Sunday, January 30, 2011

WANTED: Imagination

Granted, architects are undoubtedly much better than the rest of us at visualizing something beautiful and practical being made from something old and unattractive. The firm of ElevenTH did just that when they found an old, long-defunct gas station on Route 66 in Tulsa, which they subsequently purchased and restored as their new architectural office space. The website "Inhabitat" says: ElevenTH knew they didn’t want to be holed up in some stale office on the 13th floor of a high rise in downtown. They wanted to be in the midst of the city, “the homeless, the prostitutes, the reality of society, all things this building was witness to,” as Shane Hood, principal at ElevenTH told us. So they searched for a place they could make their own and jumped on the chance to repuporse a 1950′s PEMCO gas station on route 66 into their new offices. The former gas station had fallen into quite a state of disrepair – boarded up, leaking and “had been on the unfortunate end of many unwise and insensitive remodels”.
All of this got me thinking, as I often do, about all the deserted buildings along various alignments of Route 66 in Tulsa. So this morning, at first light, I was on the road with my camera. The following photos were taken in a mere 25-minute loop of 11th Street and Admiral. You don't have to go far or search diligently to see that plenty of memories of our past are lying in ruin along the Mother Road. My wish would be that more folks would consider repurposing existing buildings. It has worked very well for us at Afton Station, and along with having a pretty neat place to work, we also have a sense of satisfaction that we've perhaps preserved a few memories along the way. This empty building has some deco touches.How about an old motel?Nobody seems to be using this vintage enamel-faced filling stationDeco touches here, too.Gas station with a big canopy, sort of Googie lookingThis was once a grocery store. Some years ago, I met the daughter of the original owner. Another gas station with a great canopy.All kinds of space. May have once been a home.More deco

By the way, yesterday's summer temps are long gone. It was cold and windy this morning and now we're expecting snow Wednesday night. Just so you know.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

With sincere apologies. . .

. . . to my East Coast friends, I can't resist showing the temperature reading on my car thermometer as I drove home from Afton this afternoon. Yes, 78 degrees. Don't worry, it won't last. Winter storms predicted in a few days.
The beautiful "June-in-January" day was responsible for bringing out quite a few folks, and some of them stopped in to Afton Station. They included this group of four women from Tulsa who took the opportunity to get their motorcycles out of winter storage and enjoy the warmth. . .. . . and this mother and her two cute and impeccably polite and sweet little children from Afton, who stopped in and pressed some pennies while on a walk around the block to enjoy the air. . . .

. . . and some of the "regulars" stopped in, too. Bob Swengrosh and Robin from Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri came by bearing gifts. . . wonderful gifts. . . a light bulb from the old Munger Moss Motel sign, a framed McClanahan print, and a bottle of Missouri wine! More about those nice gifts in a future post.

Brad and LaSandra from Tulsa drove out to Afton for a visit as they worked on a photographic scavenger hunt for one of Brad's photography classes. It's always extremely nice to see them at the door.

The two Rons (Ron M. and Tattoo Man) and Betty Baumann were there, too.

Two folks from Neosho, MO and two folks from Springfield, MO also came in to look around, making a total of 15 guests. A good time was had by all!

Meanwhile, across the street, work on the new building is progressing. Ron and Brad walked over to ask the guys building it what it's going to be, but they didn't know. They said they were simply hired to build it, but were told nothing else. Work is progressing very slowly, to say the least. Interesting.


Some good news for one vintage gas station on Route 66 (11th St.) in Tulsa. It's been converted into an architect's office. Oh, how I love to see old buildings being repurposed rather than destroyed. I'll drive down there tomorrow morning and check it out. Meanwhile, see pics and read about it here: Route 66 Gas Station Transformed Into Architecture Office Inhabitat - Green

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Boynton, OK (O.T.)

It's not on Route 66, but I was lured to Boynton, OK today by some comments by friend Denny Gibson from Ohio. He'd passed through there a couple of years ago and was fascinated by the sheer abandonment of the town, just as I am with Picher. Since Boynton isn't that far away, I decided to head there today. Any excuse, you know. LOL! I gathered up Ron M., since he grew up very near there, and off we went.

Boynton is a town of approximately 250 citizens, about 50 miles southeast of Tulsa. It was established in 1902 when the railroad came through, and in fact is named for the Chief Engineer of the Ozark and Cherokee Railroad. Today, over 50% of the citizens remaining are African-American. When Denny was there he photographed the exterior of the Historical Society, which was closed that paticular day but was still open on weekends. Today, we found the Historical Society building abandoned and for sale.
This building, in the side yard of the Historical Society was also for sale, and we feel it might have once been the town jail.
Here's what's left of the grocery store building. . .

