William Franklin’s grandma was a babe.
So pretty was Marjorie Anderson, born Marjorie Morrow, that she posed nude for a local artist.
The year was 1941. She was 19.
“I can see that — I can definitely see that,” says Franklin. “She had a bit of a fun side to her. She was a modern girl even though her father was a preacher.”
This is more than a fun story, though. It’s a bit of Tulsa history that was never made — a story worth telling on the weekend the city will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Golden Driller at Expo Square.
Because, according to Franklin, it was a 40-foot-high statue of his young, naked grandmother called the Goddess of Oil that was supposed to be placed in front of the International Petroleum Exposition building at Expo Square, where the Golden Driller now stands, in 1941.
Anderson, who had just graduated from Central High School, answered an ad for a model and got the job. The artist was Clarence Allen.
“During that time period, they (Tulsans) wanted to be very European, very cosmopolitan, a sophisticated city” Franklin said. “To put a 40-foot nude statue up would have been no problem, but today it would probably have been a big controversy.”
Anderson used the money she made modeling for Allen to pay for art lessons. But plans to build the statue got derailed when America entered World War II.
Franklin and his family didn’t know about grandma’s modeling days until later in her life, when Anderson unveiled Allen’s 4-foot-tall version of the statue at one of her art shows.
Franklin believes his grandmother eventually gave the statue to him because he had grown up to be an artist, just like her.
“I guess she wanted to express how she was,” Franklin said. “And like I said, she could see I was moving on in my career and doing different things, and … as an artist, she wanted to pass on that gift.”
He can’t get through the story without choking up. But it also cracks him up: Grandma the nude model.
“She was very modern and dressed very classy,” Franklin says. “She was beautiful, a stunner.”
Marjorie Morrow Anderson died on July 7, 2008, at the age of 86.
“The first thing (when) I think of her is, she travelled a lot,” Franklin says. “She’d go to Europe, she was always travelling around the world. … Some of my favorite memories are, every Christmas she’d have some present from somewhere else in the world.”
Franklin, owner of Decopolis, 502 S. Boston Ave., and the founder of the Tulsa Art Deco Museum, would like to see a larger version of the Goddess of Oil statue built someday, perhaps in front of a new Art Deco Museum building.
But don’t misunderstand: He’s a big Golden Driller fan. He plans to be at the citywide party at Expo Square on Saturday.
“Just as an artist and a Tulsa person who wants to celebrate all things Tulsa,” Franklin says.
The event begins at 7 p.m under a tent at the feet of the Golden Driller. Admission is $50, with all proceeds going to the United Way.
The band Midlife Crisis will begin performing at 7:30. The three winners of the Golden Driller costume contest will receive a Golden Driller painting from Franklin and passes to Safari Joe’s water park.
The price of admission includes a commemorative T-shirt for the first 200 people and a commemorative ticket, two beer tickets and food. The Golden Driller will be lit up at 8:30.
An area will be set aside for individuals who do not want to pay the admission fee but would like to see the Golden Driller lit up.
Tickets can be purchased at the event or online at www.thegoldendriller.com