We were not mentioned in S. E. Hinton’s book The Outsiders. Hinton’s novel takes place in Tulsa Oklahoma in the mid-sixty’s which is a beautifully written anthropology of the class division between high school teenagers. The Socs (pronounced ˈsoʊʃɪz / so-shis, short form of Socials) were from middle income to upper income families on the south side of Tulsa. They drove new cars given to them by their daddy. Thier social uniform were wheat jeans, penny loafers, button down collar madrases shirts, and white socks. Their haircut was reminiscent to the moptops of the Beatles. On the other hand, the greasers were boys from lower-class blue collar families from north Tulsa. Most were shade tree mechanics driving old 50’s Chevrolets and Fords that were retrieved from auto salvage yards. Their uniform were Levi’s, hand me down jean jackets, tee-shirts, Converse All Stars, and most important Brylcreem for that Elvis pompadour look.
In between the two tribe were the nameless kids who’s economic standing was somewhere between the families of Socs and the Greasers. We were the nerds, the geeks and socially inept when it came to girls. It is true that one of the most important qualities that can help teens establish their own identities is the ability to “fit in.” Finding friends who understand their problems and relate to them is paramount for teenagers. It wasn’t long until we realized that what we had in common was our interest in doing cool stuff instead of campaigning for popularity at school or smoking in the back of the school. We created our own tribe and we called ourselves “The GTO’s, Order of the Pythons” .
From 1964 to 1968 we produced movies using our parents Bell and Howell movie cameras. At first, we filmed our friends acting goofy around the house and favorite hang outs -that was in the 8th grade. By the 9th grade we were charging kids 50 cents to be in our movies and they didn’t just hang out at the parents’ house anymore. Kids were being blown up, shot at and chased by the bad guys in War movies, Spy movies and even a Roman drama. Growing up in Oklahoma the culture allowed hunting as a normal recreation which gave us access to shotguns, black powder and a great locations. The Verdigris River which is northeast of Tulsa was our favorite location and isolated from civilization and parental control. All the tall guys had to be the bad guys (the Germans) the little guys were the good guys (the Americans). We bought army surplus and dyed the fatigues black and spray painted the helmets and wore them backwards so they would look like German helmets. Once we had a old, gray ’59 Ford station wagon. We painted a couple of swastikas on it, filled the back up with black powder and drove it down the river and blew it up. We did this until we graduated from Will Rogers High School in 1968. Needless to say, we went our separate ways pursuing a life outside of Tulsa.
In 2010 as a result of facebook this little band of brothers reestablished the brotherhood -but, not without loss. In May of 2008 Dean Bishop who crated the GTO’s and was our mastermind passed away from cancer – Dean was financially supported and cared for by fellow members Rex and Ricky Gray until his death. Dan Lundy the tallest member of the GTO’s passed away in the mid 90’s from cancer after being exposed to agent orange in Vietnam. The surviving members of the original six GTO’s including myself are: Rex Gray and brother Ricky Gray and Dan Battreall.
I am eternally grateful to my band of brothers for not only giving me wonderful memories but laying the foundation for the career I enjoy today.