Bartlesville Oklahoma


Here we go again! It’s April l961 and we are being transferred from Houston Texas to Bartlesville Oklahoma.

The moving van to take us to Bartlesville is at the front door. Four burley men are packing things up. They use more boxes and wrapping paper than is necessary because Cities Service Oil Company is paying for the move.

I am going crazy answering the mover’s questions. “Will you be needing this within the next week to ten days? I’m trying to keep the things that belong to each person in their own boxes so they will be easier to unpack. I tell the kids to go outside and play. They are glad to get out of the house because to many people are telling them what to do.

By late evening we get things packed and ready to go. We go to a motel in Houston while the moving van stays on the street ready to leave the next morning. We hate to leave Houston because we don’t want to leave our friends.

Thank heaven. We are finally out of the city and in the country. Bartlesville is a medium sized town. The town itself is located in rolling hills and in the spring the country side is beautiful, lush and green . In the middle of the summer it gets pretty hot so the grassland begins to look dry and dead. There are many creeks lined with black jack oak, cottonwood and pecan trees. Going west of town takes you to Osage Hills country. Very hilly loaded with black jack oak trees with lots of brush and weeds beneath the trees which makes the area look as if no one has ever been in the area. Going north takes you to Coffeeville Kansas, into grassland and not as many trees. South takes you to Tulsa Oklahoma . This is an area of rolling hills and not many trees so you see many ranches filled with cattle.

We arrived in Bartlesville. The company paid for only three days in the motel so we hit the ground running to find a house to rent. I found a small white frame house with three bedrooms. That meant two girls to each bedroom but where was I going to put Bill? A small room off the kitchen, that may have been a breakfast eating area became his bedroom.

The state of Oklahoma is known as tornado alley and believe me, the first week we were in our new house I knew why.

It was late evening when the sky darkened. The wind began to blow along with tremendous lightening and thunder. The electricity went out so I lit the kerosene lamps. Jean was on the front porch watching the storm. Police cars came out with their sirens blaring and their blinking lights on stopping traffic at the corner. I couldn’t imagine what had happened. The electric lines were down in the street. Police cars and fire trucks were everywhere. The police came to the door to see if we were Okay. We invited them in and sat around the kitchen table, lit by the kerosene lamp, smoking cigarettes and drinking left over coffee all the while listening to the police scanner. As the Oklahoma Gas and Electric crew came out to put the utility poles back in place the storm continued. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The electricians were climbing the poles so they could they work on the transformers. The lightening was so severe that they didn’t need extra light to see what they were doing.

The kids were getting scared with all the talk of tornados going on. The cops suggested that the kids and I should get to the basement. It was Bills Birthday, March 13. I had baked a cake for him earlier that day. We didn’t know it at the time but the basement leaked so bad that we ate the birthday cake while sitting on the bottom basement step. By the time the storm had ended we were halfway up the steps because of the rising water in the basement.

The house was on a busy corner with a traffic light on Johnstone and Fifteenth street. We lived in that house for about a year. My sister Elsie came to visit from Washington state and renamed the corner “The Holmberg horn honk and stop” because Pat and Mickie who were young teenagers by now, had friends who had to give them a little beep, beep, beep, every time they drove by or stopped because of the light.

Most of the people who lived in Bartlesville either worked for Phillips Petroleun or Cities Service Oil Company. I’d call it upper middle class as to income and education. It was the perfect place to bring up children. People were very friendly and we all looked after our own and all other kids who happened to be around .

We lived in that little white house for about a year while I continued looking for a larger place. I finally found one about a block from where we were living. It was a two story house ,white stucco with a red tile roof. It had four bedrooms and a basement. The four bedrooms were upstairs, three large rooms and one smaller one. Pat and Judy had one of the larger bedrooms while Mickie and Carole had the other. That left the small bedroom for Bill. The room that Mickie and Carole liked needed painting and they wanted a pink bedroom. I wasn’t to educated when it came to picking out paint colors. I went down and bought what I thought was a pale pink. It turned out to be pepto bismal pink. I did add white paint so the room would be livable. Pat always wanted to paint the ceiling of their room navy blue with glow in the dark stars. I was never brave enough to let her do that.

We had a very large living room. Jean used to call it the “Lodge Hall”. The open stairway to the upstairs bedrooms came down into the living room ending with a large round floor to ceiling column. Since the room was so large we held many meetings such as the St Johns Alter society, The Sooner Saddlers and lots of bridge club parties.

