On October 4, 1986, the Caney River crested at 29 feet, and literally split the city of Bartlesville, Oklahoma in half for nine days. Unusually heavy rains in the latter part of September and first part of October that year contributed to a 100 year flood that displaced 55,000 people, lasted 18 days, did $40,000,000 worth of damage in a 102,600 square mile area. Ten people lost their lives, and the city of Bartlesville was forever changed.
After the rainiest June on record in Oklahoma History, forecasters predict that the Caney River will crest at Bartlesville today, July 2, 2007 - at 22 feet. Businesses and homes near the river are already being flooded, and the worst is yet to come. After the 1986 experience, many business and home owners are packing up and heading for higher, drier ground, maneuvering their way around closed roads, and flooded low-lying routes.
In 1986, I was in Springfield Missiourri, in the student center of the college I was attending, wondering why the telvision was surrounded by students, and where in the world was all that water? I watched, helplessly, as I realized that the people in boats, trying to rescue their photo albums from the doorways of flooded houses were in my home town. I was devastated.
Now, twenty-one years later, I live within an hour of that beloved little town, and still I sit. In front of the television and my computer screen, I watch the news, and wait, helplessly. I've spoken with my parents, everyone is fine, and none of them live in the flood-prone areas. But my sister has a rent-house that is flooding, and my brother has land up in Kansas that he's going to be cut-off from for several days. The forecast is for more rain.
But, I've seen Bartlesville dry out, and come back stronger than ever after a devastating event like this. I have faith in her. My thoughts and prayers are with those who are even now trying to decide what to pack up and haul out of their homes, and what to leave behind. I pray that everyone escapes the waters safely, and that there is enough for all to rebuild their homes, businesses, and lives in the community I still call home.
In honor of Bartlesville:
This post was originally published on Monday, August 29, 2005
Bartlesville, Oklahoma is where I keep all my yesterdays.
Though I was not born there, it is the only home I ever remember. It's where I grew up, played, learned, dreamed, wrote my poetry, went to school, met my husband and childhood sweetheart, married him the second time around, had kids, met my Savior, found myself and learned the value of family --- not necessarily in that order.
My parents and grandparents still live in Bartlesville, as do my brother, sister and her family, as well as my husband's family. It is also where two of my children live with their mom. I am blessed to have married into two wonderful children, in addition to the three wonderful children I brought with me. (edit: 2007 - only one of my children now live in Bartlesville, as of June 2006. Happily, the other lives here with his father and I.)
I return to Bartlesville at least once or twice a month, and every Thanksgiving and Christmas. There's nothing like the feeling I get when I come over the rise where you can get your first glimpse of the town...
I am home, coffee is waiting at Mama's table, and if everyone is not there, they will be before the afternoon is out.
Everyone gather's at Mom and Dad's! We've been known to all show up on a Sunday afternoon, with no warning, and Dad, who is the cook, has enough Sunday dinner to feed all sixteen of us. Their kitchen table has seated as many as fourteen at Christmas or Thanksgiving, with about ten others sitting at the 'kiddie table' in the living room.
Bartlesville is an oil town in the middle of Indian Territory, with a rich history. Established in 1907 by Jacob H. Bartles, it found its beginning on the bank of the Caney River, where in 1870, Nelson F. Carr built a grist mill, the first business establishment in what would become Bartlesville. Jacob Bartles purchased the grist mill in 1875, for $1,000, and built a store nearby. Bartlesville was born.
Here's a photo of the present day spot where the city was born. The stones you see are the foundation stones for Nelson Carr and Jake Bartles’ long-ago business venture. If they could only see her now!
Bartlesville was the first town in Indian Territory to have electricity, natural gas, running water, and telephone service. Not far from this bend in the Caney River, you can see Oklahoma's first commercial oil well - the Nellie Johnstone No. 1.
The company that brought my family to Bartlesville from West Texas when I was but a babe of two years, was, of course, the Phillips Petroleum Company. My father started working at a Phillips gas station in Texas, and has worked for the company (now ConocoPhillips) ever since. Here is a shot of the old Phillips building downtown. (edit: 2007 - My Dad retired from ConocoPhillips in Houston last year, and is now living back in Bartlesville.)
Some of the favorite local tourist attractions are pictured here:
The Frank Phillips Home is now a fascinating museum.
The Price Tower, designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright, is now an upscale hotel and an art museum.
The Johnstone & Keeler General Store, restored, is now home of Oklahoma's own Red Dirt Soap Company.
The old train depot now houses the Chamber of Commerce, the Development Corporation and the Community Foundation.
And, of course, the nationally famous Bartlesville Community Center is famous for it's annual "OK Mozart Festival".
I loved growing up in Bartlesville. Those were really good years, although I didn't know it at the time. There used to be two high schools in Bartlesville: College High, and Sooner High. They combined in the eighties, so that the Sooner High building housed the mid-high grades 9-10, and the College High building housed the high-school grades 11-12. The Sooner High Spartans and the College High Wildcats became the Bartlesville Bruins. Good, bad or indifferent, we survived the merge. My graduating class was the first to attend all four years in the new system.
Here's a photo of the high school today.
We were proud to be Bruins! Although I wasn't athletic, I did letter in Choir, and go to state in Speech and Drama. Funny how you spend anywhere from two, to four, to as many as twelve years with the same people, and then after graduation, you never see them again. I often wonder about some of those really awesome friends with whom I spent my high school days. I see some of them occasionally. They seem familiar, yet different. But the ones I really wonder about are those with whom I celebrated graduation, one warm almost-summer night in 1986, and then never ever saw again. Life is a mystery.
I am also a proud mom and aunt to four current and/or future Bruins who live in Bartlesville now, and are or will be football and basketball players or cheerleaders. I can't wait to go to some of the middle school and mid- high games this fall and cheer my nephew and son as they play for the old blue and white! My youngest daughter, whom I gained by marriage to her father, will be down there in her cheerleading skirt and tennis shoes freezing and jumping and yelling her guts out, while her mother, her father, her grandparents and I (the other mother) are in the stands doing the same! It will be so nice to go home to those games again! (edit: 2007 - My daughter still cheers on the BHS squad, and my nephew and niece are proud Bruins as well! Go Blue and White!)
Well, if you were in my car, and we were in downtown Bartlesville, we couldn't leave without stopping by Murphy's Steakhouse. I recommend the 4 oz. open-faced, junior hot-cheese-burger with hand-cut fries and brown "gravy-over-all". It's what Murphy's has been famous for, for more than fifty years and is the very best! Of course if you're really hungry, you could go with the full size instead of the junior!
Oh, and if you get the salad, try the house-blend garlic salad dressing. We eat the dressing on club crackers while we're waiting for our food! The other thing I will never forget about Murphy's as long as I live is the candy drawer. All little guests of Murphy's Steak House get a trip behind the counter to the candy drawer. It holds such treasures as Tootsie Rolls, Laffy Taffy, mini Chick-o-Sticks, Peanut Butter Logs and my favorite-- Sixlets!
I miss the days when I was young enough to leave Murphy's with a fistful of candy! Now I have to settle for two peppermint patties for a quarter from the jar by the cash register. Oh well, you can't stay young forever.
So, I hope you enjoyed my tour of Bartlesville, Oklahoma. It's "where I keep all my yesterdays...This is My Town."