(The real story of Nichols Hills has never been told. This beautiful and unusual community of homes, just over 25 years old, is one of the show places of the country, but to some 5,000 residents it’s just home. It’s a planned community – planned for quiet, gracious living, and it has a dignity and charm and character which is found in very few places in the country.
No one could be better qualified to tell this story of Nichols Hills than Mrs. George R. Bixler, 6707 Avondale Drive. The Bixlers moved to Nichols Hills in October, 1930, and Bixler has been town clerk for 24 years.
Much of the information on which this story is based comes from files of “Town Talk,” a publication which began in 1934 and was abandoned when World War II broke out. This publication was first typed, then mimeographed and later printed. First editor of the paper was Mrs. Clayton B. Pierce, 1600 Guilford Lane, and Mrs. Bixler was the second editor. Another installment of the story of Nichols Hills will appear next week and each week thereafter, written expressively for Ye Town Cryer by Mrs. Bixler. – Editor’s Note)
Back of every venture is a dream of some individual. One man who had accumulated sufficient worldly goods, turned a few years back from building just houses, and decided to express his idea of a community where homes – and only homes – would be the paramount issue. This man, the late Dr. G.A. Nichols, had one ambition back in 1929, and this was to develop an area near Oklahoma City which would be an ideal place for homes and families.
Every home in the community was to be protected against encroachment of undesirable surroundings by permanent building restrictions. The streets, he decided, would be laid out with the express purpose of slowing down people with that deadly mania for “getting some place fast.” The streets were not to be thoroughfares. They were, rather, to invite leisurely travel. It was the founder’s idea that no one should want to travel at an excessive speed through the hills. They were to be the “hills of homes,” to be enjoyed by all who passed that way. Such, then, was the founder’s conception of Nichols Hills.
Dr. Nichols bought 2,700 acres of rolling prairies and farm land north of Oklahoma City. From Kansas City he brought in a firm of engineers to lay out the streets as he visualized them. The old fashioned “checker-board idea” of cut and dried straight streets and square blocks had no place in this new development. The streets were to follow the natural terrain of the country side, with the entrance to be at N.W. 63rd and Western. The long graceful sweep of the curving streets, he decided, were not to go anyplace particular – but were just to roam around the hills past the homes.
The natural prairie was attractive and effective. But, it was decided, that where homes were to be built there must be trees, and lots of them. Consequently, a whole forest of trees were moved in from distant places. In that first year more than 5,600 large shade trees and 35,000 smaller ones were transplanted to the new community of Nichols Hills. There also were hundreds of different kinds of pine, spruce and junipers planted. Plots for small parks dotted the whole community, and there were larger park areas in every available space.
The entrance at Northwest 63 and Western was marked by two stately towers of true Normandy architecture, and Avondale Drive took off from there in a northwesterly direction. All street names at that time were scooped from the English countryside. While the new streets were still a gleam in the developers eyes, people who wanted to get away from the corner drug store and the hustle and bustle of the city bought the lots from a piece of paper. They began to construct their homes, and before they were finished the paved streets rolled past their doors and everyone was very happy.
In early 1930, E. Highfill built and occupied the very first home in Nichols Hills, although the town did not even have a name at that time. This home, located at the corner of Grand Boulevard and Bedford Drive, is occupied today by the William A. Norton family, the address being 6516 Northwest Grand Boulevard.
At about the same time a home was built at 1108 Wilshire Boulevard, and the name of the builder is unknown. This home is occupied today by Mrs. Hazel D. Bogue. The late Lewis Wahl and family moved to their home at 1208 Marlboro Lane shortly afterward.
In October of 1930 Dr. Omar L. Jordan moved with his family into his home at 6709 Avondale Drive. The W.R. McWilliams family moved into their home on Avondale Drive, and the George W. Bixlers completed their new home at 6707 Avondale Drive that month, the paving beating them by one week.
Moving into the new community in 1930, and still occupying their homes, were Dr. and Mrs. G.A. Nichols, who built their home at 7006 Nichols Road. Dr. Nichols has since passed on. Mr. and Mrs. John A. Brown built their home that year at 1601 Guilford Lane, and Brown has passed on.
