Kamille Kareem Shibley was born July 15, 1915, in Beirut, Lebanon, was brought to America as a young boy, and became a naturalized U.S. citizen. He then grew up in Bristow, Oklahoma.
Kamille, who was known locally as K., began working in the restaurant business as a young man.
While working at Bishop’s restaurant in Tulsa, he met his future wife, Louise Davis. They later married on May 10, 1942. They established residence in Sapulpa and Shibley subsequently joined the army and fought in Patton’s Third Army, serving in the infantry. He received multiple wounds from machine-gun fire which shattered his shoulder. He was awarded the Purple Heart for his valor. Louise Shibley continued to work as a waitress in Sapulpa while her husband was overseas. The Shibleys had 5 children, K. Jr., Fred, Mike, Susan, and Steve.
In spite of his lasting disability, K., Sr. continued his restaurant career, opening a coffee shop in the St. James Hotel, and later working for one of his cousin’s restaurants. Shibley was asked in the late 1950s by Bill Armstrong, who had built the Valley Inn, to run a club at the hotel called the “Red Garter.”
Son Mike Shibley remembers falling off one of the stools there when he was a 3 year-old and hitting his head on the floor. He still has the scar ro prove it.
In 1962, K. and Louise Shibley opened the Town House Grill at 317 South Main Street. They started out on a meager budget and their first cash register was a cigar box.
Their business grew as a result of Mr. Shibley’s culinary skills, and down-home friendly service, along with an extensive menu. The cuisine included mountain oysters, hot beef sandwiches, prime rib, chicken-fried steaks, and the quintessential all-American favorite fare, hamburgers and cheeseburgers. However, Mike stated that their “number-one seller” was livers and onion. His dad bought his meat from Wickham’s, which accounts for the excellent quality of the meat they served. Another service offered was phone orders.
When you walked in the entryway, there was a cigarette machine—you must remember that everybody smoked in those days. In the front area of the restaurant, there was a counter on the right with stools, and booths on the left. I remember that there were table-top jukeboxes on the counter and in the booths.
If you entered the rear dining area from the front, you had to walk through the dishwashing area of the kitchen. The restaurant seated around fifty people and it was always packed. The building did not have refrigerated air conditioning, instead, water coolers, aka “swamp coolers” were used. During August, the restaurant would close, and the family would visit relatives in Pennsylvania.
Mike remembers coming home from Jefferson Elementary School and working the family business; his older brother K., Jr. also worked there.
One of K., Sr.’s truisms was, “You could be a good cook, a good chef, if you make good sauces, good gravy, and good soup.” According to Mike, all their gravy was made from scratch.
“We always had a chicken stock pot and a beef stock pot going 24 hours a day in the back.”
An interesting note about K. Shibley was that he spoke fluent Arabic. Mike recalls obtaining an Arabic version of the “Reader’s Digest” for his father to read. Mike was quick to point out, however, that his dad had no accent and that he “was an Okie.” While cooking meals, the senior Shibley would utter an Arabic phrase while preparing meals, which translates into “God bless your hands.”
The Townhouse Grill was just two blocks from my house and I would eat there on weekends during the school year and on weekdays during the summer. The cheeseburger was absolutely delicious. My friend Daryl Howard ate there in the early seventies on his way to work. He recalls that the chicken fried steak had two different gravies on it, one yellow and one brown. But what fascinated Daryl was the perfectly divided indentation between the two gravies. He said the reason he ate there was the service and because the quality of the food was consistent.
K., Sr. had health issues in the late seventies and Mike left college to come home and run the business. In 1979, Mike and his brother K., Jr. started a restaurant in downtown Sapulpa. K. Senior then returned to operate the restaurant “as a one-man show.” The Townhouse Grill closed several months later.
As with so many fine family-owned and operated businesses that offered excellent service and products, the Townhouse Grill is now merely a memory.