Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Keeping In Touch

Every now and then I receive an email or letter from someone who once visited Afton Station.  I got this  yesterday from Peter Bartel of Germany, a gentleman who took part in the Trans America Footrace which came to visit us on July 26th of last year.   I remember Peter very well because he was doing the "footrace" on a kickbike (a bicycle with no seat or gears, which one pushes with one's foot), in deference to his age, although he'd had previously participated in years and years of footraces actually on foot.  Whether on kickbike or foot, both were amazing accomplishments for someone 70 years old.   And it doesn't sound like  he plans to stop any time soon!
I just loved that he wrote to me and told me what he's up to these days.  I was so thrilled to hear that he finished the race, although I never really had any doubts that he would.  Here's his delightful letter with no corrections:
Hello Mrs.Kane,
please remember july, 26th, 2011. We met together in your museum at Afton which is a famous home for Packard Cars. I was the kickbiker in the Trans-America-Footrace from Los Angeles to New York. I gave my race number to you. And one month later at august, 27th, I was one of 10 finishers in New York. Six runners were out of the race. Please have a look to the pictures. Now I am in the 71st year of my life. Therefore I will participate this year only in the "little" Trans-Europe-Footrace from Danmark to Gibraltar (4175 km).
I am not only a runner. I am also an owner of a Packard Car ... built by myself. But only in scale 1/16. It is a Packard Coupe Roadster 12 Cylinder from 1937. I am also an owner of a "museum" because I have built more than 150 models: cars, race cars, bikes, race bikes. But my wife does not love this hobby.
All the best for you !!!
PETER BARTEL (Berlin/Germany)
This is the model Packard which he built.  He's quite a guy!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Monday Madness

There hasn't actually been any madness today. . . yet.  I just liked the alliteration.

On the contrary, it's been a very calm day.  I drove over to the Admiral Twin after dialysis and snapped another photo.  This time the workers were in the bucket doing something at the top of the structure.  Besides that, I saw no other overt progress.

My friend Joe Meeks, who is a longtime Oklahoma historian, told me a few things about Tullahassee, the town I visited yesterday, which I didn't know.   To those following along with my explorations of all-Black towns, this may be of interest.

 Here are some interesting tidbits about Tullahassee.  It was founded as a Creek mission school by Samuel Robertson and his wife Ann Worcester.  Ann's father was Samuel Worcester of "Worcester vs the State of Georgia."  That was where John Marshall found that the Cherokees were an independent people and not subject to the laws of Georgia.  Georgia was trying to confiscate their land.  Andrew Jackson said, "John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it."  Hence the beginning of the Trail of Tears.  Another fact:  Ann Worcester was the first woman in America to be give an honorary doctor's degree.  It was by Wooster College and was for her work in translating English books into Cherokee.  Another fact:  Their daughter, Alice Robertson, was the first, and until Fallin, the only woman elected to Congress from Oklahoma.   In fact, contrary to popular belief, there are remains of the mission.  Or there were several years ago.  Had I known I could have shown you.  There was a well, foundations and a small outbuilding.

Thanks, Joe,, for adding to the richness of the town's history!  Next time, I think I'll just take you with me!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Tullahassee, OK

In my continuing attempt to visit all of the all-African American towns which remain in Oklahoma, very early this morning I headed for Tullahassee, via country roads and not the Muskogee Turnpike, which is quicker but not as much fun.  I left at sunrise so I could be home in time to tackle my to-do list for today, which is long.  Once the blazing sun rose above my windshield and my vision improved, it was the perfect time to travel.

Although there is virtually nothing left of Tullahassee, it's history is one of the most interesting of the all-Black towns.  For one thing, it's the oldest  of the remaining ones.  I hesitate to acknowledge that it's actually "remaining", although there are a few houses there that appear to be occupied.  Once again, there is no sign of commerce in the town.  The census recorded 106 citizens in 2000.  I daresay there are considerably fewer now.

