Tulsarama! — That’s Swell!
As Oklahoma celebrates its 100th birthday, many communities across the state are looking back to 1957 to see how the semi-centennial events were celebrated. In Tulsa parades, parties, and a time capsule were included in Tulsarama! – Tulsa’s contribution to the semi-centennial.
A brand-new Plymouth Belvedere was buried at the courthouse with an assortment of items, including: a can of gasoline, a case of Schlitz beer, photographs, and the contents of a woman’s purse. Preparations are underway for the unearthing of the Plymouth Belvedere on Friday, June 15, 2007 as a part of Tulsa’s celebration of the Oklahoma Centennial. The buried car has gained international attention – hundreds of press passes have been issued for the Buried Car unveiling. There’s more information at www.buriedcar.com, as well as here…plus more below.
Men called “The Brothers of the Brush,” were encouraged to grow breads, which were quite out of style at the time. The beards would then be shaved off during the festivities. Women formed the “Jubilee Bells” and designed pioneer-type clothing to wear at fashion shows. There was a Miss Tulsarama! beauty pageant, plays about the founding of Tulsa and Tulsa industry, Native American Dancing, and special exhibitions at Philbrook and Gilcrease. Wooden nickels, plates, glasses, playing cards, and other souvenirs were sold.
Oklahoma’s Semi-Centennial Celebration promoted the Sooner state during many events throughout the state. Oklahoma City’s large event, titled “Tee Pees to Towers” included a motorama, a foodarama, and international photorama, and Soonerama Land exhibits. The use of “rama” meant an exposition of the best.
Tulsarama! Was the name chosen for the city of Tulsa’s Jubilee Celebration with the exclamation point being “borrowed” from the smash hit musical “Oklahoma!”
Special events were scheduled to mark every day of the weeklong Jubilee celebration from June 1-8, highlighted by two shows of major importance each night under the direction of the John B Rogers Producing Co. in conjunction with the members of the Chamber of Commerce; the giant, historical spectacle Tulsarama and the T-Town Tom Tom Production of “Dancing Moccasins”.
Promotion started early in February with a proclamation by Mayor Norvell calling on public-spirited men to let their whiskers grow to publicize TulsaRama! Facial hair was not common in 1957. The men were called Brothers of the Brush. The goal was to have 200 chapters and 8,000 to 10,000 members, with prizes awarded in 15 different categories. Derby and top hats were also sold. By April 11 there were 5,000 signed up.
In early April sponsors announced the Miss Tulsarama queen contest with the winner receiving a paid trip for two to Europe. Second place winner of the area wide contest would receive a trip to Mexico City for two and third place a weekend vacation to Western Hills Lodge. Winning contestants would appear in the Tulsarama show, with Miss Tulsarama presiding over all activities of the Golden Jubilee Celebration.
Contestants had to be sponsored by a company, club or other organization. The contestants were to sell tickets to the Miss Tulsarama ball, held at the Cimarron Ballroom with each ticket sale representing 1,000 votes. Johnny Long and his band provided the music. Valerie Randolph was the winner, Carol Mason came in 2nd (Miss Greater Tulsa). The third queen won the title “1957 Semi-Centennial Indian Princess” Also 13 princesses, and almost 100 entrants.
Kangaroo Court & Parade: Thursday night, April 25 1957: A parade with over 700, led by the Will Rogers high school band assembled and marched from 7th & Main into the packed business area with around 7,000 spectators packed in and around the area. Brothers of the Brush and Jubilee Belles walked while the queen contestants rode in convertibles. Once arriving at the main destination, 5th & Boston, a Kangaroo Court was set up to carry out the “sentencing” of 4 clean-shaven citizens adjudged guilty simply because of their bare faces. A clothing store owner wound up in a stockade adorned with a Belle bonnet and women’s makeup on his face. A pie firm operator’s sentence was to be smashed in the face with of his own pies…..by his wife. The local weatherman received being dunked in a giant tub because of recent rainy weather as was another man for being caught reading Dick Tracy instead of historical Oklahoma literature.
Last of all, a “tear rendering sermon” was read on occasion of the death of Mr. Ray-Zor. A black casket for him was on the truck which hauled equipment. Another truck had the jail on the back of it in which the prisoners were kept.
Wooden nickels proved a great promotion as well. They were legal tender in the city of Tulsa and the first 50,000 of them sold out quickly with more reordered several times.
Jubilee Belles were what the women’s groups participating in activities connected to the Jubilee were called. Official calico dresses and bonnets were available at headquarters.
The casting call went out in late April for the big show that was scripted, with an experience director on hand as well: George Elias, with the John B. Rogers Company, which had been retained to produce the show.
