Childhood Memories

By Roseanne McKee

Republished with permission of the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise
One evening when I was in Tulsa with my friends Mark and Linda Simms, they took me to Coney Island — a family-owned restaurant established in 1926. They said the restaurant had special significance for Mark Simms. We agreed that one day he would tell me the story, and I would write about it. On Oct. 19, I arranged to meet him to hear about the important part the Coney Island Restaurant and its staff had played in his childhood.

“It started when mom took me to the Coney Island, and we stopped there and we ate. There was a long line, and we had to wait. … I used to watch people come in … they had kind of school-like benches.”

These were simpler times, when children were free to explore. As a child, Simms, remembering the location of the Coney Island he had visited with his mom, decided to venture there one his own one day.

“I was real young and I’d ride the bus downtown. When I got downtown, I’d walk to Coney Island,” Simms said. “I must have been in grade school. I don’t remember the exact age. Anyway, I knew all the bus routes around Tulsa, and I knew how to transfer. All the bus drivers knew me. It was real easy to get down there and get home because I knew the bus routes.

“Well, one day I ran out of money and I didn’t have enough money to buy lunch. So, I asked the owner, ‘could I work to get me a coney,’ and he looked at me and he said, ‘yeah, you can.’ He said, ‘if you’ll sweep the floors, mop, clean the desk and clean the bathroom, I’ll give you free chips, pop and a coney — as much as you want.’ At that time, that was a big deal for me.

“Anyway, this went on for a while. … and I got real familiar with him and his workers. If he was off, they would still give [lunch] to me.

“It got toward fall. I swept, mopped, and I went to get my coney and I couldn’t swallow. … So, I started crying. The owner came out and said, ‘what’s wrong, and he looked at me and felt my neck and said, ‘I think you have the mumps.’
“So, he called my mom, and they rushed me to Hillcrest. Of course, I did have the mumps, but I was still crying because I’d worked and didn’t get my coney,” he said with a laugh.

“The owner kept saying, don’t worry about it, you can still come over and get your coney. But that didn’t soothe me. I was still cryin’ cause I couldn’t eat my coney,” Simms said laughing.

“Time went by and I came in several times, and he served me a coney without working. Finally, I got to where I could work again and continue my coneys.
“I never did know his name … I just called him the Greek. He had those real thick eye glasses. He didn’t remember my name either. He’d say, ‘was the little Indian boy through yet?’ I knew him as the Greek, and he knew me as the little Indian boy. At that time we didn’t know each other’s name.

His daughter, Georgia Tsilekas, confirmed in a phone interview that her father who founded Coney Island, had worn thick eye glasses and his name was Christ Economou.

“Finally, we moved away from Suburban Acres,” Simms said.

He grew up and didn’t have much time to think of Tulsa and the Coney Island. He attended college, served in the Army and started a business in Bartlesville.
Years later on a day trip to Tulsa, Simms and his wife passed by the restaurant. It was open and so they went in.

“Everything was pretty much the same. I was going through the line, and there was a real pretty Greek girl. I told her the story and she said, ‘I’m the granddaughter.’ … While I was talking to her, her mother walked up and said, ‘I’m the daughter.’ As I’m going through the line she said, ‘he doesn’t have to pay for it.’ So, she gave me a free pop, chips and coney. She said, ‘I was a little girl, but I remembered something like that.’

“Later it closed and they opened in another location. … They had the old pictures on the wall. I couldn’t remember their names, but I recognized them. Linda took a picture of me out front.

“We still go to the new loctation, but my fondest memories are from the original little location downtown. That was my first job,” Simms said.

The family still owns Coney Island at the northwest corner of Archer and Main in the Brady District of Tulsa, and they still have the same school-style seating.

“My dad bought them used in 1926. They were restaurant chairs from the east,” Tsilekas explained.

Economou originally had 26 restaurants. Once established, he would sell each of them to an immigrant and move to another town until he arrived in Tulsa and decided to put down roots, she said.

“He had stores from Pennsylvania to Nebraska to Dallas. His cousin said, ‘I’ve heard Tulsa is a nice town. As soon as he got off the train and looked around, he said, ‘that’s the place where I want to be.

“He went back to Greece in 1929 and married my mom and brought her back,” Tsilekas said.

