Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Tower Power in Oklahoma

Fact-checking Rogers County’s pole position



 



The centerpiece of Ed Galloway’s Totem Pole Park is a 90-foot cone that took 11 years to build. It is made of red sandstone, hollow inside, framed with steel and wood, and covered in a thick concrete skin, rising from the back of a bright blue turtle with pink-rimmed eyes.
 

For a quarter-century, Galloway – a self-taught artist and retired wood shop teacher who worked at the orphanage at Sand Springs – devoted his spare time to creating a folk-art sculpture garden on his lawn in Foyil.

A veteran of the Spanish-American War, he was inspired by Asian art glimpsed during his time in the Philippines, postcards from around the world and images from National Geographic magazines. From 1937 to 1961, a Seussical landscape sprang up around the stone house he built, transforming the property into a wonderland of decorated picnic tables and gate posts, an 11-sided Fiddle House to display the violins he made and a collection of colorful concrete towers in the style of totem poles, emblazoned with brightly painted bas-relief designs of American Indians, stylized birds and oversized fish.

His work inspired mixed reactions. The story goes that even his wife, Villie, once teased him with a variation of Joyce Kilmer’s poem: “Totem poles are made by fools like thee, but only God can make a tree.” In response, he built her a 12-foot-tall tree trunk of concrete, complete with holes for birds to nest.

After his death in 1962, Galloway’s work went unmaintained and began to deteriorate. But his creations were resurrected by the Rogers County Historical Society, the Foyil Heritage Association and the Kansas Grassroots Arts Association.

The site, four miles south of Route 66, was restored and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1999. The National Park Service now calls the park “the oldest and largest example of a folk art environment in Oklahoma.” Today, signs pointing the way boast that it is home to the world’s largest totem pole.


THE CLAIM: “World’s Largest Totem Pole”

THE SOURCE: Rogers County Historical Society, rchs1.org

FACT CHECK: It is not. The battle for the totem pole supremacy is serious business, a matter of great debate and civic pride in the Pacific Northwest. Aficionados are specific about what type of structure qualifies as a totem pole: It must be made from a single piece of wood, created by indigenous artists using traditional tools to carve and paint symbols recounting history, legends or lineages of clans from the coastal areas of Washington, British Columbia and Alaska.

While monumental, Galloway’s creation meets none of these qualifications, and also is half the height of the tallest totem pole in the world.

That honor goes to the “Spirit of Lekwammen,” a 185-foot carving created from a 500-year-old red cedar tree by a team of 11 First Nations artists and presented as a gift to the people of Canada. It was unveiled as part of the 1994 Commonwealth Games, and installed in the Inner Harbour of Victoria, British Columbia.

Recognized by the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s tallest, the totem pole was dedicated on Aug. 4, 1994 – and stood for just over 1,000 days before being dismantled when its height was declared a hazard to seaplanes. The pole was cut into four sections, with 40 feet of it remaining behind while the remainder went on display on the Songhees Indian Reserve.

The title of tallest extant totem pole reverted back to the massive 173-foot-tall carving installed in Alert Bay, British Columbia. Created in the 1960s by chief carver Jimmy Dick and dedicated in 1973, it stands next to the traditional Big House at the north end of Cormorant Island.

But not everyone accepts the Alert Bay claim to totem supremacy: It was constructed not from a single log, but from three sections telescoped together.


Another pole claiming to be the world’s largest but disqualified by purists was carved in 1961 by Californians Ernest Pierson and John Nelson. It was fashioned from an old-growth redwood, with additional pieces attached. Planted in concrete in McKinleyville, California, the pole measures 144 feet, 8 inches – although supporters like to include its non-traditional concrete base and now-dangling copper lightning rod with antennae on top to claim a total height of 160 feet.

The 57,000-pound pole, with no aspirations to tribal affiliation, was created as a tourist attraction for the grand opening of the McKinleyville Shopping Center. As part of his promotional efforts, Pierson also published a 1962 book called My Story, by the McKinleyville Totem Pole. The structure, now riddled with several holes in rotting sections, also has its own Facebook page.

 

The town of Kalama, Washington, boasts a totem pole created from a 140-foot-long piece of western red cedar. Carver Don Smith had hoped to display the work at the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, but did not finish in time. The work of Smith, who declared his Oklahoma-born mother was part Cherokee but held no tribal membership, has stood for more than 50 years near a playground on the riverbank of the Columbia River, and is now included in the logo of the Kalama Chamber of Commerce. In the 1970s, the artist was adopted by the Kwakiutl tribe, and began using the name Don “Chief Lelooska” Smith.

