Saturday, June 05, 2021

Tulsa State Fair, 1953

Years ago I happened upon a group of slides labeled Tulsa State Fair, 1953. "Sounds potentially interesting", I thought as I fed chateaubriand to my ocelot. Turns out, they are pretty great! 

The Tulsa State fair's origins can be traced all the way back to a street fair in the 1890s; it continued to expand over the decades; Wikipedia says, In 1923, the Tulsa Fairgrounds were moved to a 240-acre lot, donated by Tulsa oilman J. E. Crosbie, between Fifteenth and Twenty-first Streets in midtown Tulsa. The donation of the land was just the beginning of what would grow into one of the most premier fairs in the country.

In 1949, the Tulsa State Fair merged with a spring livestock show to bring livestock events to the fair. In 1966, The International Petroleum Exposition (IPE) Center, now known as the River Spirit Expo, was built and made into a major part of the fair. During the 1970s, updates were made and year-round marketing began around the complex. It was at this time the fairgrounds were renamed Expo Square. Updates were made throughout the Pavilion, and a 13,000-seat grandstand was built.

I love this shot, with lots of men in fedoras (some with walking sticks, son!) and fewer ladies (in their nice dresses). This exhibit definitely resembles the kind of thing you might see at any large expo or trade fair in the 1940's and '50s.

This advertising mascot looks vaguely familiar, but I think it's more the style that's familiar and not this specific threaded-pipe fellow. I looked up "Spans Tubular Products" (I think that's what the sign says) with no results. Notice the oil pump "mule" with the yellow "head" to our left. Those mules used to be a pretty familiar sight around parts of SoCal when I was growing up.

I love that striking, raised circular building with plenty of glass. That would make a pretty cool house! The words "NATIONAL SUPPLY" tell us... well, not much. Does anybody know what those yellow and blue machines are, on display beneath the building? They look like oversized child's toys, and must have something to do with oil drilling/pumping, but I don't have a guess.

Next is this structure, which was clearly based on an old-fashioned oil derrick of some kind. There's a sign to the right that says it is a "replica of the DRAKE WELL", which meant nothing to me. Wikipedia says, The Drake Well is a 69.5-foot-deep oil well in Cherrytree Township, Venango County in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania, the success of which sparked the first oil boom in the United States. In addition, The importance of the Drake Well was in the fact that it caused prompt additional drilling, thus establishing a supply of petroleum in sufficient quantity to support business enterprises of magnitude. So now you know!

Here's a photo of a replica of the Drake well at the Drake Well Museum in Titusville, Pennsylvania - it's on the Nation Register of Historic Places.

I have a few more photos from the Tulsa State Fair, if you are interested!


Nanook said...

From L to R... a 1953 Chevrolet; a 1951 or 1952 Plymouth; a 1953 Pontiac. The circular building really is a beauty.

Make that Spang Tubular Products, but I couldn't really tell you what they made - although A. M. Chalfant combined with the Spang Company to become the Spang & Chalfant Company, a pipe and oil-field tools manufacturing company.

Let's not let the "Drake Oil Well" overshadow that sign for the Hughes Tool Company - started by Howard Hughes, Sr. in 1914. Yes - he was the Father of Howard Hughes - that Howard Hughes, "...who convinced his relatives to sell their shares to him. Legally emancipated at the age of 18, Howard began using the profits from Hughes Tool to fund his other ventures" - such as TWA, etc.

Thanks, Major.

TokyoMagic! said...

Are there people atop the very tall tower, in the first pic?

I hope the round "National Supply" building spun around at a very high speed....sort of like a "Rotor" flat ride.

When I was a kid, there was one of those oil pump mules in the parking lot of a Toys R Us store in Torrance, CA. They had attached panels to it to make it look like the company's mascot, Geoffrey the Giraffe. Well, it was actually just the long neck and head of Geoffrey, which would bob up and down as the pump operated.

Thanks for sharing these, Major. I'm interested in seeing more of this venue!

Chuck said...

I have no idea what Spang Tubular Products made, either. Paper towel center rolls? Windchimes? Smokestacks? I can't think of a single tubular thing used in the oil drilling business.

That looks like a GM TDH-3610 (or TDM-, TGH-, or TGM-3610, depending on the transmission) "Old-look" bus in the first photo. No time to research the livery, I'm afraid.

Happy 50th birthday to Six Flags St Louis, which opened today as St Flags Over Mid-America in 1971! We really wanted to be there today, but it's the only day that worked into my son's schedule before his 18th birthday to work on his Eagle Scout project. Priorities. I'm at peace with our decision.

In honor of the day, here's a link to a post featuring some of Ken Martinez' postcard collection. Enjoy!

Andrew said...

Of course it's big in OK, but a lot of people in Western Pennsylvania love oil, too! My cousin works for the Titusville Herald, which has a drawing of the Drake Well on the banner. Thanks, Major.