The Economous had three children — Georgia Tsilekas, Pope Kingsley, who owns the Coney Islander in Owasso, and James Economou, who owns the Coney Island in the Brady District — managed by his daughter-in-law, Vicki Economou.

Veterans Memorial dedicated on Osage Nation Campus


By Geneva HorseChief-Hamilton, ON Communications

Pawhuska, Okla., Osage Nation Reservation (Friday, November 9, 2018) – The first-ever memorial recognizing Osage US military veterans and pre-military scouts is scheduled for a public dedication on Veterans Day, Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018, from 9:30 am to 11:00 am. The momentous dedication will take place on the lawn by the Osage Nation Museum in Pawhuska at 873 Grandview Avenue. The memorial features a twenty-foot eagle feather and a place for recognition of each branch of the military with the name of those Osages who served in those branches.

Recognizing Osage Veterans
“This memorial, like all other memorials is a bridge to the past for the people in the present to have some understanding of the great cost of war,” said Franklin McKinley (Osage), a veteran and the chair of the Osage Veterans Memorial Commission (OVM) in a speech to the Osage Nation Congress. “Loss is just not on the battlefield alone, but back at home as well. Memorials are a compassionate way of respectfully reminding all of the sacrifices that are made by our veterans.”

“This memorial is bringing back the native tradition of honoring our warriors. Some have made the ultimate sacrifice, and this memorial will celebrate the lives of women and men that believed in something greater than themselves,” said Maria DeRoin, the Communications Consultant for the Osage Veterans Memorial Commission (OVM). She has been working with the OVM, architects, construction companies, and Osage Nation Tribal Development to finalize the details of the memorial long-awaited completion.

DeRoin (Osage citizen) is a twenty-year US Navy veteran. In early December 2017, she was contracted by the Osage Nation to spearhead the completion of the memorial project to meet the target date of Veterans Day 2018. Initial legislation for the concept began in 2011 when legislation was passed to fund the “Osage War Memorial” sponsored by, then Osage Congressman, Principal Osage Nation Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear. The memorial fund and title of the monument were changed to “Osage Veterans Memorial” by legislation introduced by Congresswoman Angela Pratt in 2017 to include all Osage veterans, like herself, whether they are combat veterans or not. Both Standing Bear and Pratt remained actively involved in the planning stages of the memorial’s construction with the OVM.

The Osage Veterans Memorial
“This structure is a perfect circle that is 66-feet across and extends four-feet below the surface. In the center of the memorial is a water feature on the north side and there is seating on the south side. Pavers cover the walking surface in and around the centerpiece structure that leads to three large beautiful gazebos,” said Talee RedCorn (Osage) who is a veteran and the project lead for the construction of the memorial.

The highlight feature is a uniquely crafted twenty-foot eagle feather situated upright like the eagle feathers worn by Osage men under the Ilonshka Dance Arbor, or ceremonial Osage dances. Mary Frances West Williams, the president of the Hominy War Mothers Chapter and president of the Oklahoma War Mothers Association, requested the memorial have water features. She felt water was calming and that Osage warriors coming home could find a tranquil and peaceful place to reflect on their experiences. The designer, Wallace Engineering, included a granite waterfall structure and a waterfall as the centerpiece holding the eagle feather. Five granite plinths suround the large eagle feather and each granite plinth is decorated with a Department of Defense Seal (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard) and has the names of Osage veterans inscribed on the granite face.

“So many military veterans (Osage and non-Osage) have worked on the memorial. Each have expressed a sense of pride since all veterans agree they are a unique brother- and sisterhood,” said RedCorn about the number of veterans involved in the completion of the Osage Veterans Memorial.

“I would like to thank the Chief and Congresswomen Pratt for sponsoring the OVM bills, Tribal Development, the Roads Dept., Builders unlimited, Inc., Pryse Monument, Wallace Engineering, and R+K Studio,” said DeRoin.

Osage Veterans Memorial Commission
The Osage Veterans Memorial Commission, formally the War Memorial Commission, was established by the Osage Nation Congress in 2011. The purpose of the Commission is to follow the Osage Nation tradition of honoring Osage veterans…[and] to provide a physical reminder for present and future generations of the contributions and sacrifices of Osage veterans and their families.”

