Do you remember the Gierharts?

The story about an entrepreneurial family whose service to Sapulpa spanned over seven decades began on August 10, 1903, when Ray Walborn Gierhart, the patriarch of the Gierhart family, was born in El Reno, Oklahoma.

Although Ray Gierhart was known by Sapulpans as “Gabe,” many did not know that was his nickname. In his younger days, he worked for a man named Gabe Yates in El Reno. His friends nicknamed him “Gabe” for his boss and the name stuck.

Gabe worked on the family farm until he was ten years old, at which point he started delivering newspapers for the Daily Oklahoman and the Oklahoma City Times. During his junior year in high school, he went to work in an El Reno drug store as a soda jerk. He became disillusioned with that job and went to work for the El Reno American, training to be a printer.

In the fall of 1921, with only $36 in his pocket, he entered Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical School, now known as Oklahoma State University. He sought work for two weeks to no avail, since upper-classmen had taken all the jobs in the area.

One day he went to the Stillwater Democrat to “see the paper in operation. It was press day and it was utter pandemonium, the press was malfunctioning and it was presstime.” Gabe saw that the equipment was similar to the El Reno American.

Mr. Gould, the owner of the paper, saw young Gabe and bellowed, “Young man, you have been here asking for a job. Can you run this blankety-blank Babcock press?” Gabe replied, “Yes sir, I think I can.” Gabe began cleaning newspapers away from the press, he then cleaned the machinery and made three minor adjustments. He turned on the press and ran 2,100 papers without interruption.

Gabe’s employment at the paper changed the career path of another. The owner had two sons who worked for the paper, one of them quit and pursued a vocation in his hobby, which was art. That son was none other than Chester Gould, the creator of Dick Tracy.

Gabe’s journalism career began in college when he served as editor of the El Reno Free Press and the El Reno Daily Tribune during the summer. His first extracurricular at school was working as a reporter for the Orange and Black, the weekly student newspaper. He also played a major role in changing the name of the Orange and Black to The Daily O’Collegian, which is still the student newspaper. Gabe was later selected as editor of the Redskin yearbook.

Several members of the yearbook staff went on to have illustrious careers such as Red Stone, who became president of Scripps-Howard Newspapers, and Paul Miller, who became president of the Gannet newspaper chain in New York.

After graduation, Gabe worked in the advertising department of the Blackwell Journal and Tribune. He worked in Blackwell for approximately three years then moved to Bristow, and his next job was serving as ad manager of the Woodward Daily Press.

He married his high school sweetheart, Mary Frances Beckett, on December 27, 1926.

In April 1931, Gabes’s close college friend, J.W Weaver, bought the Democrat News in Sapulpa. Gabe joined Weaver as a partner on July 3, 1931.

The newspaper was published every Thursday at 108 East Dewey Ave., and a subscription cost $1.50 per year.

In 1942, Ray W. “Gabe” Gierhart was the publisher, and Sarah Turner was the society editor. Some of the featured columns that year were “News of the Boys in Service;” “Kitcheneering” by the Home Service Department of Oklahoma Natural Gas; “Echoes in the Corridor” by Sandy Moulder; and “The Smoke Signal,” sponsored by journalism students at Sapulpa High School.

An old Esterbrook Fountain Pen ad in The Democrat News

On April 20, 1947, Gabe bought out Weaver’s interest in the Democrat News and became the sole owner of the paper

Gabe was quite active in the community, serving as President of the Rotary club in 1950. He was the District Chairman for Creek Nation Area Council of the Boy Scouts for the Sapulpa District for seven years, and was area chairman for two years. He served on the Board of Directors of Sapulpa Federal Savings and Loan for sixteen years.

He was an avid fisherman and wrote a column titled “Angling Around.” He also broadcast a fishing show on the local radio station KREK. Ed Livermore, owner and publisher of the Sapulpa Daily Herald, bought the Democrat News and ran the paper until 1975.

After running the Democrat News for several years, Gabe started selling office supplies, thus founding Gabe’s Office Supply. 

William William and Frank helped their father run the family business. William set the type, and Frank bagged and mailed the newspapers. Their mother, Mary Frances, ran a gift shop in a corner of the store. Barbara Gierhart (White), their sister, worked alongside them for many years. Mary Frances Gierhart passed away in April 1978. Ray “Gabe’ Gierhart passed away in 1993.

Gabe’s two sons followed in their father’s footsteps by becoming journalism majors at OSU and engaging in community service. Frank worked as the sports editor for the Daily O’ Collegian at OSU.

Except for the time spent in college and his service in the military during the Korean War in 1950-1951, William worked in the family business from his youth until retirement.

Frank graduated from OSU in 1958, then worked for a restaurant chain in Dallas before returning to the family business in 1969.

William served as scoutmaster of Troop 224 at the Prebetrerin Church, and served as Elder, Deacon, and Trustee of that church. He was State-Vice President of the local Jaycees and served as president of the Rotary Club.

Frank Gierhart inside the Frame Shoppe and Gallery. Photo by Sapulpa Chamber

Frank served as Elder in the Presbetryan Church and on several committees, as well as participating in the choir. He was active in Sapulpa’s Main Street program. He was involved in the Route 66 Association and assisted in producing the association’s annual official trip guide. In 2006 he was chosen by the readers of the Sapulpa Daily Herald as the “Favorite Community Leader.”

I still recall some of the products that were sold at Gabe’s, such as file folders, Wilson-Jones Ledgers that my father used in his business, a plethora of ink pens, and bottles of ink I used to refill my cartridge ink pen in junior high.

On the left is Frank Gierhart, the owner of the Frame Shoppe and Gallery, shaking hands with with Roger Johnson, the owner of OverEdukated, as they make an agreement for Johnson to purchase the space to be used for his music and art program. Incidentally, the closing of OverEdukated was the first front-page story that the Sapulpa Times ever printed. Photo by Don Diehl

After 73 years of service, the Gierhart brothers sold Gabe’s to Gary Fisher, who closed the store several years later. Shortly after retiring, William died in August 2004.

Frank started a frame shop in the building where CTX Coffee is now located and turned the upstairs of the building into a beautiful loft apartment. Frank was a self-taught frame maker who built a very successful frame business.

I remember Frank coming by my shop one day in 2005 and giving me a “present.” He had framed an article in the Tulsa World that featured my lead role in a play. I told him that was really a nice gesture and offered to pay him but he would not take any money. That framed article is still on my wall. Frank passed away in November 2017. His sister Barbara passed away in June 2019.

The Democrat News, Gabe’s, Gabe, Frank, William, and Barbara are gone, but they will never be forgotten.