ford was up for sale. You were asked to make a sealed bid. We thought the Ford was worth about $125, but Pop suggested we bid $126 in case someone had the same idea.
Someone did. My school chum, Lee Earl Hayes, bid $125. But I didn’t get the car. After the bids were opened, Lee Earl came into the service station with the Ford, bragging that he had bought it for a few dollars more than $125.
A Mr. Roberts, I think an executive with Public Service Co., had opened the bids and when Lee Earl and his father inquired, he told them they needed to raise their bid a bit. They did and I lost the car.
Knowing this, I jumped out Mr. Roberts, the father of another school chum.
He was flabbergasted that I knew he had betrayed me but of course couldn’t or wouldn’t rectify the injustice. He didn’t have the character to correct his mistake.
Which brings me back to the Dodge and my father, who did have the guts to do the right thing even when it penalized me.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Celebrating Life: An Aunt's Funeral

By Ken Neal
Tulsa World
May 4, 2003
      I dreaded going to my aunt’s funeral recently, but I shouldn’t have.
  It was a marvelous experience. Not to say that I was happy. It was bittersweet. I had known her since she married into my family more than 60 years ago.
      The funeral at Sapulpa’s First Assembly of God was a classic. It was a down-home, heart-tugging gathering of an extended family. I am tempted to label it Oklahoma, but I suspect it is repeated all over the nation every day.
     The patriarch of the family, my uncle, shared the attention with my aunt, but there were brothers and
sisters, her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, cousins, second cousins, in-laws and probably a few
outlaws gathered to say farewell to the woman who had cooked countless meals, worked side by side with
her husband, changed diapers and wiped the noses of the whole brood even as she served as the family
     Her favorite pastor, the Rev. Bill Weaver, presided. And preside he did. At 74, “Brother Bill” has
preached his share of funerals. He’s looked out at countless audiences such as this one whose deep emotions
showed in their faces, and into the bereft face of a mate who knows he’s not long for this life himself.
    Quite honestly, I don’t know how he did it, but by the time Brother Bill was through, the congregation
had joined him and a quickly assembled quartet in singing familiar old gospel songs of hope for glory. Even the morticians, who have buried several generations of this family, were moved and, quite frankly,
quickly lost control of the events.

Our 1948 Odyssey

By Ken Neal

             I can’t remember when Dad bought our 1948 Chevrolet, but I remember that it had about 9,000 miles on it when we took a 5,400-mile junket in June of 1948.
            We had taken at least two trips to the West in our old 1939 Chevy and Dad was eager to take his new car on a trip. He got only two weeks’ vacation in those days, having hired in at American Airlines a scant 3 years before.
            I am embarrassed to admit how many new cars I have had, so I can only imagine how thrilled dad was to have his first new car. Even today, I drive new cars. So do my three children. Must be something in the DNA.
            Dad seemed old to me when I was 12, but now, at the age of 78, I realize that he was but a very young man of 33.
            A lot of planning went into that trip. Continental Oil Co. provided travel planning and Dad had a forerunner of the credit card. We were, as he often said, “in business!”
Actually, there was no credit card involved. Credit was established and the customer could sign for fuel and other supplies at Continental filling stations. I think there was a reciprocal agreement with Shell Oil Co.
            I presume the originals were mailed to company headquarters and statements were sent out to the customer.
            Dad was the chief planner but I was a consultant. Poor mom probably sat back and let her boys dream and plan.
            The travel packet arrived. I remember it to this day. It was a bound legal size packet, complete with maps of every stage of the trip. Accompanying the maps (on which the route was marked in purple) were bits of history and monuments and other landmarks.
We set out at about 4 a.m., bound for Denver, the first stop on our tour.
            Dad was Chevy Chase of the Stone Age. His plan was to see as much country as possible, even if from a Chevy whizzing along at 75 miles an hour.
            We made Denver in one day. Interstates were thing of the future, so as I remember, it was 750 miles from Tulsa to Denver. Most highways were two lanes, so it was a constant battle to avoid getting stuck behind slow-moving trucks.
            From Denver, we headed for Yellowstone National Park, where we all had heard of Old Faithful.
            We marveled at the desolation of Wyoming. I recall that our map showed a couple of routes across Wyoming, but I forget which one we chose. We stayed at Jackson Hole the second night. I remember we stayed in a brand new log cabin, heated by an oil-burning stove. We needed it. It was cold.
            On our earlier trips, Dad had insisted on holding the ’39 Chevy to 50 miles an hour. I know now that the old Chevy had probably 80,000 miles on it and Dad was bit worried about a breakdown. A confession: We really didn’t know exactly how many miles it had on it because during the war, everybody, including my dad, ran the speedometers back.
            But now we had a new Chevy that ran like a sewing machine. So we drove 75 where we could on two-lane roads. There were no seat belts, no padded dash, no breakaway steering column and brakes that were greatly inferior to today’s autos.
            Highways were much more dangerous then than now, but of course there were far fewer cars on the road.
            An observation on road safety: About 10 years later when I was a reporter for the Tulsa World, we did a nightly story and wrap up on traffic deaths. If I remember correctly, traffic deaths on Oklahoma roads topped 600 annually.
            We breezed through Yellowstone, watching Old Faithful erupt and marveling at the boiling water and mud. In a recent visit to Yellowstone with my son, I realized I had seen but a small part of Yellowstone on my 1948 visit. It was uppermost in my dad’s mind to “make time” on the road.
            We headed west from Yellowstone through Montana. I remember Butte, Montana was a barren mining town. From there we crossed the upper part of Idaho and reached Spokane, Washington. I don’t remember where we stayed. We were in Lewis and Clark country, but we didn’t know it.
            I remember a lot of wheat around Spokane. It surprised me that it resembled Enid, Oklahoma.

