A soldier’s memories

Photo courtesy of The Beryl Ford Collection/Rotary Club of Tulsa, Tulsa City-County Library and Tulsa Historical Society.

As we’ve mentioned before, the Max Campbell Building was once home to the Casa Loma Hotel. The Casa Loma was pretty impressive for its time, but hotel amenities have changed a bit over the years.

We recently received an e-mail from the daughter of a World War II veteran who stayed at the Casa Loma while undergoing military training at the nearby University of Tulsa. During his time at the Casa Loma, he stayed in what is now Room 221 — our Renaissance Suite. We are grateful to him for sharing his memories of the Casa Loma with us.

Recollections of Julian E. Smith of Little Rock, Arkansas:

We were assigned to Tulsa University directly from basic training as aviation students during the early months of World War II. To explain, many thousands of young men all over the country had joined the Army Air Corps as aviation cadets but the Corp did not have training facilities to accommodate all of us so they called us in during late 1942 and sent us to colleges and universities all over the U.S. until space opened up.

We were all pleased to be in Tulsa and considered it to be one of the best assignments in the war. Local residents were very gracious and showed their gratitude by inviting the aviation students for home-cooked meals and to attend church and other social activities.

I was housed in the northwest corner room of the Casa Loma Hotel with John Taylor as my roommate. [I never heard from him after our time in Tulsa and have no idea if he made it or not. This was typical of WWII; as military personnel you changed assignments often and generally knew no one when reporting to your new assignment.] He was a fine fellow from Shreveport, Louisiana. On the ground level of the hotel building at the far west end was a one-story commercial space. The west windows of our corner room made access to the roof easy so during hot summer evenings we moved our mattresses out the window and slept on the roof.

This is how Room 221 looks today. Thanks to air conditioning, guests no longer need to climb out onto the roof to cool off!

There was not a hotel lobby in the Casa Loma when I was there. We entered the 11th Street entrance and went immediately up the stairs. In the upstairs hall there was a bulletin board with invitations from the community for the meals and activities mentioned above.

The front desk is now located downstairs; the upstairs lobby is a commons area where guests can relax.

Since we were new soldiers our C.O. (Commanding Officer) made arrangements with a dry-cleaning establishment, across the street and east about a block, to have our uniforms tailored so we looked more military.

We marched with our units to and from TU singing most of the time. We took our meals at TU and used all their facilities, including the stadium. The sororities would occasionally ask for volunteers for dances and we were happy to oblige!

I was in Tulsa for several months before receiving my assignment to a Classification Center in San Antonio, Texas and entered pilot training thereafter, graduating in Lubbock, Texas as a 2nd Lt. and pilot. I flew B-24s and went overseas as a B-29 pilot, 99th Squadron, 9th Bomb Group, 313th Wing of the 20th Air Force and was stationed on Tinian in the Marianna Islands in the south Pacific. I was separated from the service as a Captain and graduated from the University of Arkansas in 1949. Married, and the father of 3 daughters, I will celebrate my 88th birthday next month and still enjoy a weekly game of golf!

We are grateful to Capt. Smith for his service and for his willingness to share his memories. If you or someone in your family has special memories of time spent at the Casa Loma, we’d love to hear them! Give us a call at (918) 744-5500 or let us know in the comments.

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