Larry O'Dell of the Oklahoma Historical Society wrote this about the town:
Tullahassee is considered the oldest of the surviving All-Black towns of Indian Territory. Located in Wagoner County five miles northwest of Muskogee, Tullahassee is one of more than fifty All-Black towns of Oklahoma and one of thirteen still existing. The roots of the community were planted in 1850 when the Creek Nation built a school along the ruts of the Texas Road. Near the school, the population of Creek freedmen increased while the population of Creeks declined. The council transferred the American Indian students to another school and gave Tullahassee to the freedmen on October 24, 1881. The town was incorporated in 1902 and platted in 1907. The post office was established in 1899, with a Professor Willis serving as the first postmaster. The Missouri, Kansas, and Texas Railway line ran through the town, helping to attract settlers. Community growth was aided by the Tullahassee Town Site Company, which solicited residents throughout the South. A. J. Mason served as president and L. C. Hardridge as secretary. 
The only original building left in Tullahassee is one which was owned by the A.J. Mason Co. and which has been saved as a landmark on the National Historic Register.  It was a general store built by the Mason brothers. They owned a cotton gin in the region and extensive farm land as well.  
The AME church also established Flipper Davis College in the town in 1916, the only private institution for African American students in the state, but that's long gone.  Also sadly no longer standing is the building occupied by the Tullahassee Manual Labor School.  What a lovely campus building it was.
The buildings I saw were more like the one below, a home abandoned and crumbling, but with a very impressive stand of daffodils in the yard, blooming despite the February 26th date.
 The post office seems to be somewhat provisional.  It's difficult to say whether it's a makeshift one or if it's run under the auspices of the USPS.
Tullahassee is another interesting side trip available to folks who are traveling Route 66, although it's about an hour off the Mother Road.

P.S.  While reading the Tulsa newspaper at breakfast, I saw results of a poll of 500 Oklahomans of voting age. The question was "Would you say you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Woody Guthrie?" 41% either had never heard of Woody Guthrie or had no opinion of him.  WHAT?????  This is unbelievable!  Woody Guthrie was one of our state's most well-known citizens!   Of those who did have an opinion, 52% had a favorable opinion and 7% had an unfavorable opinion.  But, I'm in shock about how many Oklahomans don't know Woody!

Saturday, February 25, 2012


I had a great time at Afton Station today, but first I want to comment on another wonderful Route 66 gathering.  Last evening, I attended a photo show at a local Tulsa gallery.  Several months ago, my friend and avid Route 66 fan Brad Nickson led a group of photography students (of which he was one) on a trip down Oklahoma Route 66 for the purpose of taking interesting photos of the Mother Road.  Last night his photos dominated the show of their works, but I must say there were some extraordinary shots by all of the students in the class.  I was pleased to be invited and enjoyed viewing the beautiful work hanging there.   It was also a good place to gather with other Route 66 fans. 
 Here are Brad (left), Ron M., me, Michael Wallis, LaSandra Nickson, and Suzanne Wallis.

Today, there were very few actual visitors to Afton Station -- five, to be exact -- and all were from the nearby town of Miami and were just out roaming around on a nice day.  The majority of our day was spent celebrating my "66 on 66" birthday with all the friends of the Station.   Ron M. provided yummy cupcakes and embarrassing party hats!   (Maybe we should have been glad no unsuspecting strangers showed up when we were exhibiting our childish partying!).   I got some great gifts, much more than I deserved.  We spent the entire day just laughing and talking and enjoying our brand of hell raising (which, if you must know, is pretty tame!).
 Tattoo Man, Robin, Betty, Marly, Sue, Phil, and Ron M.
Robin made me this beautiful piece of stained glass.  This isn't a good photo of it.  Hanging in a bright window, it sparkles and shines.  I love it!

Robin has been working at the Station on Sundays, and Marly has been there during the week.  Even when we're not "officially" open, we've been getting a pretty good number of visitors.  Last Sunday, Robin had 12 visitors, so our numbers are still good for February, when traditionally very few people travel.   I'll be reopening full time in a couple of weeks.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Taft, Oklahoma. . . and Redd Foxx?

I am finding that the history of Oklahoma's all-Black communities is extremely interesting.  So I was excited this morning when I was driving through the country on one of my aimless wanderings and came upon the town of Taft.  It's not too far from Muskogee ("I'm Proud to be an Okie from Muskogee...), and like the town of Boley I visited the other day, there's almost nothing left of Taft -- a few homes, but no commerce whatsoever.   They do, however, have a great "Welcome to..." sign, which shows that the remaining citizens are still very proud of their community.  There is also a historic marker which told me that it's the home of the first African American Woman Mayor in the USA, Leila Foley Davis.  That's pretty special, I thought! 
I think it's cool that Ms Davis became the first female black mayor, but I learned much more by reading this fascinating article.  It seems that a little bit of notariety came to Taft back in the late '70s, when comedian Redd Foxx came to town.  Read it, you'll love it.
I also found this excellent website --  -- which talks about the town and gives a good explanation of the why and where of the establishment of the black communities.   Route 66 travelers might be interested in side trips to some of these historic towns.  

