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Split-T Story Redux

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Since Monday’s story about the Split-T published, I’ve received a high volume of calls and emails, thanking me for the trip down memory lane. I’ve also had two calls from readers who had a beef with the treatise on the iconic charcoal-ovenry.

One with a minor complaint, the other with a major one.

First the smaller stuff.

Rick Haynes is the son of David “Johnnie” Haynes, the longtime manager of the Split-T who went on to open Johnnie’s Charcoal Broiler.

“My dad never washed dishes at the Split-T,” Rick told me. “I don’t know where that rumor got started, but it’s not true.”

I also got an email from Bill Fisher, who said he and a friend helped Vince Stephens and Johnnie clean up the space that was to become the Split-T before it ever opened. He wrote, “I doubt if ‘Johnnie’ ever washed a dish in his life.”

Fisher, Johnnie was hired as manager of the Split-T from day one, and had come over from the Sky Chef at the airport.

I let both Rick and Bill know, that I’d picked up that detail from stories The Oklahoman published years before and found them in our archive with no correction tags. Just a bit of background: At the Oklahoman, if we get something wrong in a published story our policy is to publish a correction in the paper. The other thing we’re required to do is send our archive department a copy of the correction, which is tagged to the archived story so the mistake will never be repeated. Either no one called when the assertion was printed years ago, or the reporter who wrote it didn’t tag the mistake. Either way, it’s easy to see how a rumor like that gets started, and Rick said it wasn’t a big deal, but that he was tired of hearing it so he thought he’d let me know. He also was concerned that his father might’ve been implicated in Clara Luper’s story recollection of the sit-in at the Split-T. Clara refers to a manager, but not by name. Rick says his father didn’t have a racist bone in his body and that he was raised in a house that was multicultural. Rick did have a theory as to who started the conflict, but since Clara didn’t name names I don’t think it’s necessary to start. The bottom line is, the Split-T was part of the Sixties and so was the Civil Rights Movement. For a short time, the two crossed paths and in the end conflict was resolved.

The second call was from Rusty Hilger. The former star quarterback from Oklahoma State truly joined the Split-T story at the wrong time. He took issue with the way I framed his role within the history of the restaurant, claiming his only intention ever was to help bring the place back to life. He didn’t deny wrongdoing that occurred while he was an owner, though he did point out his arrest occurred in Blanchard, not at the bar. Based on court records, this bears out. Hilger, who now does roofing and construction contracting, said he went through one year of supervised parole followed by two years unsupervised. His record remained clear in those three years, so the conviction has been expunged. He also said that the health department problems the store went through preceded him. While the story doesn’t assert he was responsible but rather that the problems occurred around the time he took over, I can see his point. Rusty spent a good chunk of the change he’d earned as an NFL quarterback for the Raiders, Colts, Lions and Seahawks trying to get the place back up to code. He was still playing in the NFL when he first invested in the Split-T, so he said he wasn’t aware of the problems when he took over as managing partner. He was just a guy looking to opena sports bar, on the advice of former Seahawk teammate Dave Kreig. Ultimately, Rusty had plenty of good memories about the Split-T, recalling the splash it began with when he took over to his days as a kid, who would eventually star at Southeast High School, when his family drove up at least once a month for a burger, fries and onion rings.

I appreciate the calls and enjoyed talking with both Rick and Rusty. We seek to print the truth. Sometimes the truth we know one day doesn’t match the truth we learn the next. One of the advantages of the Internet is that we can now revise stories to reflect when new information comes to light.

So, what these calls did was allow me to make a couple small revisions to the online version of the story to better bear out the history of the Split-T.

If you’ve got any feedback on the Split-T, T-Bar or any other restaurant gone by, leave it here.

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Related Photos
 The demolition of the Split-T and T-Bar in 2000 didn't take with it memories of the iconic burger joint on Western. Staff photo by David McDaniel.

The demolition of the Split-T and T-Bar in 2000 didn't take with it memories of the iconic burger joint on Western. Staff photo by David McDaniel.

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-bff50dbc2a9072d92c61c243856c49d8.jpg" alt="Photo - The demolition of the Split-T and T-Bar in 2000 didn't take with it memories of the iconic burger joint on Western. Staff photo by David McDaniel. " title=" The demolition of the Split-T and T-Bar in 2000 didn't take with it memories of the iconic burger joint on Western. Staff photo by David McDaniel. "><figcaption> The demolition of the Split-T and T-Bar in 2000 didn't take with it memories of the iconic burger joint on Western. Staff photo by David McDaniel. </figcaption></figure>
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