. . . and a former drive-in restaurant.

The most impressive building in town is the Armory, also closed and posted. Like so many of the armories built by the WPA, it was repurposed (as a Masonic lodge) for several years, but now appears to have been empty for quite a while.
Boynton has not been without it's share of notoriety, particularly lately. For one thing, there was some criticism of stimulus money being used last year to build this sidewalk, which stretches the length of town on both sides of the road despite the lack of pedestrian traffic, stores, or other places which would be in need of access by walking.
Last year there were also some problems in city government concerning nepotism, although I suspect it's difficult to avoid nepotism when making civic appointments in such a small town. It resulted in the Mayor resigning. The school system is also in danger of closing for lack of students, and the bookkeeping practices of the school board are being questioned.

So, another sad tale of a town about to go "out of business". We saw an open convenience store on the edge of town, with bars on windows and doors. The post office is still functioning, which is a good sign, and there are surely enough churches in town to serve a city ten times it's size, so perhaps all is not lost. Even so, it's pretty depressing to see so many of these villages sink and drown.

On the way home, we stopped in Checotah for lunch. Checotah is a larger town, with a population of about 3500. It's the home of country singer Carrie Underwood. We stopped at the Katy Cafe, a little local joint which is apparently bent on stopping the hearts of its citizens. Upon ordering our lunch, the waitress acted dismayed that we wanted only the smaller lunch size rather than the full entree size. THIS was the lunch size! I can't even imagine what the entree size must look like! The place was packed with towns people, and the food was great. It was my second taste of chicken fried steak since I've lived in Oklahoma. It won't be my last, since I brought more than half of it home with me! Nothing like overeating to put the topper on a day in the country! Groan!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Picher, again. . .

By now, I expect most of you know that I'm obsessed with the town of Picher, OK and its demise. (If not, a good place to start would be my blog posts of Jan. 9 and Nov. 6, 2009. If you're not familiar with Picher and her story, please check these out.)

The moment I set the Tulsa World down in front of my breakfast plate this morning at 6 a.m., I knew I'd be heading for Picher immediately after my last mouthful of scrambled eggs. You see, the front page article in the World alerted me to the fact that yesterday the bulldozers rolled into town to demolish the last of the buildings remaining in the closed town. The article indicated that no former townspeople were present for the demolition -- nobody except several members of the press corps. That seemed sad to me, and the 200-mile round trip became something I had to do this very morning.

I knew I had to be there. And I was. . . at exactly 8 a.m. when the bulldozers were just getting started, eating alive one of the 247 buildings that they would be dining on for the next 140 days. Mind you, there wasn't much left of the town to begin with. A tornado, mine cave-ins, and a government buyout took care of most of the town, which once was home to almost 9,700 people, mostly lead and zinc miners and their families. Soon, the population will be around 10, representing six families that refuse to leave under any circumstances. Even Picher having been declared the country's No. 1 Superfund site wouldn't chase them away.

The tales of this town have made me sad ever since I moved to Oklahoma and realized that, although I'd never been there before, Picher (and the Eagle-Picher Mining Co.) had been in my dreams since I was a young person. The first time I caught a glimpse of the town, which sits just off Route 66, I felt an unusual and strong connection to it. I told someone today that I'm pretty sure I lived there in a previous life. I don't usually believe in that kind of stuff, but . . . well. . . who knows.

Here's the article in today's World: Crews begin to dismantle Picher Tulsa World It's extremely worth looking at, so please do. And here are some of the photos I took today. An orange X indicates a building that will be demolished.

On the way home after hanging around Picher for a while and getting quite a few quizzical stares from the guys on the bulldozers, I drove through Commerce and Miami. I remembered that I hadn't posted a photo of the statue of Commerce's native son (and one of my heroes) Mickey Mantle which was erected this summer. Here he is. Sorry about the angle, but I couldn't get a side view with the cars whizzing past on Route 66 and nowhere to park.