Nice one, Chuck! I forgot to call out Magic Mountain's 50th on May 29th. After all, these were the two most notable theme parks that opened in 1971. ;-) Compared to Magic Mountain, SFStL seems to be doing a lot more to celebrate the occasion. This article is worth a read if you have a minute. I'd be interested to see if they actually "pay homage to [the park's] original rides by outfitting employees with replicas of the original costumes, as well as bringing back the balloon girl in her striped dress and front gate workers in their straw hats." It's nice to see the local management of a Six Flags park mindful of its history!

I don't think I've seen that postcard series before - thanks, Ken, and good luck on your son's Eagle project, Chuck.

Melissa said...

Lookit all them fedoras! It looks like the cast of Guys and Dolls took a wrong turn at 42nd St, and ended up in Oklahoma!

I would imagine you need lots of pipes to pump oil; that’s probably where the tubularness comes in.

The Loveless Manufacturing company has a truck full of explosives? Better alert Jim West and Artemus Gordon!

zach said...

A very tubular and rad post today, Major! Who needs an oil well if you own the haberdashery in 1950's Tulsa.

Those pretty machines could be Mud Pumps from the National Premium Oilwell Machine Parts Company where the slogan is... We are going to PUMP.... your mud!

I actually woke up this morning wondering where in the world Major was going to take us today. Thanks, Major.

Oh, I want that bus.


JG said...

Totally tubular post today, Major. No wonder your ocelot is so happy. Do ocelots purr?

The round pavilion vaguely reminds me of the Chemisphere house, while the face on the pipe “Mr. Tooby” is mildly terrifying.

Mules like those were scattered around the countryside near Coalinga close to my old home. Some are still there working. I have no idea what those colorful machines might do.

Lots of history in these pictures, Major, send us more!

Chuck, good luck to the Scout, hope he finishes before the birthday.

Melissa, I see what you did there.


Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, thanks as always for the car IDs. “Spang Tubular Products”… I am almost positive that I have seen that advertising figure before, but even having the right name isn’t bringing anything up. Sadly. I did notice the Hughes Tool Company sign, but didn’t really think about the significance in relation to the famous aviator/billionaire/paranoiac. Interesting!

TokyoMagic!, I don’t think that people are up in that tall tower, but it’s hard to be certain. There is that zig-zag staircase all the way up! Rotating buildings are always a plus, and if I did have a circular house like that, I would definitely want it to spin. I remember seeing some of those oil pump mules with eyes painted on them, and sometimes they’d have springy “antennae” on them, but I never saw a “Geoffrey the Giraffe” version!

Chuck, obviously the tubular products in question were whistles. Lots and lots of whistles. The oil industry is dependent on whistles to this day. You sure love your old buses, and I hope that someday you will own one, and will trick it out in a “Partridge Family” manner. Happy 50th to Six Flags St. Louis! I would probably want to go there on a day that is NOT a big anniversary, who needs the extra crowds? Not me.

Andrew, what’s so great about oil? I can’t think of a single use for it. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that you are familiar with the Drake Well! Cool that your cousin’s newspaper uses a drawing on their banner. Thanks also for the link to the article about the celebration of Six Flags St. Louis’ 50th anniversary! It’s too bad that Magic Mountain didn’t seem to be interested in any acknowledgment, they could have brought back the trolls and the wizard!

Melissa, the fedoras are great, but the walking sticks fascinate me. It was clearly a fad for at least a short while. “Let’s open a walking stick store, we’ll be rich!”. You could point at things with your stick, or hit teenagers who were disrespectful. Ha ha, I’m ashamed that I did not even think of Miguelito.

zach, I gotta admit, I am glad I don’t have to walk around in a full wool suit and fedora all day. Give me my comfort! But the fashion does give these photos a real “blast from the past” impression. Ha ha, nice Hans and Franz reference! (I got it! I got a joke! I need to call mom!). I’m glad you enjoyed these pix.

JG, ocelots definitely purr (OK I have no idea really). But I like to imagine a full, throaty, very low-pitched purr. The “Chemisphere”? What was that? It sounds familiar, and yet… no lightbulb is going off. I still see those oil mules sometimes (like in the Santa Paula or Ojai areas), but certainly not as much as I used to.

Grant said...

Zach and JG beat me to the "tublar post" comment. But yeah, tubular man, tubular!

Growing up in Anaheim in the 50s my parents would drive us to Huntington Beach most every summer weekend. The mule and derrick oil wells by the hundreds were everywhere. Of course they were on prime beach front real estate and are almost all gone. Only one small area remains with about a dozen mules and one tall derrick. Oil city became surf city.

Major, yes, please post more Tulsa State Fair photos!


When I was about 10 I got a HO scale wooden and metal craftsmen model kit of the Drake Oil Well. It had historical notes with the instructions. I cannot recall the manufacturer of the kit , but they made other building model kits as WELL.

