Arles Cole

World War II veteran and Pearl Harbor survivor



Arles Cole holds his autobiography, "Showing Our Colors at Pearl Harbor," in his apartment at University Village.

As a 17-year-old sailor stationed on the USS West Virginia in Pearl Harbor, Arles Cole expected a normal, quiet Sunday morning on Dec. 7, 1941.

He had spent the previous evening purchasing Christmas gifts in Honolulu to send to relatives back home in Porum, Okla., a small town south of Muskogee.

Little did he realize that his world, and nearly everyone else’s in America, would soon be turned upside down.
Cole was at his assigned station on the bridge of the West Virginia at 7:55 a.m. (Hawaii time) on that serene Sunday morning. 

The first wave of Japanese bombers buzzed quickly over the horizon, releasing their destruction on the defenseless battleships lined up on “Battleship Row.”

“I remember somebody yelled, ‘We’re being bombed by the Japanese,’” Cole says. “We recognized them immediately as Japanese planes because we could see the red ball on their wings as they flew over.”

A total of 186 Japanese planes were involved in the first wave of the attack, Cole later learned.

With the attack ongoing and the orders to “assume battle stations” issued, Cole attempted to rush to his pre-assigned battle station, which was located four decks below the main deck.

He never made it.

Three decks down on his route, he found himself suddenly trapped by an incoming mixture of water and oil resulting from several torpedoes that had hit the West Virginia. Unable to open the hatch to escape, as the ship had been locked down, thoughts of death raced through Cole’s mind.

Standing alone in the darkness, he was swept off his feet. Then, he heard muffled voices and tried to make his way to them.

As fate would have it, Cole escaped death only by crawling through a hole in the deck created by a Japanese bomb that miraculously had turned out to be a dud.

After advancing to the second deck, Cole immediately turned his efforts to assisting his fellow sailors wounded from the bombing. He rescued and carried a fellow sailor, who turned out to be the ship’s top prizefighter, Doris “Dorie” Miller, weighing 235 pounds, up a flight of stairs to the main deck and eventual safety. Miller was later portrayed by Cuba Gooding Jr. in the 2001 film “Pearl Harbor.”

“To this day, I do not know how I had the strength to carry him up,” Cole says.

Cole not only survived the Japanese attack, but he also played an interesting role in the history of the West Virginia.
Once much of the smoke had cleared and after the Japanese bombers had finally departed, Cole realized that the United States flag had not been hoisted that day because of the bombing.

Cole explains that as a young and patriotic Oklahoman, he could not tolerate his ship lacking a flag flying from its mast. He scurried back below deck to the ship’s bunting locker, where he grabbed the largest flag he could find.

Returning topside, as he approached the ship’s stern, he saw that the halyard on the flagstaff had burned, but some line was remaining at the top of the pole. Cole shinnied up the flagstaff, which angled out over the oily water, and tied the flag to the staff.

Cole admits that the sight of the  flag waving in the breeze above the West Virginia seemed to inspire other sailors as they began efforts to recover from the deadly attack.

Sharing his thoughts

“People have been telling me for years that I should write a book about my experiences,” Cole says.

Cole finally took the plunge last spring. He says that actually working on the book turned into a form of therapy.

“It was a little rough at first, but I got settled in my mind that I could do it,” he says.

When he decided to go forward with the book, he approached the task with a passion. 

Not much slows down the active veteran. Because of declining eyesight, though, Cole dictated his notes into a tape recorder. Then his granddaughter, Rachel Tafoya, transcribed them into a manuscript and did some editing. 

“The toughest thing was just trying to remember everything I wanted to include in the book and then trying to get it in some order,” Cole says.

The resulting product, “Showing Our Colors at Pearl Harbor: A Firsthand Account Through the Eyes of a 17-Year-Old Survivor,” was published this year.

While Cole’s harrowing experience at Pearl Harbor and his account of how he survived the Japanese attack is a focal point, the book is actually an autobiography, chronicling Cole’s life from the time he was born in 1923 in the hills of eastern Oklahoma to today.

“The Lord helped me put the book together,” he says. “I got it done like the Lord directed me. It’s a book about Christian living with the basic foundation being my training in the church.”

