Stanwyck Earned her Groove

By Gail Moore Woltkamp

My dad loved old movies. Many of his favorites came from the decades of the thirties and forties. I grew up spending Sunday afternoons with Ma and Pa Kettle, the Bowery Boys, Shirley Temple Theater, and maybe a couple Judy and Mickey musical dandies thrown in.

I loved watching all the old stuff with my dad. Something about it felt safe. There was always something genuinely funny about each of the films or shorts and they usually ended on a happy note.

With my dad at a surprise party for my mom in 1991

From my own generation’s sitcom end of things, I never made Dad sit with me to watch things like “The Partridge Family.” Although if I had, I’m sure he would have given me his opinion that Shirley Jones was once upon a time in her musical genre era…worth watching.

In the summers during my junior high school years, our front living room with twenty-five inch Zenith console was usually all mine after Mom and Dad went to bed.

One late summer night, I found a Barbara Stanwyck movie, “Stella Dallas.” Now by the time I was thirteen, I was versed in the Stanwyck classic, “Christmas in Connecticut,” thanks to my dad, but I had never seen “Stella Dallas.”

If you haven’t seen this movie, it’s actually a little disturbing. Stella’s outspoken wardrobe, with clunky hats and oversized bows, is almost clownish as the character is portrayed as not succumbing to social stereotypes or traditional societal expectations.

Maybe it was my age at the time, but my initial impression of the movie was that it dragged. Several trips to the kitchen to make popcorn and back to my magenta- flowered sleeping bag, I managed to stick with it. By the final scene I was touched to tears and then, in return, the movie stuck with me.

The next day all I could think about was how much Stella did for her daughter. She put herself in such unforeseen situations. At my precarious age of thirteen, it upset me how awkward and over-the-top she looked in her wardrobe. I felt sorry for Stella when she overheard her daughter’s teenage friends make fun of her behind her back. How could they?

Her daughter, played by Anne Shirley, did all the right things throughout most of the movie. She stuck by her mother’s side, putting her first when she had a choice. However, in Stella’s effort to give her daughter a better life, the two eventually parted ways.

In years since, I have never forgotten that classic final scene where Stanwick is standing in the rain outside the church of her daughter’s well-to-do wedding. She could see, just barely, the kiss between her and her new groom. Stella then tearfully walked through the misty city neighborhood, sad, but with a feeling of greater good, that she had fulfilled her job as a mother.

Wait! What? This parenting style certainly wouldn’t fly with today’s high-powered-fuel-injected helicopter mom. Nonetheless, Stanwick and Shirley were both nominated for academy awards, the movie goes down as one of Stanwick’s signature performances and all is well on the “old movie” front.

Barbara Stanwyck in a final scene from “Stella Dallas,” a 1937 film nominated for two academy awards: one for best actress for Stanwick and the other for best supporting actress for Anne Shirley.

When I look back and explore why this film stuck with me, I arrive at two things: empathy and appreciation…and of course, these sentiments, in all their sincerity…are intended for moms.

My mom was classy, stylish, had a great office job lasting forty years at a pipeline company, maintained many friendships over the years and seemed close to perfect. But I guess the movie made me realize how lucky I was to have a mom who did so much for me and I hoped no one would ever poke fun or make light of her sacrifices.

With my mom on Easter Sunday in 1972

Mom was not as passionate about old movies as was my dad. She would often peek in the back den where Dad spent the majority of his leisure time and ask “What are you guys watching this time??” “That’s Gary Cooper!” “He must be a hundred years old.”

Mom keeping it real on the leisurement of old movie watching seemed to add to my enjoyment of the movie and to my pride of being their daughter.

Some of my most cherished childhood memories are centered on particular old movies… “A Christmas Carol”, “Citizen Kane”, “The Best Years of our Lives”…all of which, my mom would call out the lead actors and announce they must be a hundred or dead.

Today, I relish those memories with the three of us. Those moments that ultimately play a small part in forming who you are as a person later in life.

A few months ago I found “Stella Dallas” on Turner Classic Movies. I had not seen it since my original viewing back in 1979. Aside from a few plot details, my memory of it was pretty accurate. I can’t say why certain performances resonate more than others, but I can say that Stanwyck as Stella earned her groove with me.

