This original oil painting by Tulsa artist, Gil Adams, recreates a long-lost home from 80-year-old childhood memories.

Bringing the Past to Life

This original oil painting by Tulsa artist, Gil Adams, recreates a long-lost home from 80-year-old childhood memories.

This original oil painting by Tulsa artist, Gil Adams, recreates a long-lost home and playground from treasured 80-year-old childhood memories.


One of best parts of our job is seeing the impact of bringing back the joy of distant childhood memories. We are on schedule to publish a book later this spring that tells the story of the Robson Ranch — a remarkable spread roundabout Catoosa that is home to both cattle and rescued wild mustangs. It’s a hard-won piece of land that was nearly lost during the Great Depression but recovered to become a stomping ground for one our nation’s most successful families—three of whom currently occupy separate places on the Forbes list of top 2o wealthiest Americans.

Central to the story is the original ranch house. It was destroyed without (apparently) ever being photographed in the beauty of its original settings. The only photo we had to work with was an sorrowful image of the shell of the house as it was being moved—hardly a fitting representation of for a place with such grand memories and historical significance. Our solution was to commission an illustrator to recreate the scene from the first-hand memories.


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The only available photograph of “the big house’ was this less-than-flattering 1942 image of it up on blocks after it was moved to make room for coal mining.


The project provided our client, Frank Robson, with an excellent opportunity to spend time with a dear childhood friend—the only surviving person who, along with Frank, still have intimate but distant memories of growing up at what they called “the big house.”  Eighty-eight year-old Mattie Benson was the daughter of one of the foremen on the Robson Ranch. As a child, her family lived in the big house until it was moved to make room for strip mining. Mattie told us about how she and a friend learned to roller skate on the paved sidewalks around the big house. She had the sidewalks but no skates. Her friend had skates but no sidewalks. It was a match made in heaven.


Mattie Benson, far left, with her siblings on the Robson Ranch, c.1936.

Mattie Benson, far left, with her siblings on the Robson Ranch, c.1936.


Working with Tulsa artist, Gil Adams, we all sat down with Frank and Mattie as they told stories and reminisced. Working like a police sketch artist, Gil worked from their descriptions executing a series of ever-tightening sketches until they settled on one that struck the right cord, bringing back those feelings of long ago. Gil then created an original oil painting based on his sketch.


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Frank Robson and Mattie Benson compare memories of the ranch house and its outbuildings as Gil Adams listens carefully, sketching as they speak.


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Evolution of Gil Adams’ sketches, starting with descriptions from memories, then adjusted using the only photograph for reference.


A scan of the painting will be featured as a beautiful spread in the new book. The original will be proudly displayed on the wall in Frank’s office in Claremore along with his remarkable collection of memorabilia from a life well lived.


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Frank Robson, left, with Gil Adams following the presentation of the original painting. The illustration will appear as a large, two-page spread in the yet-to-be-titled book scheduled for limited released in the late Spring of 2017.