Others who built that year were Judge and Mrs. C.B. Cochran, who built at 1605 Drury Lane; the J. Steve Andersons, 1606 Drury Lane; the H. Dorsey Douglas family, 1503 Drury Lane; and the George Fredericksons, 1604 Camden Way. All are still living in their homes. The Ray J. Spradlings built their home at 1504 Camden Way that year, but later moved to 1124 Huntington Avenue.
By 1931 there were thirty-five families scattered over the hills of the still un-named community which later was to become Nichols Hills. These families had been so busy getting settled in their new homes that they hadn’t thought about a name for the town. But most of them felt that a town with thirty-five families should have a name, so a contest was held, and someone came up with the name of Nichols Hills, in honor of the founder, Dr. G.A. Nichols. Winner of the contest received on of the finest Shetland ponies from Dr. Nichols’ stables.
After Nichols Hills was properly named, a formal opening was held on April 5, 1931. On this occasion every home in Nichols Hills was on display, and every garden was manicured and slicked up to the “nth” degree, with not a blade of grass out of place.
The developer had completed and furnished three beautiful homes by this time. One was named the “Cotswold”, this home is occupied today by Mrs. A. C. Trumbo. The “Normandy,” located at 1119 Bedford Drive, was purchased by the Risk Thompson family, and they have occupied it to this day. The third, which was beautifully furnished and opened at the same time, was called the “Commander” and was located at 6906 Avondale Drive. It was purchased by the late Will S. Buckley for his family, and is occupied today by Dr. Forrest M. Lingfelter and his family.
Residents of the new community had been given to understand that there would be an elementary school in the town as soon as there were enough students to warrant it. It was almost time for the school term to start and there were no visible signs of a school building. While Nichols Hills was in the Oklahoma City school district, the board of education would not consider building a school. They stated that they could not furnish a teacher for less than sixteen students.
The problem of the group of mothers who wanted the school, was to sell the idea in order to get the school. Most of the students had been attending larger schools in the city. So a small group of women started canvassing the neighborhood. Among them were Mrs. Leon G. Voorhees, 1504 Wilshire Boulevard; Mrs. Harry Blackstock; Mrs. Omar L. Jordan, 6709 Avondale Drive; and Mrs. George R. Bixler, 6707 Avondale Drive.
After calling on every home in the community, these women signed up the necessary sixteen students to attend the school. Opening date was very near by then, so they approached Dr. Nichols and laid the whole plan before him, telling him that they had the students and would have to have a school building.
Dr. Nichols deeded the necessary land to the board of education, promised that there would be a building ready in time for the opening school, and also a teacher.
This was a Friday, just three days before the school needed to open for the fall term. That morning moved in his crew of builders and, miraculous as it may seem, the school was completed and ready for the Monday opening!
It was several days before the teacher arrived, so the mothers took care of the enrollment and carried on with the classes. When the teacher, Mrs. Bonny Norton, arrived, she found that she had sixteen students and six grades represented, which presented quite a problem. Dr. Sheppard, of the Educational Extension Department of the University of Oklahoma, worked with the school for the first year.
The mothers continued to cooperate, and by the time the school year ended, a fine progressive school was running smoothly. That year teachers from all over the state visited the new school to get ideas for their schools.
The main building was taken over by the school system in 1937, and in 1940 an addition was made. Other additions have been made in 1948, 1951, 1953, 1955, and 1956. Today the school has nearly 700 students, and, although it is located in Oklahoma City, on the north side of Wilshire Boulevard, it still is Nichols Hills elementary school.
The new town of Nichols Hills elected its first board of trustees in April, 1933. Up until that time town affairs had been handled by the G.A. Nichols Co. The first board was composed of H. Dorsey Douglas, 1503 Drury Lane, who still lives at that address; Al W. Horton, who lived at 1118 Bedford Drive, and W.C. Kite, 1501 Camden Way, who now lives at 1805 Drakestone. George R. Bixler, 6707 Avondale Drive, was elected Town Clerk, and has served to this day, having been elected 12 times. Town Treasurer was Leon G. Voorhees, 1504 Wilshire Boulevard, who still lives at that address.
That year there was no town hall in Nichols Hills, no place for the board to meet, and no office for the town clerk or his records. Consequently, members of the board met at homes of the members for several years. The first meeting was held at Kite’s home, and he was elected president of the board. At that meeting it was decided that the town clerk should serve as overall manager of all departments of the town, including streets, water, fire department and police.
In order to keep the valuable town records in a fireproof safe, the newly-elected town clerk transferred them to his downtown office from where he continued to transact all town business until 1942.
