Larry Larkin

It was the best of times and it was the worst of times. Hopefully Mr. Dickens will pardon the theft of one of his lines, but they certainly fill the bill for the year of 1921.

Consider the following on the good side of the year’s slate…

...Baseball player Babe Ruth was hitting tons of home runs. Still early in his career he already lapped all the other players when it came to hitting the ball over the fence. In less than seven seasons he already had 138 to his credit.

….Albert Einstein claimed his first Nobel Prize for physics.

….France was starting to draw fierce competition for coming up with new women’s clothing fashion. U.S.A. designers were turning out countless new popular styles.

….The recently termed “Jazz Age” of music and life styles was sweeping the nation.

Now for the opposite side of the coin and we can look no further than within an l00 mile distance from Claremore.

The body of the first murder victim of what would become known as the “Reign of Terror” was discovered near Pawhuska. Before a long investigation would end it was estimated some 60 wealthy full-blood Osage Tribe members of Oklahoma’s Osage County would die. In each case the murders resulted in rich oil headrights being transferred to White family members who have married into the tribe.

It was May 27, 1921 when the previous event took place. Four days later another infamous state event occurred. On May 31, in a Tulsa office building a black teenager was reported to have stepped on the foot of a white female elevator attendant.

For that or whatever else happened, angry words were exchanged. The young man was arrested and taken to jail where large parties of both races gathered. Because law authorities did little or nothing to disband the assembled, the city’s darkest event started.

Over three days of time the black downtown business section known as Greenwood and surrounding homes would burn to the ground. The Tulsa Race Riot resulted in an unknown number of deaths in the black community. What is known is 10,000 residents were left homeless as fires destroyed all they owned.

CLAREMORE’S OWN PROBLEMS

Fortunately the City of Claremore has never had to suffer these types of tragedy. Still it didn’t completely escape trouble the same period 98 years ago.

Something took place that probably happened for the first time and not again since. During a 20-minute span two daring hold-ups occurred within blocks of each other by different group of robbers.

It was on the evening of April 21, when the mini-crime wave started. R.R. Henderson, station attendant on duty for the Missouri-Pacific passenger station, was at his desk counting out the daily ticket sales.

He would later tell police he was aware someone walked into the station but he didn’t look up. Friends were always stopping in to visit or have a cup of coffee. It was 8:30 p.m. and he needed to total out the day’s ticket sales. Customers were not expected until the next morning.

Henderson didn’t stop counting and looking down until someone said, “Say, Pal,” three times. That’s when he saw two strangers waving revolvers in the air and yelling for him to “Stick’um up!” Suddenly they had his full attention.

While one stayed in the doorway the other man jumped over the counter and scooped up the $184.90 on Henderson’s desk.

The two men then ran out on the platform heading north. The clerk said he watched them turn east once they reached Fourth Street, a block away.

A description given by Henderson put one with dark hair, about 40 years old and around 190 pounds. The other was smaller with light hair.

Meanwhile, at approximately 8:50 p.m., 20 minutes later, owner and operator A.R. Rodrigues of the A.R. Chili Parlor, was closing up also.

His popular menu of chili and hot dogs was a regular stop for Rogers County Court House staff and visitors. It was located just across the street.

This time things turned more serious. Ten minutes away from closing, three unknown men walked in and each ordered a bowl of chili. As one handed the owner a $10 gold piece for payment, Rodrigues reached into his money bag for change.

That’s when one of the men pointed a revolver straight at him and said, “Just give it all to me.”

The owner later told police officers he thought the man was joking, but quickly knew different when the weapon was pointed at the floor and a round was fired.

Once with the money bag and it’s almost $25 content, the three robbers took off. Both the owner and a lone employee were badly shaking due to the gun shot. The only description each could say was all three were in the 22-25 age range. They were certainly unknown to them.

It would be nice to add the bad men were later captured, the money returned, and jail time followed. Can’t say it, however. If the two gangs were caught it had to be someplace else.

While there was no proof to back it up, police investigators believe one or both parties were maybe traveling with a stage show group that had performed at a local theater.

That wasn’t your typical evening in the town of Claremore that night.

Larry Larkin is a columnist for the Claremore Progress.