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Popular Pipelines Remembered 🦕

By Gail Moore Woltkamp

Sinclair Pipeline Company 🦕❤️

One of my first toys as a child was an inflatable Sinclair Dinosaur. Many pictures of my early childhood years show me sprawled out on a blanket with that green dinosaur. Various Sinclair collectibles graced my home during those early years. This was because my mom worked for Sinclair Pipeline Company, (affiliate of Sinclair Oil Corporation), in Independence, Kansas.

By the time I was born in the mid-1960s, Mom was on her sixteenth year of working as an executive secretary for Sinclair. The company, itself, was on its sixtieth. Unique for a town that reached it’s peak in population at around 12,000, (and, by the way, where Harry Sinclair grew up), the headquarters in Independence, Kansas was a substantial operation employing a large percentage of Sinclair’s workforce.

Image from “A Great Name in Oil: Sinclair Through Fifty Years”

Merger and ARCO Pipeline Company ❇️

When I turned three, in 1969, Atlantic Richfield Company (an already merged entity between Atlantic Refining Company and Richfield Oil Corporation) acquired the Sinclair holdings, becoming ARCO Pipeline Company/Subsidiary of Atlantic Richfield. For the next twenty-six years, this subsidiary served as a headquarters and remained in the five story Independence office location.

Many of our close friends and family members held office jobs in the classic and now historic building located near the town’s downtown area. ARCO’s contribution to the overall health and wealth of the town’s economy was immeasurable.

Sinclair Pipeline Company (later, ARCO Pipeline) Independence, Kansas
1960s Contributed photos by
Moore Family Collections

Through the late eighties and early nineties, ARCO gradually transferred its Independence offices to new locations. By 1995, remaining departments officially relocated, capping off nearly eighty years combined, through each company’s tenures, in our unique Kansas town.

Prairie Oil and Gas Company 🤎

The Prairie Oil and Gas Company was a rival of Harry Sinclair’s. Established in 1900 with roots from the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey, the company was bought by Standard Oil’s Prairie Pipeline System and then acquired by Sinclair in 1932. This, of course, is the abbreviated version of its early evolution, as pipeline companies traditionally and consistently endure mergers and acquisitions.

Office Locations

Within the first four years, the Prairie Oil and Gas Company’s office space and refinery were located in Neodesha, Kansas, twenty miles north of Independence. According to “Oil And Independence” (Compiled by R.L. Wells), the Prairie Oil and Gas Company moved its offices from Neodesha to Independence in 1904 to a space inside the town’s Carl-Leon Hotel.

In 1916 a new office building was erected for the Prairie Oil and Gas Company on the corner of 9th and Myrtle in Independence. The company would operate in this location until becoming home to Sinclair Pipeline Company, later, ARCO Pipeline. The building would eventually undergo a more modern look as shown in my previous photos.

Prairie Oil and Gas Company building erected in 1916 on the corner of 9th and Myrtle, (Now 200 ARCO Place), Independence, KS.
Postcard courtesy of Moore Family Collections

Original Pipeline in Oklahoma 🧡

Prairie Oil and Gas built its first pipeline in Northeast Oklahoma running from Bartlesville to Humboldt, Kansas. One of its earliest projects was to extend a pipeline north into Copan, which was once Indian Territory.

This area, now Washington County, is where my dad’s family farm was located from the early 1900s through the early 1970s. My dad’s uncle was employed by the company when the original pipelines were being built through that area.

Information on the “History of Bartlesville and Washington County” website reveals that Prairie Oil and Gas also initiated Oklahoma’s first ever storage tank that carried oil and gas by rail which ran from the Bartlesville depot to the refinery in Kansas.

Early 1900s oil derrick and my great grandparent’s original farmhouse on their acreage in Washington County, Oklahoma
Photos courtesy of Moore Family Collections

My mom retired from ARCO in 1991 after forty years of service to the company. Although my green toy dinosaur is long gone, I still have a Sinclair ashtray, ARCO coffee mug, roadmaps and a brochure or two that are all part of my Independence, Kansas collections.

Sinclair and ARCO items that are part of my personal collection 💚

Sinclair and ARCO collections are on display at the Independence Historical Museum and Arts Center, located at 8th & Myrtle Streets in Independence, Kansas, a block away from the “ARCO Building.”

Many valuable sources relating to the petroleum and pipeline industry used for this piece can be found in my references.

