Do you know who the late R.D. Hull is?
Most don’t know him, but even those who don’t fish, have heard of Zebco.
I never had a chance to meet R.D., I got to tour his unique mansion in rural Catoosa, a growing community east of my hometown of Tulsa.
I was a kid, maybe 10 years of age. My dad loved visiting and fishing. Any chance he got to see the good folks in the Verdigris River Bottoms or Oak Grove area, also east of Tulsa, he didn’t miss.
On this particular trip, we stopped at the Archie and Nelda Brown home along Highway 33 east of Catoosa.
My dad grew up in the sticks with Archie and had fond memories of that time. Archie and Nelda had a couple boys who were older than me.
I don’t remember a lot about Archie as he passed away when I was a kid. I do remember Nelda. She lived in a modest brick house along old Highway 33. Today, old Highway 33 is called Highway 412 and it is a direct route from Tulsa to Siloam Springs, Ark.
We used to take Highway 33 to Locust Grove, Okla., where I went to Boy Scout Camp from 1972-1976. My dad had folks with family ties sprinkled all over Eastern Oklahoma and any trip in that direction always included a time of visiting.
Back in the day, the Browns owned a DX station and convenience store on Highway 33, just east of their home. We’d stop there and get a cold Pepsi and some snacks anytime we were in the area visiting or fishing on the Verdigris.
Anyway, on this visiting trip, the Brown boys started talking about the Hull mansion, which was under construction at the time. I recall the Brown boys were helping build the home and they offered my folks and me a chance to see inside.
The home featured a round swimming pool right in the middle. In fact, the entire house was round. Hull had the home designed to resemble a fishing reel. The home, which is still standing, features five bedrooms, seven bathrooms, the indoor pool, a master suite and a kitchen with a large round island. The most unique feature of the home are the more then 20 continuous, curved, load-bearing beams.
According to a Hull family member, the beams were built in Missouri and were 120-feet long. They were so big that they had to cut them in half, load them on trucks, and deliver to the home site where they were reassembled.
Hull, whose official name was Jasper R. Dell Hull, was a watchmaker from Rotan, Texas in the western part of that state. He invented a backlash-free fishing reel in the late 1940s.
“After struggling to find a company to manufacture and to market the invention, Hull finally approached the Zero Hour Bomb Company (Zebco) of Tulsa for assistance,” noted an article about the company on the Oklahoma Historical Society website. “In business since 1932 manufacturing electric time bombs used in fracturing oil-well formations, the Zero Hour Bomb Company was experiencing the difficulties common to a single-product company in the shrinking market. They partnered with Hull and produced their first reel, called the Standard, in May 1949. Soon afterward, through regional marketing under the name Zebco the product became so popular that in January 1956 the company changed its name (from Zero Hour Bomb Company) to Zebco and ceased to produce oil-field related materials.”
The company was later purchased by Brunswick Corporation, later selling to the W.C. Bradley Company. Hull stayed with the company in the firm’s production department and went on to design 26 reels and receive 35 patents before his May 1977 retirement and death in December of that year.
I use to visit the Zebco headquarters on occasion. They had a fishing store and I remember trading in old broken reels for repaired or new reels. They would take any brand. The company has since closed and the rod and reels are now made overseas.
About every rod and reel my dad owned was a Zebco brand. One of my dad’s favorite reels was the Zebco 33. I remember many fishing trips and can still see my dad sitting on a log or a lawn chair fishing with a worm and bobber. He could fish for hours and always found someone to shoot the breeze with and catch up on old times.
Enjoy your summer. Take time with your family making memories and don’t forget to give thanks to God for the blessings of life.
Have a great week and always remember that “Good Things are Happening,” every day and always.