The Hot Head

By Ken Neal

Dad and I were very proud of our new 1948 Chevy. It was a Fleetline, Two-Door, Torpedo Sedan.
      It was black with grey mohair interior. Grey was a change from 1947, a time when Chevrolet model changes consisted of things like changing the color of the mohair.
      Of course it had a set of custom-made, red seat covers. After-market seat covers were a must in those days. The original mohair seats were hot and sticky, particular in the summer months.
      The ’48 Chevy was “our” first new car. There were no new cars from 1942 until 1946 so there was a pent-up demand for cars. When the first new cars were available in 1946, the dealers were getting premium prices. By 1948, production was catching up with demand, but Dad still paid a premium for the new car. Having rejected a $900 offer for his ’39 Chevy during the war, he now about $250 when he traded.
      There was little change in style from 1942 through 1948, and there was virtually no mechanical difference. An oddity plays into this episode of our 1948 Chevy.
      Until 1941, the Chevrolet engines had 14-millimeter spark plugs. In 1941, for some reason known only to the Detroit Auto Gods, Chevrolet engineers decided to change to 10-millimeter plugs.
      Pop never liked the smaller plugs, contending they ran hotter and didn’t last as long as the larger plugs.
      Now for a coincidence. Our new Chevy idled roughly. Dad tuned the Carburetor, gapped ignition points, and adjusted ignition timing to no avail.
      There was a rough idle and a half-miss on a hard pull. Ordinarily, this would have been a dead giveaway to burned valves in the engine. Such allowed compression to drop at low revs. At higher speeds, the miss would disappear.
      But there were those damned little spark plugs.
      At this time, the foreman of the machine shop at Standard Parts in Tulsa was dad’s friend.  His name was Ernie.
      Dad conferred with Ernie. Ernie said his shop routinely bored out the spark plug holes to 14 millimeters. Dad wasn’t the only mechanic who detested the smaller plugs.
      Ernie asked when he could bring the “head” in for the boring. Ernie said the machine work would take a couple of hours and he could do it anytime.
      Dad and I had been overhauling Chevrolets regularly. So, we pulled the head right there in the Standard parking lot.
      I guess we carried our tools with us. I always worked the manifold side of the engine while Pop pulled the right side panel, the rocker arm assembly and the head itself.
      With the head off, Pop discovered the real reason for our “miss.” There was a burned exhaust valve on one cylinder. Pop speculated it was warped, causing it to seal improperly.
In about 45 minutes, we were carrying the head into Ernie’s shop. He grabbed the head, jerked back quickly.
      “Damn, that’s hot.”