Find out more! 🦕 ❇️ ⛽️💙

References 🦕

A Great Name in Oil: Sinclair through Fifty Years; F.W. Dodge Company, 1966

History of Bartlesville and Washington County, Oklahoma website

Oil And Independence; Compiled by R.L. Wells; November 12, 1987

https://www.okhistory.org/publications

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A Nod to Napco (National Potteries Corporation) ❤️🤍❤️

By Gail Moore Woltkamp

It simply wouldn’t be Christmas without her. The vintage ceramic “cold paint” angel passed down to me from my grandmother is a keepsake I look forward to displaying year after year. Aside from her festive style and intricate design, it’s her signature Napco marking that confirms her authenticity to prime collectors.

Family Treasure
Napco Christmas Bell Angel with 1956 Marking
Photo by Gail Moore Woltkamp

Ohio Roots

National Potteries Corporation (Napco) was established in 1938 opening its doors in Bedford, Ohio, southeast of Cleveland. During its first peak in popularity, (the 1950s and 60s), the company distributed a variety of collectibles depicting the times, with products like birthday and Christmas angels, Lady Head Vases, (Remember the Lucille Ball one?) planters, ashtrays and nursery rhyme figurines. This explosion in production of novelty items made them a much familiar sight in my mid western household and I’m sure in others across the country.

Since I have long-admired many of my family treasures, I decided to research more about the company. A quick discovery was Kathleen Deel’s book, “Napco: A Schiffer Book for Collectors,” which I purchased, and contains great info on various Napco collectibles.

Napco’s products are known for being “well-designed” as items are distinctive, with a “cold paint” technique, referring to the outside finish of the ceramic item. The first coat consists of a clear glaze finish that’s been fired in a kiln. The item is then decorated with cold paint.

Vintage and Today

In Napco’s vintage world, each product is marked with various paper labels, foil seals or markings featuring wording such as: “A Napco Collection;” “Napco originals by Giftware;” “National Potteries Co., Cleveland, OH; and “Napcoware, Import Japan.” fromgrandmastree.com

Napco cookie jar, that I purchased as a gift for my grandmother in 1978. The red and gold foil seal is one of many variations of authentic Napco labels
Photo by Gail Moore Woltkamp

Today, Napco has an extensive vintage product presence through online sales platforms like eBay, Pinterest and Collectors Weekly. The website, Napcoimports.com, has an impressive online catalog, and touts a customer-driven product line with a 150,000 square foot distribution center in Jacksonville, Florida.

NAPCO Marketing Corporation, a wholesale distributor of floral and plant containers, sells similar products and is owned by 1-800-Flowers.com, Inc.

To keep my family’s 1950s holiday nostalgia intact, I will pass down my cherished “cold-paint” Christmas angel, along with some other novelty keepsakes. After all, Christmas would not be Christmas without Napco! 🎁⛄️🎁

References

1-800-Flowers.com, Inc.

collectorsweekly.com

Deel, Kathleen; Napco, A Schiffer Book for Collectors; Schiffer Publishing Limited, 1999

fromgrandmastree.com

https://www.napcoimports.com

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Landmarks Lost : Reflections of a Kansas Town 🌻💛🌻

By Gail Moore Woltkamp

Notable landmarks that were once part of my life and neighborhood while growing up in Independence, Kansas, are now gone. Some, I consider historically significant, not only to my life, but to the town and to the state of Kansas.

Mercy Hospital

Something that seemed unprecedented, from the time of selling my childhood home in 2014, was that Mercy Hospital, part of the Mercy Hospital System, closed its doors, partially due to Kansas’s decision not to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

The hospital closed in October of 2015, but months before that decision was final, the town had found itself losing doctors and its number of patient visits were declining. The result was no more hospital for the roughly 9,000-person community and for other areas it served in Montgomery County.

Mercy Hospital was within view of my childhood home in Independence, KS.
Standing in my old neighborhood on Myrtle Street with hospital in the distance (1970 )💙

My beloved old neighborhood really is empty. The original part of the hospital, founded by the Sisters of Mercy and erected in 1927, along with its unique counterpart, an architecturally rounded addition, built around 1960, are both gone.

