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The Archivist: Yiddish greeting became Oklahoma oil field name in 1923

Mary Phillips: Humble Oil's first Carter County well dubbed “Sholem Alechem”
BY MARY PHILLIPS mphillips@opubco.com Modified: April 20, 2013 at 9:04 pm •  Published: April 22, 2013
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“Sholem Alechem!”

The Yiddish phrase which translates to “Peace be with you” was probably not what you would expect to hear on the street in Ardmore in 1923.

But, Bill Krohn, oil writer for the Daily Ardmoreite and a Jewish transplant from New York City who arrived in Ardmore after World War I, would greet whomever he met with “Sholem Alechem” and a raised hand of friendship. Little did he or anyone else know that his greeting would become the name of a new oil field.

In December 1923, the Humble Oil & Refining Co. had just completed its first well in Carter County and one of the deepest in southern Oklahoma at 4,200 feet.

It was big news and the main topic of conversation for people who gathered in the lobby of the Ardmore Hotel.

Clyde V. Barrow, The Oklahoman's legendary oil writer and editor, told the story in his Dec.17, 1961, column “Oklahoma Oil Lore.”

“So, just before Christmas, when Humble announced final gauges on the well, the gang in the lobby decided to name the field Sholem Alechem, although some had trouble pronouncing the name and few knew its meaning.

“The name caught on in a hurry, and the next spring Krohn with a few others formed ‘Sholem Alechem International,' a fun club for the industry. The club had more officers and committees than did the American Petroleum Institute, and at a dollar a head, with a gold-and-green membership card there were soon members spread over Oklahoma and Texas.”

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