The beginning of Pixley Lumber Company . . . . . . . by Paul W. Pixley
Starting the Business
Pixley Lumber Company first opened its doors in October of 1963. The exact date is not recorded, but the first ad appeared in the Claremore Progress on October 23, 1963. This now is our fiftieth year in business and throughout 2013 our advertising will memorialize that fact by way of a change in our logo.
My father, F. Warren Pixley, opened the business in an old abandoned lumber yard located at 220 North Missouri Avenue, the southeast corner of its intersection with Fifth Street. Early land records show that the Minnetonka Lumber Company gained title to the property in 1910 and likely built a lumber yard there at that time. In 1922 title to the property was transferred to the Long-Bell Lumber Company. The facility continued to operate under its ownership until sometime in 1962.
Warren Pixley worked for Long-Bell for fifteen years beginning in 1948. Long-Bell was founded in the late 1880’s in Columbus, Kansas, and operated numerous retail lumber yards in many towns in northern Oklahoma and southern Kansas, along with a few in Missouri, Arkansas, and Texas. Early on, Long-Bell became a vertically integrated company and owned vast amounts of land both in the South and in the Pacific Northwest. The town of Longview, Washington, is a “mill town” named after one of the company’s founders, Robert A. Long. Long-Bell owned saw mills, plywood mills, coal mining companies, and numerous short-line railroads.
During my father’s career with Long-Bell he and my mother and their growing family lived in Nowata, Eufaula, Perry, Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Kansas City, and Oklahoma City (again), as Dad held various jobs in the company. He served as an assistant store manager, a store manager, a district manager, the head of land development for the company, and ultimately as the assistant to the General Manager of the Long-Bell division of International Paper Company after Long-Bell was purchased by IP in 1956.
IP purchased Long-Bell because of its wealth of timberlands. However, I-P was not interested in retail distribution and soon began closing most of the old Long-Bell yards, including the one in Claremore. The facility later was purchased by the Bradbury family of Collinsville in February 1963, and operated for a short period of time as Claremore Lumber Company, but was closed later that same year.
In 1963 we were living in Oklahoma City for the second time and Mom and Dad decided it was time to leave I-P. My father’s brother, Paul R. Pixley, who at the time owned Chelsea Lumber Company, purchased the old Claremore Long-Bell buildings and struck a deal with Dad to rent the property to him for $500 per month. Uncle Paul took possession of the property on October 2, 1963.
Mom and Dad had an extremely modest amount of money in 1963. In order to start the business they utilized their savings and the savings of their five children, as well as money loaned to them by my maternal grandmother, Anna Humphrey of Pawhuska. They also were able to borrow money from Rogers County Bank. Even then, Pixley Lumber Company was highly undercapitalized. Dad told me a story about a time when he was working late into the night in the early months of the business and was trying to figure out how to pay for a car of lumber that was due in a few days. The phone rang and it was his sister, Berenice Baker, who called to see how he was doing. He told her about his cash problem and she mailed a check the next day. He said he was very happy when he was able to pay her back, with interest, in just a few months.
(This is the first part of a four-part story published in our newsletter)