Boys State an inspiring experience

By: Roseanne McKee

Republished with permission of the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise

The Chris Gailey American Legion Post 450 in Ochelata chose Weston Moses, 17,
to attend the American Legion Oklahoma Boys State, a weeklong camp, hosted annually by the American Legion.
Moses, a senior at Caney Valley High School, described this year’s Boys State as a life-changing experience. The camp, in its 79th year, took place starting the last Saturday in May at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College in Miami.
The week began with marching exercises and concluded with learning to run a government.
“We learned how to get into formation like someone in the military would do. We did trust exercises and learned how to properly carry the flag,” Moses said.
Moses described some of the other things they did at the camp.
“One thing that I thought was real neat was we learned how to salute higher ranks in the military — the way a sergeant would salute a colonel,” Moses said.
He demonstrated the salute as he spoke: “You stand with your feet heels touching at a 45 degree angle and hold your hands at your side like you’re holding a roll of quarters with thumbs down, shoulders back; then with your hand perfectly straight, keeping your chin and eyes forward, you salute. After the colonel salutes, you don’t put your hand down until they do.”
“To me there’s no better way to highlight what we do as the world’s largest veteran’s organization. … I know that when these several hundred boys leave here every year, they know what American Legion is, they’re going to tell others about it and, hopefully, like me someday they’ll go on to serve and join themselves and carry on the tradition,” said Director of Oklahoma Boys State Clay Ballenger.
Speaking of is experience, Moses said, “I think a lot of it was about citizenship and Americanism — how to be a good role model in your community. Everybody has a role or a job in his community whether you realize it or not.”
The camp staff of about 30 demonstrated this by having the attendees learn about how to run a government. Students were separated into groups of 20, called cities, Moses said. The students remained in these groups for lodging. There were nine cities total, he said. The students elected boys within their groups to hold positions within each city and learn how to govern.
Moses also enjoyed meeting everyone at the camp.
“The sergeants and the colonels I met … you make a lot of connections,” Moses said.
Speaking of his peers, Moses said: “Those are friendships that will last for a while. They chose a group of boys who showed responsibility, respect and what they thought it was to be a true citizen. … Everybody I met at Boys State were people who put others before themselves.
“Attending was a big responsibility but I was very, very pleased to have been chosen — just the responsibility and the happiness it gives you to know you were selected as one of the most respected kids in northeast Oklahoma — every day showing your committed to respecting and putting others before yourself and your community,” Moses said.
Corey Brooks, the assistant director of Oklahoma Boys State said the camp was an opportunity to “get to know who you are as a team … as an individual … and who you’re going to be in the future as part of this great fabric of society.”
In fact, the experience influenced Moses’ thoughts about the future. “After graduation, I plan to join the Air Force and go into healthcare to get an EMT license. That would put me on the front lines in helping others during a disaster.”
Then, Moses plans to pursue a nursing degree at Oklahoma State University or the University of Oklahoma, he said.
The Chris Gailey American Legion Post 450 meets the second Monday of the month at 7 p.m. at the Caney Valley Senior Center in Ochelata. To join this post, or to nominate a student for next year’s Boys State, call the Post Commander Ray Raley at (951) 218-2708.

WWI Osage Code Talker to be Honored at Veteran’s Day Celebration

Press Release By Geneva HorseChief-Hamilton, ON Communications

PAWHUSKA, Okla. (Tuesday, November 8, 2016) – The oldest living relative of a WWI Osage Code Talker will receive a proclamation and a silver medal recognizing her grandfather’s wartime contributions, at this year’s Veterans Day Dance in Pawhuska, Okla., on Friday, November 11. The special recognition has been made possible by diligent efforts by the Osage Nation Office of the Chiefs to finally recognize the historic contributions of Osage Code Talkers.

Augustus Chouteau was confirmed as a WWI Osage Code Talker by the Department of Defense.  To mark this fact, the United States Mint created a sold silver duplicate Osage Code Talker medal to be presented to the Chouteau family. Osage Nation Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear will read the proclamation and present the medal to Chouteau’s granddaughter, Francis Chouteau Jones, at 2 p.m.

“My grandmother told me that those boys [Osage enlisted] spoke to each other over there in the native language so no one could understand them.  It was one of the few things I knew about my grandfather and I made sure to tell all my daughters,” said Francis Chouteau Jones.  When asked how she felt about this Department of Defense certifying her grandfather as a Code Talker she said “I was so very proud, it was something that we knew all along.”   

