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Archive for the ‘Oklahoma history’ Category

First Christian Church

When I woke up this morning and checked my phone, I had several texts from friends and family who know I love Oklahoma history. Concerned I read the one from Big K first, “The egg church has been torn down”. I hoped that what he said wasn’t true but a quick look at my Facebook feed confirmed it. The iconic First Christian Church, the “Egg Church”, was a pile of rubble.

The First Christian Chruch was one of the first churches organized in Oklahoma City. Historical records show that their first baptismal was in June 1889. By 1910, the congregation had built a new home for their church at 1104 N Robinson after occupying a few other buildings. This would be their home for many years until the completion of the new sanctuary (this building does still stand and is on the National Register of Historic Places). In 1946, the minister of the church, Bill Alexander, helped the church buy land that had previously been part of the Edgemere Golf Club for a new location. By 1947, an outdoor auditorium had been built. The Sunday evening services were held here, “Edgemere Under the Stars”. On Christmas Day in 1953, the church announced its “Christmas present to Oklahoma City”, a new modern building that was a landmark to all who could see it, the “church of tomorrow”. The church was designed by architects R. Duane Conner and Fred Pojezny. They used concrete to make the large dome by pouring the concrete on steel mesh that was laid on a wooden form. After the concrete cured, the form was removed.

Sunday, December 23rd, 1956, the new church welcomed its first worshipers. It is said that over 2000 people attended that first service in the new sanctuary. The architecture for the time was so spectacular that the church was featured in Life magazine in 1957. This church was a center for the community for many years. It hosted events from weddings to funerals, from school concerts to the Miss Oklahoma Pageant. But most importantly it served as “The Center” during the time shortly after the Murrah Building bombing in 1995. Set up by the church, the medical examiner, and a group of funeral directors, the American Red Cross also set up in the building. It served as a safe haven from the media for those who lost loved ones in the attack. It’s rumored that Oprah Winfrey herself even went to the church to help the victims and their families. For 16 days after the bombing, it was a place of solace for those closely affected. In 2016, the First Christian Chruch put the property up for sale. The size of the congregation had shrunk and the building was becoming expensive to repair. By 2018, the first whispers of demolition started. Many tried to fight back, even trying to get the city council involved. Even though it had been placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2011, it was at risk. A couple of other churches stepped forward to buy it but in the long run the property just needed to many repairs.

I never got to go in the building. I only got a few pictures back in 2019, never thought to go back and take more. A sad day for Oklahoma history and for those who love mid-century designs.

Richardson Building

Sad to say but Oklahoma has a problem with tearing down and ignoring history. On Friday July 22, 2022, Union City lost one of the oldest buildings in town- the Richardson Building. I loved driving through Union City just to see this 112-year-old building standing quietly on the corner.

Founded in 1900, Dr. David Richardson bought the bank in 1906. The bank got its new building in 1910 at the northeast corner of Division St and Main St. (now Kate Boevers Ave.). Built across from the school, this building not only housed the bank on the corner but to the east was a hardware store that later became a grocery. The building suffered a fire in the interior in 1928 and was rebuilt. It was used as a bank until 1977 when a new building was constructed on Highway 81. The old building then sat vacant for many years. It was added to the National Register of Historic Properties in 1983.

The town on Union City was founded on April 10, 1894. Dr. David Richardson moved to town not long after to establish his medical practice. He not only was the town doctor, and later banker, but served as postmaster for Union City. He was appointed as State Bank Commissioner by Governor E.W. Marland in 1938 and served 1 year.

As I stated, this building has been abandoned since at least 1977, it was a cool building but also old and falling apart. I had heard rumors on July 22, 2022, that it would be demolished that day, I waited for a few days before I drove to Union City. There was just a dusty concrete pad where the 112-year-old Richardson Building had sat, another historical building gone.

These pics I took in Aug 2016. As time went on, more things were missing such as the arrow sign.

These pics were taken July 2022. You can see the brick footing for the building.

Coffee Corner: 918 Coffee

During a recent trip to Tulsa, we decided that we wanted to try something different for breakfast. It was this desire for difference that led us to 918 Coffee. I ordered a ham and cheddar bagel sandwich and a hot Heath Bar Latte. The bagel sandwich was perfectly toasted and provided the morning fuel that I needed for the rest of our trip. The latte was warm and satisfying, and the baristas even took the time to create a latte art leaf on the top. It was called a Heath Bar Latte as it tasted like a Heath Bar. I highly recommend 918 Coffee to anyone in the Tulsa area. Written by Mae.