The newly-organized board immediately began to dig into the financial status of the town. It was apparent that the community was in debt and without funds to operate. Regardless of this fact, the trustees decided from the very beginning that the town would operate on a strictly cash basis, and this operation has been carried out to this day. If money was not available for needs, it was simply a matter of curtailing expenses to fit the income.
There was no money to pay for office rent or to pay the town clerk for his services. This official, however, furnished the office and necessary equipment. If a small expense arose, the town clerk paid it out of his pocket and forgot about it. Even after the town progressed to the place where it employed policemen, water and street men, a problem arose which meant additional expenses.
The town clerk called the employees in and painted the picture. He made them this proposition, “I’ll cut my salary, if you’ll be willing to cut yours in proportion, until the next fiscal year. Only in that way will we be able to carry on.” They agreed, and the town continued on a cash basis and weathered the storm. As passing observation, wouldn’t it be wonderful if other cities and the state and federal governments were to run their affairs, comparatively speaking, according to the plans laid down by the first officials of Nichols Hills?
The big depression was just beginning to be felt in this area that year. Here was a town geared to take care of several thousand residents, with sewers, streets, and all facilities needed for a community covering several hundred acres. However, there were only a few residents. To the consternation of the few residents, they found themselves with a bonded indebtedness of $500,000 with a large payment due soon.
It also was found, upon investigation, that a number of the larger investors in Nichols Hills property were delinquent on their taxes and unable to do anything about it. This brought about a most unfavorable situation, be cause the penalty for failing to meet the payment on bonded indebtedness was thrown back on the rest of the property owners.
Building in Nichols Hills practically came to a standstill at that time. Many houses already built stood vacant for lack of buyers. There was no money in the treasury to take care f the streets, and weeds and sunflowers grew to the height of the houses they surrounded. All parks were neglected and crying for help.
Prospects were dim for the town, and board members investigated every angle. Finally they decided that Nichols Hills should petition Oklahoma City for annexation. Some residents objected strenuously, but the board decided to find out how Oklahoma City officials would react to such a proposal. They invited members of the Oklahoma City council to be their guests at a dinner at the Oklahoma City Golf and Country Club.
Members of the Oklahoma City council accepted, and all enjoyed a fine dinner at the never-to-be forgotten expense of the five Nichols Hills officials. According to those who were at the dinner, members of the city council had a wonderful time. The evening was one of the highlights of their political careers, and they loved every minute of it. According to eyewitnesses, they also loved telling members of the Nichols Hills town board that they wanted no part of Nichols Hills in any way, shape or form!
When this report went back to residents of Nichols Hills, it proved to be the best thing that ever happened to the community. Instead of meaning failure for the town, it turned out to be the stimulus that was needed. It awakened the residents to the opportunity of governing their own town and developing it along the lines intended by the founder – a place for beautiful homes and homes only. They knew then that they were going to fight to keep their town and that they would pull out of the financial difficulties on their own.
Several years after the town of Nichols Hills was established a few neighbors met to discuss beautification of their homes and gardens and decided that they would organize a flower club. Because of the tremendous enthusiasm manifested regarding the beautification of the town as a whole, those at the meeting realized that a great deal could be accomplished through their concerted efforts. So, instead of a flower club, the residents formed a civic club.
The organization known as the Nichols Hills Civic Club was organized on Jan. 29, 1934, in the home of the late Gomer Smith and Mrs. Smith, 6615 NW Grand Boulevard. The constitution of the new club read, in part, “Organized for the purpose of beautifying our parks; reducing our taxes; inducing other to invest in our town; and otherwise promoting our community interests in order to make our town a better place in which to live and rear our children.
Clayton B. Pierce, who had just completed a beautiful new home at 1500 Glenwood, was elected first president of the club. Elected secretary was Mrs. A.C. Seids, who, with the late Dr. Seids, had just moved into their new home at 1508 Glenwood. There were to be no dues, and the first goal of the group was to get every resident of Nichols Hills attending the meetings. Every resident of Nichols Hills was automatically made a member of the club.
Town officials of the new community were an integral part of the new civic club, and they soon adopted the idea of the residents of early New England towns, where the people themselves set the pattern for governing the town. These meetings were called by a “town crier” or bell ringer, who went up and down the streets ringing his bell and calling “Hear ye, hear ye, town meeting tonight!”