Melissa that‘s what I too thought of right-away! Miguelito Loveless!! I LOVE The Wild Wild West tv series! And to tie it to Disney ..... all the costumes for the series were designed by Jack Muhs who left the show in 1968 to design costumes for Disneyland , Walt Disney World and Tokyo Disneyland ! Over time he took most of the parks entertainment costumes. Some of his most famous designs include the Golden/Diamond Horseshoe Revue and America on Parade.

JG said...

Major, here is the Chemosphere house by John Lautner...

...and ocelots do purr....

This discussion ranged far and wide...


Chuck said...

lots of interesting threads today, JG. Like the ones on the Spang Tubular Products mascot. Good old Thread Head...

Thanks for that link, Andrew! I am/ looking forward to going in a few weeks.

We got most of the project done today. Just a little bit more to do in the morning. And then we need to figure out what to do with all of the leftover gravel and landscape blocks. The guy who donated the materials left us with way too much stuff...and then left this morning with the Scoutmaster (and both of their pickup trucks) for a Scout camp just outside, would you believe it, Tulsa.


The HO Scale craftsmen model kit was by STEWART PRODUCTS of Portsmouth Rhode Island.

Melissa said...

Well, now I know who’s responsible for putting Robert Conrad in those tight little pants! And he went on to work for a clean-cut company like Disney!

All’s I know about ocelots is they’re crepuscular, and I learned that from watching cartoons.

Warren Nielsen said...

Major and all,

I did a little Googling and landed on this web page

and noted that in

1913: The Company purchased the inventory, machinery, and good will of TW Phillips Manufacturing. The company was later renamed Manufacturing & Tool Division of Spang & Company, and produced oil and gas well drilling equipment for use throughout the USA

Looks like the name and fields of enterprise have changed (a lot) over the years, and are now simply named SPANG AND COMPANY, moving into the electronics field of some sort.

See the country on Saturdays with the Major. This is great.


Dean Finder said...

Major, is your ocelot named Babou? I hear they're great to take on luxury liners.

Coincidentally, the Tulsa State Fairgrounds map looks surprisingly like the map of an unnamed fair for the simulated incident in a FEMA Incident Command System class I took a few weeks ago.

Major Pepperidge said...

Grant, I wonder where the term “tubular” originated (as used in the 80s)? And WHY? Even in the early 70s there were lots of those mules in Huntington Beach; as a kid I always liked them for some reason, as if they were giant kinetic sculptures or toys. As an adult I might not want them near my home! Stay tuned for another Tulsa State Fair post.

Mike Cozart, wow, I had no idea that the Drake Well was such a famous thing. I’d never heard of it until researching the photo from today’s post. Like you, I loved The Wild Wild West, it was one of my all-time favorite shows. I think I mentioned that I saw Ross Martin at the Farmer’s Market in Los Angeles when I was little, it might be the first time that I ever saw someone from TV or movies in the flesh. It was a weird sensation! Mr. Martin was smiling and signing an autograph for somebody.

JG, aha! I thought the word “Chemosphere” sounded familiar! Of course I have seen many photos of that famous home. It’s not that far from where I live, though I’ve never laid eyes on it personally. Thanks for the confirmation that ocelots purr… I kind of had the feeling that they did!

Chuck, I’m trying to imagine what the big project was! Gravel and landscape blocks… could be anything I guess. Hey, better too much stuff than too little. Somebody will always be happy to take the leftovers if you advertise on Craig’s List.

Mike Cozart, ha ha, amazing that you found out what it was from when you were 10!!

Melissa, at first I thought you meant Robert Conrad went to work for Disney, and I was wracking my brain trying to think of what he was in. You learned that ocelots are crepuscular from cartoons??

Warren Nielsen, thanks for doing the research! I would have done it, only I had the name wrong. Typical. Kind of amazing that they are still around in some form, since so many companies are either absorbed or just go kaput. Hope you are doing well!

Dean Finder, oh that crazy Dali! What a character. I went to the Dali museum in Figueras, Spain many years ago, it was pretty cool. Your mention of a “simulated incident in a FEMA Incident Command System class” is very intriguing. I’ll bet it had to do with an alien invasion!


MAJOR: I understand the 80’s term “ Tubular” was a surf term for when a surfer rides the inside of a wave curl - creating a “tube” like effect.

And just in case , because I know you’re gonna ask: 23 SKIDOO is NOT a slang term popular in the 20’s but is from the preteens. It means to beat-it or get outta here! . It originated from the New York flatiron building . The wedge shaped building at the fork of Broadway and 23rd Street created a severe downdraft on the Broadway side of the building . Men would line up along the street to watch the strong downdraft lift up women’s skirts . Police officers would send the men away by saying “skedaddle” , “ Skidoo” ... move along to 23rd street to slang of 23 SKIDOO! .

......... the more you know.....

"Lou and Sue" said...

I learned A LOT,
And I want an ocelot!