(Goldsmith) Burkel Visited Collinsville For The First Time
Her Father Grew Up Here
A Daughter Finds Her Fathers Roots
On July 28, 2008 my husband and I left The Holiday Inn Express in Owasso. With our CD of Oklahoma turned up high, we headed North on Hwy. 75 to the E. 146th St. exit. The sign saying, Collinsville pointed to our destination a destination that would prove to be my destiny.
Even as I sit at my computer, my heart beats faster. Its rhythm no longer comes from anticipation previously expressed; it comes from knowing I realized my dream beyond my wildest dreams.
This Realization began even before I left home. Just as The Collinsville News came to ART Goldsmiths doorstep in Chicago every week for 70 years, the paper and its modern counterpart, the internet, became my link to his past and key to the present. The impact of Bill Johnston running my story in the paper and Ted Wright posting it on www. wcivlleok.com cannot be minimized.
Thanks to them, the descendents of my Fathers kinfolk knew I was coming and started sending me the friendliest emails. Thanks to Teds records, I knew I would see Collinsville the way it is and the way it was. Thanks to an article he found, I unearthed a cousin in Tulsa who had done extensive genealogy and sent me a photo and address of my Fathers house. While I was afraid of having expectations as high as an elephants eye, deep down I knew I had nothing to fear.
There were signs along the way that everything I touched would turn to Gold(smith): I saw five Superior Coffee trucks in a parking lot and a sign for Pickles Restaurant. When my Father got out of the service, he drove a truck delivering Superior Coffee. After a while, he exchanged coffee for pickles and ultimately owned the Company. He liked to call himself a pickle typhoon.
But no sign could compare to the one greeting me as we exited the highway that no longer by passed Collinsville. If I had previously had a beautiful feeling everything was going my way, my expectations went into the stratosphere as my eyes read: Welcome Barbara Goldsmith Burkel on the marquee of the American Bank of Oklahoma.
We stopped for photo ops, went inside, thanked Bank President Joe Landon, and continued driving down Main Street. I stopped at the stop sign, mentally trying to superimpose the sight in front of me with the photos Ted sent from the days of yore. My husband pointed out there were cars piling up, and I had to go. I went. Right through the red traffic light at the next intersection. Since getting a ticket was not on my wish list of souvenirs, I quickly pulled over and parked in the first spot I found. I was right in front of The Newspaper Museum.
What a pleasure to finally meet Ted Wright. What a bonus to have him as our personal historian to Collinsvilles past and guide to its present. I sat in the middle of his time capsule with its huge photos and felt I was standing in the middle of Main Street, seeing it through my Fathers eyes.
I watched Teds computer screen as he kept finding stories with my Grandfathers name and ads my Great Grandfather placed. I practically jumped from my chair when I saw a number of those ads were for hats. Eight years ago, I unknowingly founded an Organization dedicated to volunteerism and based on my love of hats of all colors. (www.hatladies.org).
Now it was time to step into the brilliant sunshine, walk a short distance, and stand before the building that was once the B. Goldsmith Dry Goods Store that sold those hats. One other coincidence should be noted: I always sign documents with just my initial B in front of my last name; I had just learned my Great Grandfather did so as well.
I have stood before many historic buildings throughout the world. None elicited the feelings I experienced standing in front of this one. Only one would ever surpass it, and it would do so shortly. With Ted at our side, my husband and I looked and looked and imagined.
Thanks to Teds archives, we saw traces of the original storefront and could place it in its historic context. Thanks to his wealth of knowledge, we heard stories of the murder in the adjoining stairwell and rumors of the brothel on the second floor. Thanks to an old photo I had, we could envision my Grandfather standing inside, next to his clerks. We would return many times to stand in front of and photograph the B. Goldsmith Building.
Armed with the photo and address of the house where my Father and his Father and his Father once lived, we all headed up Main Street, away from the Business District. I saw it first. The house really, really was still there!
I had expected to see the store building still standing because Ted provided proof that it was. On the other hand, I had expected to either see a vacant lot or a new house standing where the c1909 house in the photo stood. How could the winds that come sweeping down the Plains not have destroyed this little house on Main Street? How could it have withstood development in the name of progress?
To my utter amazement and sheer joy, it did. And it looked remarkably good. It was as sturdy and steadfast as the people who built it. It even had two concrete stoops out in front, resembling those from the house in Chicago where I grew up!