We also had a large dinning room. It would have been big enough to hold a large dining room table that would seat ten to twelve people. We didn’t have a table as big as that so we used our smaller table with four chairs and a bench. The room had four large windows across the front of the house. I bought white café curtains and put them up one morning. They looked very pretty. All of a sudden WOOSH! A sparrow flew down the fireplace chimney and POOPED on the curtain! There went my pretty ,new, crisp curtains.

The utility room was in the basement. I didn’t have any trouble with my weight back then with the washer and dryer in the basement Running from the bedrooms upstairs to the basement with the laundry was quite a workout.

Bartlesville was the ideal place to bring up children. It had all the clubs and recreational activities one could wish for

Our neighborhood was great. Every home had several well behaved children and they made our kids feel welcome. The kids played outside most of the time. They could hardly wait for the” OK “from mom to get out the door to go play but mom made sure they had their chores done first.

One day the kids were playing in the alley behind the Spies house. Bill was hitting golf balls and one of the balls landed right beside a huge cottonwood tree. He decided to climb the tree so up he went with the golf club in his hand. When he got high enough and he was level with the electric lines he took the golf club reached out and touched the line with it. He got such a shock that he fell out of the tree on the hard ground. The rest of the kids came running over to see if he was hurt. He said he was OK but the kids thought he looked sick so they walked home with him. I’ll have to admit when he walked through the door he looked pretty pale. I thought we should take him to the Dr. but Jean convinced me that he would be Ok. We were watching TV and Jean wanted to change the channel so he asked Bill to go over and change it. Bill said “I ain’t touchin it”.and kept his arms folded across his chest. It took Bill awhile before he would even touch the light switches in the house..

We had some unusual pets while we lived at that house. A friend of Pat’s gave her a baby skunk that had been fixed so it couldn’t spray its terrible smell. The girls named the skunk Pepe La Pue and treated it like a kitten. They were always trying to hold it and pet around on it but Pepe didn’t like that very much.. He did like to follow them around the house. Saturday afternoons were fun for the girls because that’s when all the kids spent time socializing and talking to their friends on Main Street . They decided it was time to introduce Pepe to their friends. Pepe got a bath, sprayed with perfume and a big red bow was added to his neck. He liked to follow the girls so when they put the leash around his neck he knew he was going for a walk and he was happy. They didn’t keep him downtown very long, only long enough to show him off then they’d bring him home and they’d go back downtown .

I don’t remember how long we had Pepe but one day he disappeared. We searched everywhere for him. We finally decided that someone left the door open and he escaped.

A big white rabbit became another pet. This rabbit was huge for a rabbit. We kept him in a large cage in the back yard. We let him run free much of the time. Our back yard wasn’t fenced but the rabbit never ran off. Dogs would come by and bark at him but he stood his ground and just looked at the dogs. The dogs were so surprised at this response, they didn’t know what to do. They would usually looked in bewilderment at the rabbit and leave. If the dog got too brave and came close enough, the rabbit would turn his back to the dog and kick at him with his hind legs (like a horse). The dogs always ran off.


It was while we were living at this house when the kids saw the UFO or unidentified flying object.

UFO’s were the talk of the country. People were seeing them everywhere. They were supposedly from outer space. No one knew what these creatures looked like. The big question was “Are they friendly”. Several people said they had been abducted by these aliens and actually taken into their space ships. Others said an alien had been captured in Roswell New Mexico but the capture was being kept secret by the government because they didn’t want the people to panic.

At dusk, the kids were playing baseball in the Wartens yard they swear they saw a UFO They describe it as being triangular shaped with red, blue and yellow lights. It looked like it was about 200 yards off the ground and moved from north to south very slow but then took off in a split second. It moved so fast , they lost track of it in the night sky. The kids all ran home to tell their parents about the sighting. They were all scared and thankful that they had not been abducted.

It was about this same time that polio was becoming an epidemic. No one knew how the disease was spread. All kinds of things were suspect. I remember when they thought bananas were the culpret because they were shipped from South America. Even drinking tea was not recommended. Doctors decided mosquitoes were causing the trouble so measures must be taken to eradicate them.

Early every summer at the start of mosquito season, a city employee in an open jeep, pulling a fogging machine would come driving down the middle of the street pumping out colorful clouds of insecticide.

The kids scampered playfully behind the fogging machine each time it came by. I tried to keep them from running thru the fog but all the neighborhood kids were having so much fun , it was hard to keep them away from it.

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