Today, at age 87, Cole remains active in veterans’ programs and events, spreading the word about patriotism. He also makes a point to aid his fellow veterans in navigating the intricacies of veterans’ governmental programs, providing assistance and guidance and serving as their advocate whenever possible.

He traveled to Washington, D.C., on the Oklahoma Honor Flights in October. He and his daughter, Sandra, who is a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy, plan to travel to Pearl Harbor in December, where he will participate in the 69th anniversary observance of the bombing. Cole is a frequent representative for the West Virginia at such functions.

He has been a popular figure in Tulsa as well through appearances at recent local sporting events.

He threw out the ceremonial first pitches for The Summit League Baseball Championship at Oral Roberts University last May and for the Tulsa Drillers on the Fourth of July.

At a Tulsa Talons arena football game, he participated in the pre-game coin toss and presented the game ball to officials prior to a Tulsa Shock WNBA game. 

Four years ago, he first spoke at the Jenks Middle School Veterans Day assembly at the invitation of the school. He also speaks often at other area schools. But he has “adopted” Jenks Middle School as “his school,” he says.

Since speaking at Jenks, Cole has had to decide between being honored in the annual Veterans Day parade downtown or participating in the Jenks assembly and talking to the middle-schoolers each year.

For the past four years, Cole has chosen the latter — as an opportunity to pass on his sense of patriotism and love of country.

Often, after participating in the assembly, Cole ventures into classrooms and lets 12- and 13-year-olds fire questions at him in a no-holds-barred Q&A session.

Teachers say that even the students who may be disruptive at times suddenly grow reverential, with Cole drawing their respect merely by his presence.

“Were you scared?” a quiet 13-year-old boy asked him during one of the assemblies.

Cole paused and then chuckled with a gleam in his eye.

“I guess I’ve never been asked that question,” Cole told him.

“Yes, of course, I was scared,” he continued. “We were all scared. But we all had jobs to do and we concentrated on doing those jobs to defend our ships and to fight for our country the best we knew how.”

The rest, as they say, is history.

Real history from a walking history book.

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November 2018

The Farm Shopping Center will be hosting its yearly John 3:16 Food Drive November 1-November 15th. Drop Off: Farm Properties Management Office 5321 S. Sheridan, Suite 27 Tulsa, OK. 74145 If you...

Cost: whatever you are comfortable giving

Where:
The Farm Shopping Center
5321 S Sheridan Ave
Suite 27
Tulsa, OK  74145
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Sponsor: The Farm Shopping Center
Telephone: 918-622-3860
Contact Name: Piper Dunlap
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The Tulsa Air and Space Museum & Planetarium will be hosting the “Flagship Detroit,” a Douglas DC-3 aircraft over Veterans Day weekend, November 10 through 12.  The aircraft is presented by...

Cost: Free - $15.00

Where:
Tulsa Air and Space Museum & Planetarium
3624 North 74th East Ave.
Tulsa
Tulsa, OK  74115
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Sponsor: Tulsa Air and Space Museum & Planetarium
Telephone: 918-834-9900
Contact Name: Kevin Meeks
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Cost: Varies

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The Melting Pot of Tulsa
300 Riverwalk Terrace #190
Jenks, OK  74037
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Sponsor: The Melting Pot of Tulsa
Telephone: 918-299-8000
Contact Name: Alex Cooper
Website »

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Cost: Free with purchase

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FlyingTee
600 Riverwalk Terrace
Jenks, OK  74037
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Telephone: 918-528-7717
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Cost: $35/person

Where:
Tulsa Time Paint & Sip Studio
3807 S Peoria Ave
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Sponsor: Tulsa Time Paint & Sip Studio
Telephone: 918-927-0729
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BOK Center
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Telephone: 405-509-9312
Contact Name: Lauren Daughety

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Cost: $5 - $15

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Living Arts
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The Farm Shopping Center will be hosting its yearly John 3:16 Food Drive November 1-November 15th. Drop Off: Farm Properties Management Office 5321 S. Sheridan, Suite 27 Tulsa, OK. 74145 If you...

Cost: whatever you are comfortable giving

Where:
The Farm Shopping Center
5321 S Sheridan Ave
Suite 27
Tulsa, OK  74145
View map »


Sponsor: The Farm Shopping Center
Telephone: 918-622-3860
Contact Name: Piper Dunlap
Website »

More information

The Tulsa Air and Space Museum & Planetarium will be hosting the “Flagship Detroit,” a Douglas DC-3 aircraft over Veterans Day weekend, November 10 through 12.  The aircraft is presented by...

