Thursday, December 4, 2008

Undiscovered 66: Airway Variety

Since I'm probably one of the older bloggers, I'll understand if most of you don't remember old-fashioned dime stores, or 5 & 10s, as some called them. Where I grew up, the one in my neighborhood was S. S. Kresge, and the thing I remember most about it was that as soon as you entered the store you'd hear the melodious chirping and singing of dozens of birds. At the rear of the store was the Pet Dept., which had lots of parakeets and love birds, hamsters and gerbils, and occasionally some turtles and kittens (which were usually free to anyone who'd take one.) The front of the store was a wondrous mix of everything under the sun.... nothing big, just small items which, these days, one must go to six different stores to find.

Unless you live in Tulsa.

At 8888 E. Admiral Place (the 1926-1932 alignment of Route 66) sits Airway Variety. That portion of Admiral is pretty run down, and is home to a number of seedy motels left over from the heyday of Route 66 travel. In the midst of it all, Airway Variety is the closest thing to an old-time 5 & 10 I've seen in about four decades. I don't visit there as much as I should, since it's quite far from my home, but I manage to get there about a half dozen times a year. When I enter the store, the loud chirping of birds tosses me right into an overwhelming nostalgic haze. Just like it's old counterparts, the birds and other small pets are in the back of the store. But the front of the store holds a magical concoction of every sort of goods. Don't let the sign over the door fool you. The "Crafts" items take up about 1/3rd of the store and "Flowers" refers to a small section of pretty tacky artificial arrangements. But the rest of the store has everything from small hardware items to cosmetics (ancient and dusty) to outdated party supplies. Where else can you still find Happy Days paper plates, hair nets, razor blades that fit razors that no longer exist, or yellowed paper patterns for shirtwaist dresses?

But don't get me wrong! There are wonderful things at Airway Variety, too. I go there every time I need ribbon for any reason, which is what sent me there today. The ribbon department is the largest I've ever seen. I'm guessing they have about 1000 different rolls of ribbon, mostly thrown together in a whole aisle full of boxes, so you mostly have to dig for what you want. But with most of the ribbon selling for around 19 cents to 50 cents a yard (for the very best!), it's a bargain, and there's nothing you can't find there. In the ribbon department, as in most others, one is given to wondering if the proprietors have bothered to change the price tags since the 60s!

The owners of Airway Variety are far, far from young. I hold my breath every time I drive past, because I know that some day there will be a sign saying they're closing their doors forever. Airway Variety is a gem of a virtually undiscovered business, and I want it to go on and on and on. If you live anywhere near Tulsa, I urge you to visit Airway and buy something. Please.
By the way, they had free kittens today.... two cute little black and white ones. And parakeets are 2 for $14.99 during the Christmas season. :-)

Did I mention that it's a dangerous place? Killer hamsters, perhaps? LOL!

Just down the road is the Booster Feed Mill, the last old style feed mill in the city of Tulsa....

... and possibly the only rhino on Route 66, too. I believe this guy is left over from a long-closed miniature golf course.

5 comments:

redforkhippie said...

I want two parakeets and a free kitten....

Laurel said...

Be careful what you ask for. You might get it. ;-)

Beth said...

I remember five and dimes, and they were just the way you described them! They usually had flat bins in rows, with various items separated into their own little "cubes." I honestly can't recall the last time I was in a store like that.

Beth

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

They still had them while I was growing up, but they ended when I was in junior high? Around the bicentenial???

DennyG said...

"razor blades that fit razors that no longer exist"? I might be able to use those:-) Many years ago I was forced to turn to disposables when injector blades became impossible to find. Your post prompted a search and I soon discovered that blades can still be had at DrugStore.com and other places, too. eBay not only lists blades for sale but quite a few razors -- some at phenomenal prices -- to hold them. I just verified that I still have a "razor that requires blades that (I thought) no longer exist" so I think I just may have to make a purchase. It's been years since I've used that marvelous mechanical packaging for an early morning snick-snick out-with-the-old in-with-the-new.