Like so many of my friends and family members, I was born in that hospital. My grandmother worked there as a registered nurse in the 1930s and 40s. My mom was a longtime volunteer for the Mercy Hospital Auxiliary and my dad was born in May of 1928 in one of the hospital’s original units.

A welcomed solution

Mercy Hospital’s closing imposed a deeply chaotic and disgruntled impact on the area. However, a welcomed solution came along two years later in 2017 with the opening of the Labette Health/Independence Healthcare Center. This rural health clinic with state of the art facilities includes an emergency room and small cancer treatment center. The facility is located further west of town, not in my old neighborhood.

Nonetheless, the efforts of Brian Williams, President and CEO of Labette Health, (nearby Parsons), who secured a $6 million dollar low-interest loan from the U.S Department of Agriculture along with $1.6 million dollars raised in local funding, helped create a winning alternative to a full-fledged hospital.

Labette Health Independence Healthcare Center, serves Independence, Kansas and parts of Montgomery County. The facility, designed by HFG Architecture, opened in 2017.
Photo copyrighted by Steve Rasmussen

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Lincoln School

When I was growing up I attended Lincoln School, which was located directly across the street from my house and East of the hospital. The white Art Deco school was architecturally and structurally sound, built under the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in 1939-40. My memories of it are vivid and many of my closest friends, to this day, are ones who attended Lincoln.

View of the south side of Lincoln School on
Myrtle Street in Independence, KS (1970)
(Photo courtesy of Moore Family Collections)
Backdrop of my life: 💙
Lincoln School was a perfect view outside the front door of my childhood home in Independence, Kansas

I remember during my Kindergarten year, winter of 1971, we had a huge snowfall, nearly up to my waist in some parts of our yard. Because the streets had not been cleared in time for morning Kindergarten, my dad carried me across the street onto the steps of my Kindergarten class.

I have never forgotten that day–how special I felt because I lived so close to the school, and the effort of my dad to make sure I stayed safe and dry.

The bus kids to me, however, were the lucky ones. In extreme cases, if school was in session before the weather hit, they were often dismissed early. It seemed back then, school was always in session, and rain or waist-high snow, my across-the-street-residence gave me no excuses.

Winter scenes from the early 1970s in my old
neighborhood in Independence, KS.
Photos: Moore Family Collections

Demolished

Shortly after closing it’s doors in 2011, Lincoln School was torn down in a plan involving the hospital and its need for a helicopter landing pad. The community adjusted okay to this change. Due to a shrinking population, Independence needed only two public elementary schools as opposed to three and found a way to secure a section of land and raise funds to build a new school on the other side of town.

Pictured is Lincoln School’s playground area (east of Mercy Hospital) in Independence, KS.
Demolished in the Fall of 2011.
Photo by Gail Moore Woltkamp

Consequently, the helipad was used for only four short years due to the closing of the hospital. My mom missed hearing the school kids play on the playground during their recess time. It really was a welcomed and familiar sound that kept her company. Her view out of her screened-in-front porch for the final year of the previous sixty that she lived in that home was unfortunately an empty lot.

Still a Vibrant Community

In recent years Independence has experienced a slight decrease in population and a change in its overall economic growth. Some of these factors were noticeable even before the pandemic hit, yet the town appears to sustain a vibrant, hopeful spirit.

The community has innovative leaders and dedicated citizens who keep their rich traditions alive, support their existing local businesses and look for ways through the Main Street program, Chamber events and festivals to keep volunteers active.

Neighbors helping neighbors improve their homes, residents coming up with new ways to enhance the downtown area, are all things that have helped the town’s viability.

My old neighborhood is different, yet sustainable. Its fight is long but worth its journey. 💛🍋💛

References

https://www.labettehealth.com/clinics/independence-healthcare-center-rural-health-clinic/

https://www.kcur.org/health/2017-08-23/new-health-care-center-helping-to-fill-void-after-closure-of-southeast-kansas-hospital

http://www.newson6.com

https://www.labettehealth.com

https://hfgarchitecture.com

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For the Love of Northeast Oklahoma 💙💚💙

By Gail Moore Woltkamp

Although I am a native of Southeast Kansas, part of my family’s history is deeply rooted thirty miles south and across the state line into Northeast Oklahoma. My dad’s paternal grandparents owned a family farm and ranch in Oklahoma’s Washington County, (thirty miles northeast of the larger Osage County), from the early 1900s through the early 1970s.

