Oklahoma History: November 2006 Archives

66 birthday magic

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I started writing this entry last Saturday, November 11.

As it was the second Saturday in November, we headed down to the south side of Oklahoma City to Uncle Dan and Aunt Connie's house for an early Thanksgiving celebration with Mom's side of the family. Good food, a chance for everyone to get to see the baby, and some time to slump on a comfortable sofa, watching the Nebraska-Texas A&M game through closed eyelids.

Since it was the old road's 80th birthday, I had hoped to drive some Route 66 on the way down, but we got off to our usual slow start and had to stick to the turnpike to get to Aunt Connie's in time for lunch.

On the way home, close to dark, we decided to drive some of the old road anyway. The 10-year-old boy immediately began agitating for a dinner stop at the Rock Cafe. We drove the segment from I-35 east of Edmond to I-44 east of Wellston. I had seen some billboards which left me with the impression that Pops, a new landmark on the highway west of Arcadia was already open. (It's not -- opening is set for summer 2007.)

Everyone was getting hungry, so we jumped on the turnpike at Wellston and got off at Stroud.

(A note to the good people of Stroud: Those ridiculously bright "acorn" lights may look lovely and quaint during the day, but at night the glare from them actually hides your Main Street buildings from view. Much of the energy of the acorn lights is wasted, shining up into the sky or into the eyes of oncoming drivers, rather than onto the street where it's needed. Consider at least replacing the bulbs with something lower wattage, or better yet, replace the fixtures with full-cutoff IESNA-compliant lamps that will give you the historic appearance you want, without the glare. Here's an entry from my archives about good and bad streetlighting.)

As we walked from the parking lot into the cafe, I spied a familiar-looking orange VW van. "That looks like Fillmore," I said to the kids, referring to the hippie van from the movie Cars, voiced by George Carlin.

The Rock's owner, Dawn Welch, came by the table to say hello. We told Dawn about seeing Cars at the film festival and hearing Michael Wallis speak.

(As I was watching Cars, listening to Sally the Porsche give an impassioned speech about taking care of and taking pride in their bypassed and beleaguered town, I remembered the poster on the wall behind the east end of the counter at the Rock Cafe, a snapshot of a white board from some sort of brainstorming session on how to make Stroud a better place. Art imitates life.)

Dawn pointed out the gray-headed fellow with the bushy beard who was sitting at the counter. As I had guessed, it was Route 66 artist Bob Waldmire, owner of that VW van. Waldmire and his van were the inspiration for the character Fillmore. Waldmire travels the road much of the year. Dawn says he never calls ahead; he just shows up. He creates beautifully intricate pen-and-ink drawings and watercolors of landmarks and birds-eye-views along the old highway, filled with tiny, neatly-lettered descriptive text. (Here's a webpage with a picture of Bob Waldmire and several examples of his work.)

After a while we introduced ourselves. Bob went out to his van and brought back a couple of cartoons he had drawn, depicting a meeting between Fillmore and his own van, and he signed one for each of the kids, and also gave them his calling card -- a postcard drawing of his van, announcing that "The Unofficial Old Route 66 Mobile Information Center (piloted by R. Waldmire)" is "coming soon to your town!"

With some prompting from Mom, my 10-year-old told Bob about some difficulty he was having painting a watercolor of an owl for art class at school. Bob went back out to the van, brought back his watercolors, and told my son about some of his watercolor techniques. Bob also gave him a card with his drawing of a great horned owl (showing how he used pencil along with inkpen to create the delicate texture of the owl's chest feathers), a watercolor cartoon showing the Cozy Dog couple as bikers riding down 66, and a watercolor he did for TNT Engineering, Inc., in Kingman, Arizona, depicting a VW bug and two VW buses (both split window and bay window) in front of a stunning desert landscape. (Here are two in-progress photos of a mural Bob is doing on TNT's building in Kingman.) He also gave us a copy of his Route 66 Scenes map of Oklahoma.

While we were talking with Bob, Emily Priddy, Route 66 activist and Red Fork Hippie Chick, came into the Rock Cafe. (She was wearing a very cool jean jacket with a big 66 shield on the back, with big shiny sequins outlining the numbers like the reflective discs you see on some old highway signs.) Emily was helping with the Mother Road 100, a 100-mile ultramarathon, which had begun Saturday morning at 7 in Arcadia. Emily was helping to pace a friend who was in the race, and then would be manning the aid station at Kellyville. (She has a detailed account of her weekend on her blog: "I don’t know whether that was the most amazing weekend of my entire life, but if it wasn’t, it didn’t miss it by much.") Emily got some photos of the whole family with Bob (which I'll post later). When I went to pay for our dinner, I learned that she'd perpetrated another random act of kindness. What a sweetheart!

We said so long to Bob as we left the cafe -- we'd see him in Clinton next June if not sooner.

I decided to drive the old road the rest of the way to Tulsa. We watched with amazement as the ultramarathoners made their way along the other side of the highway. Emily had told us they were only expecting 30 runners to make it to Kellyville, 84 miles into the run, but it was apparent that many more were still in the race. The last runner we passed was at 9:40 p.m., near the Creek County Speedway, probably about 85 miles in. That's an average speed of 5.8 miles per hour, including rest stops, sustained for 14.67 hours.

