Mon, Feb. 17

Verde Heritage 1970: Oak Creek Tavern Enters New Era

"The Oak Creek Tavern, a Sedona institution for a quarter of a century, was taken over June 1 by Bert McGuire, who recently purchased Canyon Portal Service Station from Ray Steele, leased the rest of Canyon Portal Center from the Jack Pacinis, and became part owner of some 65 acres in the Soldier Pass Road area."

"McGuire, his wife, Evelyn, who is a sister of Mrs. Dick Duncan, of Poco Diablo, and the McGuires' son, Tommy, a student at the Sedona School, have moved to the Red Rock country."

"Nothing at the tavern will be changed, its devotees will be glad to hear, for the Oak Creek Tavern is much more than its name implies, and its history and the history of its founders bear repeating as a part of the building of a community."

"Oma Bird and her late husband, Lee, were for 30 years, from 1934 to 1964, owners of a fine ranch between Page Springs Road and Lower Oak Creek. There, in later years, he had purebred black Angus cattle, and when finally the ranch was sold, all the cattle went to the San Carlos Indians, who today have one of the finest herds in Arizona."

"Oma and Lee built the first Oak Creek Tavern in 1945 in conjunction with what was then known as the 'upper store' now the Oak Creek Market. The tavern was known locally, and affectionately, as 'Bird's Bar.' Ten years later the existing tavern, sealed off by law at that time from the grocery store, came into being at the same location."

"For years the Birds had collected gem and mineral stones. These Lee built into the facing of the tavern fireplace, as he and Oma had long planned."

"On permanent display at the tavern today is a glittering collection of more than 150 trophies won over the years by members of the Coconino County sheriff's posse, in which Lee and his 2 sons, Don and Gene, were long active."

"One of Oak Creek Tavern's chief claims to fame is the fact that the now nationally known Cowboy Artists of America, Inc., an association of top-ranking portrayers of the Old West scene, was founded there on June 23, 1965, because, the charter members said, its hospitable western atmosphere made it an appropriate place for that event. Since then, the Birds have become collectors of paintings by the Cowboy Artists and now own some 15 works by such artists as Charlie Dye, Joe Beeler, the late George Phippen, Fred Harman, John Hampton and Robert MacLeod. Most of these paintings hang on the walls of the tavern."

"Lee Bird was a great outdoorsman, and his son Gene has inherited his love of riding, camping, hunting and fishing. Prominent in the Oak Creek Tavern, on display behind glass on what was once an orchestra stage, is a polar bear that he bagged on one of his many hunting trips to Alaska. A male, weighing about 1,000 pounds, it was shot March 10, 1968, on the Chukchi Sea, 110 miles off Shishmaref Island near the northwest corner of Alaska. When Gene brought it to Sedona, they had to tear the tavern door out to get the huge beast in."

"The Oak Creek Tavern has been used as a setting in 3 movies, 'The Rounders,' 'Stations West,' and 'The Angel and the Outlaw' starring Burl Ives."

"Now that McGuire has taken over, Gene and Eunice Bird have gone to Alaska, where they plan to spend a year, although they will keep their home in Sedona, where Gene's many other hunting trophies are housed."

"Oma Bird, her sister, Nora Sullivan, head teacher in a Bisbee school, and Oma's granddaughter, Donna Bird, of Scottsdale, are leaving this week for Hawaii. All 3 will be attending the University of Hawaii for 6 weeks while they are there."

(The Verde Independent; Cottonwood; Thursday, June 11, 1970; page 3.)

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