From the backseat Mae suggested this place and her dad was a second on this, so I turned the Jeep around and we stopped. Located in an old service station right along Historic Route 66, I was pleasantly surprised. You can go in either the older section or through what was once huge garage doors. Up to the counter where the young ladies working there were super friendly. We all got bagel sandwiches with ham and cheddar. Miss Mae got the latte while me and Big K wanted something cooler. We both went with frappes, I had a peppermint patty and he had a Reese’s peanut butter. They were really good, mine was cool and minty, perfect for the hot day ahead. The sandwiches were also really good, toasted. The atmosphere was great for automobile history fans like us (Big K is also a mechanic so he loves this stuff), sitting in the old bays of the shop. They also had nice automobilia with signs and an old tool cabinet. The entrance was built in 1928, with the shop part built in 1946. It became a coffee shop in 2013. Just really cool to sit on Route 66 and eat in a former gas station and auto shop. I will go back the next time I’m in Tulsa. 5 strips of bacon.

Address: 2446 E. 11th St., Tulsa.

Center of the Universe

So I like to visit silly places and tourist attractions. Some live up to the hype, some don’t. The Center of the Universe in Tulsa sounds silly and a waste of time but in reality, it was cool.

First up is to find parking near the attraction, looks like parking is free on weekends and at night. You can park near the Union Depot, in one of the parking garages or just on the street. You then walk up onto the bridge that goes over the railroad tracks. When you get to the brick circle you are there, no signs or anything to point it out. Just go and stand in the center of the brick circle and speak. Sounds like you’re in a tunnel or in a pipe with the echo. I was skeptical at first but it really is strange. Just stand there and start talking, you will hear yourself. You can still hear those outside the circle and they can hear you.

No one is really sure why this happens, the bridge was reconstructed in 1983 after a fire damaged the original bridge. It wasn’t designed to be an “acoustic anomaly” but for some reason it is. Many people have theories, nothing scientifically proven. On the south side of the circle is a statue called The Artificial Cloud by Robert Haozous, it was placed there in 1991. It just seems to help with the eeriness of the location. If you’re in Tulsa this is a good place for a short side trip. Also it’s free unless you have to pay to park. Shouldn’t take any longer than 15 minutes unless there’s a crowd.

Address: 1 S Boston Ave., Tulsa.

Food Friday: The Bookmark Cafe

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you would know that my contributing writer Mae has been absent. Well, she had to get through a rigorous high school schedule and now that she has graduated (PC Pirate class of ’21) she is studying at the great University of Oklahoma (proud 3rd generation Sooner). To help pay for this new adventure in education, she is working for food services as a barista. Her first semester she spent at The Hive, a coffee shop on south campus (more on it in another post) but now she is at The Bookmark Cafe in the first lower level of Bizzell Memorial Library.

This is just a small coffee shop, very similar to the ones you see in bookstores, where they have coffee, lattes, frappuccinos, along with light sandwiches and pastries. Last Sunday was my first visit and I was impressed, the space that had once been where the newspapers and magazines were kept was transformed into a study lounge with separate rooms for groups. Bookmark Cafe has a large area with tables and booths for group or individual study. They are part of Starbucks “We Proudly Serve” program, where they do serve up the same drinks that you can find at a Starbucks. Many of the pastries are cooked on site with the salads and sandwiches coming from Cow On the Fly. I didn’t get a chance to try any of the food yet, because of the snowstorm the previous week, the food delivery hadn’t come in yet. The double chocolate chip frappuccino that I had was awesome though. The staff is all students, they were all friendly and happy to be at Bookmark.

