Other article titles on this page:
Alex heralds statehood with largest celebration ever
Miss Bertha, get me Uncle John - the telephone in early Alex
The Saturday Experience in old Alex
An infamous Saturday night in old Alex - the second coming of the Ku Klux Klan
Clickable keywords for these articles: July 4, 1908 Alex Tribune article, town growth, Washita River Bridge, first school, Alex Jail, incorporation of Alex township, first town leaders, agriculture, population, telephone service, Washita Valley Telephone Service, Alex Telephone Exchangedial telephones, telephone party lines, Medicine Shows, Chautauquas, traveling road shows, early ordinances, movie theaters, Ku Klux Klan
This photo of Main Street in Alex was taken circa 1923
The new town of Alex, OK, kicked off the first year of statehood with the largest celebration ever held there. According to an article in the Alex Tribune, 2500 people came to Alex on July 4, 1908. The newspaper heralded the town-wide festivities: Like everything else that takes place in the biggest town of its size in the new state, the celebration was a real success from every standpoint; they came on the train from both ways, they came in every kind of vehicle from a carriage to a lumber wagon. They came on horseback by the hundreds and it’s safe to say that the good ole American eagle screamed til she was black in the face to a crowd who thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Four pleasing speakers included Mr. Ireton, Dr. Riddle, Mr. Stacy and “Battle Ax” Bob Glover. The Lindsay Coronet band rendered patriotic music in a manner that pleased the crowd. A baseball game was played between Bradley and a ‘pickup’ team from Alex in which Bradley won, but don’t worry about that; we hope someday to be able to offer an article of a national game that will cause our friends to sit up and take notice! The grand affair also included some unusual sports, basket picnic, bowery dances and fireworks at night.
Statehood also saw an explosion of growth and prosperity in and around Alex. Sidewalks were constructed in 1908 from the train depot to the foot of the hill on south Main Street and the Methodists and Baptists both built new churches. Nearly every train brought new residents to Alex and the town boasted 27 thriving businesses, in addition to a new “calaboose.” Clubs were organized, some social, but most for the betterment of the community. Organized labor crews manned by volunteers undertook major community works, including several re-buildings of the problem-plagued Washita River Bridge, which was then located east of the present day Alex School. This bridge provided the only access to Alex from the north and was often washed out or even swept away when heavy rains came. The 65 members of the labor crew met on July 10, 1908 to work on the bridge but the water was so high the work had to be postponed. By December of that same year, a temporary bridge had been put in place but was washed out despite the community’s efforts to save it. Long time community resident Annie Elliot recalled coming as a child with her family into Alex to sell milk. The family had just passed over the bridge when they heard a loud roar and looked back to see the bridge being washed away. Another long time Alex resident, Juanita Moore, who lived north of the Washita, recalls missing an entire year of school at Alex because of problems with the bridge.
In 1908, a new $20,000, two and a half story brick school building was erected on the hill in the middle of the south end of Main Street, facing north and overlooking the Alex business district. Main Street was not a through street at the time and First Street provided the main access to Alex from the south. Mr. Ooley was first superintendent of Alex School. The school was severely damaged by a tornado in 1917 and was condemned, making it necessary to relocate to the present school site.
A March 13, 1908 article in the Alex Tribune states that a new "calaboos" was being planned and it appears a small concrete holding cell was built shortly thereafter, about two blocks north and slightly west of the Alex bank. In years past when fewer trees were present in town, the Alex jail could reportedly be seen clearly from the bank.
The picture to the right is of this small jail as it appeared in 2013 in the backyard of the Graham house on the south side of west C Street. The heavy slotted iron door of the jail had been removed and was propped inside the structure, too heavy to move into place for this picture. The Grahams report they once had the key that opened the massive jail door. The heavy iron door and small barred windows of the crudely built hut ensured no one escaped. One longtime Alex resident said offenders were held in the old Alex jail only until county law enforcement officials could come to pick them up for transport to the county jail.
The Town of Alex was officially incorporated in 1910. Town officials were elected and Dr. Hanna served as the first Mayor. The First National Bank was established April 17, 1912 by CE Costello, LL Laws and RK Wooten with JA Corzine as President of the Board. Alex had two banks until one month later when the First State Bank merged with the First National, which began with $22,000 on deposit and continued its policy of supporting local farming and industry. The First National’s deposits increased to $75,000 by October 1913.
Stock market reports from Kansas City and Ft. Worth recognized the Alex, OK, area as famed for raising cattle that brought top prices at market. By the season ending August 5, 1910, 118 rail cars of melons had been shipped from Alex at price of $150 per car. In 1913, hay sold for $12 per ton; Spanish peanuts yielded 40 to 100 bushels per acre and brought 75 cents to $1.25 per bushel. The Wynnewood Cotton Oil Company and Alex Gin Company together handled 1700 bales of cotton. The highest price paid for cotton was $24.90. Land could be purchased for $25 to $75 per acre and the value expected to increase.