And while we're talking about memories from my past, here's an old motel on the outskirts of Miami which, for some reason, sticks in my mind from long ago travels on Route 66 with my parents. It's completely closed and abandoned now, with the former individual garages boarded up, but it remains a vital roadside stopping place somewhere in the very back of my mind. It gives me goosebumps every time I drive past it.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

"American Signs"

"American Signs: Form and Meaning on Route 66" by Lisa Mahar

In light of the fact that I've been a bit obsessed by signage lately, and because I haven't mentioned this great book for a very long time, I'd like to remind my readers of what should be considered a "must read" for Route 66 fans. If you don't mind a little technical talk along the way, this has got to be one of the most important book using Route 66 as a base.

Lisa Mahar, the author, is an architect. She sees the Googie signage on Route 66 and elsewhere slightly different from most of the rest of us. She appreciated the beauty of the signs as we do, but she also analyzes them in regard to their effectiveness in leading travelers to roadside motels in the earlier days of Route 66.. The best aspects of the book are the zillion photos, both color and black and white, of said signage.

Now for a disclaimer. I helped Lisa with this book. We were fortunate to live near one another, so we were able to get However, she wrote it in 2002 and I haven't seen Lisa since I moved to Oklahoma. Every now and then I take the book off the shelf and leaf through it again. This time, I was stricken by the number of signs shown in the book that no longer exist.

I was out this morning looking for more remnants of Googie signage along Route 66 in Tulsa, but I think I've just about exhausted every possibility and most have already been included in my previous blog entries.

The book is available at Amazon.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Frost is on the Shield

Ron M. and I drove up to Afton this morning on mostly clear roads but with a few icy patches. We weren't anticipating a very big day at Afton Station, and we were correct. However, the quality of our four visitors made up for the lack of quantity. By day's end, the temperature had soared into the low 40s, and things were melting quickly. The sun emerged for a while, and that always cheers me up a lot. Tattoo Man was also with us for most of the day.

Here are Ron and Jennifer Edwards, a couple I've been eager to meet. They are heading up the efforts in Catoosa to restore Route 66's beloved Blue Whale. Plans are to qualify for a large grant, with which restoration of the actual Whale himself, restoration of the Ark, and development of an indoor gift shop will be accomplished. Jennifer is the head of the Chamber of Commerce there, and Ron tends to the Facebook page called "Blue Whale". Blue Whale (22) I'm very impressed by what these fine folks are doing, and I hope they come back to Afton Station for another visit soon. (They were horrified that I was taking this photo because they thought they looked a mess after coming home from a vacation. I beg to disagree. They look great!)
Only one other couple visited today but they, too, were interesting and fun to meet. They're from Sand Springs, OK and were passing through on a trip up to Grand Lake. We certainly had fun chatting with them.

Big news in Afton, although like most things that happen in Afton, we are a bit mystified by what we are seeing. Here's what's been built on the empty lot next to Bassett's Grocery, the spot where the building was demolished this fall. We have no idea what it is, so we'll just watch it go up and speculate a lot. Ron M. is guessing it's going to be a Starbucks. He's insane! LOL! I'll let you know as soon as I find out anything.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Sob sniff!

This is a snowy morning in Tulsa, and since I have nowhere to go (other than perhaps heading out later to test the snow-worthiness of the new Subaru), I'm sitting here weeding out my Favorites list and looking over some of my old blog entries.

I defy any true, dyed-in-the-wool Route 66 fan to make it all the way through "Our Town", James Taylor's song from the "Cars" movie, without at least shedding a tear or two. As for me, I just flat out blubber like a baby when I listen to it. In fact, I'm mopping up my keyboard right now.

Last winter I posted a video on YouTube which I made using old postcards of Afton compared to photos of Afton today. I used the James Taylor song as a backdrop. If you're feeling a little melancholy today, as I am, please check it out. I need someone to cry with.

It's such a small world. I had an email from a person with whom I graduated from high school a million years ago (well, only 47 years ago), and she indicated that she'd found me through an article written in the University of Kentucky alumni magazine recently. She's from Kentucky, but her mother was born in Afton in 1907! She recollected stories her mother had told her about the town. On top of that, her father was a Packard and Studebaker dealer! This is all very exciting. She told me she'd try to dig out some old Afton pictures and send them along. I am thrilled!

ADDITION: You MUST see this video. It was made 5 years ago, but is totally relevant today. It's a lifestyle changer, if you ask me. There's some Route 66 on it, but it's not dedicated strictly to Route 66. It's a nationwide issue. Be prepared to be moved.

Independent America - The Two Lane Search For Mom and Pop - Watch the Documentary Film for Free Watch Free Documentaries On...

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What's wrong with me?