It was a magical evening, a perfect way to mark the start of the Mother Road's ninth decade, on her birthday and mine.

Just a quick note to say our family had a great time at the Riverwalk Cinema for the opening night of the Oklahoma Centennial Film Festival. My daughter and I saw Cars -- it was my first time. What a great movie! It really captures the spirit of Route 66.

My oldest son had music class, so he couldn't join us until later. My wife and the two boys came just in time for Michael Wallis' talk about the history of Route 66, tying together the facets of the road on display in Cars and the role the road played in the history told by the film that followed, The Grapes of Wrath. (My son was excited to get to meet Mr. Wallis in line at the concession stand. He said he wouldn't tell his friends at school, though, because they wouldn't believe him.)

My wife took the daughter and the baby home, and oldest son and I stayed around for The Grapes of Wrath. I read the book in high school but had never seen the film. (And this was a real film, complete with scratches and a film break at the very beginning. It was fun to hear the whirr of the projector, a rare sound nowadays.)

It's a shame, though, that the theater was so empty. For $5 each you could see two great movies on the big screen and hear a talk by a master storyteller and an authority on Route 66, but it the theater was only 25% full. That may be a generous estimate.

Don't squander the rest of your opportunities. (Alas, we already had plans to be out of town for a family event.) Tim Blake Nelson will be present for a screening of his film Eye of God Saturday night at the Circle Cinema. Harvey and Oklahoma! are showing on Sunday. Here's a link to a PDF copy of the complete schedule.

Your attention, please! The Oklahoma Centennial celebration is at hand!

Wait, you say. Oklahoma became a state in 1907. November 16, 1907, to be precise. This is 2006. The Centennial is next year, right?

That's right, but Sharon King Davis is in charge of Tulsa's celebration of the state's 100th birthday, so we're celebrating it a year early. Nearly all the special Oklahoma Centennial events in Tulsa will take place this month.

Davis was also in charge of Tulsa's centennial celebration. Although Tulsa was incorporated in 1898, all but a few of the centennial events were held in 1997, evidently to keep the tourists off-guard. The biggest events were held in September of '97. If you decided to, say, fly from Bath, England, and Cape Cod, Massachusetts, to visit Tulsa for the first time since 1936, and you thought the summer of 1998 would be a good time to visit and catch some special Tulsa centennial events or exhibits, you were out of luck.

(And yes, I know some people who did just that. A couple of sisters, along with the husband of one of them, who grew up in various oil towns around the state in the '20s and '30s, visited the summer of '98. We met one of the sisters in '96 when we were touring a historic home in Cape Cod. When we told her we were from Tulsa, she told us she was born in a place we would never have heard of -- Denoya, which I correctly identified as a boomtown in Osage County also known as Wizbang. When she, her sister, and brother-in-law came to Tulsa, we had dinner at The Spudder -- closest thing we had to an oil history museum at the time -- and I gave them a driving tour of the city.)

I understand the logic -- we're celebrating the 100th year, leading up to the 100th birthday. And I guess it's reasonable for Oklahoma City to get the big celebration at the end, so Tulsa is getting the kickoff celebration at the beginning of that 100th year. Still, I think a lot of Tulsans and a lot of potential visitors aren't going to be expecting all these special events to happen even before we reach our state's 99th birthday.

So pay attention!

One of the first events on the calendar is a film festival, to be held jointly by Circle Cinema and Riverwalk Movies. The festival features a lot of great films about Oklahoma, filmed in Oklahoma, or with some connection to Oklahoma.

Here's a schedule in PDF format. The festival starts Thursday, November 9, and ends Sunday, November 12.

On Thursday, November 9, Circle Cinema will show Tulsa, the 1949 film starring Susan Hayward and Robert Preston, and two films based on books by Tulsa author S. E. Hinton, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, and filmed in Tulsa: The Outsiders and Rumblefish

On Friday, November 10, they're showing Pixar's Cars on the Riverwalk, followed by a talk by Michael Wallis, Route 66 expert and the voice of one of the cars (the sheriff) in the movie. That will be followed by The Grapes of Wrath. At the Circle, they're showing Will Rogers' last movie, Steamboat Round the Bend and a couple of documentaries, one about Tar Creek, one about The Flaming Lips. (The latter sounds like the effect of taking a drink of water from the former.)

At the Circle on Saturday evening, November 11, Tim Blake Nelson (aka Jess Lee of Big Hollow Resort) will be present for a screening of his film Eye of God, which is set in Kingfisher. On Sunday, November 12, they're showing Harvey (Tulsa's Peggy Dow Helmerich was in the film that starred Jimmy Stewart as the man with the imaginary six-foot rabbit), followed by the big screen Shirley Jones - Gordon MacRae version of Oklahoma!.

And there's more. Click the link above for all the details.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Oklahoma History category from November 2006.

Oklahoma History: October 2006 is the previous archive.

Oklahoma History: December 2006 is the next archive.

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