A Claremore Daily Progress advertisement for a local grocery store listed onions for 89 cents. That's 89 cents for a 50-pound sack of onions. A shopper could also purchase 100 pounds of potatoes for $1.99.
Rogers County District Judge N.B. Johnson about the same time ordered a temporary halt for workers installing parking meters for the first time along the four main blocks of Claremore. This happened after local attorney H. Tom Kight Jr. filed a petition on behalf of seven businessmen.
In other local matters, the city's bathhouse owners elected to start using the term "Claremore mineral water" because they all believed that "radium" misrepresented their healing waters.
And, word of the day was that popular movie star Leo Carrillo would be coming to town. He was scheduled to serve as master of ceremonies for the upcoming Will Rogers Day events. A close friend of Rogers County's late favorite son, Carrillo would soon become better known as Poncho in the television series The Cisco Kid.
The county's local draft board also had a notice on the front page of The Progress. The board cautioned all young men working on farms at the time to not leave their jobs without the board's consent. If this happened, their 2-C classification would change to 1-A, top of the draft order. This notice was for all men, single or married with no children, between the ages of 19 and 29.
School would open on Sept. 9, it was announced.
Claremore had three movie houses at the time. On this one date, viewers could enjoy "Boys Ranch" starring Butch Jennings and a preview of Charles Coburn's "The Green Years" at the Yale Theatre; the Cadet Theatre's double feature "She Wolf of London" and "They Were Expendable" with John Wayne and Robert Montgomery; or for the cowboy fans, Johnny Mack Brown at the Palace Theatre in "The Gentleman from Texas," plus the sixth serial chapter of "King of the Forest Rangers."
It also was time for high school football to kick off.
The year was 1946.
World War II was over and it was peacetime once again. For the first time in more than four years, young men were not going off to battle. It was time once again for games.
A young Ernie Smart was serving as sports editor for The Progress. Because Claremore was one of seven teams in the Verdigris Valley Conference, he conducted a poll among the coaches, and the coaches picked the defending champions, the Nowata Ironmen, to repeat. The rest of the poll, in order, was as follows: Pawhuska, Pryor, Sand Springs, the Zebras, Miami and Vinita.
Ernie, who would go on to become a sports-writing legend in Oklahoma, gave Claremore more credit than the coaches.
Prior to the season's start, Ernie wrote "... batting the (Sand Springs) Sandites for third place will be the big Claremore Zebras. (Coach) Tuffy Cline will give no ground in size to any conference member and he points with pride to Bob Waller, team captain and 260 pounds of beef."
Because Claremore was returning 13 lettermen and six starters, all of whom played offense and defense, Ernie believed that they might edge past Sand Springs. He agreed that Nowata was top dog in the Valley and Pawhuska was a solid second-place team.
In another article, he wrote "... this year's edition of the Red and White is bigger, faster. Bill Lantow, quarterback, has improved vastly over last season's performance and the 153-pound hinged-hipped scatback will carry the mail for Claremore."
Rounding out the single-wing backfield for the Zebras, Ernie listed LeRoy McElwain, Joe Bowers, and "a rugged gentleman in the blocking-back slot."
It would be nice to conclude here that the Zebras went on to capture the Verdigris Valley title that year. They didn't. Claremore was more a basketball power back then. The football team lost the first two games by six points each and went on to finish 2-8.
It would be a few years before the football fortunes turned ... after the arrival of a new coach by the name of "Bear" Jensen.
Despite the losing record, a lot of fun and excitement took place that fall 60 years ago.
The team didn't live up to Ernie's hopes that season, but Mr. Smart still proved to be quite the prophet.
As an adult Bill Lantow certainly did carry the mail for Claremore. He retired from the Claremore Post Office after serving as a city mailman and rural carrier for years.
Oh, yes. What about the “rugged gentleman” who served as blocking back that year?
That was him sitting with his lovely wife, Lu, this weekend at the opening of Claremore’s new Performing Arts Center that bears his name: Frank Robson. ...
After mention of Lester “Bear” Jensen and grandson Chris appeared in this space recently, it was a pleasant surprise to receive a letter from the former Claremore football coach.
In saying he is proud of his grandson, he also wrote "we have some very good friends and good memories of Claremore. My wife cried when we left."
Not one to really hash numbers, Coach said he was not aware he held two records that were mentioned. He was referring to 15 straight Zebra football victories and 15 straight wins on the road. Both marks were made known by Zebra historian Wayne McCombs.
Following the 1963 season, the coach resigned here to accept the head coaching position for Cameron College at Lawton. I had listed All-Staters Roy Wallace and Marshal Dicks as Zebra graduates going with him.
They were not the only ones.
Jensen wrote that he also took Larry Jordan, Larry Hayes, Omar Sumpter and Darryl Arrowood to play for his first team. Zebra Steve Reagan, a big righthanded pitcher, also joined the Aggies’ baseball team the same year.
In 1964, Jensen's team, including three ex-Zebras as starters, played in the Junior Rose Bowl in California.
Despite this fact, Jensen also wrote these words: "Coaching in Claremore is a highlight of my career."
Thanks for the nice letter, Coach. Enjoy retirement.
Larry Larkin Column
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