 

For years, the consensus winner of the tallest totem sweepstakes was the village of Kake, Alaska, home to a 137-foot-tall traditional pole carved by Native artists from a single piece of wood and installed at a potlatch ceremony with the blessing of elders.

Kake certainly wins the prize for best backstory: In 1926, the villagers, then in the Territory of Alaska, were pressured to abandon traditional ways and embrace the future. Elders wept as the community’s totem poles, misinterpreted as pagan symbols, were felled and destroyed in a bonfire. For generations, Kake mourned the loss of its history.

Forty-one years later, the town rallied to design a monumental pole to represent all of its clans and reaffirm its cultural roots. The community selected and cut a tree, barged it to a worksite and assembled a team of artists who carved and painted it over a span of 88 days. Elders blessed the new creation, and the nearly 14-story-tall pole was shipped to Osaka, Japan, for Expo ’70, returning to Kake for installation and dedication on Oct. 1, 1971.

It stood on a bluff overlooking the sea for 44 years. In April 2015, however, a strong wind snapped off the top of the world’s tallest totem pole. The town is now considering its next move.


Editor’s note: Oklahoma is rich with history, lore and fun facts, but some of them aren’t quite factual. In this series, M.J. Alexander hunts for the accuracy – or lack thereof – behind some of our state’s stories.

 

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »You Might Like

What's Up in the 405

Our top 6 picks for fun stuff to do in and around OKC

Boutique Resort Living Inside OKC

Contact Cole Strickland for a private showing: (405) 246-5592

VegFest Returns

Celebrating a plant-based lifestyle

Add your comment:
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

September 2019

The Musical Swings is an interactive public art installation featuring 10 swings that each activate a different note, allowing participants to make music, connect to one another and have a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bicentennial Park
201 North Walker Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma City Community Foundation
Telephone: 405-606-2922
Contact Name: Kasey Gardner
Website »

More information

Featuring more than 70 works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift of...

Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405.236.3100
Website »

More information

A Texas State of Mind, featuring the art of Larry G. Lemons of Nocona, TX, is coming to the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK.  A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 - 6:30...

Cost: $4-$6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
www.onthechisholmtrail.com
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

More information

Forms Through Language: an exhibition by San Francisco Artist Gyöngy Laky. On view September 12 – October 31. Free and open to the public. Join us for Laky's Artist Reception on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

    OKC's premiere chamber orchestra presents their 2019-2020 season opening concert! This concert will include Mozart’s Piano Concert No. 23, featuring pianist soloist,...

Cost: Free

Where:
21C Hotel
900 W. Main St.
Oklahoma City, OK  73106
View map »


Telephone: 405-268-3978
Contact Name: Katie Barrick
Website »

More information

Bill Maher is an American comedian, Emmy nominated talk show host and political commentator who has been entertaining live audiences on the stage and on the television for three...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Civic Center Music Hall
201 N Walker Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: OKC Broadway & DCF Concerts
Telephone: 405-594-8300
Website »

More information

The Barber of Seville Rossini’s comic masterpiece comes to the Freede Little Theater! When Count Almaviva and his love Rosina run into an issue preventing them from being married -...

Cost: $35 or $50. Prices do not include fees.

Where:
Civic Center Music Hall
201 N Walker Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Painted Sky Opera
Telephone: 405-594-8300
Website »

More information

EVERY BRILLIANT THING strikes a delicate balance between sobering loss and cathartic laughter as it recounts a life lived in the shadow of suicide.  By Duncan Macmillan with Jonny Donahoe,...

Cost: 40.00

Where:
Civic Center Music Hall
201 N Walker Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma City Rep
Telephone: 405-594-8300
Website »

More information

For the First time ever in Oklahoma City Pauleen & La Brasa present Bollywood Dance Night . Introducing Hindi Music @La Brasa Saturday 21st September. 10 PM 

Cost: $5

Where:
La Brasa
1310 NW 25th ST
Oklahoma , OK  73106
View map »


Sponsor: Pauleen
Contact Name: Pauleen

More information

La Brasa & Pauleen present Bollywood Night at La Brasa this Saturday, September 21st.  This is one of the first Hindi Music events to happen in Oklahoma City and anyone can come...