Etched in my memory are trips to Copan, Dewey, Bowring and Bartlesville, visiting great aunts and uncles as well as a few family cemeteries and interesting sights along the way.

My great grandparents’ original farmhouse sat on their property of 180 acres before Copan Lake and nearby Hulah Lake were developed.

Throughout my own childhood, (1970s-80s), my dad would tell stories about his summers spent on the farm in the 1930s, it’s close proximity to the now infamous Mullendore Cross Bell Ranch and his fun visits with half cousins, who were Native Americans. He was often given warnings by his family, out of respect for private property, not to venture onto the Mullendore’s land.

Spending time as a child with various generations of my family, while visiting the area that holds our shared history, helped to shape my interest and love for Northeast Oklahoma, its landscape and culture.

Hulah Lake 💙💙💙💙

Spreading across miles of rolling terrain, that was once Indian Territory, Hulah Lake is located in Northeast Oklahoma’s Osage County. “Hulah,” meaning “Eagle” in the Osage language, was previously an Osage Nation farming community. outdoorsy.com

Situated 20 miles north of Pawhuska, 15 miles southwest of Copan and five miles north of Bowring, the man-made reservoir was completed in 1951 by the United States Army Corp of Engineers, Tulsa District. (US Army Corp of Engineers, Tulsa District Website)

December on the Lake 💙 ☃️

Hulah Lake is a recreational lake in Osage County Oklahoma, fifteen miles southwest of Copan and twenty miles north of Pawhuska.
Photo by: Gail Moore Woltkamp (December 2019)

Last December, my son and I traveled toward the lake from Bartlesville in search of a family cemetery near Bowring. It was a gorgeous drive on Oklahoma State Highway 10 North where the winter landscape with late Fall foliage was visible for miles.

Stopped off at Hulah Lake in Osage County Oklahoma on a freezing cold December day. 💙

The lake itself, in all its beauty, has a shoreline of 62 miles and offers nearby residents and out of town travelers a chance to enjoy picnics, hunting, fishing, boating, a bird sanctuary, camping and rest area. (Oklahoma Fishing Guide Website) On our drive down Oklahoma Highway 10, we spotted a notable entrance to the Mullendore Cross Bell Ranch to the West.

Mullendore Cross Bell Ranch located at 3484 Mullendore Ranch Road near Copan, Oklahoma.
1972 Contributed photo by
Moore Family Collections
2019 photo by Gail Moore Woltkamp

Woolaroc Museum and Wildlife Preserve 🧡💙🧡💙

Bartlesville, Oklahoma is home to Woolaroc, (named for Woods, Lakes and Rocks), which is the wildlife preserve and art museum founded and developed by Phillips Petroleum Company founder Frank Phillips and his wife, Jane Phillips. (woolaroc.org).

Originally Frank’s and Jane’s summer retreat, the exquisite property, which has been expanded over the years, is now owned and operated by the Frank Phillips Foundation, Inc. The mission of its board is to sustain and fulfill Frank’s original intent to not only preserve the history of the West, but also to educate and entertain. It has been open for the public to experience and enjoy since 1937. (Woolaroc Museum Gallery Guide)


Pictured is a view from the property of the Woolaroc Museum & Wildlife Preserve
Photo by Gail Moore Woltkamp
August 2019

My scenic drive off the entrance of Oklahoma Highway 123, (this time in August), led me across peaceful terrain, (including a couple narrow bridges), spotting lots of buffalo, elk, llamas and a zebra along the way.

The drive led to a unique museum experience filled with extraordinary works of art. Each room showcased Native American and Western History including American Indian collections, paintings, sculptures and exhibits by well-known artists. The museum is also home to one of the world’s most extensive Colt firearms collections and to the 1927 “Woolaroc” aircraft.

Woolaroc aircraft, from the 1927 Dole Air Race from California to the “Territory of Hawaii” is displayed at the Woolaroc Museum and Wildlife Preserve in Bartlesville, Oklahoma.
Photo by: GMW (August 2019)
Located in the Osage Hills of Northeast Oklahoma, Woolaroc is the ranch retreat-turned wildlife preserve founded by Phillips Petroleum’s Frank Philips.
Photo by: Gail Moore Woltkamp (August 2019)

My travels to Northeast Oklahoma are a reflection of the interest I have in my family’s past along with Oklahoma’s rich history.

