Bryan County History: Recalling the `adventures’ of local hustler `Mr. Scotty’
In 1887, a man named J. P. Johnston wrote “Twenty Years of Hus’ling.” Intended as a brief summary of his life, it was instead, a 664-page book “Portraying the Peculiar Incidents, Comical Situations, Failures and Successes of a Man who Tries Almost Every Kind of Business and Finally Wins.”
Vinson A. Scott, bored with his life in Vinita, read the book from cover to cover, said good-bye to the eighth grade and his mom, and joined the Hagenback-Wallace Circus.
Vinson spent two years in a Cadillac, with a chauffeur, scouting locations, hiring locals and clearing plans with local law enforcement. The pace was so hectic, he often slept in the car while the chauffeur drove. He said in a 1975 interview, “It liked to have drove me crazy”.
He moved on to assist Funny Owens, an agent for the 101 Ranch Show, doing basically the same thing, but at a more enjoyable pace. He loved the job, but problems forced the show to close.
Vinson left the traveling life and married Clara Oglesby in 1924. They settled in Haskell and opened a bakery. After two years, a “bread war” caused him to turn off his ovens.
Next, they opened the Kumback Kafe, a hamburger stand in Perry. In 1926, he sold it to a customer who had asked his wife if she thought he would sell it - to which she replied, “He’d sell anything except his wife. If offered enough, he might even sell her.”
Next, the pair hit the road for a short time with a “breathing” wax figure of Jesse James. He sold it after a short run.
Scott’s big break came while hanging out in the Tulsa Hotel. Always well-dressed, he often “borrowed” a cigar stub from a lobby ashtray so he would look even more important.
Link Bowline asked him if he thought he could “sell” his seven-man cowboy band road show. Vinson’s reply was that if he couldn’t sell it, it couldn’t be sold. He booked the show all over Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado and Wyoming.
The band worked in the east for a while, but Bowline suddenly moved to Tulsa and Scott bought him out. He managed the band for about four years before moving to Pottsboro with aspirations of becoming a rancher.
Scott was disappointed in the quality of his 80 acres and sold out for a “song,” as he phrased it. The land later produced almost more oil than wells could handle.
He bought a Model A truck and hit the road with another wax dummy, Tom Mix. He also had a paper-mache’ horse that he painted a different color each week. He charged a quarter to see those and some cherished photos. A motel room fire in Louisiana created some problems, but no one was hurt. He lost some clippings and photos.
As sales from the Mix show dwindled, Scott bought a tent, two trucks, a movie projector and sound equipment and traveled throughout Bryan County with “Scotty’s Hollywood Tent Theater.” His “biggest night” was in Bennington. Eventually he had difficulty buying gas and tires, and keeping workers. He settled in Bokchito, bought a building and operated the Hollywood Theater for six years before selling out to Jerry Easter.
He liked Durant and built a home there on West Main Street. If you look at the grassy lot between the Lutheran Church and First United Bank, a set of old cement steps marks the entrance to 1516 W. Main.
Not one to rest very long between “adventures,” as he called them, classified ads in the 1953 newspaper show him advertising for “Texoma Aviaries” where he raised and trained parakeets. His prized one, Duke, temporarily escaped, but thankfully returned in a couple of days. Vinson had taught him 55 words and was preparing him for a television appearance.
Other mentions of him include “publicity chairman” for a number of local events, an auctioneering business, a campaign for constable and service on a jury.
One day, he encountered a woman standing on the corner of 7th and Main, crying over the damages done to the front of her building by movers. She lamented that it was beyond repair. He countered that it was not. To prove his point, he bought the building, repaired it, and turned it into a second-hand shop that he also managed. He got bored with it and sold out to Clint White.
The last years of his life were spent selling metal identification plates and medical IDs from the back of his pickup. His wife usually accompanied him.
He also traveled from town to town selling eyeglass cleaner to optometrists.
Vinson A. Scott died of heart failure on July 18, 1975, after years overcoming the challenges of throat cancer and diabetes. He was 78. His wife, Clara, died in 1980.
Bryan County History is a weekly feature contributed by members of the Bryan County Genealogy Library and Archives in Calera. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Texoma Marketing and Media Group. Is there a historic event or topic you want to read about? Contact the library at P.O. Box 153, Calera, OK 74730.