Every problem affecting the town of Nichols Hills was brought up and discussed at meetings of the Nichols Hills Civic Club, and there members of the town board got a good idea of what the people wanted, and were able to act accordingly. The meetings were held once a month, and, in order to create a more neighborly feeling, they were shifted to a different home each month.
One of the first problems of the town which was discussed by members of the club was the planting and care of parks. Every home in Nichols Hills was represented in the club, and as soon as members decided that the paramount issue was the planting ad care of the parks, and things began to happen soon.
Dr. Nichols started the ball rolling by offering shrubs and trees from his stockpile for planting in the parks, and members of the town board set times for groups of citizens to do the work. Residents living near certain parks were made responsible for it, and they willingly accepted the responsibility.
Clayton B. Pierce, 1500 Glenwood; Dr. and Mrs. A. C. Seids, 1508 Glenwood, and the Joe Schmitzs, 1504 Glenwood. The late W.R. McWilliams, the Geo. Bixlers and the Gomer Smiths 6615 Grand Boulevard, developed the park at Avondale Drive and Huntington Avenue.
Mr. and Mrs. John Coyle, 6809 Grand Boulevard, beautified the park located, at Avondale Drive and Waverly, and the late John A. Brown, and Mrs. Brown, 1601 Guilford Lane, planted and cared for the park at Nichols Road and Guilford Lane.
The J.B. Rogers family, 1506 Wilshire Boulevard, planted the park at Waverly Road and Wilshire, and the one at Camden Way and Brentwood was planted by Mr. and Mrs. C.H. Makins, 1509 Camden Way. Mr. and Mrs. Al Horton, who then lived at 1118 Bedford Drive, beautified the small triangular park at Bedford and Avondale. When the planting was completed, they placed a very lovely bronze statue in the park. The base is still there today, but soon after the statue was erected it was carried off by vandals, much to the dismay of nearby residents.
As soon as it was demonstrated that Nichols Hills citizens were actually going to develop all of the parks themselves, Dr. Nichols gave to the town the area on Camden Way known as Kite Park. Mr. And Mrs. W.C. Kite, 1501 Camden Way, now living at 1805 Drakestone, were placed in charge of planting and beautifying the largest of all the parks. It was in this park that the rose growers of Nichols Hills planted and developed one of the most beautiful rose gardens in the city area.
The parks as one seems them today in this unusual community of Nichols Hills are the result of a great deal of hard work and actual expense on the part of people who wanted Nichols Hills to be a beautiful place in which to live. Here is a poem, “Soliloquy of a Park Captain,” written by Dr. A.C. Seids, who helped in developing one of the early day parks:
“I stood today by the side of the road,
Watching the cars whiz by,
When a feeling of loneliness gripped my heart
As I gazed at the weeds hard by;
And thoughts of the chiggers concealed therein
Brought tears to my troubled eye.
Oh, the day is long, and the sun is hot,
And the grass don’t grow worth a damn;
The hose is short, and the pressure low,
What a job for a tired business man;
The hoe is dull and the handle loose,
But I’m doing the best I can.
Still I stand and gaze in a withering haze
At the driver’s whizzing by,
And I sense a gleam of a look supreme.
Regardless of the fact that the country was in the midst of the worst depression known to this generation, a number of new homes in Nichols Hills were being occupied that year. Some that had been standing vacant were sold and the occupants were moving in. The Robert O. Baileys, with their two two young sons, Robert and Dickie, moved into their new home at 1611 Pennington Way, where they still live. Dr. and Mrs. W. I. Huddle moved into their new home at 6711 Grand Boulevard, where they still live.
That year the Baxter Morrisons built and occupied their new home at 6721 Avondale Drive, and the Philip Pierce family moved into their lovely new colonial home at 6803 Avondale Drive, where they still live today. That year Dr. J. Paul Price and family moved from Hannibal, Missouri to the home that had just been completed for them on Park Manor. Today they live at 6504 Grand Boulevard. The Jack Shaffers moved into their new home at 6821 Grand Boulevard, and the John Coyles occupied their home at 6809 Grand Boulevard, where they still live today.
