I first met Mr. and Mrs. David Stroup at a family Anniversary party. It was quickly apparent they are kindred spirits but I was surprised when my simple question of, “What did your husband do for a living” opened up such an interesting door.
I sat dumbfounded as they recalled their history as well as the town of Sapulpa’s. I just had to request an official interview.
David and Mary Banks Stroup have been married for 54 years. They raised two children and have four grandchildren and one great-grandchild. The couple banters back and forth, as a loving married couple typically do, when they recall memories and facts of the past. He was a train engineer for BNSF Railroad. In fact it was only supposed to be a temporary job but led to 36 years of service. For those keeping track the railroad started as Saint Louis-San Francisco Railroad (Frisco) then merged with Burlington Northern which then merged with Burlington Northern Sante Fe…phew!
Mrs. Stroup remembers jumping in the car with the kids when they heard the train whistle. They’d head to the tracks to wave at daddy. While he worked hard on the train she was busy running their apartment building and raising the children.
But, let me rewind a bit. The Banks family traveled here from Kentucky to pick cotton in Kellyville. The Stroups were one of five families to make up a caravan in 1904 or 1905 that settled in Sapulpa. To hear Mrs. Stroup explain, it’s a miracle she even met her husband, she was the youngest of eight children and her siblings were a wee bit protective.
As a child Mr. Stroup remembers playing in the old Harvey House that was located on Hobson Street. The railroad used the old Harvey House as an office and while his dad worked as a clerk there, he explored. Mr. Stroup recalls it being 4 stories high with a 2 story basement. He once found a written train order made out by the one and only Gene Autry, musician, songwriter and actor, who worked as a Telegraph Operator for the railroad. He was promptly told to put it back and not to tell anyone. With a big smile Mr. Stroup said, “I didn’t tell no one, I told everyone!”
Harvey Houses were created by Fred Harvey when he saw a need for good food and lodging near train depots. However, he soon found out by “His own experience that the men he had hired to work in his establishments were as wild as the west was. He advertised in the East for women to work for him. Paying as much as $17.50 per month with free room, board and clean uniforms, the Company prospered with these new helpers.” Up to this point women were typically only hired for domestic work and teaching positions. “Harvey Girls” had to be neat in appearance, have at least an eighth grade education, be of good moral character and be articulate in speech. Mrs. Stroup’s Aunt Laura Banks was a Harvey Girl as seen in the picture. Many Harvey Girls found love while working with so many new travelers coming and going. http://www.harveyhouses.net/
At the peak of the Harvey House era which lasted from 1875 to 1968 there were 84 Houses in 7 states, Oklahoma claiming seven. The Sapulpa Frisco Railroad Depot and Harvey House was built in 1907 on Hobson Street. The Frisco line ran from Sapulpa to Denison, Texas through the new oil fields. It carried anything that was needed across 17,000 miles of track and up to 4 vehicles could fit into a boxcar. Mr. Stroup said the depot moved to Tulsa in 1929 due to land restrictions, Tulsa gave the railroad some land.
The Sapulpa Historical Museum has some great information and photographs of Sapulpa’s Railroad history and of the Harvey House which was razed by the Railroad after offering it to the City of Sapulpa, according to Mr. Stroup. I was able to stand in the area where the Harvey House, train depot and turntable stood and I couldn’t help but wonder about its stories, memories and past.
Another fun memory they have is Mickie Ernest of Sapulpa buying the first color TV set in 1949. At 6:45 in the morning his house would be full of people to watch T.V., only they weren’t watching Saturday morning cartoons. They gathered to watch the station testing with the colored peacock…and only the peacock.
After reflecting back on their lives they said, “We are in the best generation we’ve ever had – we’ve seen a glimpse of the horse and buggy age and now the modern age with houses and cars.” But, the “Innocence of American is gone.”
The Railroad not only employed Mr. Stroup but also his father, his Uncle Bill and his mother during World War II. Now his eldest son and grand-daughters husband also work for BNSF. It’s safe to say Railroads “run” in the family.
So, if you are ever out and about and see a handsome couple and hear the ringtone of a train whistle coming from a cell phone, you can almost be certain it is the Stroup’s…make sure to say Hi!