Cost: $5

Where:
La Brasa
1310 NW 25th St
Oklahoma City , OK  73105
View map »


Telephone: 405-524-2251
Contact Name: Pauleen
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The Musical Swings is an interactive public art installation featuring 10 swings that each activate a different note, allowing participants to make music, connect to one another and have a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bicentennial Park
201 North Walker Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma City Community Foundation
Telephone: 405-606-2922
Contact Name: Kasey Gardner
Website »

More information

Forms Through Language: an exhibition by San Francisco Artist Gyöngy Laky. On view September 12 – October 31. Free and open to the public. Join us for Laky's Artist Reception on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The Musical Swings is an interactive public art installation featuring 10 swings that each activate a different note, allowing participants to make music, connect to one another and have a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bicentennial Park
201 North Walker Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma City Community Foundation
Telephone: 405-606-2922
Contact Name: Kasey Gardner
Website »

More information

Forms Through Language: an exhibition by San Francisco Artist Gyöngy Laky. On view September 12 – October 31. Free and open to the public. Join us for Laky's Artist Reception on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

Join us as we welcome poet, musician and Native American activist Lyla June as the keynote speaker of the eighth annual Ableson Religious Reconciliation Lecture on Sept. 24. Starting at 7 p.m. in...

Cost: Free

Where:
USAO Ballroom
1727 W. Alabama Ave.
Chickasha, OK  73018
View map »


Sponsor: University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma
Telephone: 405-574-1381
Contact Name: Zach Simpson
Website »

More information

Audiences across North America are toasting a new production of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF! Rich with musical hits you know and love, including "Tradition," "Sunrise, Sunset;'...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Civic Center Music Hall
201 N Walker Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: OKC Broadway
Telephone: 405-594-8300
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The Musical Swings is an interactive public art installation featuring 10 swings that each activate a different note, allowing participants to make music, connect to one another and have a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bicentennial Park
201 North Walker Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma City Community Foundation
Telephone: 405-606-2922
Contact Name: Kasey Gardner
Website »

More information

Forms Through Language: an exhibition by San Francisco Artist Gyöngy Laky. On view September 12 – October 31. Free and open to the public. Join us for Laky's Artist Reception on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

Audiences across North America are toasting a new production of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF! Rich with musical hits you know and love, including "Tradition," "Sunrise, Sunset;'...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Civic Center Music Hall
201 N Walker Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: OKC Broadway
Telephone: 405-594-8300
Website »

More information

Dive Bar Saints World Tour DIVE BAR SAINTS, is the title track in Home Free’s upcoming album release, which is out this summer.  The band’s rich, Southern harmonies...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Hudiburg Chevrolet Center
6000 Prosper Blvd
Midwest City, OK  73110
View map »


Sponsor: Emproium Presents
Telephone: 405-594-8300
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The Musical Swings is an interactive public art installation featuring 10 swings that each activate a different note, allowing participants to make music, connect to one another and have a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bicentennial Park
201 North Walker Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma City Community Foundation
Telephone: 405-606-2922
Contact Name: Kasey Gardner
Website »

More information

Forms Through Language: an exhibition by San Francisco Artist Gyöngy Laky. On view September 12 – October 31. Free and open to the public. Join us for Laky's Artist Reception on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

Professional instruction in the art of improvisation. Though some experience with improvisation is beneficial, all skill levels are welcome, no prerequisite classes.  Though sketch comedy...

Cost: $175 for the full term

Where:
The Paramount Room
701 W. Sheridan Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: The Space OKC
Telephone: 405-887-3327
Contact Name: AL Caveny
Website »

More information

Audiences across North America are toasting a new production of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF! Rich with musical hits you know and love, including "Tradition," "Sunrise, Sunset;'...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Civic Center Music Hall
201 N Walker Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: OKC Broadway
Telephone: 405-594-8300
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

DAY OUT WITH THOMAS™: THE STEAM TEAM TOUR 2019 IS PULLING INTO OKLAHOMA RAILWAY MUSEUM FOR THOMAS & FRIENDS’ BIGGEST YEAR YET! ENJOY A DAY OF FAMILY FUN WITH THOMAS THE TANK...

Cost: $18

Where:
Oklahoma Railway Museum
3400 NE Grand Blvd
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Contact Name: Danielle Fusaro
Website »

More information

The Musical Swings is an interactive public art installation featuring 10 swings that each activate a different note, allowing participants to make music, connect to one another and have a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bicentennial Park
201 North Walker Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma City Community Foundation
Telephone: 405-606-2922
Contact Name: Kasey Gardner
Website »

More information

Forms Through Language: an exhibition by San Francisco Artist Gyöngy Laky. On view September 12 – October 31. Free and open to the public. Join us for Laky's Artist Reception on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

The evening Cocktail Cruise offers stunning views of the downtown skyline, the Boathouse District & Finish Line Tower, the Wheeler Ferris wheel and, quite possibly, an amazing...

