Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Route 66 -- Times Gone By

Original backdrop to the stage productions from 1929.

Lobby of theatre with Mr. Dillon
An afternoon tour of the historic Coleman theatre, on Route 66 in Miami, Oklahoma, opened my eyes and filled my head with layers upon layers of stories about the wealth that came out of the lead and zinc mines in Ottawa County from 1910--1950's.  Learning that George L. Coleman believed that he could draw the world to Miami, Oklahoma if he built a stage to match the elegance of the European theatres. Which he did in 1928-1929. The magnificent Spanish Revival era Coleman Theatre was built to match the style of Louis XV, complete with gold leaf trim, hand woven carpet with the Coleman insignia of a pick and shovel, velvet curtains from Belgium, and a crystal chandelier from Czechoslovakia. I found myself and friends spellbound with every story shared that day by Danny Dillon. 
Ceiling and staging

However, George L. Coleman also built a golf course, as a place for his son George to practice, and for Hollywood stars to play on when they visited the Coleman mansion on Rockdale Blvd. In the early 1920's Rockdale Country Club was built. During my childhood in the 1950's I met Ben Hogan, Patty Berg, Mickey Wright, Mickey Mantle and other great golfers and performers. These celebrities, I began to realize, all visited my home golf course thanks to the connections of the Coleman family and my father, Johnie Stapp. 

Dave Marsh, Mickey Mantle, Patty Berg, Johnie Stapp 1956

Pondering those pieces of times gone by an epiphany occurred. I discovered my next writing challenge. It became apparent that this colorful history of a golf course built by a visionary man in the 1920's needed to be recorded--through research and through the eyes of child who witnessed part of this history.  Slowly, I began to dig and sort, through the NewsArchives, notes I'd taken, and stories collected. Then one night, my puzzle pieces began to fall into place, when much like George L. Coleman I found a jewel of a story.

Ky Laffon, a champion golfer, who learned to play golf in Miami at the tutelage of Ed Dudley, spent decades crisscrossing the country playing professional golf, returning to Miami from time to time. My father willingly told stories of Ky, and I'm sure to retold some tall tales in the classroom after his visits. 

It is recorded that Ky's uncontrollable temperament more than likely kept him from winning more first place trophies in professional tournaments, but it did secure his place in history through his legendary act of "club-icide."  After watching his putt lip out on the 18th hole, and numerous other putts that didn't fall that day, shaking with anger he walked off the golf course carrying his putter.  Reaching the trunk of his car he pulled out a gun and proceeded to shoot his putter three times, yelling in a colorful slang the entire time.

Ironically, the same weekend I visited the Coleman Theatre I also laid a personal story to rest. Thanks to John Finley, Rob Kimbrough, and others at the First National Bank of Miami, we were able to lay my father's "Pro Emeritus" stone to rest outside the Dobson Museum in Miami, Oklahoma. It originally had been placed by the putting green at the old Miami Golf and Country Club, after my father died in 1989.  The putting green where many a man won and lost bets during an evening a friendly putting contests, where hundreds of people took lessons from the pro, and where famous stars once walked.

Where one story may end, another begins.  


  1. Too lovely for words. Cheers JD

  2. Love this one. VMR

  3. Very nice article about our beautiful Coleman theater and the golf course. My mom, uncle, brother and me have been on that stage many times. My mom was in the same class with George, Jr. that graduated from MHS 1931. jr


  4. Hi! What a beautiful theater!!!!! They were so grand back in the days. And......a full circle story......awesome!!! kt

  5. I've enjoyed your blogs especially those involving your father Johnny. We met at the Broadwater Beach Hotel in Biloxi, Ms back in the middle 1960's over Xmas vacation, I used to be with the Carroll's from Alton, Il and we'd all play golf together including your sister, Johnya. As it turned out your father played in the 1948 PGA Championship hosted by my country Club, Norwood Hills C C, in St. Louis , won by Ben Hogan. Regards, TH

  6. Dear Letty, It was just so beautifully written Letty. You are a good word girl. I didn’t take the tour during the reunion and if I make it back for the mini reunion, and I hope I do, I would love to. I remember most of my childhood movies on Sat. morning were there…the balcony was open we sat up there and also the bathrooms…it was certainly special.