The Chitwoods, shown in their younger years on the
Pre-Statehood page, lived in Alex for many years, both before
and after Oklahoma statehood.
Early day communication in Alex and the new state of Oklahoma consisted mostly of the US Mail and newspapers but the telephone soon proved the best means of local communication. Telephone service was first established in Alex in 1907 when a relay switch from Rush Springs was located in the Chitwood home southwest of town. In 1908, the Washita Valley Telephone Company was opened and, like most businesses of the time, changed owners and locations several times before 1913, when Henry Graham returned to Alex and became a second-time owner of the Alex Telephone Exchange. Graham installed a new switchboard at 111 W. Broadway and published the first telephone directory. His daughter, Miss Bertha Graham, was the telephone operator and served the town in several capacities. She came to recognize most Alex residents by their voice and knew all the telephone numbers “by heart,” making it possible to call anyone in town without saying anything other than “Get me Uncle John.” Miss Bertha kept people up to date on happenings in Alex and if she did not know what was going on, she could immediately find out anything, such as whether the bank robbers had been caught, who owned the hogs running loose on Main Street or who was involved in the scrape behind the drug store. Miss Bertha generally kept up with the whereabouts of the doctor and the town Marshall in case of emergency and could recruit a bucket brigade in the event of a fire. By 1916, 150 people in Alex had telephones.
In 1991, former Alex resident Robert E. Moore gave his account of the Alex telephone operator: After they put in the dial telephones in Alex and cut ‘Central’ out of the loop, there was no way to get the scoop on the news. We used the operator for everything – wake up calls, passing on information to someone we couldn’t reach, locating someone who wasn’t home, finding out why all those cars were parked in front of the Jones’ house – all those good things, including telling the newspaper editor where he might pick up a story for the paper.
Mr. Graham sold the telephone exchange to RL Evans of Rush Springs, who relocated the office in 1922 to its permanent home on the second floor of the Bank Building, over the Alex Tribune, where it remained until the dial system was installed in 1954.
Early rural residents wanting phone service joined together to put up their own poles and run their own lines to the nearest service. This practice continued until about 1947, when party lines shared by eight homes each were made available by Southwestern Bell. Residents could hear the rings of only four of the eight parties and calls were distinguished by various rings. Curious people could listen in on the conversations of all eight parties. If one party tied up the line with a long call, another might pick up the phone to ask that they hang up so someone else could use the phone.
Despite the challenges of recovering from tornados, floods and fires that wrecked homes or left businesses inches deep in mud and water, Alex residents still found time for fun. Entertainment in Alex in the years after statehood was designed primarily to support the town’s growing economy by getting people in from the fields and onto Main Street. In 1912, a medicine show sponsored a Most Popular Girl Contest in Alex and Grace Ramsey (Mrs. Louis Sloan) won a watch. In 1917, a three-day tent Chautauqua brought an educational group to town to present lectures, concerts and recitals. Traveling road shows such as The Bonheur Brothers drew large crowds to Alex with featured movies, vaudeville acts and trained ponies all in a large tent for one price. Later, the well-known road show “Bubbles and Ramona” offered music and standup comedy. Large fairs were held in Alex with exhibits by area farmers and ranchers, businesses, organizations and individuals. Much like today, winners were paid cash premiums donated by local merchants.
Alex town officials and community organizations made every effort to make their town a more attractive place. The sanitation problems posed by horses tied in front of businesses were remedied in 1914 when merchants were required by town ordinance to replace their porch posts with chains suspending their awnings from the building tops. Hitching posts were then installed alongside and behind stores. In 1921, a public restroom for women, children and travelers was constructed on Main Street and furnished with a table, rocker, armchair and settee. Water was available at the Keottle Filling Station on the corner of Main and E Streets.
Alex Boosters brought patrons by the wagonload to town and the wagon carrying the most people was declared the winner. Trades Days also featured prominently in the development of Alex. On Saturdays, ticket drawings were held for cash prizes and groceries. In 1926, the grand drawing prize was a Ford touring car donated by Alex merchants and won by Mr. Bobbett. Saturday contests were popular and included goat roping, mule races and a women’s nail driving competition. In 1934, Mrs. Mayburn Ramsey was the best nail driver, Mrs. Pearl Good placed second and Mrs. JR Goyne finished third.