References

woolaroc.org

Woolaroc Museum & Wildlife Preserve Gallery Guide

Woolaroc Museum & Wildlife Preserve Campus Map 

US Army Corp of Engineers Tulsa District Website

TravelOK.com Website

Oklahoma Fishing Guide Website

outdoorsy.com

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Guess Whose Parents Remind Me of My Own 🧡🍋🧡

By Gail Moore Woltkamp

Have you ever sat down and watched Spencer Tracy’s final speech at the end of “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”? You should. As late to the party as it sounds, everyone should see this movie. Add to Tracy’s eloquence and thought-provoking dialogue the fact that the actor was dying throughout the entire making of the film, and the message becomes even that much more meaningful.

I was two years old when Stanley Kramer’s classic premiered on the big screen and a youngster during the Civil Rights Movement. Such an important time in our nation’s history and all I had to do was ride my trike and play with dolls. Others were doing the dirty work of paving paths of equal rights and tearing down racial barriers.

40th Anniversary Edition of Stanley Kramer’s
1968 classic “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.”

Watching Kramer’s film today not only reveals to me who we were during that period in our American History, but also sheds light on some family dynamics of my own…

Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn as Matt and Christina Drayton remind me of my own mom and dad. Not in how they miserably fail in hiding their surprise of their only daughter’s engagement to an African American doctor, but more in how they communicate with candor and humor as they grapple with their own surprise at themselves.

Joanna Drayton, portrayed beautifully by Katherine Houghton, was raised in a special environment. Maybe because I’m an only child, and was close to both of my parents, I feel a connection to fictional “Joey.” It’s clear she was raised to think for herself, make up her own mind, regardless of outside influences.

My mom and dad, now both deceased, were not as wealthy as the fictional Drayton’s. My dad, a small town barber, and my mom, a secretary for a pipeline company, both were successful, hard-working, kind, generous, independent and accepting. At a very young age, I felt as though I had a voice as important decisions were made about our home, our family and livelihood.

David and Gerry Moore 1992

My parent’s values in how to treat and accept others made a lifetime impact on me. My dad would often say about my mom that she was a “Women’s Libber” before anyone talked about it. Just like Matt and Christina Drayton, they were accepting of other people’s races and religions without wearing it on their sleeves or giving it a second thought.

Snapshot of my childhood years
mid-1960s-1990🧡

It has been documented that Tracy was frequently absent during the filming of “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.” He passed away just seventeen days after production wrapped. I would guess the public and even some closest to him never knew the extent of his illness. It compels me to consider his performance and wonder if it was perhaps driven by his own state of health.

I think of those final scenes where Tracy’s character is questioning himself as he unravels the events of the day in an effort to arrive at a thoughtful position regarding his daughter’s future.

Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy as Matt and Christina Drayton in an early scene from “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.” Tracy passed away 17 days after production wrapped.
Columbia Pictures, 40th Anniversary DVD Edition

While some critics believe the movie is now outdated and even a little hokey, (most recently I’ve seen a movie critic discuss his disdain for the plot), I tend to disagree. Because I believe the story is ultimately about love, I stand by the film’s message as it continues to reveal to us where we are with universal attitudes on relationships and marriage.

Scene from Stanley Kramer’s classic,
“Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” shot in scenic San Francisco.
Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures, 40th Anniversary DVD Edition

I loved the San Francisco backdrop, the 1960s fashions and of course, Sydney Poitier. But what I continue to admire most about the film are the realistic portrayals of Hepburn and Tracy as their characters react and ultimately transform over the course of a given day.

To so many like my mom and dad who worked and lived by example in paving incredibly important paths of human rights and equal justice–Guess whose generation truly gets it! My teenage son said it best after watching the first ten minutes of the film: “So that’s the plot?” “They wanna get married?” “Who cares?” 💛

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Worth Every Trip ❤️

By Gail Moore Woltkamp

In my very early childhood, at least twice a week, my grandmother and I would walk a few residential blocks from my house, pass by several store fronts, including my dad’s barbershop, to the Woolworth’s store in downtown Independence, Kansas.

Once reaching our destination, our shopping experience was never disappointing. Sweeper bags, hula hoops, aspirin or a hairbrush, Woolworth’s was THE place for buying whatever we wanted or needed.

