Listen America; Noel Houston
The University of North Carolina presents listen America directed by John Clayton and produced by Johnny Lee for the University of North Carolina communications center Erwin director to do this series we went to 13 of the top authors of this country and asked them if there was something they would like to say at this time to the radio audiences of America. We told them that of course there would be no censorship from the University of North Carolina that they could select any theme. It could be a big one or every day as they chose and they could write it up as they wanted to play a dialogue a talk. One of these writers was Noel Houston. Mr. Houston agreed to do this and sent us a script about an American who discovered himself in finding a purpose for his life here to introduce his play is normal of Houston. Not long ago all I want to tell so Oklahoma to write a magazine article on that fabulous oil metropolis. While there I had an exciting and explain inspiring experience which resulted in this plane. Original A telescope was a Creek Indian
village. Then it became a wild and woolly cow town. Now it is a city of skyscrapers and fine homes built with black gold which poured from the red earth of Oklahoma. Besides being a headquarters for the oil business it is a city of scientific research and a hub of the aviation industry. All that looks forward to fulfillment of material promises for the future may be found in the laboratories and headquarters of Tulsa. But I wanted to know something of the community's spiritual heritage. I went out on a hill northwest of the city a hill and black dog township at the edge of the old Osage Indian reservation. As far as I could see rolling farmland lay about the city out there Indians and white people live side by side as neighbors farming raising cattle commuting to city jobs. On this same hill was a building impressive but not large and the building was a great treasure. And in this building too. I met a man who within himself and his life had all the elements that made up this countryside. The Indian The white man and the
farm they are all to great wealth. But he had in himself also something very special and rare. It was that negative spirit which moved me deeply and I was off to tell about it one day who this man was and something of a dream he made come true. I have sat down in this place we will presume that where the arrow originates from a remote pick up we will now switch from the studio to a spot where a staff announcer had been massed is awaiting his cue. Take it away Ben mast. Thank you and good afternoon ladies and gentleman we are speaking to you from the Hill in black dog township in eastern Oklahoma. Black Dog township is an historic spot for at this point the old boundaries of the Osage Cherokee and Creek Indian nations came together. If you hear an occasional distortion of our microphone it is because the wind is blowing as it usually is in Oklahoma and sweeping over this hilltop.
We are here to bring you a remarkable event behind us fans an art museum and library. It's struggling resembling the L and gated half round shape of an Indian comes alive. It was built of native stone on this hill by Indian artisans and within it it houses what has been called the greatest collection of paintings sculpture artifacts and manuscripts dealing with the American Indian ever assembled experts places value at 12 million dollars or more. But in a larger sense it is impossible to evaluate it other than to say it is priceless or it is a fragment of a redeemed memory of a way of life that was going away on the wind. We are standing a little apart on the Hill and the view we can tell you is stunning. Below us is the modern city of Tulsa hundred years ago it was a Creek Indian village but now its skyscrapers gleaming the sparkling air surrounded by far flung residential areas built by the black gold which poured from the Red Oak Oklahoma.
City wines the Arkansas River on its way to the Mississippi. Its narrow channel snaking along a half mile wide bed of white sand. As we turn we can see stretching to the horizon in every direction. The rolling sometimes wooded sometimes open farmland. We are going to bring you in our coverage this afternoon the story of a burning Indian boy. But first let's see if we can pick up the mayor who is putting his remarks out. Now that it isn't on the field.
Mr Gill creases disappeared. I think you went over Harry. I think you went over me. Yes our engineer tells us he saw Mr. Gilchrist going into the museum some minutes ago. We'll just step over to the entrance. We were standing just inside the. Ribbon which is to be cut
later bars are away but down in the gallery to the right we make out the figures of a man and a boy. They are standing in front of a painting what seems from here to be a large bird and there talking animatedly. Yes we are sure that it is Mr. Gill Crees. I guess you are like me Son you got tired of the speechmaking outside. I'd rather look at this year's a turkey so wild turkey and a man name oughta been like it was good too. But since neither of us can we can in my opinion anyway I bag one of those turkeys more than once and brought it home to my mother and I used a bow and arrow. Who are you and that's what the. Anyway I was an Indian boy you know and mostly but I'm part Indian. I grew up as an Indian boy see. Sunday school superintendent.
