Emily Churchill Wood, wife of late Tulsa city auditor Phil Wood, has published a memoir titled “It Was Magic” through Joe Harwell Publishing. Her book documents the couple’s life from their first meeting in 1941, through Phil Wood’s death in 2013. Reading the couple’s story is like taking a trip through the major events and changes of 20th Century America. It also provides some interesting reflections on what is required to have a long-lasting marriage.
The couple’s story begins in the early 1940s when Emily attended Smith College and Phil attended Princeton University. Phil enjoyed normal college traditions for the time such as stealing the clapper of the bell for Nassau Tower and kissing Emily by the Princeton Graduate Tower before being called to military duty with the 10th Mountain Division, commonly known as the ski troops.
Nancy Davis, who became the wife of Ronald Reagan, was president of the house where Emily lived. “She always wore the most wonderful pink bathrobes,” Wood said. Barbara Pierce attended Smith College for two years during the same time period before marrying the future President George Herbert Walker Bush. Some women at Smith went on to graduate and work for the CIA or various Senators before marrying. Other female students subscribed to the philosophy that they were supposed to help their husbands climb the corporate ladder to success. In later years, Emily liked to tease Phil that she didn’t help him enough in politics because he only reached the level of city auditor.
Phil survived his five months in the war in Italy and had some extraordinary experiences afterwards unpacking hidden art treasures in Florence. The couple married in 1946. A year later the first of four children arrived. Despite interests in French and art history, Phil graduated with a chemistry major courtesy of the GI Bill. He began his career with Union Carbide Corp in the plastics divisions headed by Emily’s father’s best friend.
The couple moved to various places over the next several years as Phil climbed the corporate ladder.
In the 1950s the corporate culture was pre-feminist and Emily struggled with how much to internalize feminine identity shown in TV shows like Father Knows Best and Leave It to Beaver. When she began reading The Feminine Mystique by fellow Smith alumna Betty Friedan in the 1960s, she realized she needed to consider having a career of her own. She was also contemplating whether or not to have a fourth baby at the age of 40, to many of her friends and relatives’ shock. “Ultimately, I did both,” Wood said.
Of the civil rights era, Wood said “Our self-absorption of the 1950s gave way to a realization of cruel injustices.” Assassinations rocked the nation and the Woods were affected like everyone else.
In 1974 Phil was asked to transfer to Tulsa with Cities Service, which he did. The Woods finished raising their youngest in Tulsa and Emily went to work teaching for Tulsa Public Schools. She became an award-winning educator, and continues to teach part-time today.
As corporate mergers began happening in the early 1980s, Phil decided to retire from Cities Service. He was elected Tulsa city auditor in 1988 and served a total of 21 years, making him the longest serving elected official in the city’s history.
In their seventy one years together, the Woods lived through many fascinating experiences while watching major changes in American culture. Phil passed away in 2013. “I wrote the book as a way to mourn,” Emily said.
Wood will be signing books at Decopolis located at Fifth and Boston on April 2 from 1-3pm. She will also sign books at The Phoenix located at Sixth and Peoria on May 7 from 6:30-7:30pm. Wood can be reached at It Was Magic on Facebook and at firstname.lastname@example.org Signed copies are available for $12.95 plus $2.95 shipping by sending an email to, email@example.com
Proceeds from the sale of the book, which is available on Amazon, will be donated to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.