Standing in front of it, and on the sides of it, and in the back of it, surpassed standing in front of B. Goldsmiths. Now NO building ANYWHERE will ever surpass it. I simply could not take enough photos of me standing by this house including one with my husband next to me in the very spot where my Father (then a little boy), step-Grandmother, Grandfather, and Great Grandfather stood in the photo provided by my cousin.
There was one more structure to visit that meant the world to my Father: Collinsville High School. It was a short walk from his house. As we crossed the street and headed to where it once stood (now replaced by the Middle School), I felt I was walking to school as he once did.
The way my Father lived his childhood came into focus: In essence, his house was in the middle. If he walked one way, he was at his Grandfathers store; if he walked perpendicular to it, he was at school. I was literally following in his footsteps, walking on the same original bricks that lined the same streets.
As we walked down a residential street, a lady with a beautiful name who had just picked up her daughter at music camp literally braked and stopped her car next to us. She rolled down her window and said, You must be Barbara. I positively melted, and it wasnt from the heat. I was on the streets where my Father lived, and there was nowhere else on earth that I would rather be.
Education played a major part of that life. It is a value my Father instilled in his children and his grandchildren. Seeing photos of the majestic CH he attended, I can see why it was so important to him. He graduated as Valedictorian of the Class of 31, one full year ahead of schedule. He liked to tell us he was so bright, his Father called him Sonny. Amongst his possessions, I found two books listing all the National Honor Society members throughout Oklahoma during his high school years; his name was among them. I now understood why, at great sacrifice, he took off work the morning I was inducted to the chapter at my high school.
Ted knew we needed to see the new CHS, so we all got in our car. As former educators, my husband and I were delighted to meet Principal Cory Slagle wearing his vacation hat getting ready for the new school year. As Art Goldsmiths daughter, I was thrilled to see his picture displayed with the graduating classes in the foyer.
Time to return to Main Street. We entered the newly renovated Library, which was also a short distance from my Fathers house. As I saw all the children spending their summer amongst the books, I could easily picture him there, too. We were warmly greeted by Librarian Susan Babbitt who remembered I was coming to town. Coincidentally Fawn Ozug was there with her darling daughter. She emailed me when she read my story. I had been planning to stop by Rock Gym, and there she was. The joys of small town living!
After spending the better part of the day (which included lunch at Bill and Ruths), Ted went back to work while my husband and I explored the shops. One stop was Schultheiss Insurance, to meet Bart, and thank him for his lovely email. Another was to check out the antique stores.
We walked into Rogers and Sons where Trent helped me find two antique hat items that might have been sold at B. Goldsmiths. Brad Francis, Main Street Board President, was also there. He was delightfully nonchalant; he just assumed our paths would cross, since he had read how excited I was about Collinsville being preserved.
Our day ended with supper at Jalapenos where we relived our amazing day, planned for the next two, and basked in the laughter of families at the tables surrounding us.
Oh what a beautiful second morning in Collinsville. It would also be filled with surprises. We stopped for breakfast at Barnhardts. I practically jumped up from our booth when I saw Art Sr. Special as one of the entrees under Home Cooking from Scratch. As Arts daughter, how could I not order it.
There was time to enter one more antique shop before joining Ted who was taking us to The Collinsville Museum. This time we went into Grandmas Trunk, two doors down from what had been B. Goldsmiths. The first thing I saw sitting in a case at the front of the store was salt and pepper shakers in the shape of pickles. Another perfect purchase for the pickle mans daughter!
We learned more Collinsvilles history and found the piano Teds family had donated to the town. But there was still no sign of the one my Father purchased in honor of his Father. Perhaps someone knows where it is; it should have a plaque reading In Memory of David Goldsmith.
Finally it was time to meet Wanda Nyberg of The Chamber of Commerce. She had actually been my first internet contact. It was she who told me where to stay; it was she who referred me to Ted. Now it was she who enthusiastically hugged me like a long lost friend. She was everything wonderful I imagined she would be. Collinsville could not have a better representative!
Two more special people awaited us: Susan Worstell Sallee and her Father, Adam, who graciously invited us to their home. Susan had emailed me when she saw the photo I included in my first article showing our respective Fathers at a CHS 30s Class Reunion.
What an honor to be the recipients of their hospitality. What a highlight to take my picture next to them as my Father had done 20 years earlier. What an opportunity to learn first hand the prominent role the Sallee family had played and continues to play in the life of Collinsville.