Now for some history- there was nothing like this when I was a student at OU in the early 1990’s (BA in Journalism, ’94). The coffee shop craze hadn’t hit Oklahoma yet. I guess there were some around but to me, coffee was just something that my grandparents drank. I had never heard of a frappuchino, latte, or macchiato. Bizzell Memorial Library was built in 1928 for the growing university and expanded, first in 1958, then again in 1982. Lower level 1 is part of the 1982 addition. Like I mentioned earlier, it held the periodicals. I used to sit at the microfilm readers and journey through the past with their newspaper collection. The Bookmark Cafe officially opened for the spring semester 1998 to give students a quiet place to study. The official grand opening was held on February 11, 1998 (I didn’t know this information until Wednesday of this week as I was researching, so the fact I’m publishing this on the same date 24 years later is just a coincidence). In August of 2013 construction began to transform the space into the study area it is now, Bookmark Cafe was temporarily moved but returned to its now larger location in September 2014 with a ceremony held on November 7, 2014, to mark the reopening of the lower level. In March 2020, it closed, not to reopen until January 2022.

Overall I will give them 5 strips of bacon, just for the fact that my child works there, but I would like to try more of their menu items. Project for the rest of the semester. So if you find yourself in Norman and near campus, stop into the historic library and grab a treat.

Food Friday: Eskimo Joe’s

There are a lot of places I’ve gone that are tourist traps, many fall flat and don’t live up to the hype. Being the good Sooner, I always felt that way about Eskimo Joe’s. Just a place for OSU fans to go, and it can’t be that good or it wouldn’t be in Stillwater. I started to change my mind about it in 2018, when Mae’s band stopped there for lunch before contest. Since we were both nervous, we just got Little Joe burgers with no sides. No, we didn’t try the cheese fries or anything else but we did come home with a couple cups to remind us of the trip. For the years since that trip I think about making a real visit but never had the chance. Last weekend I had research to do in Stillwater, so lunch at Eskimo Joe’s became a priority.

I’m lucky we decided to go earlier than noon, at 11:22a that place was already packed with a 40-minute wait time. This is probably why they have a store next door, so you can shop while waiting for a table. So while we wandered through the colorful shirts, we patiently waited for a text telling me they were ready. After a little over 30 minutes, I got the text and upstairs to our table we went. This time I was getting the world-famous cheese fries, topped with sweet peppered bacon of course. I now understand why this is one of their most popular items, they were so good. The fries were perfect, covered with a generous amount of cheese, topped with a mound of bacon. This is a must order if you go. I might try them other ways on a next visit but even if you get just the plain, it’s worth it.

Next up were our burgers, I chose to order the sweet peppered bacon and cheddar while my husband got a fire burger. This burger was one of the best I’ve eaten in many years. Juicy, well flavored meat, soft bun, and that bacon. If you are a bacon connoisseur like me, I highly recommend the sweet peppered bacon. It is the true definition of meat candy. Cooked perfectly, not too crisp or limp, covered in brown sugar with just a touch of pepper. This was true culinary heaven. My husband loved his fire burger, said it had good heat to it without being overpowered. He did add the sweet peppered bacon to his burger as well and totally agreed that this was the best bacon. We were too stuffed for dessert, so back down to the store to actually buy some shirts (once again being the good Sooner I couldn’t have one that said Stillwater or OSU, so I got one with the dog).

Eskimo Joe’s really lived up to the hype and then some. Even though it’s in Stillwater (and I could see the campus for little brother), I’m ready to go again. Full warning, give yourself plenty of time since there will be a wait. The service was excellent, even with me in my finest crimson and cream, everyone was nice and friendly. Didn’t wait long for any of the food to come out, so that’s a big plus. Overall I will definitely give them 5 strips of bacon, especially if its the sweet peppered bacon. Their food is worth the drive and wait, trust me.

A bit of the history, Eskimo Joe’s opened in 1975 as a bar. That’s the old stone building at the east end of the complex. They added food to the menu in 1984 when the drinking age was raised in Oklahoma, including the famous cheese fries, which got an endorsement from President George Bush, Sr. The building has been added onto and remodeled several times, adding a huge store to the west end.

Address: 507 W. Elm St., Stillwater.

Quartz Mountain Flyer

Back in 2019, I got to experience this train excursion through a part of southwestern Oklahoma. I got lucky getting the tickets after trying for years. Only a few months later I realized how lucky I was when the Quartz Mountain Flyer shut down.

This trip started at the intersection of State Highway 44 and 44A, right at the turn to go to Quartz Mountain State Park. Just a gravel parking lot next to the railroad track, just a simple sign and loading ramp to mark the location. Once on board the passenger car, you are taken through the Quartz Mountains, south of Lake Altus-Lugert, then north past the beautiful wheat fields until you reach the small town of Lone Wolf. There the volunteers of the town would treat you to a light lunch. Back onto the train to go past the fields again, then the lake, and through the deep valley to the parking lot.