By that time homes in Nichols Hills were too scattered for the old “bell ringer” method of spreading news of town doings, so Mrs. Clayton Pierce, 1600 Guilford Lane, started getting out a typewritten sheet of news and happenings, calling it “Town Talk.” This typewritten sheet soon was graduated into a two-page mimeographed publication, and with no expense to anyone, not even advertisers, were delivered to every home in Nichols Hills by Boy Scouts. The prime purpose of the paper was to welcome new residents, when they moved in, and to promote interest in the Civic Club and its projects. They second issue of “Town Talk” greeted its first family, the Solon W. Smiths, who moved into their new home at 1605 Wilshire Boulevard. They now live at 1703 Dorchester Drive.
There were very few homes built in Nichols Hills in 1934 but hope springs eternal, and the town was definitely beginning to get on its feet. Parks had been planted and a beautiful garden became a reality in Kite Park. The Town board was at long last financially able to take over the maintenance of the parks and streets, and a full time policeman was employed. The town had had quite a struggle, but interest in Nichols Hills as the ideal place for beautiful homes, was beginning to be recognized by prospective homeowners. Those who already had completed their homes and moved in were very proud of them, and the summer months were made delightfully interesting by a series of neighborly “open houses” in the gardens on Sunday afternoons.
These “open gardens” started casually, mostly as a result of people who expressed a desire to see the Clayton Pierce’s unusual rock garden planting. Then Dr. Seids and his family held an “open garden” the next Sunday, so that all might see their wonderful collection of iris, with more than 100 varieties. The idea snowballed until nearly every Sunday afternoon a garden was opened to the public somewhere in Nichols Hills.
This project not only stimulated interest in the beautification of homes but also was instrumental in promoting interest in beautification of the whole community. Among those who cooperated by opening their gardens for the pleasure of all were Judge and Mrs. C.B. Cochrane, 1605 Drury Lane; Mr. And Mrs. Ray J. Spradling, 1506 Camden Way, who now live at 1124 Huntington; The M. W. Osbornes, 1211 Tedford Way; Mr. And Mrs. C.H. Makins, 1509 Camden Way, the John Hoods, 1620 Westminster Place; the E.K. Gaylord’s, 6907 Avondale Drive, and the George Bixler's, 6707 Avondale Drive.
The November issue of “Town Talk” carried an article, typed in the shape of a Christmas tree, which read in part, “There comes a time of year when it is best for all to set aside worldly cares and become as little children. This is the Christmas season of simple joy and living. Let us all enter into the holiday spirit and make it possible for those who enter the gates of our community to be impressed with the spirit of our friendliness and quiet home life.
“What could be more symbolic of this spirit than a glowing, gleaming living Christmas tree? It would be a tree of hope and cheer – a greeting to the world of our own good will toward our fellowmen. It would be emblematic of growth and the undying courage and hope that persisted through the years.” Such a living Christmas tree was planted that year in the little triangular park at the corner of Bedford and Avondale Drive.
The message inspired by the living Christmas tree soon caught the wholehearted cooperation of every home in Nichols Hills, and the idea that every home in the community be lighted during the Christmas season became one hundred percent. For several years after that Nichols Hills was a wonderland of lights bidding welcome to all entering its portals. It was estimated that 5,000 persons drove through Nichols that first year to see the Christmas lighted displays. One year the Civic Club advanced the idea that a certain theme be used in carrying out the year decorations, and the idea of lights depicting characters from the storybooks was carried out on certain streets, much to the delight of all.
The living Christmas tree still stands today, as it did 23 years ago, gracefully, proudly, but more or less forgotten by most people. No one takes the trouble any more to place her raimens of dazzling lights at Christmas time that she might reassure the status for which she was intended. Trustily, “the old order changeth, yielding place to the new.”
Late in 1935 H. Dorsey Douglas, Sr., 1503 Drury Lane, was named Chairman of the board of trustees, or mayor of Nichols Hills. Elected president of the Civic Club that year was the late Dr. A.C. Seids. From the very beginning the purpose of the Civic Club was to work closely with members of the board of trustees, and to act as a sounding board for the needs of citizens of Nichols Hills. The fact that residents of the town of Nichols Hills were acutely conscious of the importance of human relationships was stressed in every issue of the Civic Club paper, “Town Talk.”
In February 1935 issue of this publication there was an article, written by an early settler in Nichols Hills, which sums up the general attitude of the residents of the town at that time. It read, in part, “The more we come in contact with each other, the nearer we come to accepting and working out the views of others in connection with our own. At the call of our mayor, we met as a group of interested citizens to work out a problem of many angles. That night we laid the foundation for a community of homes based on faith and a mutual desire to create a general atmosphere of contentment of refinement.”
