Harold Turner recalls growing up in Pawhuska

: Joe L. Todd Historian
Harold Turner, then

Harold Turner was born Nov. 13, 1919 in Barnsdall. However he was educated in Pawhuska and during an interview about his military history shared his memories of Pawhuska as he grew up.

Harold Turner was born in Bigheart, now known as Barnsdall on Nov. 13, 1919. His father was Bruce Turner and his mother was Elizabeth Turner. Her maiden name was Johnson. He attended school in Pawhuska and graduated in 1937.

JOE TODD: Who was your favorite teacher?

HAROLD TURNER: A guy by the name of Horn, W. W. Horn. We called him Windy Willy. If you couldn’t learn from him, you couldn’t learn.

T: Why was your favorite?

Tu: Because the way he taught. He made it more of a business. He would say, “I’m going to tell you this cold turkey.” And that was the way it went.

T: Did he teach in the high school?

Tu: Yes, in the high school.

T: Did you play sports in high school?

Tu: I played basketball.

T: How many movie theaters were in Pawhuska?

Tu: Three.

T: How often would you go to the movies?

Tu: This is very interesting. I didn’t go very often until I got acquainted with an Osage boy. He was a year older than me and became my friend. We saw all the movies then, because he had the money. We would go to the movies, and he would pay of course, then we would go to the concession stand and we would both get a Coke, a sack of popcorn, candy bar and a package of gum. We would go in the movie and when his Coke ran out, he would say, “Harold, go get me a Coke” he would give me the money and say, “Get you one too.” He paid, but I did the footwork.

T: What was his name?

Tu: Gurney Miller.

T: Did you know Fred Lookout?

Tu: I knew of him.

T: What about Sylvester Tinker.

Tu: I knew him.

T: Tell me about him.

Tu: I don’t know anything about him. His nephew, Ed Tinker and I worked together keeping a filling station open twenty four hours a day.

T: Was this in Pawhuska?

Tu: Yes.

T: Where was the filling station located?

Tu: Out just south of town.

T: What did you do for recreation in high school?

Tu: Chased girls. We just played sandlot sports, like baseball and football. It was just a bunch of neighbors.

T: What type of work did your father do?

Tu: He was a roustabout in the oilfields

T: Who did he work for?

Tu: That, I don’t know, he died when I was four years old.

T: The Osage had the mineral rights.

Tu: They had all the money. Pawhuska was a booming town then, just like it is now. …

T: What did you do after high school?

Tu: I just worked at odd jobs, whatever I could find, and it wasn’t very easy. One job I worked at in a service station, they asked me to wash cars. He charged 35 cents to wash a car. He got 20 cents and I got 15 cents. I worked at a mom and pop grocery store on Saturdays, every other Saturday for a dollar.

T: What store?

Tu: Ben Chasen Mom and Pop Store.

T: What were the main stores in Pawhuska?

Tu: Packing House Market.

T: Where was it located?

Tu: Right on Main Street where the Simple Simon Pizza is now.

T: You said you joined the National Guard.

Tu: I joined the National Guard in about 1938.

T: Why did you join the National Guard?

Tu: To get a little extra income, we got paid every quarter.

T: What unit did you join?

Tu: 120th Medical Regiment, 45th Infantry Division.

T: In Pawhuska?

Tu: Yes.

T: What did you do in the unit?

Tu: I was company clerk.

T: You got out of the National Guard before they were mobilized?

Tu: Yes.

T: They built the armory in Pawhuska in 1936 or 1937.

T: Was that built by the CCC?

Tu: No. the CCC boys were in the Osage.

T: Did you join the CCCs?

Tu: No.

T: What did you do when you got out of the national guard?

Tu: I went to work for Continental Oil Company.

T: What did you do?

Tu: I was assistant payroll clerk in the payroll division.

T: Was this in Ponca City?

Tu: Yes. I worked there three months until the war started.

T: Was Mr. Marland still there?

Tu: No, his company was Marland Oil and Continental took him over.

T: Tell me more about Pawhuska.

Tu: All the white poor were all poor, we were all poor, because this was the 1930s in the Depression. The Osages had money. In the house we lived, we never locked a door, I don’t think we even had a key. In the summertime, we just left the house open. My mother was working, fortunately, and I was trying to find a job, and we would go off and leave the house open all day and never think anything about it.

As a kid, I used to go down to the low water bridge on Bird Creek and go fishing and catch little perch. Mother was working and my grandmother was watching my sister and me, and I would clean those perch and grandmother would cook them and they were about two bites to each one.

T: How did the Depression affect you and your family?

Tu: Just like everybody else, we were poor, fortunately we ate, we always had food to eat, which wasn’t very much, mainly beans and cornbread. We first went to Pawhuska in 1929 and rented this big two-story house. There were five of us, my grandmother, my mother, sister and me, and we had a boarder. We rented a room to him and fed him. My grandmother would send me down to the store to get 25 cents of round steak. For 25 cents of round steak, you could feed five people. It wasn’t pre-wrapped. They cut it as you stood there and watched.

The storekeeper bought peanut butter and sauerkraut in big wooden barrels. They had small cardboard trays, and if you wanted some, you dipped some out and put it in one of those cardboard trays, then they would weight it, wrap it and charge you for it. People shopping, would go by, stick a finger in the peanut butter or sauerkraut and take a bite and nobody paid any attention to it.

T: Where did you live in Pawhuska?

Tu: First we lived on Seventh Street, in a big two story house, which has since burned down. After my sister got married and left home and grandmother went back to Bartlesville, mother and I rented a house on Sixth Street. There is a house on the corner of Ninth and Prudom across from the Christian church. Mother had the chance to buy that house for seven hundred and fifty dollars with no down payment, just move in and pay so much a month, but she turned it down because she couldn’t pay the taxes on it.

T: Were you aware of the Osage murders?

Tu: Oh, yes, that was terrible. We were there when a lot of that was going on. As I remember, the white men would come in an marry the Indian women for the money, then try to figure out some way to kill them. This was after they manipulated to get the headright.

One of them lived across the street from me, and I never did like him. I almost challenged him to a fight one time. He married this Bigheart woman, Mary Bigheart.

He would beat her. They would leave the light on in the bedroom, and you could see him beating her. She finally died. I don’t know whatever happened to him.

Some of the things were almost unbelievable. The other side of the coin, the two Tucker Boys had the Osage Mercantile and became millionaires and Ree Drummond has it now. It was the Osage Mercantile back then.

It was like a modern Walmart, you could buy groceries, clothing, hardware supplies, everything in this store. I knew a man that worked there. He said the Indians got paid every quarter in paper money, and they would come in and buy a dollar or a dollar and a half and just open the billfold and take a hundred dollar bill and give them a fist full of silver in change for that hundred dollar bill. He said that is how those guys became millionaires. That happened all the time.

The Indians are getting back now with their casinos, they are taking the white people’s money, but they are doing it legitimately.