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


There was a bit of observable progress at the Admiral Twin over the weekend, but I'm sure a lot has also been done that can't be seen during a quick drive-by.  They've joined the individual panels on the bottom tier, and the superstructure has risen to greater heights.  There's a huge crane on the property, so I'm expecting more upward movement in the next couple of days.  I'll keep watching.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Return to Dog Iron

To take advantage of yet another springlike day in Oklahoma, I asked Ron M. if he'd like to accompany me on an outing.  Last week after I went to Dog Iron, the Will Rogers Homestead, I heard from my friend Joe who informed me that the home is always open, even if there's nobody there.  I decided I wanted to test his knowledge.  We'd either get to see the interior or, if he was playing a joke on me, we'd be arrested for breaking and entering. I was willing to take the chance.

Ron was up for the trip, so off we went.  And once again, as we entered the homestead grounds, we were the only people anywhere.   There were still chickens in the yard, and this time there were even some goats and a friendly dog.  Ron immediately made friends with this cute little goat.  

As for the house, we walked right in!   And we were excited to see how beautiful and authentic it is!   There's a DVD playing an explanation of the house and grounds on a loop, but otherwise the atmosphere is quiet and peaceful.  Here are a few photos of the house with its late 19th century furnishings.

Will Rogers was born in this parlor.
"I Can't Tell You Why I Love You But I Do", from the Ziegfield Follies
I wish I had this stove!
Gorgeous view from front door
The old Will Rogers Airport is on the site, and since there's a wind sock there and a partially groomed runway, we assume that small planes can still land there.    It was dedicated in 1931 by Will Rogers, Wiley Post, and Harold Gatty. 
 After we left the homestead we passed through the small town of Oologah, where there is a large bronze statue of Will himself!  

To top off our All-Will Rogers day, Ron took me for a birthday lunch at the famous Hammett House in Claremore, on Route 66 and right across from Rogers State University.   Great food, and such a perfect day!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Side Trip

In keeping with the intended theme of this blog, I've decided that I'll be referring to my wanderings as "side trips", i.e. short meanderings off of Route 66 (but not far off Route 66) that might interest some folks who have time to spare as they traverse the Mother Road.  There.  Now I don't feel so guilty about reporting on non-Route 66 sightings.   

Early this morning, just after sunrise, I trekked back down to Admiral Place to check up on the Admiral Twin.  There was no further progress since yesterday.  I guess they didn't work a Saturday shift.  I'll keep  you posted on how it's going, however. 
My Subaru and I then decided to take off in a new direction.  I'd read an article recently about the all-African American towns in Oklahoma and their place in our history.  Boley, which is southwest of the Route 66 town of Bristow, was one of the first all-black towns in the state, and for some time it was the largest in the nation.  As with so many villages in Oklahoma, it's barely a shadow of its former self.  A brief history reads like this:
The area was settled by Creek Freedmen, whose ancestors had been held as slaves of the Creek at the time of Indian Removal in the 1830s. After the Civil War, the United States negotiated new treaties with tribes that allied with the Confederacy. It required them to emancipate their slaves and give them membership in the tribes. Those formerly slaves were called the Creek Freedmen.
During my visit, I saw no storefronts that looked anything but vacant, and I saw just three people, a man waxing his car and two small children dressed in their church-going finery.  However, a recent article says this:
Boley is today as much a town of opportunity and challenge as it was in its early days.  The town’s population holds steady at around 900.  Its businesses include a manufacturing company, one cafe, one funeral home, a gas station, a hardware store, and assisted living facilities.
I saw none of the above.  "Challenge" is an understatement.   Although most of the homes seem inhabited and well-kept, I saw no signs of commerce whatsoever. I did, however, see a sign announcing that Boley has an annual rodeo.  Of the 60 black towns settled in Oklahoma after the Civil War, only 12 remain.  Boley is an interesting town with an intriguing history, but if it's the largest of the dozen, I can't imagine how tiny the others must be!

I then wended my way back north where I intended to meet up with Route 66 in Stroud.  Along the way, I drove through another small hamlet called Paden, which had this nice ghost sign advertising a dry goods store from its long ago history.  It was nearly as deserted as Boley.
Next came Prague which, since this is Oklahoma and not the Czech Republic, is commonly pronounced with a long "a".  Prague was settled by Czechs, and is the birthplace of Jim Thorpe, once considered the World's Greatest Athlete ( ).