Cost: Adult: $20 Seniors and Children: $15

Where:
Regatta Park Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd
Oklahoma City, OK  73119
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma River Cruises
Telephone: 405-702-7755
Contact Name: Che Loessberg
Website »

More information

Professional instruction in the art of improvisation. Though some experience with improvisation is beneficial, all skill levels are welcome, no prerequisite classes.  Though sketch comedy...

Cost: $175 for the full term

Where:
The Paramount Room
701 W. Sheridan Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: The Space OKC
Telephone: 405-887-3327
Contact Name: AL Caveny
Website »

More information

Audiences across North America are toasting a new production of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF! Rich with musical hits you know and love, including "Tradition," "Sunrise, Sunset;'...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Civic Center Music Hall
201 N Walker Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: OKC Broadway
Telephone: 405-594-8300
Website »

More information

The Barber of Seville Rossini’s comic masterpiece comes to the Freede Little Theater! When Count Almaviva and his love Rosina run into an issue preventing them from being married -...

Cost: $35 or $50. Prices do not include fees.

Where:
Civic Center Music Hall
201 N Walker Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Painted Sky Opera
Telephone: 405-594-8300
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Join us for the St. Jude Walk/Run during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in September, to raise money for the kids of St. Jude, where families never receive a bill for anything. Let's end...

Cost: $10 Registration Fee

Where:
Myriad Botanical Gardens
301 W Reno Ave
Oklahoma City , OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
Telephone: 405-815-5705
Contact Name: Emily Drover
Website »

More information

DAY OUT WITH THOMAS™: THE STEAM TEAM TOUR 2019 IS PULLING INTO OKLAHOMA RAILWAY MUSEUM FOR THOMAS & FRIENDS’ BIGGEST YEAR YET! ENJOY A DAY OF FAMILY FUN WITH THOMAS THE TANK...

Cost: $18

Where:
Oklahoma Railway Museum
3400 NE Grand Blvd
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Contact Name: Danielle Fusaro
Website »

More information

The Musical Swings is an interactive public art installation featuring 10 swings that each activate a different note, allowing participants to make music, connect to one another and have a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bicentennial Park
201 North Walker Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma City Community Foundation
Telephone: 405-606-2922
Contact Name: Kasey Gardner
Website »

More information

Forms Through Language: an exhibition by San Francisco Artist Gyöngy Laky. On view September 12 – October 31. Free and open to the public. Join us for Laky's Artist Reception on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

America’s largest interactive comedy murder mystery dinner show is now playing at the Skirvin Hilton Hotel. At The Dinner Detective, you’ll tackle a challenging crime while you...

Cost: $59.95

Where:
The Skirvin Hilton
1 Park Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: The Dinner Detective
Telephone: 866.496.0535
Website »

More information

We're poppin' champagne on the patio this Saturday and raffling off a bottle of Perrier-Jouet valued at $300! Come pre-party with us and DJ Catherine Ouellette from 6pm-10pm -...

Cost: Free

Where:
Sheraton Oklahoma City Downtown Hotel
1, N Broadway Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »

More information

The evening Cocktail Cruise offers stunning views of the downtown skyline, the Boathouse District & Finish Line Tower, the Wheeler Ferris wheel and, quite possibly, an amazing...

Cost: Adult: $20 Seniors and Children: $15

Where:
Regatta Park Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd
Oklahoma City, OK  73119
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma River Cruises
Telephone: 405-702-7755
Contact Name: Che Loessberg
Website »

More information

Professional instruction in the art of improvisation. Though some experience with improvisation is beneficial, all skill levels are welcome, no prerequisite classes.  Though sketch comedy...

Cost: $175 for the full term

Where:
The Paramount Room
701 W. Sheridan Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: The Space OKC
Telephone: 405-887-3327
Contact Name: AL Caveny
Website »

More information

Two big artists, one great night of music. 

Cost: $35-$65

Where:
The Auditorium at The Douglass
600 N. High
OKC, OK  73117
View map »


Sponsor: The Blue Door & Kessler Presentss
Telephone: 405-652-9541
Contact Name: Melissa Monroe
Website »

More information

Audiences across North America are toasting a new production of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF! Rich with musical hits you know and love, including "Tradition," "Sunrise, Sunset;'...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Civic Center Music Hall
201 N Walker Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: OKC Broadway
Telephone: 405-594-8300
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags