March 30, 2012
The Round Barn of Arcadia was built in 1898 with tornadoes in mind, hence the round shape thought to offer some protection from Oklahoma's stormy weather. The barn never was knocked down by a storm, but it had deteriorated quite a bit anyway by the late 1980's. (See the "before" photo above that hangs today inside the barn.) It was wonderfully restored by a group of local retirees in 1992, no easy task as the old place is 45 feet high and 60 feet in diameter, with a second story inside. The curved indoor planks of the restored roof is an amazing site, and I just did not have the photographic equipment to do it justice. (The photo here is just a grainy point & shoot.) You'll have to go inside and see it for yourself.
As impressive and colorful as the barn was for me, the best part of my visit was meeting Mr. Sam Gillaspy, a lifelong resident of Arcadia (bottom). 81 years old at the time, Sam led me on an informative tour of both floors of the structure, but I enjoyed even more hearing about life on Sam's nearby farm. It was something quite alien and fascinating to someone who hails from the suburbs of New Jersey, and this is why we travel, isn't it? I live in a town of 30,000 people and don't know most of them, including the people on my own block. That's why I found it enchanting to hear about the barn dances that were held here in Arcadia, events that brought together a community to celebrate and enjoy life together. To bring your best girl and to show her off in such a setting as this, that must engender a simple and homey pleasure that most of us modern city folk will never know. Log Book: 832 miles motored on old 66.
March 27, 2012
The Town Fathers of Chandler, Oklahoma are definitely low key when it comes to the town's promotion. They emphasize in their official history that, over the years, the town has never had more than 3,000 residents, was not an oil boom town despite all the crude being pumped around it, and wasn't really into all that cotton being grown in the surrounding fields. Reporting about current day Chandler by their Chamber of Commerce is not much more informative, just a stale list of small businesses. All I can infer then, as a 66er, was that the town did benefit from the building of Route 66 in the 1920's, then lost all that commerce with the coming of the Turner Turnpike in the 1950's. Jack Rittenhouse, a 66er from an earlier era, reported that the town was indeed an agricultural trading center at the time of his visit, shipping "considerable honey and pecans." Further reporting from 66 travelers is always welcome.
Chandler's Route 66 heritage is more upbeat. The Oklahoma Route 66 Association is on Manvel Street, and there is a neat looking Route 66 Interpretive Center. The Oklahoma Law Enforcement Museum and Hall of Fame is also in town, and I just love Halls of Fame of any kind. Search out the Lincoln Motel, Pete's Diner, and the grave of Bill Tilghman, a saloon owner from Dodge City, Kansas, who later became a famous deputy U.S. Marshall in the Oklahoma City area. The photos above are from Chandler's "cottage style" Phillips gas station, with some mean looking Ford Pickups and a brick exterior that is just the perfect place to paint a Route 66 shield. Log Book: 804 miles motored on old 66.
March 20, 2012
Small town Stroud was mostly in the saloon business as the 20th century began, went dry with Oklahoma statehood in 1907, then benefited around this same time with the discovery of all that oil nearby. Route 66 was built through the center of town in the 1920's, and in 1946 Jack Rittenhouse reported on the Mother Road's local benefits. He found several tourist courts, a few gas stations and a hotel, local small businesses all. The Rock Cafe (top) was built in 1936 for the hungry Oklahoma traveler passing through Stroud. Rittenhouse also reported that the thriving town was also a busy agricultural trading center. But times change. The construction of the Turner Turnpike (now I-44) in the 1950's, a real early 66 bypass, slowed the tourist trade. The Oklahoma oil booms finally went bust in the 1980's. Since then Stroud has had to scramble a bit, and there is today a 90 acre industrial park in town looking for tenants. I commuted for a few years into New York City, and assume a number of the town's 2,700 residents can always do the same, if need be, with an interstate drive to Tulsa (48 miles) or Oklahoma City (55 miles). On the positive side, Stroud was recognized in 2005 as the Grape and Wine Capital of Oklahoma, with 15 wineries within 50 miles. This an excellent tourist draw, no doubt, as is the city's downtown, which has an authentic and friendly Route 66 look to it.
Stroud is a fun little 66 stop. You can always tell your friends you lunched at the Rock Cafe, a place built from the stones left over from the construction of Route 66. The town's murals are most awesome, as is the turn of the century architecture, including the Stroud Trading Company building (4th photo) which also served for a while as the town's opera house. Become a Stroud American for a couple of hours. Log Book: 789 miles motored on old 66.
March 13, 2012
A city of about 20,000 people today, Sapulpa started out as a railroad station in 1886, was chartered as a town in 1898, then had the good fortune of being just 6 miles away when the Glenn Pool oilfield was discovered, in 1905. Apart from the oil boom, Sapulpa is known for its glassware industry and for the manufacturing of brick and clay products. Frankoma Pottery was a longtime 66 attraction, established in Sapulpa in 1938 where it benefited from being located on the main highway that 66 served as for many years. The pottery factory closed down in 2011, another unfortunate break for those who delayed taking that 66 trip. George William Miller, the 65th Secretary of the Treasury, was born in Sapulpa, but you already knew that.These images from the outskirts of Sapulpa conjure up what I originally expected to find all along modern day Route 66 - narrow country lanes, crumbling concrete and brick roadways, and long abandoned antiques like the Rock Creek Bridge and Tee Pee Drive-In. Of course, my original expectations came from all the 66 literature and photography that tends to focuses on such vintage stuff. And rightly so that it does. But we all know better now. Log Book: 744 miles motored on old 66.
March 11, 2012
With a population close to 400,000, and a modest but respectable skyline, I rank Tulsa as one of the "big city" stops on Route 66, along with Chicago, St. Louis, Oklahoma City, Albuquerque, and Los Angeles. Cyrus Avery, the "Father of Route 66," was from Tulsa, so here is where it all began. Mr. Avery owned a gas station, a restaurant, and a tourist court in Tulsa, went to Washington in 1925 to help establish the Federal Highway System, which included Route 66, then ran the new road right by his businesses. What a country!
Tulsa was the "Oil Capital of the World" in the early part of the 20th century, and since Art Deco was "in" at the time, much of the local architecture reflects that style, right down to the churches. The Metro Diner, where Elvis ate, was built in the 1980's (and torn down, sorry to say, just a few years ago to make way for a University of Tulsa expansion), so it really wasn't authentic Route 66. But it sure looked the part, and hosted many 66 roadies during its time.Here's some advice for the two-lane Route 66 traveler: Don't rely on a hotel's directions when it comes time to stop for the night. They will be tailored for the interstate traveler, not for you, something you don't want to discover after a long day on the Mother Road. I made that mistake in Tulsa, and got a lengthy, unscheduled after-dark look at a large portion of the city as I drove in circles looking for I-44. I had pulled into town on 11th Street at dusk, drove until I passed some of the bigger buildings uptown, yawned, then took my last pictures of the evening. That should have capped a great day on 66, except for the fact that Exit 229 means nothing to someone on 11th Street. Log Book: 733 miles motored on old 66.
February 29, 2012
The famous Blue Whale of Catoosa, Oklahoma, a Mom & Pop operation that is just classic Route 66. Built in the early 1970's by Mr. Hugh Davis as a gift to his wife, the site quickly became the old swimmin' hole for local Catoosians. It was open to the public for a time with lifeguards and everything, but closed down for a stretch with the grounds and fish falling into disrepair. The site was later restored with the help of local volunteers, following a pattern we see a lot of on 66. The old blue fish is in top condition today, and is a must stop for all 66ers.
I went a little overboard photo wise at the site, capturing the huge maw, the belly of the beast, the slide, the deck, and the nearby dock. But any real 66er will tell you that a half dozen pictures of the old Blue Whale is not over doing it. Log Book: 716 miles motored on old 66.
This is the famous Will Rodgers Hotel in Claremore, Oklahoma, nowadays an apartment complex for senior citizens. (Any retired 66 roadies in the house?) In the old days, before the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission was established, the hotel offered radium baths to its guests. There is a Will Rogers Museum on Will Rogers Boulevard, this being the old comedians home town, and if you have a hankering to see 20,000 guns, the nearby J.M. Davis Museum can accommodate you. Also find the Belvidere Mansion, the Lynn Riggs Memorial (he was a playwright), and a bunch of local antique shops to round out a pleasant walkabout in Claremore.
Will Rogers was before my time, of course, but I do know he would have changed his mind had he met any of my old bosses. Log Book: 704 miles motored on old 66.