Telling the history of Claremore…one story at a time
In 1896, Charlie Allton was born to Joseph and Susan Ramsey Allton in Cooweescoowee District, Indian Territory. Sue Ramsey was born near Panther Creek in 1866, the first Cherokee baby born in the Cooweescoowee District after the close of the Civil War. Her grandfather, John Mosely, came to this section in 1833, before the Trail of Tears. Both of her parents died when Sue was small, so she was sent to the Cherokee Orphan’s Home to live and to be educated. Later she attended the Cherokee National Female Seminary in Tahlequah.
Joe and Sue were married in 1888. In 1896, just before Charlie was born, Joe was badly injured by a horse and never recovered. Sue took care of her invalid husband for 33 years. She provided for her family, educated her sons and taught them to work by her fine example. Charlie attended Eastern University Preparatory School, the forerunner of Rogers State University. When he was little, he sometimes rode his old mare to the front steps of Preparatory Hall. Later, Charlie generally walked from the country to college hill. He was a straight-A student, but never went on to college. At school, he met Pearl Henson, and she became his wife in 1919. “She was the only sweetheart I ever had,” he said.
In 1960, Charlie began a career as the Rogers County Clerk and served in that position for twenty years. Before that, he worked as a teamster, drayman, and worked for an ice and ice cream manufacturer in Claremore. George Lawrence once wrote, “There wasn’t a kid in the city that didn’t know Charlie Allton and his ice wagon. In the hot summer, we would hang on the back of his wagon and beg for a chip of ice while he was in our block…he was our friend.”
Lawrence continued, “Charlie was occasionally a guest speaker at the school pep rallies. His wisdom, his wit and sense of humor was just plain ‘ole common sense…down to earth…Charlie knew us all a lot better than we knew ourselves, and he always had a warm and kindly smile. I personally don’t believe that there has ever been another person that took as much interest in the students and the school. He was an inspiration to us all.”
Charlie’s rise to fame came when he became the “Introduction” to the annual Gridiron show. He wrote and presented original prose about pioneer days compared to today. The Oklahoma House of Representatives designated Charlie Allton as Poet Laureate of Oklahoma. After one presentation at the Gridiron, more than 600 spectators gave a rousing ovation for the Claremore oldtimer who with tears in his eyes said, “You’ve made an old man very happy.”
“JUST ME” – By Charlie Allton
It just don’t seem like it’s been a year
Since most of us were gathered here.
But time sure seems to slip away
And here we are together today.
It proves to me beyond a doubt
That it don’t take much to bring you out.
When they say that what you’re coming for
Will help with the future of Claremore.
We’ve got about the same old crew,
Back stage up here to welcome you.
Now Stan has built a pretty good show
And all the cast is ready to go.
We want to welcome the folks who moved in last year
‘Cause we know darned well that you’ll like it here.
No matter where your home or the place of your birth,
You’re living now in the best darned town on earth.
‘Course we have a few dry spells and an occasional flood,
But if you stay a few years, it will get in your blood.
And the best folks live here, just wait and you’ll see,
It will be good for you like it’s been good to me.
When I was a kid, the town was still small,
And we had no modern improvements at all.
The Main Street stretched ‘tween the railroad tracks
With mostly wooden and sheet iron shacks.
Board sidewalks in front of the stores
Cinders cross the vacant space.
The streets were just dirt and when the wind blew,
Boy, was it a dusty old place.
Coal and wood was all we had to burn then,
Till Caney River gas came in,
Shore made the town boys feel awful good
To keep warm in the winter without chopping wood.
No electricity then,
But it wasn’t so rough,
So the town built a plant
And started making the stuff.
Then all the water came from cisterns and wells,
Which wasn’t a very good system by gee.
So we built a tower and laid out and piped
The water from the Verdigris.
It worked all right in the tub or the sink,
But the dad-gummed stuff wasn’t fit to drink.
So some years later we made Claremore Lake.
Now we have as good water as there is in the state.
The dirt and mud on Main Street was a problem then,
So we built the first paved street in Nineteen Ten.
Seems like with those things, the town started to grow,
And grew into the town that most of you know.
What did we do for amusement then?
Go down and watch the trains come in.
The opera house had a show now and then.
Then the movies started to coming in.
We had three theatres then, and one was quite sleek.
They showed vaudeville cards that changed twice a week.
T’was a lot more shows than we get today
Cause no commercials to get in the way.
The best place for Claremore folks to go
Is the City Council meeting, cause they put on quite a show.
Don Dodd says that the statement that he didn’t profit was false,
Cause he likes to see ‘em smile when they play the Salary Raise Waltz.