Editor's Note: The following article is another in a continuing series of interviews with longtime area residents about their recollections of the past. The series is being presented in conjunction with the state's Diamond Jubilee Anniversary.
By: Altha Ross
Herald Staff Writer
The year was 1924 and Sapulpa was a thriving railroad town with streetcars operating on Dewey and Main Streets.
It was the year Otis Rule moved to the area as a division store accountant for the Frisco railroads.
Rule reflected on the Sapulpa of that era -- a time when Sapulpa was the city and Tulsa was the town.
"There was a large sign that read 'Sapulpa -- The Oil City of the Southwest,'" Rule recalled.
In 1927, the Frisco yard that had been located here was moved to Tulsa after its city fathers made an offer Frisco couldn't refuse. For awhile, Rule said, Sapulpa almost folded.
Rule continued to work for the Frisco lines until 1929 when he went to work for a wholesale furniture store in Tulsa.
That didn't last long, Rule recalled. In 1931 the store went bankrupt.
However, Rule had gotten his first taste of the furniture business, which would later become his career.
It would be six years before Rule would return to the furniture trade. In the meantime, Rule would serve the city's educational system as Clerk of Education and business manager.
In 1934, Rule was elected to the Sapulpa Board of Education.
"At that time," he said, "we worked with a budget that had a low of $96,000 and a high of $110,000, compared with the more than $3 million school budget we have now."
There were 80 teachers employed by the school district at a salary of between $40 and $50 a month for 10 months, Rule remembered.
"If you had a master's degree and three years' experience, you could earn as much at $115 per month," he recalled.
There was also a junior college in Sapulpa, Rule remembered. "It was located at the high school and provided a student with the first two years of college."
At that time, Rule was earning $50 per month. He relied upon door-to-door peddling to keep him going.
Flea powder, roach powder and mothballs were among the items he sold.
"I would buy the products for six cents, sell them to the agents for 12 cents and they would sell them to the housewives for 25 cents."
As a member of the board of education, Rule was responsible for obtaining funds from the W.P.A. projects to build Holmes Park bleachers and Washington and South Heights schools.
"All of this was obtained without any financial participation by schools or the city," Rule said.
The year 1937 brought Rule back to the furniture business when he and J. Milford Davis purchased the Wilson Bros. Furniture Company at 210 E. Dewey. At that time there were 11 furniture stores in Sapulpa. That was the beginning of what would become the Rule Furniture Company in 1952.
"We have always operated under the 'Golden Rule,' and business has continued to increase every year," Rule said. "We have never had a year in which we fell behind."
He has watched as furniture trends have made a complete circle.
"We went from solid woods and veneers to plastics, and we are now back to solid woods," Rule noted.
The young people are buying the same kind of furniture their grandparents bought at the turn of the century, Rule said.
"The young people are buying all oak. We don't sell that to any of the older people," Rule explained.
Walnut was a popular wood for a long time, he said; however, there is very little left. It's about all used up.
Rule rcalled there was a time when gum trees were popular for furniture; but they, also, have become too scarce for furniture production today.
An octogenarian, Rule was born in Afton in 1898, he continues to be active in civic affairs.
For the past 16 years, Rule has served the area as a member of the Creek County Industrial Authority, an agency that works to attract new industry to the region.
"The authority has financed about 16 different industries with a total loan approval of $55 million," Rule said.
More than 1,000 new employees have been brought into Creek County since the authority got underway, he explained.
A company must be a manufacturer in order to meet the requirements for assistance, Rule explained. "A retailer cannot qualify."
A lot of money has been brought into town by these companies, Rule said as he considered the future of the town he has called home for the past 58 years.
"Sapulpa is alive," he said. "You know when a town's growing because national chains come in. Over the past decade we have had TG&Y, Wal-Mart and Zales Jewelers open stores locally."
Rule was part of Sapulpa when it was thriving, remained part of the town when it was struggling to survive and is very much part of the Sapulpa of the 1980s -- a town Rule believes will one day reach all the way to the Arkansas River.
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