“A community of homes,” the article continued, “naturally reflects the personalities of the people who live in them, and we cannot hope to accomplish a great deal unless we create real individuality in our little community. This is a much higher goal for which to strive than one of the city evening newspapers would have the people believe. We know what we want, and we have the right type of citizens here to build exactly the kind of community we want. The developer and architects who laid out Nichols Hills, through wise planning and restrictions, made the most of the natural beauty we have so that we may, through the design and beauty of our homes and gardens, give our community an character of its own.
“We must necessarily look to ourselves and our own homes to create this atmosphere of good taste and charm. There is no doubt that the quality of home life finds expression in citizenship, and that the good taste and high aspirations incorporated in the homes and gardens of a community are reflected in community service. We want our town to become the kind of place which will attract the type of people who will help to keep our community a delightful and charming place in which to rear our children and to enjoy the immeasurable pleasures of a quiet home life.”
One of the early actions of the Nichols Hills town board of trustees was the appointment of a building committee. Five members of the Civic Club, who had worked with the town officials in preserving and enforcing building restrictions, were chosen to serve on this committee. The group was to work closely with the building commissioner who was, by ordinance, the town clerk. All plans and specifications for prospective homes were submitted to members of this committee and were passed on by them before a building permit was issued by the town.
If this committee agreed that all restrictions were adhered to, and that the style of architecture, side and front setbacks, outside materials, size, etc., were of the standard required, the building permit was issued. If there was any doubt whatever concerning certain aspects of the building, plans and specifications were circulated among the neighbors most closely affected, and their approval was necessary before the building permit was issued. This plan is still in effect in the town of Nichols Hills today, and has been carefully carried out through the years.
Of course there has been some resentment because of the fact that building restrictions were carefully adhered to, and there even have been some lawsuits in connection with them. This, of course, is regrettable, but the fact remains that the residents of Nichols Hills have been protected to the extent that the overall picture today is one of a town of beautiful homes.
When Nichols Hills was first started arrangements were made with the City of Oklahoma City to furnish water to the town and also to the country club. This arrangement proved satisfactory to all concerned, for Oklahoma City needed the revenue at that time as badly as Nichols Hills needed the water. But, as the town grew and the rains did not always come, it became a matter of major importance that a better supply of water be provided for the community.
It has always been the policy of the town board of trustees, and still is to this day, that the people of the town be kept well informed on all matters vital to the security and health of the community. Accordingly, a town meeting was called by the board members whenever anything developed which warranted the attention of the people as a whole.
A water committee had already been appointed, and its members were ready with a plan to take care of the town’s water needs. Following this meeting, the town proceeded with the pan to drill more deep-water wells, and to continue to drill more wells when it was necessary. Today the town of Nichols Hills has 19 deep wells operating when needed, and there is sufficient pure water to take care of the needs of the town. At that present time, the town of Nichols Hills is not dependent on Oklahoma City for its water supply, nor for sewage. The new sewage disposal plant of Nichols Hills, located east of Oklahoma City is now in full operation and is adequate in every respect. Dogs and traffic were two problems, which were constantly discussed by members of the Civic Club in the early days. The dog situation has been handled in fairness to all. There are always two sides to the dog situation. There is the family pet, adored by the children, and then there is the dog, which roams the town. The matter finally was voted on by all people in the town, and the final decision made by the people was that all dogs should be kept off the streets of Nichols Hills.
The streets of Nichols Hills were originally planned as a convenience to homeowners to reach their homes. The streets were definitely not to be used as a speedway to get to other parts of the state. The people who planned Nichols Hills and who live there wanted those who drove its streets to slow down and enjoy the efforts which had been made to beautify the homes, gardens and parks. They wanted to share their peace and contentment and their happy way of living with all who passed their way.
Speeding through the streets to get some place else, be that where it may, was not conducive, they reasoned, to peaceful living, or even long living. To this end Nichols Hills has fought through the years to keep Pennsylvania Avenue just another street of Nichols Hills and not a thoroughfare.
All was not above controversy at all times, for there were many problems in the growing community. Here is a poem which was published in the early days in the newspaper, “Town Talk,” entitled “And the Music Goes Round and Round.”