Oh I mean well lots of people say I look like a minister. Scotch minister. My ambition was to grow up to be as good a farmer as my father raised cattle. Because I I always liked animals to get to know one day back in 1899 when I was nine years old I was out when the corn when my father he called to me and said Oh yeah. Now you come with a wooden Oh well you can lay down your hole for the day. Well are we going fishing. Don't you ever think of anything but don't for sure do what you want and more climb up on the way. Sure yeah. You won't see it get up there. I better know. I'll bet we're going to still see time. No we're going over to Moscow or we're going to buy some now. Where'd we get the money to buy any you know long. But we are going to get you
something. We all want every creaking voice like you was is going to be given his own farm. What about right here in the nation. Look you know how it is now. The whole nation belongs to the tribe and the tribesmen can farm as much land as they can handle so long as the well so long as he he don't get on land some other member of the tribe is growing crops and want to run cattle over there. It's the Indians way but it's not the white man's way and it's the one reason why the union has always been pushed out. No one Indian could point to an exact piece of land and say that's mine. But from now on each group will have these on the farm one hundred and sixty acres. What's a piker and how big is 160 of them. I'm told it's a square close to 900 paces in every direction. Do you mean we have to stay on that. That I no room at all. Where you try plowing I put on that much. And the big thing is you have a paper title and it's yours and yours alone. You know I've never stopped a white man before.
Not in the old days east of the Mississippi but from now on all Greeks will be Americans that have the same rights in court had the right to vote. The whole shebang. That's something you're going to be an American citizen. Why don't you say something. Stop stop the way I get a minute. What is it. What are you looking. Not just live in that land over there. It just happened to hit me the way that creek with its woods bins around the tall grass in the matter and then the blue smoky hills way off yonder backing it all off. It's pretty but what's so startling about it. No nothing I guess but every once in a while I look at Saddam and all of a sudden he happens to look a certain way. Yes yes well. It's like a deer looks when it lists him one foot when it hears a thing like that makes me
think you're funny sometimes and I can't move. I'll go ahead and laugh. I am. The boy time got his farm 160 acres of park bottom land part wooded hills. There were just small stream ran the 10 year old farmer planted cotton and corn and the small profits went to help support his family. Still he had time to think and wonder and desperately he wanted to know more about the world around him. So he went to a school taught by Alex Posey a great Indian statesman and boy. Along with a dozen other Indian boys he mastered the magic of reading and thus for the first time could visualize the world beyond the horizon. Jose being a poet and a boy's love for the beauty of nature among the teachers books was a precious volume of Audubon's Birds. The boy was fascinated by the discovery that you didn't have to go out to the forest in the lakes to see God's living
creatures that an artist could bring them to you. Yes Posey. The rudiments of course from the white man but he was a wise man and he talked more as everybody finished the arithmetic assignment. Now we're going to do something is more fun. How many of you ever shot a bow and arrow. None of you. What do you think of that. But you know how to make and handle a bow. You know why. Tom has his hand up. Well sir it is like you said a man can't know where you but unless he knows where he's been that's right. So and if a man knows what his people were like and how they live. Then he gets a better idea maybe. Maybe how to live by himself and and and if he knows where he is because knowing where his folks been. Well well then he may have a better idea where he's going or which way would be best to go.
Very good. This is the kind of school I like. Well you know what I want always when we go fishin when we've learned the multiplication tables. We learned how our forefathers fished. What are you shaking your head about visions now girl my place. No. I wish to know when I got my farm creeks got a slum on it greasy black stuff comes musing out of the rocks along the bank. It kills all the fish. You are. The real crazy of blacks losing out of the rungs ruining officials along the white man's roads and streets in the east. You're going go contraptions called a horseless carriages are running on fuel made from the easy black box code was turning them out quite a hundred Henry Ford was making a thousand of them a year and then. It was like brothers to an airplane and the engines in the sky.