Cost: Free - $15.00

Where:
Tulsa Air and Space Museum & Planetarium
3624 North 74th East Ave.
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Tulsa, OK  74115
View map »


Sponsor: Tulsa Air and Space Museum & Planetarium
Telephone: 918-834-9900
Contact Name: Kevin Meeks
Website »

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Cost: free and open to the public

Where:
McKeon Center for Creativity
910 S. Boston Ave.
TCC Metro Campus
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Sponsor: McKeon Center for Creativity
Telephone: 918-595-7339
Contact Name: McKeon Center for Creativity
Website »

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Cost: $10

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The Grief Center
2502 E. 71st Street
Atlanta South Office Park
Tulsa, OK  74136
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Sponsor: The Tristesse Grief Center
Telephone: 918-587-1200
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Cost: $50/person

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Tulsa Time Paint & Sip Studio
3807 S Peoria Ave
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The Farm Shopping Center will be hosting its yearly John 3:16 Food Drive November 1-November 15th. Drop Off: Farm Properties Management Office 5321 S. Sheridan, Suite 27 Tulsa, OK. 74145 If you...

Cost: whatever you are comfortable giving

Where:
The Farm Shopping Center
5321 S Sheridan Ave
Suite 27
Tulsa, OK  74145
View map »


Sponsor: The Farm Shopping Center
Telephone: 918-622-3860
Contact Name: Piper Dunlap
Website »

More information

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Cost: $10-$20

Where:
Mabee Center
7777 South Lewis Ave
Tulsa
Tulsa, OK  74171
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The Farm Shopping Center will be hosting its yearly John 3:16 Food Drive November 1-November 15th. Drop Off: Farm Properties Management Office 5321 S. Sheridan, Suite 27 Tulsa, OK. 74145 If you...

Cost: whatever you are comfortable giving

Where:
The Farm Shopping Center
5321 S Sheridan Ave
Suite 27
Tulsa, OK  74145
View map »


Sponsor: The Farm Shopping Center
Telephone: 918-622-3860
Contact Name: Piper Dunlap
Website »

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Cost: Children under 3 FREE Kids (3-12) $11.95 Adults $15.95

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300 Aquarium Drive
Jenks, OK  74037
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Telephone: 918-296-FISH
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Cost: $150 individual tickets; $1,000-$25,000, sponsorships.

Where:
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2636 E. 61st Street
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Tulsa, OK  74136
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Sponsor: Dillon International
Telephone: 918-748-4600
Contact Name: Marcia Graham
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Cost: No Cost

Where:
Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma
1304 N. Kenosha Ave.
Tulsa, OK  74106
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Sponsor: Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma
Telephone: 918-936-4551
Contact Name: Regan Leake
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Cost: 0.

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914 N Greenwood Ave
Tulsa, OK  74106
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Sponsor: Khan Ohana Foundation
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Cost: Free

Where:
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700 N. Greenwood Ave.
Tulsa, OK  74106
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Sponsor: OSU-Tulsa
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Cost: Free

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Hope House
4241 S 37th W Ave.
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Sponsor: Hope House
Telephone: 918-446-8176
Contact Name: Dorothy Brown

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Every Wednesday Live Event Trivia is at The Willows Family Ales - Show starts at 7 and is free to play! Movie scenes, Finish the Lyric, Classic Trivia, and more! The crew from T-Town Tacos will be...

Cost: Free

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The Willows Family Ales
418 south peoria ave
tulsa, OK  74120
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Sponsor: The Willows Family Ales
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The Farm Shopping Center will be hosting its yearly John 3:16 Food Drive November 1-November 15th. Drop Off: Farm Properties Management Office 5321 S. Sheridan, Suite 27 Tulsa, OK. 74145 If you...