The timing for the events leading up to this occasion perfectly coincides with the traditional honoring of Osage veterans that takes place every year at the Post Legion 198 Veterans Day Dance. The Hominy War Mothers are hosting the dance this year and are providing a program with a list of Osage family songs and the day’s agenda.

It is a long-standing Osage tradition for the families of Osage veterans to donate beautifully decorated Veterans Day cakes with the name of their family member written on the cake. These cakes will be available for everyone attending to enjoy along with a traditional Osage meal at 5p.m.

The dance will begin at 11 a.m. by raising the flag at the WahZhaZhi Cultural Center at 1449 West Main Street in Pawhuska. The afternoon program begins at 1 p.m., supper break is at 5 p.m., and the evening’s dance program begins at 7 p.m

Disabled American Veterans (DAV) organization helps veterans apply for benefits in Barnsdall


Sr. CSO Roy Taylor and CSO Ron Price


Chapter 65 of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), which is part of a national service organization, established an office in Barnsdall on Oct. 7, 2010, to help veterans, and their families, obtain benefits.

Senior Chapter Service Officer Roy Taylor and Chapter Service Office Ron Price are available to help veterans from 9 a.m. to noon on Thursdays at American Legion Post No. 227, located at 416 E. Main Street in Barnsdall.

“The DAV is not affiliated with the American Legion, but uses the office space there,” Taylor said. Roy Taylor and Ron Price volunteer their time, without compensation, every Thursday to help veterans apply for benefits.

“We file the paperwork for compensation for the veterans. We advise them about their medical benefits also,” Taylor said.

Taylor and Price want to spread the word that they have established the Barnsdall office. “We serve three to four [people] every Thursday. Sometimes it takes 10 to 15 minutes, and other times it takes an hour and a half,” Taylor said.

Taylor explained the DAV organization’s purpose. “The DAV is known for two things: service work and taking people to the doctor.”

If a veteran needs transportation to a Veterans Administration medical facility for a doctor’s visit or extended hospital stay, they can be placed on the DAV van schedule. “If they need a ride to the doctor in Tulsa, we have a van and we set it up to take them,” Taylor said.

“The van will leave early enough to take them down there. Then in turn, the van waits and brings them back that evening.” If someone needs to stay overnight, transportation can be arranged to accommodate this as well, Taylor explained.

“The DAV owns the van, but the Veterans Administration runs the van,” Taylor said.

Regarding veterans benefits, Taylor and Price said that they help people in a variety of ways.

They can help the veteran apply for disability benefits for: Injuries sustained in military service, health care, spouses, education and more.

 One way Taylor and Price help, is to assist the spouses of veterans to make applications for death benefits.

One spousal benefit is grave headstones. “I’ve helped two veterans’ families when veterans had passed away get the proper headstones,” Price said.

“A lot of people don’t know to tell the funeral director that a spouse was a veteran,” Taylor said.

Another benefit is health care for the veterans and their spouses. Taylor and Price explain to veterans all of the health benefits available.

The benefits of CHAMP VA health insurance is one example. “If a veteran is 100 percent disabled, but not retirement age, the spouse can apply for CHAMP VA health insurance,” Taylor said. “Even at retirement age, a spouse can get CHAMP VA as a secondary medical insurance.

Another category of benefits are educational assistance for children of 100 percent disabled veterans.

 A child of a 100 percent disabled veteran, who has graduated from high school and is 18 years old, can receive compensation to go to a technical school or a two- or four-year college or university, Taylor said.

These are just a few of the ways Taylor and Price help veterans take advantage of all the benefits available.

When fully trained, Price will operate the Barnsdall DAV location on his own, Taylor said. “I’m the senior service officer here, so I’m trying to help him until he’s fully trained.”

As a point of reference, the DAV office is on the left, just inside the American Legion Post in Barnsdall. The Osage County Nutrition Center operates a satellite lunch program from the same American Legion Post.

For more information about the DAV’s services in Barnsdall call the office at 918-534-3988 on Thursdays from 9 a.m. to noon.

Ron Price is available by cell phone number at 918-724-1045.

Roy Taylor is available by cell phone number at 918-214-2999.