As soon as we walked through the door, the smells of perfume and day-old popcorn would welcome us back like an old friend. Down the slanted entry ramp and onto the wide-open fluorescent-lit shopping space, Grandma would head for the household items and I would go directly to the aisle filled with miniature ceramic figurines.

After shopping the aisles and purchasing our must-haves, we would go to the lunch counter and order a grilled cheese sandwich and what was to me, their signature drink: a concoction of orange juice, milk, crushed ice and phosphate, aptly named the “Orange Whip.”

To this day I have dreams about that Woolworth’s. From the classic fluorescent luncheonette sign to the endless aisles filled with ten cent treasures…Woolworth’s, no doubt, made an impact on me.

Always worth a trip to Woolworth’s.
Late 1960s-early 70s purchases from the Woolworth’s store in Independence, Kansas ❤️

A 1960’s glimpse of the Woolworth’s store in the background during the Neewollah Festival
Independence, Kansas
1967 Neewollah Program, Neewollah, Inc. Courtesy of Moore Family Collections

Retail Pioneers

Woolworth’s history in my hometown in Kansas and town’s and cities across the country is a long and thriving one. Some deem the F.W. Woolworth Company the most successful five and dime chain store in all retail history.

Although the first store that opened its doors in Utica, New York, failed, Frank and Charles, the Woolworth brothers, opened a new store that would be the first successful “Great Five Cent Store.”

Famous Lunch Counter ❤️

F.W. Woolworth Company Signature Florescent Luncheonette sign. Photo courtesy of Google Images

On February 1, 1960, four African American students from the Agricultural and Technical College of North Carolina sat down at a Woolworth’s lunch counter at 123 S. Elm Street in Greensboro, North Carolina. Up to that point, the lunch counter had been for “whites only.”

When the students were refused a cup of coffee and asked to leave the lunch counter, the four freshmen refused to get up. The “Greensboro Four” or the “A&T Four,” as they would later be known, stayed until the store closed. Each day, the number of student peaceful protesters grew while other cities in North Carolina launched their own “sit-ins.” (International Civil Rights Museum Website)

A sit-in movement spawned in additional cities and states in the South. After nearly six months of boycotts, store owners abandoned their segregation policies.

Visit the sites! 🧡

In 1993, a section of the Greensboro Woolworth’s lunch counter was relocated to the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center, 14th Street and Constitution Avenue N.W., in Washington D.C.

A section of the lunch counter from the Greensboro, North Carolina Woolworth’s is now preserved in the Smithsonian Institution
National Museum of American History.
Photo Courtesy of the Creative Commons Attribution- Share Alike

The remaining portion of the lunch counter, including the stools where the “Greensboro Four” sat, has been preserved in its original Woolworth location, 134 S. Elm Street, Greensboro, NC, now home to the International Civil Rights Center & Museum, which opened on February 1, 2010, the fiftieth anniversary of the original sit-in. info@sitinmovement.org

Standing Up by Sitting Down

An additional exhibit titled “Standing Up by Sitting Down” honoring the first national peaceful protest in America is displayed at the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel. This exhibit includes original interactive video footage and honors the original 1960s sit-ins in the South.

Trip to the National Civil Rights Museum, at the Lorraine Motel, 450 Mulberry Street, Memphis, TN with my cousin, Christopher Jardine (2019)
“Standing Up by Sitting Down”
The first national peaceful protest in America is honored through this permanent exhibit located at the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel, 450 Mulberry Street in Memphis, TN. (2019)
Photo by Gail Moore Woltkamp

Woolworth’s Today ❤️

The last Woolworth’s store in the United States closed its doors in 1997. While other retailers have used its name in many variations across the world, only a couple of those chains and corporations are currently connected to the original F.W. Woolworth Company brand.

In the U.S. the company restructured, existing as Foot Locker, Inc. which sells sports apparel and footwear, and is traded on the New York Stock Exchange. (FL) ☮️

References

International Civil Rights Center and Museum website

http://footlocker.com

National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel website

NYSE: The New York Stock Exchange (Website)

www.goodreads.com

“Remembering Woolworth’s, A Nostalgic History of the World’s Most Famous Five and Dime,”Karen Plunkett-Powell, St. Martin’s Press; 1999

Smithsonian Institution National Museum of American History website

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