More recently, Prague has gained recognition as the epicenter of the large number of earthquakes which have hit Oklahoma in the past year.   At least one or two radiated all the way to Tulsa and beyond.  I can attest to that since I felt them!  Prague is almost 70 miles from Tulsa, so I can imagine that the citizens of Prague were severely shaken!  This mural on the side of a building in Prague highlights the town's railroad history, Jim Thorpe, and it's Czech heritage.  Note the translation of their motto to Czech at the top.

I picked up Route 66 in Stroud and made my way back to Tulsa. It always feels like a homecoming when I get back on my beloved Mother Road, although it's sure fun to find new pathways off the beaten track.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Hail Hail, the Gang's All Here

It was busy, busy, busy at Afton Station today, with visits from travelers and friends alike.  Ron M., Tattoo Man, and I held down the fort for most of the gloomy, drizzly day.  An unexpected twelve visitors came throughout the day, again a surprising number for such a dud of a February day.  They came from Pittsburgh KS, Chelsea OK, Laver Grove Heights MN, Joplin MO, and Newport RI.  The the fellow from Newport, RI is enroute to San Diego, CA where he's been stationed with the Navy.  His friend was accompanying him.  The young Chelsea, OK couple both lived in Afton in their youth and enjoyed chatting with Betty about old times..  
The Minnesota folks were on a family trip -- a mom and dad and three kids.  Shortly before they came in, Dean "Crazy Legs" Walker arrived and the kids wanted a photo of the guy who was the inspiration for 'Mater in the Cars movie.  As you can see, Dean could only turn one leg backwards for the photo, but the kids were thrilled.
 Dean had no problem posing for the photo below.  He was on  his way to Owasso, OK to practice for a Quick Draw competition which will be held next weekend.  I wish him well, but I told  him he couldn't take the pistol out of the holster while he was at the Station!

Although the above photo doesn't show it, we were busy every minute.   Toward the end of the day, our friends Ron Warnick and Emily Priddy stopped in.  The last time Emily visited, she planted a geocache on our property.  Shortly after they arrived today, two men from Missouri stopped on a geocaching trip.  As is proper, we didn't reveal where the cache is hidden on the property, but they soon found it and went on their way after a tour of the car showrooms.  

The weather didn't clear all day, so we drove home in a fine drizzle.  Hey, at least it's not snow!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Admiral -- As Promised

I said I'd post more photos of the under-construction Admiral Twin Drive-In, so I drove over there a short while ago, only to find that nothing had been done since yesterday.  But since I promised more photos, and since the gate was open so I could get as close as I wanted, I snapped a few shots anyway.  It was rather muddy in there, so I didn't go too close to the screen.  All the workers were working on the marquee at the entrance.  I'll keep checking so that I can continue to present images of the ongoing project as it rises.  

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Admiral Twin Rising

This isn't my photo.  I admit it.  I saw this happening when I passed by the Admiral Twin Drive-In today, but I was on the Interstate and couldn't stop, so I stole this picture from the Admiral Twin Facebook page.  I'm sure they won't mind. I couldn't hold in my excitement at seeing the actual screen being affixed to the structure. It isn't every day (in fact, it isn't ANY other day) that you can see an old-fashioned thing like a drive-in movie rising from  the ashes.  I'm so proud of Tulsa for wanting to make this happen, and I'm thrilled that it's on Route 66.  Tomorrow I'll drive over there and take some of my own pictures.

Magnetic North

I think I know why they call it "magnetic" north.   I've felt the pull of the magnet all week, and today I pointed the car north for the third time in four days.  In March, I intend to go back to Afton four days a week, so I have to get this out of my system pretty quickly. 

 I took a friend to the airport at 6 a.m., ate breakfast with every intention of going home and doing what I was supposed to do, and then couldn't resist the magnetic pull once again.  There is a small town in Kansas near the Oklahoma border that I've used as the setting for a novel I've been writing, off and on, for about 10 years.  It will remain nameless right now, since I'm not particularly kind to the town in the book, and when it becomes a worldwide best seller (hah!) I wouldn't want to hurt the feelings of the citizens there.  

