Grant Mears Blown Up on 14th Street, Hundreds of Curiosity Seekers Visited the Scene of the Accident and Secured Souvenirs

The date was Monday afternoon, October 9, 1916. The location was South Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and the address was south of 14th Street between Osage and Cherokee. Enter Grant G. Mears, a nitro glycerine hauler for the Eastern Torpedo Company of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Nestled in his white truck were 150 quarts of nitroglycerin canisters. And exactly 4:30 in the afternoon, it is assumed that Mears truck hit a bump that caused a violent explosion that shook the entire city, and caused Mears’ body to be blown into so many pieces, in so many directions, that most of the body pieces could not be found.

The explosion ripped a hole in the road, 18 feet across and three feet deep. If there had not been a solid limestone rock base, the damage would have been greater. Everybody in Bartlesville either felt the blast, or had damage done to their homes and businesses.

Some of the damage reports were:

– First National Bank Building downtown lost their south side plate glass window, in addition to other windows.

– Telephone poles were shattered and burned.

– A wrench was thrown as far as 1304 Dewey, where it struck the side of W.L. Harned’s house.

– Two children nearby were cut on their foreheads by flying glass.

– Hundreds of panes of glass had to be replaced, along with many homes with roof damage, as well as structural wall damages to several homes.

The house at 1400 Delaware (2017 picture) received the most structural home damage:

 

 

 

 

 

Newspaper articles dated in October, 1916 (click to enlarge):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grant Mears lived in West Bartlesville, Oklahoma, at 116 Kaw, and had recently been married. Mears had the reputation of being a dependable man in the business, and had handled nitro for 28 years. His remains were shipped to Fayette, Missouri for burial.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Probably the morbid aspect of this story was the behavior of the citizens of Bartlesville. When the blast first happened, there was a panic in downtown Bartlesville with people thinking the city was being bombed. But once the real story was understood, hundreds of people rushed to the site for ‘souvenirs’. If pieces of flesh were found, they were turned over to the funeral parlor. But pieces of the truck, or anything that was part of the explosion, were carried off by scores of people for ‘souvenirs’.

AMERICAN GLYCERINE COMPANY

The American Glycerine Company’s nitroglycerin plant was located at Torpedo Switch, approximately 3 miles outside Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Many years ago, the KATY Railroad abandoned the track that runs from Bartlesville to Oklahoma City. Torpedo Switch was a settlement along this Katy railroad, where the nitroglycerin warehouse was located. It was blown up in 1922, which I will write about later, in another bizarre explosion. Torpedo Switch today, 2017:

“Shooting” was used to stimulate oil wells.  Liquid Nitroglycerin (LNG) has always been a favored explosive for well shooting. These explosives were poured into metal canisters called “torpedoes” and lowered into the well. The problem was very few people really understood the explosive. As a result, many people were blown to pieces from nitroglycerin accidents in the Bartlesville area, before being outlawed. This included children who would find old nitro canisters that had been buried, while out playing in fields, and pick them up. There were also stories of nitroglycerin canisters being buried in the Caney River. I would think with violent storms and floods that we have from time to time, would have caused any ‘stray’ canisters to explode. We can only hope that is the case! Just in case, if you are out digging for history, and you see old metal type canisters, call 911 and stay away until experts can investigate!

 

Marilyn Monroe visits the Osage Theater in Bartlesville, Oklahoma!

Marilyn Monroe came to Bartlesville, Oklahoma’s Osage Theater on July 15, 1955….in the form of a life size die-cut cardboard image. The beginning of the famous graphic event happened on September 15, 1954 when Sam Shaw photographed the famous “flying skirt” image of Marilyn Monroe on Lexington Avenue between 52nd and 53rd Street in New York City.

Photography by Sam Shaw

The first giant life size poster was a fifty-two foot figure of Marilyn Monroe that was installed at Loew’s State Theater in New York City on May 19, 1955. It was a publicity stunt for the movie ‘The Seven Year Itch’.

Publicity Stunt at Loew’s in New York City

It was so effective, the movie studio shipped the life size Monroe cardboard cut-out to theaters all across the country. Phil Hays, manager of the Osage Theater, received one in 1955, and installed it in front of the theater.  Phil Hays, Jr. told me that for many decades this cut-out was stored in his attic. This is the 10 x 13 photograph of the Osage Theater front with the life size graphic art.