Auditions were held in the Edison High School gymnasium–2,011 people were cast for the production. Ralph Blane wrote the opening song of the show, Ridin’ Into Tulsa. Copies of the 45 were sold as souvenirs. To hear Ralph’s song, click here.
Held in the Grandstands of the Fairgrounds, the show focused on the most significant events which had occurred in Oklahoma, Tulsa in particular, during the last half century.
1. Tour of the Prairies
2. Creek Tulsey Town
3. Civil War 1863
4. First Post Office, Church and School
5. First Iron Horse, Cherokee Strip Run
6. Statehood 1907
7. Cowtown to Oil Boom
8. Oil Capitol and Roaring Twenties
9. Battle for Freedom…Water and Oil Mix
10. City of the future
The Tulsa Junior Chamber of Commerce sponsored the T-Town Tom Tom Indian extravaganza which consisted of 28 specialty acts and a cast of 150 full-blood Indian dancers wearing authentic hand-made costumes. This show was to be performed every night in the Fairgrounds Pavilion. Two hours of Fire…..Snake……War…….Rabbit and Friendship Dances along with drummers and chanters.
Russ Stamper was chairman of the motorcades along with Val Koobs as his co-chair organized mobile shows featuring local talent to visit towns within a 75 mile radius on two Saturdays, carrying the Tulsarama Banner.
John Dupree was the editor and researcher of the historical program which was published in conjunction with the celebration.
Downtown merchants and shopping districts citywide decorated their storefronts in preparation for the welcoming of tremendous crowds. The festivities were to begin at 10:00 am Saturday, June 1st with a huge parade.
Souvenirs- Keychain, Various wooden nickels, Oklahoma Tulsarama flags, Playing Cards, T-shirts, Plates- old and new Tulsa, Ash Tray, Glasses, Gold-Aluminum Canes, Oil Barrels with oil paper weights, Ridin Into Tulsa record
AND THEN CAME THE RAINS………
Heavy rains plagued Tulsa the week of June 1, 1957. The Tulsarama headquarters were jammed with float sponsors, band members and others all wondering if the huge kick-off parade would go on. It did, in the early afternoon instead of morning and in the rain.
County workers worked in the rain at the fairgrounds removing topsoil and replacing it with crushed stone in a vain attempt to avoid cancellation of the outdoor performance of Tulsarama’s opening night. With the rain never stopping completely, it was cancelled that night. “Rain Checks” were issued the next night after high winds and a deluge struck the Fairgrounds as the curtain was about to go up. The rain pre-empted the show for one week. The pageant was seen by a capacity crowd of 7,000 when it finally did open June 8th. Many more performances commanded these numbers as well, with the reviews raving.
The Dancing Moccasins show was able to go on as scheduled being held indoors, as were most other events planned for the week. It, too, got rave reviews. A Navy drill team and the army’s Ft. Sill band performed at the Tom-Tom instead of the cancelled Tulsarama show.
Events Planned were:
Queens Day- Queens announced at Tulsarama Ball that night
Air Force Day- parade, Minute Men air show (rained out)
Antique Car Display
Faith of our Fathers Day- Sunday school class reunions, vesper service at Fairgrounds
Polo Game at Southern Hills- high goal game between an OK/Tx team vs Eastern All-Stars
Pioneer & Homecoming Day- featuring barbershop quartets singing at decorated lamp posts throughout downtown and an Old Timers picnic at the Blue Moon.
Industrial Progress Day- Special labor recognition event.
Fashion Show- held at Ritz featuring styles from yesteryear and tomorrow
Flower Show- featuring the Semi-Centennial Flower- Golden Zinnia and exhibits of bridal bouquets
Parade- OK Youth- best in the west
Kids Fishing Derby- Lake Yahola
AAU Swim Meet
OK Tennis Tournament
Baseball- Tulsa Oilers vs OKC Indians
Old Fashioned Bargain Days
Pistol Pete – Tulsa Gun Club Target Range
NHRA drag races- Tulsa North Airport
Time Capsule/Car burial
Beard judging and shaving contest
Huge Fireworks Finale on the last night
On June 15, 2007 Tulsa’s 50-year-old Buried Car was raised from its time capsule along with a cache of goodies from 1957. THS was at the unveiling and opening of the time capsule, so come by our booth to see what the Tulsans of 50 years ago gave us to remember that era. Complete schedule Many of the artifacts buried with the car are in excellent condition and will be on exhibit at THS starting in July. For more updates about who will win the car sign up for our email newsletter.
Read more about this unique part of Tulsa history and discover that the buried car was only a part of Tulsa’s semi-centennial – here’s more about Tulsarama! events, including the vintage edition of Ralph Blane’s “Ridin’ Into Tulsa.” Here’s a New York Times slideshow of buried car photos.