By Jane Bryant
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — From Kansas City to Norman with stops in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Yale, Oklahoma City and Edmond — looking back as he prepared to mark his 100th birthday today, Allan Oehlschlager termed it a “glorious ride.”
Born April 13, 1914, in Kansas City, Mo., into a German family, Allan spoke German until he was 5. His maternal grandparents were college graduates, his grandfather a circuit minister serving Missouri’s German communities.
Allan attended Kansas City schools and began his college studies at a community college there before transferring to the University of Pennsylvania. His degree is from Penn’s Wharton School of Business.
Perhaps a harbinger of his later sales career, at age 16 he bought an old Model T Ford for $15, drove it for a year and then sold it for $18 to four guys who were going to college in Illinois. No surprise that Allan came out of the deal with a $3 profit.
“Big money in those days,” he said.
His first job for a paycheck was in the offices of Swift and Company, the Kansas City meat packer. From there, he want off to Penn and immediately got involved in the community, as he had done in every place he has lived since.
At Penn, he went for a crew and made the 150-pound crew team; joined Mask and Wig, an all-male drama group that put on shows and took them around the area; and served as a senior councilor in a 30-man freshman dorm.
“I was pretty successful with 28 of them, but oh, those other two,” he said.
A New York glue and paper products company recruited Oehlschlager from Penn for a sales job and he was assigned six New England states.
He and his bride set up housekeeping in Hartford, Conn., and his first son was born there. Later, the young family moved to South Windham, Conn., where Allan bought and remodeled a 150-year-old house. Their second son was born in nearby Willimatic.
When the U.S. entered World War II, the military wouldn’t take fathers of two, so Oehlschlager aimed his sales work to the defense industry. He called it “Smokestack Chasing.”
“Wherever you saw a smokestack, it was probably a defense industry, and they needed paper products,” Oehlschlager said.
But it was in Yale where Oehlschlager “became a real entrepreneur.” His brother, a medical doctor, answered an ad from Yale’s three-story hospital, moved his practice there, started a boysenberry garden and bought a grocery store.
Their parents moved to Yale and Oehlschlager went there on vacation and decided to move to Yale, too. He joined his brother in the grocery and a small ranching operation. It wasn’t long before he bought a drug store and then the variety store across the street.
As he had done in Kansas City, at Penn and in Connecticut, he immediately got involved in the community. He joined Town and Gown in Stillwater and acted in four or five of their productions and was active in a Great Books discussion group.
“Ten ladies and me,” Oehlschlager said.
He helped build a swimming pool and tennis courts for the city that liked to boast itself as “the only town of 1,200 people with paved streets.”
Oehlschlager sold out his Yale stores and moved in 1965 to Oklahoma City, where he started an investment business. He was a financial planner dealing in mutual funds, contracts, oil and gas, and real estate.
“I put together limited partnerships in oil and gas and created Nominee Agreements where I was the nominee and did the work, giving clients a way to get into oil and gas,” Oehlschlager said.
“I’ve been lucky. I looked for a good oil operator with a good reputation, a good philosophy who would be able to stay with it, and I always took a piece of his well along with my clients,” he said.
Oehlschlager met J.C. in Oklahoma City, and they were married two years later in Houston. They will celebrate their 40th anniversary next month.
In 1975, they moved to Norman so J.C. could attend OU to pursue her master’s degree.
As always, Oehlschlager immediately got involved in the city. He joined the chamber of commerce and became an ambassador, calling on new and prospective members. Always a supporter of the arts, he also got involved in Norman’s Firehouse Art Center.
At age 69, he resumed playing golf, joined The Trails and, at 71, he shot his age, “something that golfers like to brag about.” He continued to shoot his age every year after that until her gave up the game at 95.
In his 100 years, Oehlschlager has seen a lot of changes. He’s quick to say that technology is the most important one, affecting the lives of nearly everyone from toddlers to great-grandfathers.
Thirty-five family members are here this weekend from Canada, England, Costa Rica and the United States to help him celebrate a century of life well-lived.
They include three sons and their wives, Cameron “Cam” and Lilly Oehlschlager of Costa Rica, Keith and Janis Oehlschlager of Murrell’s Inlet, S.C., and Eric Egdorf and Tamara Madden of Colorado Springs, Colo.; and a daughter and her husband, Kerry Egdorf and Scott Schenke of Milwaukee, Wisc.; seven grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren.
The celebrating doesn’t stop today. Oehlschlager will be honored Tuesday at the Norman Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours. It will be from 5 to 7 p.m. at First American Bank, 570 24th Ave. NW.
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