“Maggie M:” The Gift that Keeps on Giving

By Don Diehl

She sits along the Mother Road (Route 66) here in Sapulpa next to the Tulsa-Sapulpa Union Railway terminal—“The Maggie M” trolley. It’s a genuine electric streetcar that last ran here in the 1930s on Sapulpa streets. Rails also ran to Kiefer and Tulsa. The car was gifted to the community in 1997 and became Sapulpa’s Centennial icon. Today as a static display, it is among the popular stops for tourists on Route 66.

The Maggie M Trolley

Anyone who has followed the ramblings, rants (and otherwise fantastic offerings) of this humble writer knows well the history and much about the restoration project that rescued one of the state’s (and that era’s) last remaining vintage trolley cars. The Sapulpa Historical Society, which now has oversight of the display as part of its museum system, has as much material as do the morgues of the Sapulpa Herald and the Oklahoma Historical Society. Virginia Wolfe, in her work, has a great family history of the Bennett and Brooks families, who gifted the car to the community. It truly is a gift that keeps on giving.

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Thus, we thought it good, with the passing of Sapulpa native Shirley Bennett Brooks, this month during the season of giving, to express some words of gratitude. Her obituary follows.

There have been a lot of people involved in restoring and maintaining the wonderful legacy since it was moved from the Bennett home where Shirley’s dad had last utilized it as a shop in his backyard. Over the years since, many of those too have passed. There are three or four of the original STAR (Sapulpa Trolley and Rail) board members still around. We certainly need to mention heroes Russell Crosby and David Beyer of TSU who made a home for the Maggie M and set up a perpetual maintenance program. And of course, there is the late local historian Jim Hubbard who could not stand the thought of the community losing another one of its historic treasures. The plaza where the car now rests carries his name.

But it was really Shirley Bennett Brooks that led her family and kept prompting entities in the community to see the importance of restoring and displaying such a relic.

Shirley Bennett Brooks

Shirley Bennett Brooks of Sapulpa’s Bennett Dairy family was born on Nov. 11, 1934 and died at University Village, Tulsa on Dec.1, 2021.

Her parents were Merton Bennett and Maggie Anthony Bennett, her husband was Charles R. Brooks, and her brother was Richard Wayne Bennett, all of Sapulpa. She is survived by her daughter, Rebecca Brennan, now of Tulsa.

“Shirley liked to tell people that her life began the night that the man who would become her husband kissed her for the first time, Oct. 28, 1949,” reads the obituary. They married in 1954. She had planned to become a nurse, beginning her education at Oklahoma Baptist University, but Charles came home from the Korean Conflict with a proposal. At that time, women couldn’t be married and a nurse, so she chose Charlie.

She worked at Creek County Health Department for years, eventually being promoted to Administrator. Later in her career she took on two additional departments. She saved a copy of the recommendation for promotion, which began “Even though Mrs. Brooks is a woman, I believe she will make an excellent administrator.” Toward the end of her career, she was instrumental in getting a new Health Department facility built. It is still in use here today…

Being active in the community was important to her. She was involved in the Business and Professional Women’s Club, the Sapulpa Historical Society, and for a time had a program on the local radio station.

She and Charlie donated the streetcar that had been owned by her father to the community of Sapulpa. It was named the “Maggie M” after her mother.

Perhaps lesser known about Shirley, is that she became a belly dance instructor after learning from the then Miss Oklahoma, Susan Supernaw. In her later years she loved to tell people she met about being a belly dancer.

“She lived life out loud,” said family and friends. “Her loss leaves a hole in our heart.”

A remembrance service was Dec. 18, at University Village Retirement Center. Interment will be at the family cemetery in Braggs, Oklahoma, in the spring when the dogwoods are blooming.

Arrangements by Kelley Funeral Services, Tulsa. If you wish to make a donation in her memory, please consider the Tulsa SPCA. Her love of animals, as well as God’s creation, was well known.