Christa Rice

Once upon a time, a young German man had an American-pie-in-the-sky dream. He envisioned building a successful bakery business in Claremore, Indian Territory. According to the 1920 US Census, German-born, William “Theason” immigrated to the United States in 1889. Theeson, his wife Mary, and twin daughters, Esther and Olive, left Tennessee, arriving at Claremore in 1906 (Claremore Progress,4-7-1906).

That year, Theeson built a two-story brick and rock bakery building located at what is now 405 West Will Rogers Boulevard (CP,8-11-1906).

Being progressive, Theeson installed a bread mixing machine which promised to turn out about eight hundred loaves of bread at one time. This machine became the best thing since – well – “sliced bread.” There was no machine its equal in Indian Territory (Claremore Messenger, 8-30-1907). He built a brick oven at the rear of his building, ordered his customary one hundred cords of 24-inch firewood and set to work (CP,9-5-1908).

Yet, the bakery business was no “piece of cake.” It was filled with long hours of toil, early mornings, and late nights. There were also unexpected challenges.

Once, Theeson’s bake oven caved in just as he prepared to fill it with 600 pounds of dough for the day’s run. When the O’Brien building was being built and conjoined to Theeson’s eastern wall, Theeson decided to replace the wooden braces that held up his oven with braces made of steel. Unfortunately, when the wood braces were removed, and before the steel ones could be placed in position, the heavy brick oven collapsed. Theeson immediately set to work constructing a new oven (CP,10-21-1910).

One night, burglars forced entry into the bakery through the back door. The thieves got away but with “only a couple of dollars, fifty cents worth of stamps, and some church envelopes containing a few pennies.” Miraculously, they overlooked the real money stashed in a sack near the cash register (CP,2-17-1916).

Just after the US entered World War I, Theeson progressively enhanced his business by purchasing a Maxwell bread delivery wagon. He used his new vehicle to make the regular bread route about the city and answer telephone call orders with quick service (CP,6-28-17).

Once the US entered the World War, strict rationing was enforced by the government in an effort to conserve white flour. To comply with government regulations, Theeson, along with all Claremore merchants, substituted the required 50% quantity of oat, corn, rice, barley, and/or buckwheat for white flour in baked goods. Unfortunately, three Oklahoma City bakeries discovered that using less substitute held consequences. These stores were closed by the federal food administration regulators for forty-one, fourteen, and seven days respectively (CP,2-21-1918, CP,9-5-1918; CM,8-2-1918).

Yet, to everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven (Ecclesiastes 3:1). After 14 years in the bakery business at Claremore, it was time for the Theesons to follow another dream. When they decided to move to the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas to become farmers, Theeson’s Bakery business was sold to Mrs. R.S. Liggett who incorporated it into her Liggett Market (CP,8-19-1920).

Eventually, the old Theeson building housed the Claremore Baking Co. (SW Bell Telephone Claremore, 1942), the Silvis Dress Shop [SWBTC 1951, 1954, 1955], the Dorothy Louise Dress Shop [SWBTC,1958], the Downtown Diner [SWBTC,1996], and others. Recently, Ounce Upon a Time has taken up residence there.

Once upon a time, a young German man followed his dream of coming to America to build a prosperous baking business. Who knows what other dreams will come true in the 115-year-old Theeson building? We hope all these tales end “happily ever after.”

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