Pop's Chicken Ranch

By Ken Neal
            My father liked to raise things. He was thrilled to see a plant peeping through the soil. He had plants everywhere and often removed a shrub only to replace it with another variety that had caught his attention.
            Most of all, he liked to see plants and animals grow.
            We nearly always had a “crop” of chickens.
            I noticed an article in the Tulsa paper recently wherein a reporter breathlessly told of a couple in Tulsa who were raising chickens in their backyard.
            I realize that is a novelty these days and the reporter went on to explain that many people are raising chickens for eggs and meat. People are under the delusion that “free range” eggs are better than those laid by caged hens.
            Rebellion against additives of all kinds probably is the motivating factor, although I hope there are people out there like Pop who just like to see things like chickens grow and thrive.
            Even when we lived in a two-room shack in Sand Springs during World War II, pop managed a lean-to chicken pen. It was temporary, because the chicks he would raise would be grown and slaughtered at nine weeks.
            I even remember having a hen or two that roamed free. One old gal made her nest under a neighbor’s house and we had great fun watching her hatch her brood. She enough, at the right time she presented herself and about a dozen fuzzy chicks.
            I can’t say dad raised chickens every year. Sometimes our living quarters just wouldn’t allow it, but when pop bought a house in Sand Springs, he quickly built a fence, added a free standing garage and a small chicken coop next to the garage. As he would say, he was in business!
            He liked exotics. I remember him raising Rhode Island Reds, Plymouth Rocks, Leghorns, even a pure black chicken once. One year he raised guinea chicks; another pheasants.
            The guineas were tasty, but they had dark meat.
            One year, when our pheasants were just big enough to fly a bit, we came home to see several of them on the ridge of the house.
            We set out to corral them and after a lot of huffing and puffing, had all but one in captivity. Some of the bigger specimens could fly just enough to stay ahead of us.
            We found ourselves chasing that last guy down Roosevelt Street in Sand Springs. When we got close, he would fly about 10 yards. This was repeated for about three city blocks. Pop said, “Do you care if this sonofabitch gets away?”

V-J Day: It Was `Times Square' in Tulsa

By Ken Neal

"The War" was over. The news hit Sand Springs, Okla., in the late afternoon. Within minutes, sirens were wailing, auto horns were blaring, flags were waving. People poured out of their homes into the streets to celebrate.
            My dad was home from his job at Douglas Aircraft just in time to lash flags all over our 1939 Chevrolet. We drove "downtown" to join hundreds of others; later, the celebration moved to Downtown Tulsa where thousands had the same idea.
There, the celebration carried on through the night. It was, as the newspaper later described it, Times Square in Tulsa.
            There are famous Times Square pictures of celebration; they were repeated many times in Tulsa the night of Aug. 14, 1945. The events above happened in every hamlet and city of the United States. It was the end of the biggest human conflict in history; a victory for the democracies over some of the biggest tyrants in history. Yes, paper and confetti covered the street; yes, all of Tulsa was there in person; yes, men in uniform celebrated by kissing women; there were fireworks; there probably was even a bit of the bubbly and other spirits in legally dry Tulsa.
 The hot summer afternoon of Aug. 14 and that night of celebration are my most vivid memories of World War II, probably because I was older (9), than when other war events occurred. There was the death of Franklin Roosevelt (we had a thunderstorm that spring day in 1945); there was the death of Adolf Hitler; there was V-E (Victory in Europe) and The Bombs.
            But before that, there was the Downtown display of weapons and war machines, a promotion to sell war bonds. There was a massive rally at Skelly Stadium, the purpose of which was to build morale and sell war bonds. We all were given a kitchen match as we entered the stadium, and at the proper time, the field lights were turned off. We lighted the whole stadium when we lit our matches, a demonstration of what we could do if we worked together.
On the field that night, brave American soldiers     invaded a Japanese-held island. There were palm trees, tanks and cannon. You'll be relieved to know that the Japs were dispatched very quickly.

The 'Ghost' Town

War and The Aircraft of Douglas Forever a Part of Tulsa

By Ken Neal
Tulsa World

            To those of us marked by World War II, the nearly mile-long building at the Tulsa airport was "the bomber plant," and the company that ran it was Douglas.
            Years after its heyday during the war, Douglas merged with McDonnell Aircraft to become McDonnell Douglas.
              Sandy McDonnell once testily corrected me when I referred to the plant as Douglas. But then he couldn't know how deeply intertwined the plant and Douglas were in the minds of my generation.
              Or what it was like to stand on a hill in Sand Springs and watch streams of big airplanes fly off to war. Or to hear almost every evening of the work adventures of thousands of men and women who ultimately built 5,929 warplanes and modified thousands more in a few short years.
              Or to know in detail the model numbers and designations of every fighter and bomber; to imagine that every time a B-24, a B-17 or an A-26 showed up in the movie news that it probably came from Tulsa and that maybe my dad had worked on it.
              My father, while holding down a full time job, attended Spartan Aviation School eight hours a day for eight weeks for the chance to go work for Douglas, which received 10,000 applications before the plant was opened in mid-1942. Ultimately 24,000 people, most of them from Tulsa and Northeastern Oklahoma, were busy putting together a variety of airplanes.
              To a 7-year-old boy, airplanes were a wondrous thing. The war was something bad, of course, but it provided the framework for the contest between the airplanes on both sides.
              At the start of the war, local officials arranged a big ceremony at the airport to give a sendoff to a lone 4-engined bomber and six P-40 fighters. The bomber probably was a B-24, although it might have been a B-17.
              The event drew a big crowd and after a proper amount of ceremony and oratory, the pilots ran to their planes and took off. The crowd watched the ships out of sight. The bomber was huge and after that I knew exactly what my dad was talking about when he was shifted to work on B-17s being modified at four hangars called the Modification Center.
              It was these four hangars that attracted American Airlines here in 1946. My dad joined American in 1947 and worked there until his retirement in 1976.
              There were almost daily stories of work, fun and tragedy at the bomber plant. I heard in detail how this or that project was coming along.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Big Race