And factories and shocks ever greater number of machines resulting in ever greater quantities of gasoline oil and free. Men were saying where can we get more oil. We must have more oil. And then one day bigger prospectors camp the hills of eastern Oklahoma came to Tom's Creek the creek with the black scum where no fish could live with the approval of Tom's warns the United States government. The men put up a wooden Derrick amid the dry stalks of Tom's cornfield. They started grilling while Tom hardly comprehending doggedly went on with his ball piling one fateful day. As he turned the end of a furlough he heard the earth groan as if the drillers that had stabbed its vitals. The groan rose to a shriek and the roar not two hundred yards from Tom the liquid black stuff shot over the top of a daring no longer did Tom have a
farm. He stood at the center of the Great Glen Poole maker of Fortune's maker of cities mover of machines the swaying black boom might have been a very godmothers one or in a twinkling was the lad changed from time the poor farm boy to Thomas the sixteen year old millionaire. Oh there were men who tried to steal his fortune before and after he came of age. But they had no luck. Charm could not be made sodden by liquor. He never drank. He could not be lured into a life of prolific luxury. Is canny Scotch Irish blood for bad dissipation. Instead he wants to learn how men work to find and produce oil. You learn how geologists searched out the earth secret hiding places. How leases were bought and sold how men gambled that oil lay at the bottom of a deep hole. Like many another American lad he found he had a knack for business adventure. Once he was
exposed to it by the time he was 25 he had it is own oil company with offices in tells are all going to a metropolis that was calling itself the oil capital of the world. The boy who loved to hunt now hunted out the spoils of the devil's subterranean world. He searched in. Oklahoma Texas and New Mexico. And again and again he found and his wealth multiplier. If this were an Horacio Alger story it might well end here the poor boy who by luck and luck became a wealthy tycoon. But Tom Gilchrist could not rest there. How long he brooded we do not know but he was in his 30 year apparently still on alert driving corporation president one day and his patent office in a Tulsa skyscraper. He spoke his mind. That's Frank. Have a cigarette. Thanks. Perhaps you noticed I've had something on my mind lately. Well as a matter of fact yes we have a well organized company have an in all departments administrative expert radio production
marketing a smooth running outfit. Yes I was gone for three months hunting big game in Alaska. Things went all right without me. Well yes. Are you thinking of another hunting trip. And I guess you could call it that. I'm thinking of going out to the biggest game of all to go out and try to find myself here so. Oh I don't intend a mystical mysterious but you know Frank all my life I've been plagued by that that's the word with with a compulsion to know why. To know the meaning of things why the stars we'll in order while a worm can grow a new head but a man can't even grow a new finger. Why oil is found in certain formations but but not in others almost identical. The why of the world above below and on the surface and all the time I now think I I may have been only trying to find out why in my life. What's the meaning of it. If it has any. If a man
doesn't find a purpose again he did not. He's been a failure. I don't think anyone would call you a failure Tom. Money itself has meant very little to me. We know that. And as you know I'm I'm only one eighth Andy and the rest of me is the blending of as many bloods as the average American is made up of. I'm Scotch Irish English French and Spanish. I suppose I'd backtracked for a while suppose I return to Europe where I once lived in the veins of my European forefathers. Maybe in Scotland England a friend Spain maybe if I stalked and Jack Cafferty enough I could get a glimpse of myself. Maybe even a fair shot of myself. You'll be gone for several months. I have a hunch this will be a long hunt. I may be gone for years. Yes I may be gone. I do so Tom go Greece went into Europe a stranger seeking out the places
which shaped those who had once left to go to America. They made few acquaintances. The lone hunter he trod quietly unobserved and sought out signs more and more he found himself drawn to the Continental art museums repositories of past cultures blending into the present. He walked the miles of galleries admiring brooding trying to judge but becoming increasingly aware of his ignorance of his blind groping of his lack of critical standards by which to gauge significance. Characteristically as he had done as a boy as he had done as a novice in the oil business he decided to seek a teacher. He was in Paris and he went to the American University Union. As I understand it Mr. Gold trees he would like me to be your God. More than that Mr. Newsome my tutor in art particularly in art but also in languages French Italian and Spanish in German. Mr. Newsome all this will take time five years 10. You have that much time. I have the rest of my life
if necessary. You see I'm I'm searching for where when I was a boy I was pretty good with a bow. Let us say I intend to shoot an arrow into the air where it falls to earth. We shall have to wait and see. Is it an assignment you would like. I find it fascinating that it's a deal. It's a deal. And my name is Richard. Thus began a schooling to make a farm boy a business success into a cosmopolitan art expert. It did take years and there was no definite goal for a long time. The two men toured museums visited artists talked with dealers and critics absorbed the heroes of art and history. They sat and conversed in the sun in Rome in Madrid in London and occasionally as Tom Gilchrist became sure. And so he bought a painting he particularly admired but still there was no direction. Not until one evening in the 30s the two men were dining at a favorite restaurant in
Paris. I didn't sleep much last night but you know you don't look for Teague. You look excited I'm bursting with excitement. I lay awake thinking and then all at once I sprang out of bed and began pacing the floor. I think I have found it. Found it. Exactly. I know now what I'm going to do. Perhaps spend the rest of my life doing this is great news. Tell me where to begin with. Well it seems to me that in America we have become too materialistic too much concerned with the gadgets we make and use as if as if they were the end goal of life. There's nothing wrong with them alone they are a great convenience but still we have a continuing need to reflect on spiritual values. Do keep us on the right track the track that winds out of the dim past too. We can't know where now the American Indian had a great spiritual culture. We didn't deed and it
vanished not all together. And if the fragments could be brought together in one place enough of it to serve as a reminder to touch off inspiration and thought and all who come to see and ponder well into what are the first Europeans who came and met the Indians standing on the shore the manuscripts books the letters they wrote the pictures they painted of what they saw not their wars I'm not interested in that but the culture the culture that was influenced and grew from their meeting. If what they left as signs and tokens could be displayed so that we Americans could be reminded of what we were. Do you get my point. Tremendous undertaking. Well I can't tell you the depth of my enthusiasm so you'll be returning to America. No not for years yet perhaps ever so much of this historical treasure with on its way to Europe. My intention is to take it back to America. Thus the happy adventure began slowly but steadily the collection grew.