Town X (which I call Libertarian in my literary masterpiece) isn't faring very well.  It looks worse than it did four years ago when I last visited.  There's a railroad track with small grain elevator, an abandoned school, a few dozen ramshackle houses, and two churches that are both seemingly still being used.  There's one small store.  There is only one road in and out of the town.  It's a dead end, literally and figuratively, I'm afraid.  I've never seen a human being in the town. I believe, nonetheless, that it will still make a good setting for the Great American Probably-Never-To-Be-Finished Novel.  Here are a couple of photos of it.  The first person who can figure out what and where it is gets a grand prize -- an autographed first edition of the aforementioned literary extravaganza!   Whoopee!
On the way to Town X, I drove through the town of Nowata, OK and stopped about 5 miles north of town to check out this this landmark, commemorating the site of the first waterflood in the state of Oklahoma.  I had no idea what that was, so I read the rather verbose explanation.  That one took a lot of chiseling!   Since it's too hard to read from my photo, I stole this slightly more concise description from a website:
Injection of water into an oil reservoir to increase recovery was first attempted on an oil lease in Oklahoma. From that effort a recovery method previously used in eastern fields was adapted to conditions found in this area. Since then, waterflooding to obtain greater oil recovery has spread to adjoining states and around the world. The city of Nowata became the hub of waterflooding for the area with most of the field activity being in Rogers County, where vast oil reserves had been proven. Billions of barrels of crude oil have been recovered by waterflooding to provide man with increased supplies of energy and fuel that could still be locked in the Earth without the industry's constant effort to improve its recovery methods. 

In Nowata, I also found a couple of nice old motel signs.  It was difficult to tell if the motels themselves are open and decent.  There was no activity around either one, but both appeared to still be in relatively good condition as are the great mid-century signs.  

 Finally, I made a quick run through Coffeyville, KS.  I didn't stop because I've been there many times before and reported on it here on the blog.  I've never found the Brown Mansion open, and this morning was no exception.  I did, however, drive up the driveway and snap this quick pic of one of the facades. Built by businessman W.P. Brown, it was completed in 1904, has 16 rooms, and cost $125,000. It's an extraordinarily beautiful home, and the rest of the story is here:

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

I Never Met A Country Road I Didn't Like

I've modified Will Rogers' famous quote to suit my purposes, and here's why.   Today was an accidental Will Rogers Day for me.  At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I caught a bad case of the wanderlust this morning, and this time I pointed the Subaru due north.   I thought I might explore Owasso, a formerly small town due north of Tulsa which is growing by leaps and bounds. These days, one almost can't tell where Tulsa ends and Owasso begins.  Owasso turned out to be a bore, a town full of big box stores and chain restaurants.  I should have known better.  

I continued due north, only this time on a smaller country road.  I like my country roads long and straight and   narrow, and this one fit the description perfectly.  It reminded me of some of the roads I traveled some years ago on a solo trip through Kansas.  Today, I was at the corner of two county roads when I saw a small sign pointing to "Will Rogers Birthplace and Homestead -- Open Every Day".  Of course I had to go there.  

I confess that, although I knew he existed, I had very little knowledge about Will Rogers until I moved to Oklahoma.  A trip to the Will Rogers Follies shortly after I moved to the state educated me about his life and times, and now I'm a big fan.  His museum is in Claremore, but I remembered hearing that his boyhood home was in the country and open to the public.  

A couple more long straight, magnificently uninhabited country roads led me to Will's place, sitting on a rise overlooking Oologah Lake.   The homestead was beautiful but as completely uninhabited as the roads leading to it.   I was pretty sure the "Open Every Day" sign should have read "Open Every Day Except Valentine's Day 2012", but I wasn't entirely certain until I knocked on the door and got no response.  

No people. No cars.  Just some chickens in the yard, a small herd of longhorns, and me. The house is simple and beautiful, and so is the land around it.  Will's folks sure knew how to situate a house!
 I walked through the yard and said hello to the chickens, then drove down the driveway to the cattle fields where I spent some time communing with a couple of intimidating but majestic longhorn cattle.

Unfazed by the lack of humanity at the homestead, I lingered a while longer and breathed the fresh, crisp air.  I left feeling as if I probably enjoyed it alone more than I would have if I'd had to compete with tour buses or biker gangs.  
 For those who need to brush up on the life of the extraordinary Will, I snapped this photo of the sign in front of the house, a succinct biography of a guy who was good at just about everything he attempted.
 I got my fill of Will, then headed home.  The power plant in Oologah was spewing some picturesque steam.
 The small historic church in the tiny town of Talala also seemed to call for a photo.
Some day I might go back to Will's house and take a tour of the interior.  Or maybe not.  I liked it just the way I found it!