John Bates Elementary School, Tulsa, OK
(and Phoebe Hearst Elementary)

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ABOUT HEARST AND BATES:

The times
The country was in the middle of the Vietnam war and war protests were escalating to massive levels around the country. Just a few weeks before I started kindergarten in 1969, Woodstock happened (8/15-17/1969). And just a few weeks before that was the first moon landing (7/20/1969). Haight Ashbury was rocking out in San Francisco. The Doors, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead, CSNY, the Stones and the Beach Boys were the sound track of the time. It was a time of huge change for the country. Out went the old stuffy formal way; in came the rebellion for change. While segregation had been illegalized in 1965, the practice, whether or not by choice, was still in force. I only saw one African American during elementary school, and that was only during one year. There may have been others, but they kept low. Oklahoma had a history of strong Jim Crow laws, lynching and race riots. Remember, Tulsa was home to the one of the bloodiest attacks on Americans by Americans -- the Tulsa Race Riots of 1921. It was so awful that It didn't appear in print until the 70s and people didn't start to talk about it until just recently. Oklahoma was and still is a very conservative state. It lies in the buckle of the Bible Belt, so it was not surprising that we had prayer in school. Yes, this was the heart of conservative, christian, white bread and mayo, tupperware-toting America.

Hearst
Phoebe Hearst was the wife of millionaire U.S. Sen. George Hearst and mother of William Randolph Hearst, who began the Hearst newspaper empire and built Hearst Castle at San Simeon. She was concerned with the education of children and started the nation's first kindergartens. She also founded the PTA.

Hearst elementary school was a collection of white wooden prefab buildings located in the Regency Park neighborhood East of 51st and Memorial. I don't know when the school opened, but I know it was open in 1966 because my sister went there before me. The school closed 1973. The grades k-5 continued their education in the fall of 1973 at their new school, Bates Elementary. The prefabs were torn down and the land stayed unused for many years. For a while the land was used as a soccer field. Eventually the land was developed and lanscaped into Aaronson Park [view arial photo].

Bates
According to my mother's memory, John Bates was a boy who had died in a car accident. Shortly thereafter, his mother purchased a parcel of land which she then donated to the Tulsa Public Schools with the stipulation that a school would be erected on the land in the child's name. John Bates Elementary opened in the Fall of 1973 and was located at 4821 S 72nd E Ave., between the Villa Fontana and Park Plaza neighborhoods [view map]. On our first Arbor Day there, our class went outside and planted a tree just outside the SW part of the school (between the sidewalk and the building), in the name of John Bates, the person. The tree is still there.

Unlike Hearst, Bates was a modern open-space school. There were a few rooms with walls (the music room on the north end, the gym, the band room, the cafeteria, and on the South end a science room and a small math room that looked out onto the playground). The major center part of the building, however was open-spaced, with only bookshelves and partitions to divide class spaces. For an attention-deficient person as myself, it was hard to concentrate on a boring reading assignment, when you could hear Mrs. Mathieson whistling or you could see someone in another class get into trouble.

The bathrooms smelled like dial soap and wet brown paper towels. There were lockers near the North end of the gym and by the office in the front of the building. Just inside the cafeteria to the right, was a wall of bookshelves for us to place our lunchpails and bags before school started. The cafeteria line was on the far, South end of the cafeteria. We usually had things like meatloaf, fish sticks, green beans, succotash, mashed potatoes, and of course moo-juice (milk). As far as I know, everyone's favorite meal was bean chowder day. We'd get a piece of corn bread with it and a cinnamon roll. The bean chowder was kind of like chili, moreso than soup. And everyone loved the cinnamon rolls.

 


Did you go to Bates? Do you have a memory to share? Do you have a correction or addition?
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