Record of a trip to Oklahoma by Ken, Don and Terry Beck on 9/14-9/1508
Ken wanted to visit with his boyhood friend and baseball team mate, Keith Craw, in Del City. Terry and I accompanied him. I was still recovering from a bad case of shingles but decided that I would go anyway. They left Sherwood Sunday morning and arrived at my place in Russellville around 10:30am. I threw my bags I the car and we were off. We were also to use some of our time to work on a short script of a mystery story.
We stopped at Sallisaw, Oklahoma for a Chinese buffet and were back on our way. When we arrived in Del City, we went directly to Keith's place and dropped Ken off. Terry and I then drove by the Del City church and then down by the old Safeway Store (long ago abandoned) and the strip mall where the TG&Y store was once located (now maybe a Dollar General but couldn't remember exact location in the strip.) We then headed down Cherry Lane to our home of 45 years earlier. We took some pictures and looked around for a few minutes.
We then headed to OK City and the capitol. We drove around the complex and took more pictures; then drove around the neighboring area for a few minutes. We stopped by a huge flea market but it was all new stuff and left after just a few minutes. We arrived at the church building a few minutes before their 5PM starting time but the place was empty. We saw on the sign that the same day they had their homecoming and quickly deduced that they had cancelled evening service for that Sunday. So we proceeded to attempt to locate Juanita Burks' house to visit for a bit. I recalled that I believed they lived on 23rd street and we turned down the road a block short of the school. We came to a house that seemed vaguely familiar and was located in the right position near the end of the block. We then called Dad for her address and he read off the number on the house. So after so many years, we had selected the right house.
We got out and knocked on the door but got no answer. Terry called her phone number once but got answering machine. We were about to leave when Terry tried to call once again and she answered. She had been taking a nap and didn't hear the first call. She came to the door and invited us in. We proceeded to visit with her for about an hour and she updated us on her family and showed us their pictures. Ken arrived after about an hour and we visited for a little bit longer. We then left about 6:30 and headed north to Edmond to pick up Route 66. We stopped by POPS, a new but well-known gas station and restaurant that specializes on having myriads of kinds of soft drinks. We looked around for a few minutes, taking pictures of course. Ken bought and downed a Nehi. We then drove on west about a mile to the famous Round Barn at Arcadia. Took a few pictures but it was closed and the sun was setting fast.
We came upon a property where the owned had apparently developed a small Rt 66 theme park. Had a blue whale, two arrows in the ground, a Beetle nosedown in the ground (Cadillac Ranch on a budget) and some other neat items. The gate was closed so we only viewed it from the road. We went on down the road, stopping to take some pictures of the barn with the Meramac Cavern sign painted on its roof. We made it to Chandler where we ate a hamburger and bedded down at the Econolodge. We were in bed before 10PM.
Next morning we were up at 6AM and on the road by 6:30. Stopped for coffee and doughnuts. On the outskirts of town we found a remodeled Texaco station and stopped for a few pictures. At Stroud we took some shots of the burned out Rock Café where Terry and I had eaten earlier this year. At Catoosa we stopped at the Blue Whale and the Arrowhead Trading Post, both now closed and took more photos. We walked around and on the Blue Whale, imaging the fun times that many a kid had in earlier years. We took advantage of the rest facilities on the premises and the back on the route.
We proceeded on to Claremore and the Will Rogers Museum. We stopped for about an hour to tour the place. It was interesting and told the story of this amazing American, one of the most famous people of his era. I really like the replica of his study from his house in California, which is now a state park. Terry said that they had visited it in California and it was a great place.
From Claremore our next stop was near Foyil where we took the sidetrip to see the giant totem pole on the back of a tortoise, truly a unique and original piece of art. The Top Hat restaurant is also located here. On down the road we came to Chelsea and took a ride through town. We also stopped here at a flea market and had an opportunity to have our picture taken beside a concrete Indian. The owner was a nice guy and offered us a spear and tomahawk to use as props in the photos. On out of east of town we came upon the Pryor Creek bridge on an old alignment of 66. It was still usable and had been marked as an historic landmark.
A little further near White Oak we saw on the north side of the road, a sign from the now dilapidated Country Court motel. We stopped for some pictures and some minor exploration. The cabins were all now destroyed, the last appearing to have been taken out by a large tree that had fallen onto it. There was plenty of trash and junk around the place, a sad ending to what was once a haven for the weary traveler. Amazingly, the sign had no damage and almost no rust, retaining its bright red luster.
We arrived at Vanita around lunchtime and stopped at the famous Clanton restaurant to eat. We all ordered the chicken fried steak meal which
included mashed potatoes and two sides (salad and black-eyed peas for me). It was truly exceptional and price was only $5.99 and sweet tea was also good. We drove over to see the world's largest McDonalds which lay on a span across the interstate. At Afton we stopped for a short tour of Afton Station, a revived gas station that had some nice old items from the nearby (and now gone) buffalo ranch as well as some old gas station memorabilia. It housed some great looking restored Packard automobiles. Terry said that it had never been open on his earlier trips through the town, so we were lucky with our timing. It is well worth the stop.
We ran into some real excitement along the next stretch. West of Miami, we were going to travel an old original 66 alignment with the nine-foot span when we saw that the county road department had blocked it and was actual paving over it. This was hard to believe!
We found an unblocked back way to the stretch and came upon the crew at work. We made several pictures of the desecration and Ken lay across the road to prevent further paving. No, he did not actually do that but he did lie across it to show how narrow ol' 66 was in its early days.
We proceeded to Miami and then to Commerce, Mickey Mantle's homeplace, and then across the state line to Baxter Springs, Kansas. There we stopped at the restored Phillips 66 Station/Visitors Center for information. On the east side of town we saw the Rainbow Bridge of Route 66. Then at Riverton we stopped at the Eisler Brothers Market for a look around and a Coca-Cola.
Then we went down the road a short piece to Galena and located the home of Tow Mater, of CARS fame. He was parked at the restored KanOTex station now known as 4 Women on the Route. One of the co-owners was there and she was eager to tell us all about the place and their plans for the town. She had documentation from Pixar and Disney that their truck was the inspiration for Tow Mater. We took several pictures of Mater and us.
Our final stop was at a place named Red Oak II near Carthage, Missouri. This old town was built in the 1980s-90s by artist Lowell Davis. He was raised in the actual town of Red Oak located several miles away. He bought and relocated numerous old structures from his old hometown to his property and literally built an old town from yesteryear. He lived in one of the houses. The town includes a number of houses, a church with a cemetery, an old Phillips 66 station, fire department, a general store, marshal's office with jail, town hall and street car.
We then headed homeward, it being late afternoon by then. We went through Bella Vista, Arkansas and southward to I-40 at Alma, arriving in Russellville shortly before 8PM. Ken and Terry ordered at Whattaburger and then on to Sherwood. Cindy picked me up there and our trip was now complete. It doesn't take long in the country to see a lot of neat things, meet some interesting people and learn a little history along the way. Makes for great memories too.