Osage Theater in Bartlesville, Oklahoma

 

Phil Hays, manager of the Osage Theater,  was a huge part of the movie scene of Bartlesville, Oklahoma. In 2009 I searched for him so I could get an interview. I couldn’t believe it, I found his name in the Bartlesville phone book, he lived in the Camelot addition in Bartlesville. I called him and asked if I could come and talk to him, and he said yes. My associate, Karen Kerr McGraw and I met with him, and we also met his lovely wife, Emily. I was surprised when I found out he was Phil Hays Jr., and that Phil Hays Sr. had passed away in 1968. But I quickly learned that he and Emily had worked for the theaters also, and all of his father’s movie memorabilia had passed to him. We sat and learned so much about the Osage Theater, and many other theaters in Bartlesville. I was lucky enough to have two more interviews with the Hays couple, along with my associate, Sally Ashe Barnard. I don’t think anybody in Bartlesville has as much theater information as the Hays family. Sadly, Phil Hays Jr. passed away in 2011.

Emily Hays with Sally Ashe Barnard

The Seven Year Itch showed at the Osage Theater Sunday through Thursday, July 16, 1955, with a prevue (midnight show).

Seven Year Itch

As a side note, I am including a video clip of the actual 10 x 13 photo, alongside  Gunner. The huge cut-out basically was a publicity stunt, that happened all across the country. It was very successful, making Marilyn Monroe a household name and assured her fame. Gunner wanted to be a part of this story, so I said ‘sure, why not’? (What a hound)!

Vintage Osage Theater:

I don't know who the photographer is, but I would guess Griggs.
Vintage picture of Osage Theater in background. Notice the streets were still brick then.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Andy Dominguez History

You might say that I have Bartlesville theater history through my grandmother. Her name was Bess Larrimore (7-28-1913 ~ 9-26-2008), and she was a young divorcee with a small son, Richard Lee, who was my father. She lived downtown Bartlesville at the Palace Hotel, and was a waitress for Eng’s Café. While working at Eng’s, she met and married a handsome man, Andy Dominguez, who was the projectionist at the Arrow Theater, and then the Osage Theater. Andy was well liked, and is still known today as respecting people, while always tipping his hat when walking past them. He was born in 1898 in Santa Fe, New Mexico. His family ended up in Dewey, Oklahoma, where he graduated high school. Andy and Grandma Bess eventually had two children from their union, Anita and Mike, in addition to my dad, Richard Lee Dominguez (who had been adopted by Andy Dominguez). Uncle Mike became an usher at the Arrow/Osage Theaters, and has a lot of great memories and stories. He and his wife, Bonnie, have lived in Phoenix, Arizona since completing his duties in the Navy.

Mike Dominguez
Bess Dominguez downtown Bartlesville, Oklahoma
Andy Dominguez, Sr.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have heard many times that everybody at the theater enjoyed their jobs, they all got along, and they really and truly enjoyed everybody they worked with. So I would surmise that Phil Hays Sr. and Phil Hays Jr. provided a work environment that was very successful! 

LEE DOMINGUEZ HISTORY

I have a couple of favorite stories of my dad. When Bess was working at Eng’s Café (in the 40’s), she would let dad go to the Caney River to go fishing with his cousin, Leroy. When they would catch a large fish, they would run all the way and show it to Mr. Eng. He would hold it up, and then say ‘that looks like a keeper’, and would take a quarter out of the register and pay the boys. They would jump for joy! They would run all the way to the corner store, and buy candy. And of course, that day Mr. Eng would offer fresh fish for his Special of the Day.

The other story about my dad is when he worked for the newspaper. At 9 years old, he stood on the street corner of downtown Bartlesville, on 2nd and Johnstone, and yelled ‘Extra, extra, read all about it’! His arms would be loaded down with Bartlesville newspapers, and he couldn’t go home until every last paper was sold. There were other young paper boys on every street corner, so he learned about competition early in life. He would have somebody tell him about the lead story, and then he would yell himself hoarse about a particular tragedy or unknown fear by using his voice that bordered on the verge of ominous terror that would sell all of his papers. He knew as soon as all the papers were sold, he could get home faster with a pocketful of coins. His mother always had great words of encouragement for him, that nobody could yell louder, or sell more Bartlesville newspapers than he could. And whether he could talk or not, he would eat supper and feel very, very grown-up, which was very satisfying to him! Bess would take his coins and put them in a jar in the kitchen, and every Saturday they would go to the Mound Grocery Store, just a few blocks over, and buy just about everything on her grocery list.

