Saturday, 25 October 2014

Attending a Tea

So, this is another pause for real life apart from travel. Very soon after our return home I was scheduled to attend a tea to which Vivien had invited the 'Champagne Sub-group' to (that's Vivien, me, Lucy, and Julia - who is expecting a baby in February!!!). The tea was a fund-raising event by the Rotary of which Vivien is a member.

I tell you these things were tiny!

We learned about this cafe in Killingworth that is a 'social enterprise', that is a non-profit that is run to benefit a particular group. I think I understood this to be 'young people' in the area. 

Social enterprises seem to be a big thing around here but I don't know much about how they work. I didn't have any qualms whatsoever about this one but I remember seeing another that made big questions pop into my head about whether the real benefit went where stated. But that is a post for another day - they may not even still be in business. 

I lovely selection of sandwiches and cakes. I ate my share!

It's amazing how difficult it is to get the four of us together. Between travel, work, school, family and other commitments it is nearly impossible. We don't even manage social networking like teenagers would. I see each of them individually but we rarely are all four together so this was a real treat.

This was also tiny, but very rich.

Flowers for the people who run the cafe.

Thank you, Vivien, for inviting us!

Friday, 24 October 2014

Zipping thru the Marland Mansion

I always think there isn’t much to see in Ponca City but Pat proved me wrong, yet again. We managed to get to this "Marland Grand Home" about 10 minutes before it closed, but since Pat knew the lady working there, we got to wander around at our leisure. 

I really didn’t want to make her stay late so I did a whiz of a tour, snapping photos like mad, mostly bad ones unfortunately.  

These elegant banisters weave their way up three flights.

I definitely want to go back and see it again on our next visit.

E. W. Marland was the 10th governor of Oklahoma and somewhat controversial because of having married his [un-] adopted daughter (niece of his first wife) after the death of said first wife, Mary Virginia Collins

Marland imported red foxes to promote hunting.

The second wife, Lydie Roberts Marland, was a bit mysterious as well, if I recall correctly from our visit a few years ago when we toured the BIG Marland Mansion. I don't think she had a very easy life at all.

The bigger place is called Palace of the Prairie, and we walked around it for about four hours, the day before we were to run a marathon; absolutely not a smart thing to do. That’s the worst run I’ve ever had in my whole life and I have only myself to blame.

The 1920s sun parlor.

I actually like this older, smaller house much better. Who needs 55 rooms?

The dining room is paneled in dark walnut wainscoting and embellished with silver and mirrored wall scones. The furniture is from the Paris family era, who owned this house in later years. The elegant chandelier is Waterford Crystal from Ireland and the walls are hand-painted by artist, George Lasarsky. 

Marland's life sounds like a financial roller coaster, making oil fortunes in Pennsylvania and Oklahoma and then losing each.  

His first wife may have saved herself a lot of trouble by dying in 1926. 

Mary Virginia (Collins) Marland was born in 1876 in PhiladelphiaPa. She married E. W. Marland there in 1903. A noted social and charity leader in Ponca City, much of her work benefited the Salvation Army and the PC Hospital. She was also interested in the humane treatment of animals and she was noted for her hospitality. At her death, three cars were required to accommodate all the flowers to go to her gravesite. All stores and even banks in town closed for two hours out of respect for Mrs. Marland.

Linen Cedar Closet – Designed to hold linens and some clothing for the M family, guests and housekeepers. Original hand-painted labels on edges of cedar shelves, each shelf designated for a particular person or location in the house.

Another chapter for my book (not) Loos I've Loved.

Not that striking except for the sheer size and light.

In fishing around for information about Marland and Lydie I discovered that there was a movie project being considered with Jennifer Lawrence, called "Ends of the Earth".  Sadly, the deal may have fallen through when she won her Oscar.

I can't tell if that's going to happen or not, but I'd definitely go see it! 

