Did You Know…
This Week in Sapulpa History – Bartlett-Collins Lighted Tower and Lighting Contests Traditions
Rachel Whitney, Curator, Sapulpa Historical Museum
Look out your window at night during the Holiday Season, and what do you see? Decorations, lights, and merriment. Displays of festivities are a tradition in Sapulpa. For many years, businesses in the downtown district had contests for best window displays; and other years contests were held for home decorations. A tradition that many people can recall was the lighting of the Christmas tree or star on top of the Bartlett-Collins Glass Company tower. This tradition began this week in 1945.
On December 22, 1948, the first proclamation for this tradition addressed how the tower became a glowing symbol for the town of Sapulpa:
“Surmounted by the lighted tower at Bartlett-Collins Glass factory, Sapulpa's Christmas decorations at night make a beautiful picture.
Designed and built by Albert “Frenchy” French of the Bartlett-Collins plant, the decorations on the tower were among the first lighted Christmas decorations to be put up in the city.”
The day after Christmas that year, December 26, 1948, Albert French did not wish to take credit, and explained it was a company decision:
“Lighted tree atop B-C tower becoming Sapulpa tradition. That the lighted Christmas tree on top of the Bartlett-Collins tower is fast becoming a tradition is the belief of Albert French, company employee, who put the first tree up on the tower, and strung it with lights, three years ago.
French disclaims the full credit for the lighted tower, which he said was first discussed one afternoon in the office of Carl Cloyd, foreman in the automatic machines department.
The first of July, a survey was made of company employees for something different to trim the tower at the holidays. But the idea of the Christmas tree and colored bulbs was still the most popular among them.
There were 74 bulbs around the tower, 74 bulbs on the tree, and the lighted neon star used to form these effective decorations which can be seen from all parts of the town.”
Bartlett-Collins tower became a bright beacon for the Holidays ever since*.
During the 1948 Christmas, the fourth annual Sapulpa Herald contest was underway. Many homes and businesses participated in the Herald’s “Outdoor Lighting Contest.” The windows and homes presented “scenes of holiday beauty at night.”
“All of the homes entered in the contest are shining with lighted scenes and many homes not entered in the contest have displays that represent a great deal of time spent in planning and putting them up.
Sapulpans and their Christmas visitors might well plan to spend at least one evening during the holidays driving through town and looking at the decorations…
The entire list of contest entries is given [here]; clip this and take it with you when you make your drive.
Entered in the outside home lighting contest are: Dick Echols, 18 S Mounds; Ben F. Hendrix, 1419 E McKinley; Miller-Newton hom, 525 S Oklahoma; Tommy Redding, 1319 E Jackson; John W. Bruce, 108 S Poplar; Mrs. Barney Weaver, 205 W Lee Ave; Paul Summer, 705 S Division; Mrs. William S. Cloud, 1239 E Dewey; Mrs. I.E. Penquite, 721 E Bryan; Mrs. J.W. Swartzlander, 1117 E Perkins; Mr. and Mrs. Sam Cox, 1519 S Main St; Modenia Joy Hodges, 608 S Oklahoma; Mrs. R.V. Decker, 400 N Fourth St; Mrs. John Murphy, 722 S Main St; Mrs. W.T. Saulmon, 123 S Poplar; Mrs. H.H. Johnson, 1204 E Bryan; Mrs. J.F. Curry, 1411 E Lincoln.
Lighted windows entered are: Barbara Jene Earley, 1102 E Perkins; Mrs. Irene Taylor, 419 N Ridgeway; Anna Mae Archer, 111 E Thompson; Mrs. C.M. Gibson, 102 S Birch; Mrs. J.W. Swartzlander, 1117 E Perkins; Mrs. Jonathan Napier, 825 S Cedar; Marilyn Kay Dennis, 500 N Fourth St; Gerrell Daugherty, 626 S Oak; Mrs. Mike Petteway, 404 S Maple; Sylvia Seay, 1301 E University; Mrs. E.S. Carley, Sr., 1406 E Lincoln Ave.”
Outdoor Winners: first, Mrs. J.F. Curry (Christmas card idea surmounted by Santa Claus standing in a chimney); second, Mrs. H.H. Johnson (group picture of Santa Claus seated in a room eating a few tidbits left by children on a table for him while the kids peek in through the door); third, Modenia Joy Hodges (Oklahoma with religious presentations including stained glass effects).
Window Winners: first, Mrs. Irene Taylor; second, Sylvia Seay; third, Mrs. Gerald Doughtery.
“The judges stated they looked for originality in design, effectiveness of the display in being centered around some theme plus beauty and visibility from the street.”**
*Note: The articles never explained if the lighting of the tower was truly a tradition or if it simply stopped without knowing when it ended or why. It’s possible it carried on at least until the 1990s. There was only one mention in the 1997 paper about this. It simply stated: several have called to say they miss the huge star that is usually lit atop the Bartlett-Collins tower.
**Note: A prize was sent to each of the winners via mail. A check was written out for them, however, the paper did not verify the amount given to each winner.
The information found on this page has been researched through Sapulpa (and area) newspapers, Sapulpa Historical Society archives, books, and photographs, Sapulpa yearbooks, city directories, and other local authors. Any other sources will be labeled and named as the research continues. Any mistakes will be noted and adjusted as needed.