This picture shows everybody in the family but Andy, and that is because he was at work at the Osage Theater:

 

It will not be ignored. The empty lot where the Osage Theater stood has remained silent and vacant since it was ripped out in 1981. It has the appearance of a cemetery lot, and the 21 car spaces remind me of tombstones. Kathy Spears Hughes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sweethearts Drown Husband in the Caney to Continue Love Affair

The day was Sunday, June 12, 1938 when Essie Matthews made a frantic request to a couple of youth passing by to call the Bartlesville police because her husband may have drowned in a slough at the Caney River, off of the Dewey Highway. Soon, the screaming sirens of the police cars and fire trucks surrounded the Matthews shack, that had the appearance of cardboard and was infested with flies and mosquitos. The rest of this story is how Essie lied and covered up the murder of 49 year-old Benjamin Franklin Matthews, her third husband. While she dabbed her eyes with a hanky, she spent many hours answering police questions, and appeared to genuinely try to figure out what could have happened to her beloved husband. After the case was solved, the detectives, shaking their heads, declared ‘what an actress!’

There were two children that witnessed the murder. Salem Gene Matthews, 9, and Rosalie Matthews, 4, also shared the family ramshackle hovel that was always flooded by the Caney River. The day that Matthews was removed from the Caney, the heat was stifling, making it hard for anybody to breathe. One of the reports said Essie warned her children not to say anything to anybody about their father.

Essie Matthews’ tragedy started earlier in the 400 block of Morton, on the west side of Bartlesville. On February 18, 1937, the Matthews family lost a 6 month old daughter, Virginia Estelle Matthews, to a house fire. Essie had been out in the back yard gathering stove wood when a fire broke out. Matthews bravely faced death and ran into the house, engulfed in fire, and rescued her baby. The baby did not make it, and Essie Matthews was severely burned. It was said that she never truly recovered from her great loss.

Enter Leonard Overcast. Essie told the detectives that he was her son-in-law, staying for a couple of weeks. She had also told Ben that Overcast was her son-in-law. Little did they know that Overcast was not a son-in-law, but was Essie’s secret lover. And unfortunately, Essie was pregnant with Overcast’s child, and they thought that the only solution to their problem was to kill Ben Matthews. And that is what they did.

After being arrested for the murder, Essie Matthews gave birth to a daughter in the jail in Bartlesville, before giving her up for adoption. Matthews had a date to go to prison for a life sentence. Overcast also had a date to go to prison for a life sentence.

The most amazing part of this story is that it was published in two national magazines, complete with pictures of the murder scene, the shack, several people involved in the case, and even the Washington County Court House on Main Street. The magazine articles got part of the murder location right, which was the Johnstone Bottoms. But the newspaper reported it happened just east of the White Rose Tank Farm, on the Dewey Highway. Other parts of the story were taken from interviews with Essie Matthews, which the newspaper didn’t report. The first national magazine to publish the story was Official Detective Stories, May 1939. The second national magazine was Complete Detective Cases, January 1942. The magazine articles are printed below in their entirety.

The Caney River Johnstone Bottoms:

Essie Matthews was picked up walking down Kaw Avenue in West Bartlesville on suspicion of murder.

 

 

 

 

 

 

CLICK ON ALL IMAGES TO ENLARGE FOR READING.















The Matthews family lost a child in a fire in the 400 block of Morton in West Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Drive by of the block (the house is gone) where the tragedy happened:


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Note from Kat & Gunner: There are many tragedies that we encounter in this world. There is always a path to forgiveness, no matter what we have done, in that small prayer: “Lord Jesus, please forgive me of all my sins. Please lead me in the path I should walk”. Yes, there are consequences we pay in life. This couple lost their children and had to finish this world in a prison. Hopefully we can learn from the mistakes of people, and steer clear of them. Each day read the teachings of Jesus in the Bible and be a student of Love. It’s worth it! “For God so loved the world, that he gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life”.