I might even pay full price at the theatre, but I don't promise. Better spent, I gave that amount making a donation to this wonderful place.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014


The Poncan Theatre was built in 1927. 

My uncle Pat took us on a tour. We’d been before, but only when he was doing a play there. He was pretty excited about the place then, so you can imagine how nice it was to be the Director, and he could give us the whole tour. We also learned about the ins and outs of running an operation like this. There are a lot of different groups to keep happy: board members, sponsors, volunteers, not to mention actors, directors and I don’t know who all. Sounds like it requires far more patience than I'm likely to ever have. 

It's at its romantic best at night,but then it's tough to get good photos.

Also, a building this old needs constant attention. The interior is something Italianate and seems like a theatre prop itself, never mind what’s on stage. 

It sounds like a juggling act to me, but he seems really happy with it all. Short of perhaps becoming a world famous, rich movie or stage star, I’m thinking this is perhaps his dream job.

I was in heaven poring over celebrity photos of the 1920s and 30s. 

Helen Ferguson; never heard of her, but she was a beauty - and check out her stationery!

Pat pointed out a number of the wonderful old movie posters, unusual in that they are double printed to look better in the lit boxes. 

I so loved Loretta Young when I was a child!

There are hundreds of such posters – mostly more modern ones – up in the attic. No one seems to know what to do with them.

Another amazing feature was what Pat called the ‘Black Stairs’. I expected to see stairs painted black, but instead it was a perfectly ordinary staircase rising from a separate front entrance door, now used by the radio studio that rents an upper floor. 

This photo of Ginger Rogers sure makes me think of |Meg Ryan (with different hair, of course).

He showed us the special closet used for a ticket office and the twelve seats in the balcony allocated for persons of colour. The twelve seats were the same as all the others, just that section at the back on the left side was the allocated space.  

1932: Edmund Lowe

Bill was aghast that they would go to the expense of building a separate entrance and stair well for the purpose segregation, and for no more profit than one could make from twelve tickets. 

A 1931 comedy...

Clearly the principle was larger than the profit motive. It’s completely crazy, but that was how things were back then. I can't eve begin to imagine what life in in that time with that frame of mind would have been like.

Another 1931 film: pre-code, as in before censorship!

We also got to see the attics and the storage cupboards, full of old costumes and props, posters and popcorn boxes, old films and projectors, amazing stuff. Pat needs a load more volunteers ready to do odd jobs if he’s ever going to shift some of these things, so it’s likely to all be there when we next visit. I saw some amazing purses that had been donated…. And a great view of the stained glass window from the inside. So that's the part I remember from my photos. 

This is more of the official version:

The Poncan Theatre had to make the transition between live performance and the ‘new talking pictures’. Built by the Boller Bros of Kansas City who were known through out the mid and south west for their theatre design and this Spanish Colonial Revival was their specialty.  Several of their theatres, including the Poncan, are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The interior similates a ‘romantic outdoor Mediterranean courtyard’. Theatres such as this were very popular in their day because they helped audiences escape their everyday life and took them to exotic places.

One more poster; you know this lady, Gloria Stuart, even though you may not recognise her. 

Costing $280,000 to build, the theatre initially had special lighting effects and equipment used for vaudeville, singing, opera, drama and dancing in addition to silent movies. There was also a $22,500 Wurlitzer organ, two concert pianos and an orchestra.

The manager was Fred Pickrel, formerly of the Pathe Exchange in OKC. Because of his former position he was able to bring to Ponca City, a town of only 16,000 people,  the latest newsreels direct from New York, Chicago and the west coast, delivered twice weekly via airmail.

In 1929, because of the popularity of ‘talkies’ the theatre was wired for sound. The Great Depression hurt the ticket sales of theatres across the nation, but in the 1930s the Poncan featured Bank Night.  In addition to the film viewing, tickets included movie goers in a lottery. As you had to be present to win, the pool sometimes reached over $600 and not only did if fill theatre seats, sometimes the crowd had to stand outside to listen for the winning ticket.