March evening was quiet,
calm and serene
The very friendliest you’ve ever seen,
As business was over our president
Arose to dismiss with placid content
All at once there was a change in the air
And Doc rose suddenly up in his chair –
He said he had found it a great surprise
He could not get water for his mud pies.
This started an exchange of merry quips
And Harris began pulling bugs from their chips.
They called on Judge Cochran, so dignified,
To try to prove someone present had lied.
Then Frank got up to take exception
And say a word about the election.
Well, Dorsey responded in beautiful tone
With a speech that would melt the heart of a stone,
And all eyes were turned and fixed on Bix,
Who wondered how things got in such a fix,
Everyone seemed to have an obsession –
Since it was Lent, they must make confession.
Gomer eventually ended the slaughter
By pouring oil on the troublesome water.
And again we know as this story ends
That this community is one of friends.
The Nichols Hills Civic Club was now functioning smoothly under the direction of the new president, Solon W. Smith, 1703 Dorchester Drive, through the year of 1937. The town board had elected the late Barron C. Housel as chairman, and Joe G. Schmitz had replaced W. R. McWilliams on the board, H. Dorsey Douglas, Sr., 1503 Drury Lane, had continued as trustee and George R. Bixler continued as clerk. The late Frank A. Stuart, who lived at 1503 Wilshire Boulevard, was elected Justice of the Peace, and was known far and wide as “the law north of 63rd.”
Over a period of years, a custom had been established of holding a picnic once a year for all newcomers to the town. This was a town-wide affair, and everyone, including the children, always came. The A.C. Fletchers, 1209 Larchmont Lane, were noted for the barbecues they would hold in their beautiful garden. Dr. and Mrs. G.A. Nichols also would hold the event in their garden, but usually the picnics would be held in the park, and all would come.
Many new homes were being established in Nichols Hills in the year 1937. Among them who are still living in their homes are Mr. And Mrs. John F. Butler, 1516 Camden Way; the late Frank Clark and Mrs. Clark, 1401 Glenwood; they W.W. Hunsichers, 1504 Huntington Avenue; the William V. Montins, 1512 Camden Way; the Jack Radfords, 1216 Larchmont Lane; the R.P. Traughs, 6710 Avondale Drive; Mrs. Mary Harrell Barnes, 1216 Sherwood Lane; the Roy G. Woods, 6806 Avondale Drive; the J.J. Culbertsons, 1704 Wilshire Boulevard; Mr. And Mrs. H.L. Douglass, 1512 Glenwood, and the W.D. Grissos, 6619 Avondale Drive.
The Nichols Hills Civic Club started the year of 1938 with a new president, H.L. Douglass. The club’s monthly paper, “Town Talk,” said that Douglass, 1512 Glenwood, a young attorney, “was born in Van Buren, Ark., right next door to Bob Burn’s ‘Aunt Puddy.’ After ‘Doug’ was graduated from Kansas University, he practiced law in Antlers and Tulsa, before moving to Oklahoma City.” Soon after Doug was made president of the Civic Club he renewed the idea of a community church for Nichols Hills.
Two years previously a great deal of enthusiasm was prevalent among the citizens for a nonsectarian, non-denominational church, to be centrally located on Grand Avenue parkway. Plans had gone so far as to name the church, “Little Church in the Dell,” and tentative building plans had been submitted. The revival of this project resulted in appointing the late Ed Stahl, then living at 6803 Grand Boulevard, general chairman and the following men to act as an advisory board: Solon Smith, Robert O. Bailey, George Bixler, E.R. Ledbetter, H. Dorsey Douglas and H.L. Douglass.
Churches of all denominations were represented in Nichols Hills, and it was not that anyone be asked to give up their own church, but to cooperate with the movement to the extent that a church building be provided. The most important thing was to provide facilities whereby a church school service might be made available to every child not attending Sunday school, because of the distance to established churches. But the non-denominational church never got much farther than the architect’s drawing board. Due to the rising costs and shortage of materials; the building program was temporarily abandoned.
When the question of building a church in Nichols Hills was again revived, it took on a more stable form, although some early pioneers still feel a non-denominational church would have been the answer for Nichols Hills. Out of these meager beginnings have emerged All Souls’ Episcopal Church, the first to be built in Nichols Hills; the Methodist Church of Nichols Hills; Nichols Hills Baptist Church, and the Christ the King Catholic Church. A building site also has been purchased in Nichols Hills by the Fifth Church of Christ, Scientist.