The moving picture show came to Alex in 1917 when Jim White opened the 400-seat Victory Theater near the present lumber yard building. (White also operated the town’s first Ford agency). The Victory was open three nights a week, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. In 1920, Thursday nights featured silent serials of The Adventures of Ruth Roland and the Black Secret. At the Rex Theater in 1929, crowds gathered for the first talking picture show ever “voiced” in Alex. The movie Simba, a thrilling film of the natural life of Africa, sold a total of 815 tickets. School was dismissed and 190 Alex pupils attended the show. Two days later, Bradley brought 104 students. The Rex Theater was destroyed by fire in 1932. The photo below depicts an unknown individual waiting outside the movie theater located on Main Street in Alex. The date is estimated at between 1917 and 1925.
The legendary “Blue Moon” Theater with air conditioning, 275 luxurious seats and a sloping floor, was opened on the site of the Rex in 1940. Established by Mr. and Mrs. Harry Waldron, a novelty feature of the theater was the “cry room,” designed for mothers and restless babies. The glass-enclosed cry room was located upstairs in the theater, held two seats and was equipped with separate speakers. The opening feature, Granny Get Your Gun, starring May Robeson, sold out at prices of 10, 15 and 20 cents. Movies were shown seven days a week with matinees on Saturday. Weekly cash drawings were held to attract townspeople to week night movies. Later, the Blue Moon’s Saturday Night Preview, beginning at 11:00 pm, kept people in town until after midnight.
Alex senior citizens recall interesting town entertainments such as the traveling portable roller skating rink, Sunday afternoon ropings, rodeos held at the arena located behind the present Merchant Garage and the all-too-often opportunity to wade and boat on Main Street during floods.
The “Saturday Experience” in old Alex included shopping, conducting business, visiting with friends, seeing a movie, dropping by the pool hall or croquet court or simply listening to the music coming from jukeboxes in local restaurants. Alex merchants kept their doors open late on Saturday nights with Yount’s Drug doing business until 2:00 am to accommodate those attending the Preview or waiting for the movie to conclude. The Shields truck was regularly called out two or three times on Saturday to deliver more ice cream. Men with disputes to settle gathered behind Yount’s and the night watchman kept an eye out to maintain law and order.
This photo was taken with a Brownie camera by early Alex resident FD Laws, a brave man who stepped in front of the Klan to photograph them in Alex at night. A scan of the original photo was generously donated to this site by his granddaughters, Rita Laws and Mary Smith.
It is important to remember that the small town of Alex, Oklahoma often directly reflects the attitudes of our state and even parts of our entire nation. No purpose would be served to say here that a part of our history was not violent, racist, bloody and even incomprehensible by today's standards. As shown in the photo above, this was particularly true one night in May 1922 when the Ku Klux Klan marched down Main Street in Alex.
A June 2, 1922 Alex Tribune article described the Klan's visit to Alex: The Ku Klux Klan, 99 strong, paraded in Alex Saturday night [May 27, 1922]. This was witnessed by the largest crowd ever in Alex. That Saturday morning everyone was suprised to see signs painted on storefronts and sidewalks annoucing that the Klan would march. At the appointed hour the streets were crowded when cars began arriving and parked at the Alta Hotel. Lights went out and Klansmen in white robes got out and paraded two-by-two, circling Main Street twice bfore getting in their cars and silently leaving town. Not a cheer or loud noise was heard during or after the parade and the crowd disbursed quietly.
Sunday night [May 28, 1922], five Klansmen marched down the aisle of the Methodist Church and handed Reverend Taylor a letter containing $10. There were reports that the same events transpired at churchs in Bradley and Ireton.
We do not know which Klan chapter is shown in the picture and do not care to know. The identities of the bystanders are not known. Several longtime Alex residents have reported that there was an Alex Chapter of the Ku Klux Klan and the focus of their "moral policing" was not African Americans, but was instead white citizens who required moral "redirection."
Click here to read more about the Ku Klux Klan in Oklahoma.
Click here to watch a video produced by the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority (OETA) about the Klan in Oklahoma. Viewer discretion is advised because this video portrays deadly violence against racial minorities.
A number of the summaries of the post-statehood history of Alex were published in the Lindsay (Oklahoma) News and The Chickasha (Oklahoma) Star-Express in 2007. The summaries included here were written by Sue Moore, a lifelong Alex resident, 1958 graduate of Alex High School, graduate of USAO in Chickasha and former Alex High School teacher. The articles were edited by Teresa Moore, 1979 graduate of Alex High School and 1982 graduate of the University of Oklahoma. Faye Hess, former Alex Elementary School teacher, provided research assistance. Faye, a native Kentuckyian, took her undergraduate degree at Asbury College in Wilmore, KY, and her Masters at Georgetown College in Georgetown, KY.