Cost: whatever you are comfortable giving

Where:
The Farm Shopping Center
5321 S Sheridan Ave
Suite 27
Tulsa, OK  74145
View map »


Sponsor: The Farm Shopping Center
Telephone: 918-622-3860
Contact Name: Piper Dunlap
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
Eastwood Baptist Church
948 S 91st E Ave
Tulsa, OK  74112
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Sponsor: Eastwood Baptist Church
Telephone: 918-836-8686
Contact Name: Shirley Pittenger
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Cost: 0

Where:
Christ Church Episcopal
10901 S Yale Ave
Tulsa, OK
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Sponsor: Tulsa Metro Sound
Telephone: 918-352-6091
Contact Name: Candace
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Cost: 50

Where:
Cain's Ballroom
423 North Main Street
Tulsa, OK
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Sponsor: Ok So Story Slam
Telephone: 918-596-2008
Contact Name: Ryan Howell

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Cost: FREE!!

Where:
The Willows Family Ales
418 south peoria ave
418 South Peoria Ave
Tulsa, OK  74120
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Sponsor: The Willows Family Ales
Contact Name: Julian Morgan

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Cost: $110

Where:
Downtown Tulsa
Tulsa, OK  74066


Sponsor: Williams, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma
Telephone: 918-408-1208
Contact Name: Ally Lightle
Website »

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Cost: $35/person

Where:
Tulsa Time Paint & Sip Studio
3807 S Peoria Ave
Tulsa, OK  74105
View map »


Sponsor: Tulsa Time Paint & Sip Studio
Telephone: 918-927-0729
Contact Name: Martin Pecina
Website »

More information

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Cost: $20

Where:
Studio 308
308 S. Lansing Ave.
Tulsa, OK  74120
View map »


Sponsor: American Theatre Company
Telephone: (918) 747-9494
Contact Name: Meghan Hurley
Website »

More information

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Cost: 40

Where:
DECOPOLIS
502 S. Boston Ave
Tulsa, OK  74103
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Sponsor: DECOPOLIS
Telephone: 918-382-7388
Contact Name: Kathleen
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We are back just in time for the holidays! Shop for great vintage holiday decor and unique gifts from an unparalleled array of antiques, collectibles, vintage items, memorabilia, books, jewelry,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Exchange Center/Expo Square
4145 E. 21st Street
Tulsa
Tulsa, OK  74112
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Telephone: 918-744-1386
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Cost: FREE

Where:
Rudisill Regional Library
1520 North Hartford Avenue
Tulsa, OK  74106
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Sponsor: WE Baby/ With Love Holistic Birth Services
Telephone: 918-282-9033
Contact Name: Rose Hurd
Website »

More information

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Cost: Varies

Where:
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300 Riverwalk Terrace #190
Jenks, OK  74037
View map »


Sponsor: The Melting Pot of Tulsa
Telephone: 918-299-8000
Contact Name: Alex Cooper
Website »

More information

How do you envision your birth experience? Learn evidence based information to help you plan for a more positive birth and beyond. You will be guided through topics on Pain management...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Rudisill Regional Library
1520 North Hartford Avenue
Tulsa, OK  74106
View map »


Sponsor: WE Baby/ With Love Holistic Birth Services
Telephone: 918-282-9033
Contact Name: Rose Hurd
Website »

More information

Over the past thirteen years, the Williams Route 66 Marathon presented by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma has become a 26.2-mile party! You might find yourself asking "Is this a race or...

Cost: $110

Where:
Downtown Tulsa
Tulsa, OK  74066


Sponsor: Williams, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma
Telephone: 918-408-1208
Contact Name: Ally Lightle
Website »

More information

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Cost: FREE

Where:
Rudisill Regional Library
1520 North Hartford Avenue
Tulsa, OK  74106
View map »


Sponsor: WE Baby/ With Love Holistic Birth Services
Telephone: 918-282-9033
Contact Name: Rose Hurd
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Cost: Free

Where:
The Grief Center
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Cost: $55/person

Where:
Tulsa Time Paint & Sip Studio
3807 S Peoria Ave
Tulsa, OK  74105
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Sponsor: Tulsa Time Paint & Sip Studio
Telephone: 918-927-0729
Contact Name: Martin Pecina
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Cost: $7

Where:
Mabee Center
7777 S Lewis Ave
Tulsa, OK  74171
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Telephone: 818-945-6000
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Cost: 59.95

Where:
Hilton Garden Inn Tulsa- Broken Arrow
420 W Albany St.
Broken Arrow, OK  74012
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Telephone: 866-496-0535
Contact Name: The Dinner Detective
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The Oklahoma Swing Syndicate (TOSS) hosts a Swing dance and lessons  The Oklahoma Swing Syndicate (TOSS) is the only UNESCO recognized dance organization in Oklahoma.  We are a 501c3...