A nucleus of that first urge for a church in this community never gave up, and under the leadership of H. Dorsey Douglas, called on the Methodist Bishop for help in organizing a Methodist Church. In June 1948, the Methodist Church of Nichols Hills became a certainty, and the following Board of Stewards were elected at the first conference meeting: Ray Spradling, chairman; George R. Bixler, secretary; Al G. Crowe, treasurer, and as directors, C. Wayne Barbour, Dr. E. P. Allen, E. A. Northrup, Fred F. Fox, Cliff Skinner, Howard Millhorn, Moss Patterson, H. Dorsey Douglas, Barbour, J.J. Bollinger, G.A. Nichols and Luther Dulaney. Although plans were made for the new chapel to be located at Grand and Bedford Drive, the group did not wait for the new building. The first church service was held in the home of Mr. And Mrs. A.J. Bullard, 1212 Glenwood on June 20, 1948, with 40 men, women and children present.
Arrangements then were made to continue services, meeting in the fire station, at the town hall. An improvised pulpit was assembled each Sunday, a portable organ and folding chairs were arranged in the fire station, and this was the first Methodist Church in Nichols Hills. The new chapel was completed and the first service was held on the 31st of October 1948. The educational building has been enlarged several times, but the main sanctuary is still to be built. The church started out with a membership of 30 and today had 684 members. The Sunday school started with just enough to have all grades represented and today has an average of 221 pupils.
A resume of the beginnings of other churches of Nichols Hills will be continued next week.
Continuing with the history and development of the Methodist Church of Nichols Hills, the first pastor assigned to the church was Rev. Hubert Biggs, in 1948. Members of the new church were all from large churches and they were unanimous in wanting their new church to be a small, friendly community church. They set a goal for themselves and were going to make this church known throughout Nichols Hills as a “friendly church,” with a program to meet the spiritual needs of the community. Everyone, regardless of creed, was to be welcomed to and made to feel at home in the Methodist Church of Nichols Hills.
Rev. Charles Thigpen assumed the pastorate of the new church in 1950 and two additions were made to the church building program during the six years he was pastor. Additional ground was deeded to the church by late G.A. Nichols’ family, and has been developed by the Methodist Men’s organization to provide a recreational center for the youth of the community. Under the leadership of E.A. Northup, 6617 Avondale Drive, flood lights have been installed, tennis courts, basketball courts, shuffleboard and outdoor cooking facilities have been installed.
Rev. Byron Cravens was called to the church in 1956, and is pastor at the present time.
Another church development in the area that has paralleled the growth of Nichols Hills, was the West Nichols Hills Presbyterian Church, located at the corner of Greystone and Guilford Lane. Their beginning has a biblical significance, in that their first church services were held in a lowly stable. Mary, the mother of Jesus, found sanctuary in a lowly stable, when other accommodations were closed to her.
A few families had established homes in a new development in 1937, just east of May Avenue, and had called it West Nichols Hills. The Men’s class of the Central Presbyterian Church, in carrying out its motto of “taking the church to the people,” sponsored the establishment of a Sunday school in this new community. No building was available, but an old abandoned mule barn, formerly located on Britton Road, had been moved to the corner of Wilshire and May Avenue.
The face of the old stable had been changed several times. Once it had been converted into a meeting hall for salesmen, and then it was done over to provide housing for a school. During these transitional years, it had been wrecked twice by storms, but always came back with more to offer than was originally intended. When the members of the new West Nichols Hills Presbyterian Church began to look for a meeting place, again the old stable was called upon to do its bit in the advancement of human endeavor.
It was Mr. And Mrs. Glenn Bennett, living at 2833 Guilford Lane, who first saw the possibilities of using the old stable for their first Sunday school meeting May 17, 1942. Bennett was one of the first elders of the church and still is serving in that capacity. Another of the original builders of the church is Russell Sanders, 2810 Guilford who was a trustee at that time and still is on the board of trustees. They started with a membership of 40, and their treasury held $100.00 Present pastor is Rev. Harold Wells and the membership has grown to 550 members, with an average attendance at Sunday school of 260. Their beautiful new church is located at Greystone and Guilford Lane, and the church has only recently completed a new home for their pastor at 2600 Guilford Lane.