Sounds like fun but unfortunately after about 20 years of service, the Flyer shut down, seemingly for good, at the end of 2019. The excursion line was run by volunteers in Lone Wolf, they would rent the engines and passenger cars from Farmrail. Being the only excursion train left in the state of Oklahoma, it was extremely hard to get tickets. Trust me when I say I got lucky to get the 3 tickets I needed for our trip. After serious flooding earlier in 2019, one of the passenger cars had been damaged. So after a few runs during the year, it was decided by Farmrail to sell the cars to the Oklahoma Railway Museum in Oklahoma City. Because of this decision, the volunteer group had to shut down. That leaves the state of Oklahoma with no true excursion rail trips.

The line was originally part of the Kansas City, Mexico, and Orient (KCM&O or The Orient) railway founded in 1900. This line was sold to the Atcheson, Topeka, and Santa Fe in 1928 and is now run by the Farmrail System.

2021 Goals

So if you’ve been reading me for a while, I try to support local restaurants whenever I’m out. I really prefer them to the big national chains. If 2020 has shown us anything, it’s that the small local businesses are what makes our economy thrive. I’m not going to get into the politics and debate over what has occurred over the past few months, what I am going to do is focus more on these small restaurants who need our help. I’m going to spend 2021 going to as many locally owned restaurants as possible and get the word out about all- the good and the bad. If you have any suggestions, just comment on my Facebook page and I’ll check them out. Also go back through my previous posts, you’ll find some great suggestions and I do update each restaurants status. So get your taste buds ready as I go out and test the waters to see if a restaurant is worth your time and money. Let’s eat our way through 2021 and help keep our small businesses afloat.

RIP Crossroads Mall

Bre at the fountain at Crossroads mall 1974

The little Fat Okie with her Granny at Crossroads Mall Spring 1974

 

On October 31st, 2017, what was one of the greatest malls in the country closed for what might very well be the last time.  Crossroads Mall came into existence in 1973 and was the place to shop for 25 years.  While older generations of Oklahomans recall the shopping experience of downtown Oklahoma City in the 1940’s-1960’s, it’s my generation that will speak fondly of Crossroads.  In the ’70’s and ’80’s, that’s where you hung out, whether you were really shopping or just needed some place to go instead of school.

I have very fond memories of Crossroads.  It opened in February 1974, I was just a baby.  We lived in Norman and it was the closest mall at the time.  We were there shopping all the time, especially the holidays.  I can still remember playing in the clothes racks at Montgomery Wards while my parents shopped for Christmas presents for the extended family.  We always started at the Wards entrance, I think my parents had a credit card they could use there, so it was first on the trip.  I remember being 8 and finding a cute purple dress at Wards, I needed it for some school presentation.  My parents were nice enough to buy it for me.  Later in the early 1990’s I found another cute purple dress there, my dad got it for me as a Christmas gift.  At least I still have that one.

After Wards, you went into the main mall.  I always started upstairs.  The first store you would come to was the pet store.  Don’t remember the name but I loved going in there to look at all the cute kittens and puppies.  Now I know that those cute animals most likely came from a puppy mill but then everything was still innocent and you just didn’t think about things like that.  After that you had Eastern Treasures, where you could always find cool stuff that was way more expensive than my budget would allow.  A little further down was Spencer’s with all of their lava lamps, black light posters, and lightning balls.  That store just seemed magical to me with all of their silly stuff.  There was no real food court, so we would stop at the McDonald’s for lunch.  For some reason I thought it was cool that you had to go up another half level to order, it was like the counter was on a stage.  After we were done eating, we would pass Frederick’s of Hollywood.  That was another store that held a fascination with me, especially after I was a teenager in the ’80’s.  All of that cute, lacy clothes that you saw on MTV was there in that store.  It was so cool.  Eventually we would get to the other end of the mall, JC Penny’s.  On one trip in the ’90’s I found these cute stuffed “honkers” from Sesame Street in the kids section.  I was just walking through and had to have them, still do.