The crates began moving across the Atlantic to the hilltop outside tell us where Indian workmen were building a museum according to Gill creases plans. Despite his enthusiasm Gill Crees tried to be businesslike in his purchases. Carefully as he could. He calculated what his income from his flowing wells would be through the coming years and made his commitments to pay based on that expected income. And there he was kept up with a coming of war in the 40s and its greatly increased taxes. His net income shrank to a fraction of what he had anticipated. In the new museum. Many of the galleries were hung with pictures many of the cases displayed rare letters and artifacts. But more much more was still created in the basement and unpaid for. Himself back home once more was happily at work as curator arranging sorting cataloguing. But with all the income draining up to pay for the treasures he had less money in his own pockets than did his museum
guides. Being poor himself he did not mind for he lived simply. What he dreaded the thought that his work would fall short before he had a chance to perform the final act to present it all to the people. As word got around of his difficulty Towson's considered could they afford to have the museum on the Hill disappear. They told themselves hapa century ago we were a cock town with hogs wallowing in the muddy streets. Now we are a bright city with more college graduates per capita than any other city in the nation. Can we let this work feel on the brink of success. They call a meeting of leading citizens. Invited to attend. They had a chairman. One of the possible missed to go crazed for a group of wealthy Tolson is to contribute and buy the collection. It is not for SEO it is for all the people. Then suppose the people themselves bought it bought it. How much roughly is the balance of the unpaid commitments. Two million two hundred
fifty thousand dollars. And then suppose the people of Tulsa voted a bond issue for that amount to pay off those commitments. I would not permit the people to pay any pod of what I have collected as a gift to that event of a me to repay the people of this land this earth which by chance gave be my wealth. I am not a poor man and I don't happen to have an About 35 cents on me. I have many I have many oil wells and they are flowing in the years to come they will produce more than enough to meet these commitments. Unfortunately the creditors will not wait that long and therefore if the people wish to vote the two and a quarter million just save what is theirs more than mine. I am agreeable provided that I am allowed to sign over to the city treasurer a the income from my oil wells until the entire amount has been repaid and the bonds us retired with
by money. Well gentlemen I think we've got something. And they did have something. As the crowd here for the public dedication testifies I see the mayor and his aides have found Mr. Gill a crease in the museum and are leading him to the platform. The mayor is promising the crowd that Mr. Gilchrist will give an address but I doubt it. Both the Scotsman and the union of his make up are raises a few words I see is eyes are twinkling behind his steel rimmed glasses though and his smile is that of a man who is seeing a dream come true. Let us listen to it.
For the past half hour you've been listening to a program written by Noel Houston. The series is listen America directed by John Clayton and produced by Johnny Lee for the University of North Carolina communication center. Irwin director this series is produced on a grant and aid from the National Association of educational broadcasters made possible by the Educational Television and Radio Center. On each program of the current series one of the best of our American writers will present his views on a theme of his choice either dramatized or more directly as he chooses in Mr. Houston's program the part of Mr. Gilchrist was played by Philip Johnston that of the narrator by Ben mast. Our actors are students professors and townspeople of the university community. And listen America is recorded in
the studios of the department of radio television and motion pictures on the campus at Chapel Hill. This is B end E.B. Radio Network.
- Listen America
- Noel Houston
- Producing Organization
- University of North Carolina
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- Episode Description
- This program features Noel Houston speaking on and presenting a play he wrote about "an American who discovered himself and found a purpose for his life."
- Series Description
- A series of 13 programs featuring the works of selected contemporary American authors.
- Broadcast Date
- Media type
Actor: Johnston, Phillip
Actor: Mast, Ben
Director: Clayton, John S.
Producer: Ehle, John, 1925-
Producing Organization: University of North Carolina
Speaker: Kuralt, Charles, 1934-1997
Writer: Houston, Noel
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 56-50-8 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- Chicago: “Listen America; Noel Houston,” 1956-09-11, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed November 30, 2023, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-gq6r370j.
- MLA: “Listen America; Noel Houston.” 1956-09-11. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. November 30, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-gq6r370j>.
- APA: Listen America; Noel Houston. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-gq6r370j