The Big Race

By Ken Neal
May 2013

        After Pearl Harbor, American automakers quit making cars and turned to airplanes, tanks and other war machines. A few 1942 model autos were built after the fall introduction in 1941, but mostly the American civil population had to make do with the vehicles they had at the outbreak of war.
When production resumed following the end of the war in August 1945, the 1946 models were basically 1942 designs with cosmetic changes, things like grills, bumpers, etc.
      Our 1939 Chevy had served us well during the war but of course dad was dying to have another car. He went to work for American Airlines in January 1946 and so had a steady job. He set his sights on a new Chevy. 
These were the days of the Big Three in Detroit, about the only place where autos were produced, given the war devastation in Japan and Europe. Detroit had a virtual monopoly on auto making. The 1948 Chevrolets were hardly changed from the 1942 models. The same was true for other General Motors products, as well as Ford and Chrysler offerings.
       The big competition was between Ford and Chevy. Ford continued to rely on its famous flathead V-8 engine, developed in 1932 by Henry Ford himself. Chevrolet’s engine was the Stove Bolt Six, an overhead valve engine first introduced in 1929. The Ford V-8 survived until 1955. Chevy’s Stove Bolt lasted until 1963.
      The hot argument between auto enthusiasts was the Ford/Chevy comparison.
Typically, Ford contended the Ford was faster, which they usually were. Chevrolet fans usually would fall back on the claim that the famous Fisher body of Chevrolet was sturdier and more stylish. Chevy fans claimed the Ford’s single leaf springing was old-fashioned and rough riding.
My father, an auto mechanic in his early years, liked Chevrolets because the engine was easy to maintain and major overhauls were much easier on the Chevies.
Ford, for example, until 1949 had distributors low in the front of the engine. The crankshaft turned the distributor. The design required removal of the entire distributor and calibration by Ford agencies.
        Chevrolet, other the other hand, had a conventional distributor. Distributor points and condensers, which wore quickly, could be changed easily. According to my father and other car buffs, Ford had a superior carburetor, a two-barrel Holly. Chevrolet, until 1949, had a Carter carburetor that was notoriously “cold-natured” and difficult to keep in tune.
These carburetor and distributor facts are important to my main topic, the Great Race at American Airlines. I can’t remember the exact date. It could have been in 1948, since the new Chevies came out in the fall. I remember our vacation of 1949 vividly, though. We heard the heavyweight championship fight between Joe Louis and Joe Walcott on the '48 Chevy radio.
The Ford-Chevy debates were a constant at the AA overhaul base. By this time, Dad had established a reputation as a Chevrolet mechanic and in his spare time was doing semi-major overhauls on the Stove Bolt Sixes. I will write a separate account of Neal’s garage activities in Sand Springs. 
      The “boys” at American cooked up a race. When AA moved to Tulsa from New York in 1946, many mechanics and supervisors transferred to Tulsa. Most of them were natives of the New York area, including my dad’s foreman at the time, one Joe Hadka. Joe had a nearly new 1947 Ford. He bragged about how fast it was, even bringing in a photograph showing the Ford speedometer at 100.
I am not sure of what led up to the race, but Dad found himself challenged. He was no novice to racing. He had started racing autos (on the streets and highways) years before. He “souped up” a Model T by installing a Frontenac head that converted the T to overhead valves. He used the old T to outrun a new Model A from Tulsa to Keystone in the early 1930s. That’s another story.
      Pop was convinced that Ford speedometers were purposely calibrated to show the car going faster than it was actually. Still, the photo of the Ford speedometer was a bit disconcerting. It was a fact that a Ford properly tuned would probably outrun most Chevrolets because Chevies usually were held back by infrequent distributor tuning and those loggy old Carters. Chevrolet starting making their own carburetors in 1949, by the way, replacing the Carters. 
       Once the race was agreed to, the “boys” staged a production. The arguments and smart cracks occupied the bulletin board and the individual arguments abounded, always with a little “horsing around.”
A day was set. It seems to me it was in the summer, but it could have just been a warm fall or spring day. A race route was determined. The cars would start from the Traffic Circle at Admiral Place, run north on Mingo Road for two or three miles to finish near the AA facility on Mingo.
Men were designated to stop traffic at the intersecting streets for safety reasons.
I suspect a bit of gambling went on, although I must say Dad was not so confident that he bet any money on the race. 
I was 13 or so and of course a Chevrolet man just like my dad. I knew a bit about those old Chevies from helping him, and I was very proud of our Chevy torpedo sedan. It was a black beauty that Dad and I kept gleaming. It had a set of red custom seat covers that were de rigueur of the day. Similarly, it had a Fulton sunshade over the front window. Now, there were other sunshades, but Fultons were the most stylish and popular.
      Dad “tuned” the Chevy, setting the engine timing a bit fast and making sure the Carter carburetor was properly adjusted, new points and condenser and new spark plugs. He put 40 pounds of air in the tires that usually carried about 28 pounds per square inch. There was one thing more. We took the Fulton sunshade off to eliminate as much wind drag as possible.
       There was a mile stretch of concrete pavement west of Sand Springs on what we called the Wekiwa Road. It was not heavily traveled and so became kind of a testing strip for us. I went with Pop to “preflight” the Chevy. It made 85 miles an hour in that mile. The engine was running great.
Pop was on an afternoon shift that I think started at 2 p.m. I am not sure what time the race was to start but before the afternoon shift, of course. I badly wanted to go, but would not have had a way home afterward, so I had to stay home.
      Dad won, and as he had promised, he called me to tell me so.
Later, I heard all about it.
The “boys” had set the rules. The race started from a dead stop, continuing the approximately 2 miles on Mingo. The Chevrolet had a vacuum advance on the shifter of the three-speed transmission. Most people had a little trouble because the vacuum booster could be a little slow if one didn’t know how to use it. But pop knew how to use it and use it fast.
“I got him in low, increased the lead when we went to second and pulled ahead by the time we were in high,” he said. There is an underpass at a railroad track on Mingo. I guess it was about midway of the race. 
“When we went under the railroad the speedometer was showing 92,” Pop said. Sure enough, the Ford was registering that 100. Joe Hadka wanted to rerun the race. He was sure he had just been outdriven, which he had.
“We ran two more times and I beat him both times,” Pop beamed.
Joe Hadka never held that race against pop, although he was dad’s superior. In fact, he was pleased to have Dad in his department. I must say that Dad quickly established himself as perhaps the best mechanic on the base. He hired in as a Junior Mechanic, quickly passed tests to become a Mechanic, Senior Mechanic and Inspector. As Inspector, he was one of the top quality control guys at AA the last 20 years of his career. 
The Great Race of course established his reputation as the “go to” guy on cars and we got all the old Chevies we wanted to overhaul. The day after the race this notice appeared on the bulletin board:
                                 FOR SALE:
                                ONE 1947 FORD
                                ONE FULTON SUN SHADE