While Adam did not specifically remember my Father, his response was no less meaningful: He knew he would have picked him up at the airport because it was the natural thing to do when guests came to town. Coincidentally there is a Sallee living near me, with ties to Oklahoma. I am pursuing this possible link to their family history, just as they helped link mine.
Two more memorable stops remained for the afternoon: First The Collinsville News. It was yet another Omigosh, I cant believe I am standing here moment; that is how much this paper meant to my Father. What a pleasure to meet Editor, Bill Johnston in person, since I had first met him in cyberspace.
The last sight seeing stop of the day was The Pharmacy, where Ted told us we would be able to find a CHS Christmas ornament. We had to have one. I was recognized the minute I inquired where in the store I might find it. Kristi said how much she enjoyed reading about my journey, and Sherri and Joan quickly joined the conversation and received a sneak preview of its wonders. Consistent with the welcome mat we found everywhere we went, Kristi gave us the ornament as a gift. Oh the memories it will evoke when it sparkles on our tree, lit by real candles.
Ted graciously joined us for supper at Dougs Grill, and we called it a night.
Day three brought us back to Main Street for one last look and to say, Good bye to Wanda and Ted who had played such central roles before and during our magnificent visit. Ted surprised us by posting a short paragraph on his website titled Expectations Exceeded and pART Two: Realization would be coming soon. Wanda gleefully pulled it up on her computer screen so we could see it.
We swung by my Great Grandfather, Grandfather, Fathers house one more time. It had become obvious the current owners were not home. But we hoped against hope they would return before we left. They had not. I did, however, receive an excited phone call two days later, with the promise I would receive photos of the inside.
As I left the front porch, walked down the sidewalk and turned toward my husband waiting in our car, I found a dime. Now that may not seem like much to others, but it was a million dollar moment for me: My Father always found coins. In fact, his nickname was Eagle Eye.
I placed the dime in the palm of my hand and silently showed it to my husband; he immediately understood its significance. He took a dime from his pocket and said, Go place it somewhere by the house. I did. My husband is going to mount the dime found not merely by chance on a disc 24K Gold of course, so I can wear it whenever I wish.
I did not just find my Fathers roots in Collinsville. I found my own. I was always proud of being a Chicagoan, for it is a City to be proud of. But my familys contribution to it does not warrant a footnote in its history. Now that I live in Charleston, SC, I am acutely aware of what it means to be one of them. The Realization that my Great Grandfather got to Oklahoma sooner than almost everyone else, gives me a sense of heritage I didnt realize I had been missing.
We continued North on 20 on our way back to Kansas City, MO to visit my husbands kinfolk. Just before we reached the Oklahoma/Kansas border, we cranked up our Oklahoma CD once more. With a smile and a tear, I proudly belted out (Collinsville) Oklahoma youre OK.
Youre OK because there are people like Ted Wright preserving your printed history, and people like Brad Francis preserving your architectural history. You're OK because people like the Sallees keep giving back to their community. Youre OK because you have people making strangers feel like kinfolk, and people raising children to love their town. And even if they should leave, they will leave their heart just as I did and my fathers before me.
Footnote: There is another coincidence in addition to those mentioned throughout: My new found cousin from Tulsa sent me an email that said, It seems to be a Goldsmith trait that if you dont like your name, change it. I (unofficially) changed my name to Archie fifteen years ago. He did not know I unknowingly had followed the family tradition.
My sincere apologies for taking so long to send pART Two. My time commitments following our return from a ten day trip (Collinsville was in the middle) were more numerous than expected....and included the unexpected.
Collinsville may have been out of sight, but it was not out of mind. If anything it has claimed increased attention since so many friends have taken an interest in it. I am actually having two "Show and Tells" now that my scrapbook as well as ARTicle are completed.
I believe you and the rest of my kinfolk will find the delay worth your wait. After all, I wanted pART Two to be written "wright" as well as right. I know you have your own set of photos from which to choose. I am attaching some you do not have, should you wish to include them.
I owe you one more...a scanned photo of the inside of B. Goldsmith's...which I will send later. Most of all, I owe you a debt of gratitude for making this trip a trip of a lifetime. I wish you a lifetime of good health to continue preserving Collinsville as your ancestors did before you. It is great having you just a www.cvilleok.com click away!
|Barbara's 2008 visit to the Collinsville Family Pharmacy was at the same location (different building) as the 1935 fire detected by Dave Goldsmith below.|