I can't stay home. It's a malady that just keeps getting worse. This morning I got in the car with the intention of driving to the printer to pick up a pack of paper. That usually takes about 20 minutes, and would have if I'd driven straight home. But of course that didn't happen. It feels like the car is pulling me along with it, as if I have no control. I follow it where it wants to go. Yesterday it took me to Choteau and Wagoner. Today, I found myself in Haskell. Before I arrived in the tiny town of Haskell however, I drove through a whole lot of countryside and was quite lost. That's just the way I like it.

I love the vast ranchlands, and I love the small farms. I love to drive across absolutely flat land on ramrod-straight roads, then suddenly find myself at the base of an "Oklahoma mountain", which is basically a little lump of tree-covered land that soars a couple of hundred feet above sea level. I love the beat up little Oklahoma towns. For some reason, most of them look much the worse for wear. There are far more picturesque small towns in other states, but I do love the battered, windblown, crumbling villages of Oklahoma that are just hanging on for dear life. I love the animals -- cows, goats, occasional horses. Mostly cows. I love the sky. Today it was cloudy and gray. That's ok. Any sky will do, as long as I can see it forever.
I had to battle the car in order to get home. The car wanted to keep going and going and going. . . away from home. It's only through self-restraint that I was able to wrench the steering wheel back toward Tulsa a couple of hours later.

I got home. And now, back to my project. I'd rather be out there. Am I a roadie or what?

I know the formal definition of "bunghole", the opening in a wine cask through which the wine is extracted. But really! The Urban Dictionary begs to disagree. Is this appropriate? It makes me chuckle every time I drive past this Tulsa liquor store.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Wonderfully Surprising Day!

I got home from Afton last night much later than usual, so I saved the blogging for this morning. I'm still reeling from what a wonderful day it was at Afton Station yesterday. We (Ron M. and I) knew we'd be staying later than usual because we were anticipating a visit from Shellee Graham, Jim Ross, and Jerry "McJerry" McClanahan who needed great photographs of Afton Station for a "project" they're working on. I was happy to stay open as long as necessary for these three awesome friends who needed the late afternoon light in order to get the photos just right. (Shellee's a professional photographer, you see, so she cares about stuff like that.) Jim and Jerry are the very well-known Route 66 experts and writers. Jerry wrote the EZ66 Guide which is used by everybody who travels Route 66, and Jim has, among other things, written the Oklahoma Guide to Route 66.

What we didn't expect were the 17 (yes, seventeen!) other visitors who stopped by yesterday! Seventeen visitors on a cold January Saturday? Really? Must have been the sunshine and mid-winter doldrums that drew folks out of their houses and on to the road. . . folks such as this enthusiastic couple from Lexena, KS. They were vastly interested not just in Afton Station, but in the other dissheveled buildings in downtown Afton as well. She spent a good bit of time verbally mourning the loss of the picturesque block across the street. She wished they were in a position to buy it and restore it. I hope they win the Lottery soon!

And speaking of Afton buildings with an iffy future, the house/lobby of the old Rest Haven motel has been boarded up and a "For Rent" sign posted. Former owners/renters (not sure which) moved out a week or so ago. Whenever there's a change down there I start worrying about the fate of the iconic-but-dilapidated Rest Haven sign out front. Although it's quite a mess, nary a tourist doesn't stop to take a picture of it.
Tattoo Man visited for a few hours this morning, and it was nice to see him for the first time in several weeks. Betty W. also stopped by briefly. Marly came in the afternoon to move cars around in anticipation of the photo shoot, and he stayed until 5:30. He was still there working when Ron and I left. Such a good man!

Our visitors came from Glencoe MN, Bernice OK, Broken Arrow OK, Claremore OK, Neosho MO, Lawrence KS, and Sperry, OK.

Here are some pictures of the photo shoot:
McJerry, bowing down in reverence to the '55 Packard (Not really. He's just lining up a shot.)

Greenie, the '54, looking very spiffy under the canopy.Shellee, always pretty in her Indian jewelry and never without at least one camera.Marly and Jim Ross discussing something very important, no doubt.
The Station, looking great.

The night shots were the payoff, and worth driving back to Tulsa in the dark last night.

The sunset also put on a show, in competition with the glow from the pumps and the Packard. I'm sure the shots taken by Shellee, Jim, and McJerry are far superior to these, and I can't wait to see them.

Since inclement weather is predicted for later today, I chose not to drive back to Afton today. I'll go back next weekend for sure, and maybe even sooner.