This Week in Sapulpa History: Grow That Beard!

Rachel Whitney, Curator, 
Sapulpa Historical Museum

“Whiskers Soon to Dominate Faces of Sapulpa Males.”

On May 23, 1948, “plans are progressing at a fast rate of speed for the beard-growing contest to be held in connection with the Golden Jubilee celebration here the week of July 4.” The contest began on May 28 and would end on July 9th. “All sorts of beards will be eligible for the contest, including sideburns, handlebars, mustaches, goatees, or anything else that strikes the grower’s imagination.”

Last Shave, Sapulpa Herald, May 27, 1948

The Chamber of Commerce announced earlier that year in February, that it would sponsor a huge celebration of the Golden Jubilee of Sapulpa being an incorporated city. The celebration would take place in the early weeks of July 1948. Several hundred people in the community participated in the presentation. Marvin Strain said, “First, we desire to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Sapulpa. Second, we want to tell the world that we have a water system which ranks second to none in the state so we will officially dedicate Lake Sahoma, which through the cooperation of the Weather Bureau will probably be filled by that date.”

“Men! Tired of Being Kissed? Then Just Keep Those Beards”

The Junior Chamber of Commerce was sponsoring the beard contest in conjunction with the Golden Jubilee. All males were encouraged to grow a beard to help promote the Golden Jubilee. Fines of $1 would be issued to those not growing a beard. However, if they were found in the last two weeks of the contest without a beard, they would be thrown into a water trough. A total of $100 in prizes would be awarded*.

*Note: $1 and $100 then are roughly $12.50 and $1,250 today.

By June 3rd, some men took “pride in their crop. They choose a type of beard which they wish to raise,” and seek a barber for a proper trim. “Paul Owens is sporting one he calls the ‘Bringham Young’ type. Marvin Strain is in a ‘Spanish Main’ type. Bill Collier has been dubbed ‘the Southern Gentleman’ because of his white goatee like the Kentucky colonel.”

“Beard-Growing Males Aren’t Exactly Making a Hit with Their Chagrined Better Halves.”

However, the beard-growing contest “has really torn the city wide open.” It seemed that the wives of the newly bearded men “refuse to embrace, kiss, or even tolerate ‘billy-goat.’” The women were not happy with how unkempt some of the men had become.

The following day, articles about how to keep a tidy beard were highlighted in the newspapers. “Procedure for getting along with beard given. Face itch, fellows? Hmm, don’t say. Well, don’t give up is the advice from the CC boys [Chamber of Commerce]. Only one more month to go!”

Wives began to worry their husbands would be proud of “those whiskers that they won’t be able to part with them after the Golden Jubilee. Delmar Sharp appeared in a beard strictly cowboy style. Hank May Jr looked up and saw a pile of brush out of which shown two twinkling eyes and he had to look twice before he recognized himself!”

“Some of these beards will not be a five o’clock shadow-but a total eclipse.”

Earlier, it was stated that those found without a beard would be tossed in a water trough came to fruition by June 9th. Two beardless men were dunked in a water trough located on the Court House lawn. Willard Thompson appeared clean-shaven and handcuffed before Judge Snider. He was accused of not having a beard. He was defended by Maurice Lampton, who also had no beard.

Clyde Patrick was the prosecuting attorney. The trail started with Patrick saying he demanded the accused be found guilty as their faces “were smooth as a baby’s bottom.” Objections were shouted. But the honor found them guilty.

Both men were ordered to the water trough. “Thomspon liked it so well that the photographer at the Court House couldn’t get him out of the tank for a picture. Lampton said he had enough water for the day.”

“Make Women Wear Sunbonnets-or Dunk ‘Em.”

W.J. Smith suggested that the women were getting off easy. He said if men had to grow beards, then women should have to suffer as the men do. The women would have to wear bonnets or be punished inside the water trough. “Audrey DeLong is wearing the first of the sunbonnets in the ladies’ part in donning appropriate costumes for the Golden Jubilee Spectacle.”

The Jaycees went out and “invaded” the downtown area in search for “dunkees” or those without beards and bonnets. 

By July 1st, “Lee Snider, a court clerk, couldn’t stand his beard any longer…and he shaved it off, but the ends of his mustache are about long enough now to drag through his coffee cup.”

“Beards Judged, Barbers Happy; Love Blooms Anew.”

“Normal family life emerged from a state of suspended or at least strained relations today as Sapulpa beards began to come off under the kiss of a razor.” The contest was nicknamed the Whisker Derby, and it was now over. The winners were selected by judges, a panel of barbers, by Joe Gault, Chick Clark, and Gene Pennington.

“In judging the beard winners, the beard will fall under three categories with a $20 first prize for each beard style, and a $10 prize for the beards taking second place. Types of beards to be judged are: ‘Full-beards,’ ‘Most-Unique and Decorative Beards, of any type,’ and the ‘goatee type with mustache.’”

In first and second place for the Full-beards were Arch Arrington and Lou Miller. R.G. Fowler had an honorable mention. In first and second place for Most Unique were Dick McCaig and H.P. Moldrup, with Ed Sooter for honorable mention. And for first and second place for their Goatee were Eddie Heind and Doc Tharpe. Honorable mention belonged to Henry May.

By July 12, three days after the contest was over, “no one has had more fun this Jubilee week, and the whisker growing period than Earle A. Croawe. He still has ‘em.”

*Side-Note: the beard contest continued for many years for several different pageants, festivals, and events. To remain beardless, one had to buy a shave-permit.

(Sapulpa Herald, May 23, May 27, June 1, June 3, June 4, June 6, June 10, June 11, June 13,  July 1, July 7, July 12, 1948; Democrat News, June 3, 1948)