Friday, January 25, 2013

2000 Memories

In 1953, it was good for a laugh
by Ken Neal
The Tulsa World
January 2, 2000

Early in 1953, I walked into the Tulsa World newsroom to stay, off and on, for 47 years, more or less. It was but an eye-blink ago.

There are many memories of the old newsroom of those days; that is fortunate because it exists today only in memory. Nothing, except the hard walls of the third floor of the World Building, remains of that newsroom.

And what a newsroom it was. For a high school newspaper editor of 17, the World was big time, never mind that the job I sought was the absolute bottom level of the newspaper hierarchy with a starting salary of $27.50 per week.

I was there because my high school journalism teacher and close friend, the late John R. Roberson, was a University of Missouri classmate of the late Ed Johnson, head of the department of journalism at the University of Tulsa and the man who routed TU students into part-time jobs at the World. They wanted to be sure I attended TU the following fall.

I was hired on the spot, not because of any special talent, but because the World was desperate for a copy boy and Ed Johnson had sent me.

I still lay claim to being the best copy boy in Tulsa World history, although there are those who dispute that and still others who would observe that that might have been the last job at which I was the very best. There are not as many of them as there once were, however.

This is not a story of my beginnings on the Tulsa World as such, but about a conversation on that night nearly 47 years ago that I have thought about many times as the end of the century drew near.

Lee Erhard was managing editor. Sid Steen was city editor. Both are gone now. In the cramped little newsroom, they sat at adjoining linoleum-topped desks, only a loud conversation apart in the midst of clacking typewriters, the chatter of teletypes and the cackle of the police radio.