Gloria Stuart played Kate Winslett's older self in Titanic!

Television again challenged ticket sales in the 1950s and the Poncan was remodeled, enlarging the marquee, replacing seats and updating the curtain. Musical instruments were sold. Still, it carries the grand atmosphere of the interwar years and continues to delights audiences with its dream inspiring decor.

Do you have any amazing historic buildings in your area?

Monday, 20 October 2014

Mickey Gilley at the Poncan Theatre

Thus begins what turned out to be Bill’s Musical Tour. If I let him, every one of our vacations would be skipping between places mentioned in the lyrics of songs he grew up hearing. As it happens, I chose all but the last of our destinations, for reasons nothing to do with music.  

We went to Ponca City to see my Uncle Pat.  He happens to currently be director of this lovely old theatre there. Pat was very excited to have Mickey Gilley perform and to provide us tickets (also free popcorn and cokes - what a great thing, knowing the right people!) We knew that he would be busy with work and that we would basically be hanging out at the theatre during our visit, but that was fine by us.

I knew the name, Mickey Gilley, but had to Google it to remember why. Does anyone remember Urban Cowboy, Debra Winger and the mechanical bull? Yeah, that Mickey Gilley. I’m not a great western music fan, but I was prepared to humour my uncle.


Turns out it was actually a pretty darn good show. Gilley is 78 and recovering from a paralyzing accident – it’s a miracle he can walk, never mind perform. He sang and even did a couple of dance steps with his nurse maids back up singers, but I mostly enjoyed his narrative. He interspersed his songs with the story of his music career, told a few jokes, dropped a lot of big names and made a couple of humorous references to the famous cousins I didn't know he had: Jimmy Swaggert and Jerry Lee Lewis (amazing family, eh?) Listening to his voice, I could hear his kinship with Jerry Lee, though their music styles are quite different.

Pat marvelled that the band – all nearly as old as Gilley – set up and tore down for themselves, and he said Gilley was as nice as he could be. After the show there were photo ops and autographs on offer, also music, pictures and t-shirts for sale. 

I stayed seated and watched the band pack up. After their enormous coach pulled out – they were due to play in New Orleans the next night – we went out to dinner with Pat and some of his colleagues. It was good to see my uncle looking very contented.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Dog Dish Salad

We headed for Ponca City by way of one of Bill’s favourite towns: Guthrie OK. (I can see I need to add a category, Small Town America). We looked at buying a house there but didn’t pursue it very hard. 

It’s just that this is one of the few small towns that seems to have capitalised on celebrating its history. That wasn’t meant to be a pun, but could have been: Oklahoma’s first state capitol was at Guthrie before being relocated to Oklahoma City.

We stopped for lunch at an attractive place called the Blue Belle Saloon. As you can see I occupied myself snapping photos whilst waiting for our meal, even though we’ve been before.

Across the road.

Built in 1889, Tom Mix was a bartender here before becoming a silent film star. The building has housed any number of businesses over the years. The upper floor, called a 'hall', had 17 small rooms around a lobby and was probably a bordello. 

I had to look up what 1959 had to do with anything...

Although Prohibition ended in the U.S. in 1933, there was a strong 'dry' lobby in Oklahoma that prevented sale of anything stronger than beer (3.4%, I'm guessing). This continued for more than two decades until

On April 7, 1959, Oklahoman's went to the polls and contradicted Will Roger's adage that they would vote 'dry as long as they could stagger to the polls.' They repealed prohibition...The legislation did not permit liquor by the drink, and that particular provision remained law until 1984, when the state voted it out.    ---   Source

I opted for a salad with grilled chicken and Bill had ‘fried chicken salad’. Who ever heard of ‘fried chicken salad’?

And tell me that metal bowl doesn’t look like a dog dish? It was good, all the same. I expect we’ll be back again.