Downstairs we would then go and into the Hobby Shop.  Another store that was just too much fun.  You never knew what you could find in there- model cars, model trains, collectibles of all sorts.  Next door was the Le Mans arcade.  I was always up for a few rounds of skeeball but if my dad was with us, you might as well be prepared to stay a while.  He would play Donkey Kong and Pac-Man until he ran out of quarters.  Once we got back to the middle, we would sit and look at the fountain.  I can still see those blue tiles in my head.  After making a wish and throwing a penny in, I would then ask to run up and then back down the ramp.  Seems silly now but back then it was fun.  Eventually we made it back to Wards and out to the parking lot.   We always went in the downstairs entrance and to the south of the doors there was a hill that led to the upstairs parking lot.  My dad would carry me to the top of the hill, then with his hands under my arms, would start to run down.  By the time we hit the parking lot, my feet were off the ground and it was like I was flying.

I remember in the 1980’s going on many shopping trips with my Granny.  She would want to “work out the plastic”, those trips were always good for a new sweater.  I know I’m not the only kid in the metro who spent a school day ditching at Crossroads.  I’m sure all of the schools would have benefitted from having a paid lookout, then many of us would have been enjoying some quality time in the office explaining how the mall cured us of what was ailing us that day.

The Nineties saw a change in the mall, the ownership at the time thought it was a good idea to remove the ramp and fountain.  Replaced with an elevator and carousel, some of the magic was lost.  In the late 90’s, a series of shootings gave the mall a bad reputation that it could never overcome.  The situation was worsened by road construction on I-35 and I-240, construction that is still going on today.  Stores started to close eventually becoming a dead mall.  A group tried to bring it back but with no luck.  Now the mall is up for sale with rumors of it becoming a school or office space (there is a school in the old Wards section currently).

Just makes me sad to drive by and remember all the fun of going to the mall.  Also makes me sad to think of all the younger generations who will never know the fun of ditching and hanging out at the mall.  So RIP Crossroads, we may not be able to waste our days inside your doors any longer but we’ll remember the good days that you did give us.

Bre at Crossroads mall 1974

Little Fat Okie at Crossroads Mall Spring 1974

Arrow from the Past

Arrow

UPDATE:  As of November 9, 2018 the current Space Needle that took the place of this arrow is being torn down.  It was badly damaged after a flood in June 2010.  Some believe that the fairgrounds administration never intended to fix the space needle and wanted to demolish it.  No I’m not happy to see more of Oklahoma’s history being destroyed.  Hopefully something will be saved from the space needle.

I spend a lot of time driving the back roads of Oklahoma and while out in the country southwest of Yukon, I found something that really intrigued me- a big arrow.  Just sitting in this field, rusting away.  Odd, definitely not something you normally see so I had to learn more about this strange sight.  Turns out it is quite important to the history of Oklahoma and the state fair.

In 1957, the state of Oklahoma held its Semi-Centennial Exposition at the new State Fair Park.  The fairgrounds had only recently been moved from its location around NE 10th and Douglas to the home we know now at NW 10th and May.  This celebration, held June 14th- July 7th, was a big deal.  Not only did the fairgrounds stay open 24 hours a day, but well- known performers of the time such as Patti Page and Mickey Rooney made appearances.  The Today show from NBC hosted by Dave Garroway broadcast live so the whole country could see the excitement of the crowds.  As a center piece to this great celebration was the Arrows to Atoms tower.  A 200 foot tall red and white arrow with an atom just below the tip, I have been told that you could see it for miles even at night when the point was illuminated from inside making a red glow.  This tower had been dedicated at few months before on April 22, 1957 and represented the progress Oklahoma had made in 50 years.

This tower stayed in the middle of the fairgrounds until 1967 when it was deemed structurally unsound and was removed.  It was replaced the next year by the landmark we all know now as the Space Needle.  What many do not know is that after removal, the arrow was cut down to about 80 feet and placed on land owned by an employee of the Utility Tower Company (who had originally built it) near SW 59th and Frisco Roads.  Even though the property (called Odd Acres by some locals) has changed hands a few times, that arrow still sits on the side of the road.  It’s no longer red and white and the atom is long gone (even though I’ve heard the rumor that it was placed on top of the current space needle, I can’t confirm this), it provides a great nesting place for birds.  Just a piece of Oklahoma history, sitting in plain sight and unfortunately rotting away.

Arrow Point

Originally red, the arrowhead is 15 feet tall and lit from the inside.

Arrow bottom

The tail section was 26 feet tall.  You can still just make out the red on the outside panels with white down the middle.

 

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