Cost: $7

Where:
Community Center - South Minister Presby Church
3500 So Peoria
1/2 west of Peoria, on 35pl behind the church
Tulsa, OK  74102
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Sponsor: The Ok Swing Syndicate
Telephone: 918-450-691
Contact Name: Rita Robbins
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Cost: $35/ticket

Where:
Tulsa Time Paint & Sip Studio
3807 S Peoria Ave
Tulsa, OK  74105
View map »


Sponsor: Tulsa Time Paint & Sip Studio
Telephone: 918-927-0729
Contact Name: Martin Pecina
Website »

More information

The award -winning Talk of Tulsa Show Chorus invites you to attend its Annual Show, A Cappella LIVE!,  on Saturday, November 17, 2018 at 7:00pm at the Union High School Performing Arts Center....

Cost: Adults $15 Students$10

Where:
Union PAC
6636 S Mingo
Tulsa, OK  74133
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Sponsor: Talk of Tulsa Show Chorus
Telephone: (918)645-0488
Contact Name: Claudia Meiling
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As part of the Bob Dylan Center’s ongoing series of public programs, punk music legend John Doe, co-founder of X, and Jeff Slate, noted musician and journalist, will discuss Dylan’s recent...

Cost: $20

Where:
Woody Guthrie Center
102 E. M.B. Brady St.
Tulsa, OK  74103
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Sponsor: The Bob Dylan Center
Telephone: 918-574-2710

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Cello fireworks will abound, with rising star Clancy Newman. Virtuoso variations by Tchaikovsky will team up with orchestral variations by Brahms. Plus Newman’s own solo “Summer”...

Cost: $22-$44

Where:
Bartlesville Community Center
300 S.E. Adams Blvd.
Bartlesville, OK  74003
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Sponsor: Bartlesville Symphony Orchestra
Telephone: 918-366-7717
Contact Name: Molly Collins
Website »

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Ah, family!  Gotta love ‘em!  And with the holidays soon approaching, what better time to enjoy an evening of laughs with a family that puts the “fun” in...

Cost: $8.00

Where:
pH Community House
306 S Phoenix Ave
Tulsa, OK  74127
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Sponsor: The Spontaniacs!
Telephone: 918-521-9345
Contact Name: Eric Peterson
Website »

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Ah, family!  Gotta love ‘em!  And with the holidays soon approaching, what better time to enjoy an evening of laughs with a family that puts the “fun” in...

Cost: $8.00

Where:
pH Community House
306 South Phoenix Avenue
Tulsa, OK  74127
View map »


Sponsor: The Spontaniacs!
Telephone: 918-521-9345
Contact Name: Eric Peterson
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When four lost New Englanders who enroll in Marty’s six-week-long community-center drama class begin to experiment with harmless games, hearts are quietly torn apart, and tiny wars of epic...

Cost: $20

Where:
Studio 308
308 S. Lansing Ave.
Tulsa, OK  74120
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Sponsor: American Theatre Company
Telephone: (918) 747-9494
Contact Name: Meghan Hurley
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Paint this cute little guy with us! Choose whatever house colors you prefer for his scarf. Recommended for ages 7 and older.

Cost: 25

Where:
DECOPOLIS
502 S. Boston Ave
Tulsa, OK  74103
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Sponsor: DECOPOLIS
Telephone: 918-382-7388
Contact Name: Kathleen
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TULtalk


Episode 7: Elizabeth Frame Ellison, CEO of the Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation

Elizabeth Frame Ellison discusses the brand-new Mother Road Market, Tulsa’s first food hall, located on historic Route 66.

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Charitable Events: November 2018

Fundraisers and fun happenings

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Video: Apple Blackberry Crumble Pie Recipe

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Oklahoma Caring Awards

The Oklahoma Caring Awards raised $76,000 for the Hospitality House of Tulsa.

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Santorini Night

A fundraiser for Emergency Infant Services, the event was presented by the Tulsa Greek Festival and kicked off Greek Week.

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