Route 66 – From A Blue Whale To Counterfeit Bills

Not tiring of the Blue Whale, but knowing we needed to head on down the road, we first headed directly across the street to check out the old Arrow-wood Trading Post. It was a waste of a few minutes as we found it is now a car repair shop and even though there were several cars inside the building in various stages of torn-apartness, there was nobody there working on them.

Old post card of Tulsa, the Oil Capital
of the World
Heading west, it's only a short 15 mile drive to Tulsa, at one time proclaimed as the "oil capital of the world." Settled in 1836 by Creek Indians who had been forced to relocate along the infamous "Trail of Tears," they called the settlement,"tulsy," which meant "old town." There were very few white settlers in this mostly wilderness and they lived in peace until the Civil War broke out. The Creeks were divided as to which side to support and in the end, after several battles took place in the area, 1,575 of the Indian men served in the Confederate armies and 1,675 men served in the Union armies. Most of the women, children, and old men sought refuge in Kansas and other areas in the Indian Territory. When the war was over, only 264 members of the Creek nation returned to "tulsy."

"The Hanging Judge"
For a number of years, Indian Territory was a lawless land, a very bad place where outlaws and desperadoes roamed and committed crimes at will. President Grant appointed Judge Isaac Parker to rule the federal district court in Fort Smith, Arkansas, the court which held jurisdiction over the Indian Territory. Parker hired tough lawmen to arrest the outlaws and bring them back for trial in Fort Smith. It wasn't long before his judgments of the arrested earned him the nickname of "The Hanging Judge" and as word got out, order was pretty quickly brought to the land which would eventually become Oklahoma.

In 1889, the unassigned lands in Indian Territory were opened to white settlers and the people who came flooding into the area were soon nicknamed "boomers." In 1901, the discovery of oil in the cow town then known as Tulsa turned it into a boom town. Another oil discovery in the nearby town of Red Fork brought even more wildcatters, investors and their families to the area. In 1905, an even larger pool of oil was discovered in another nearby town, Glenn Pool, and this led to Tulsa's Golden Age in the 1920's and its title of "the Oil Capital of the World." By then, almost 100,000 people, 400 oil companies, and 200 lawyers called Tulsa home.

Youngest-daughter and I didn't stop to see any of the sites in Tulsa.  Several years ago, I earned my living as an IT Consultant and worked a contract in Tulsa 5 days per week for 4 months.  I consider it to be one of my favorite contracts - good people to work with, good money, and a nice, friendly town with lots of things to spend my evenings doing. One of those things was driving through town on Route 66. Seeing as how I had already "done Route 66" there, we drove it and I gave Youngest-daughter the choice of stopping at any of the places I had marked on our itinerary. Most of the route is through the industrial section of town and it wasn't time for lunch yet so she decided to not stop in the city, opting instead to drive on through to get further along on our trip. I was fine with that, but you may want to make a different decision as there are a number of interesting old structures & businesses on the drive.

After a few miles of rolling countryside, we passed through the town of Bristow and into Lincoln County. The former sheriff of Lincoln County, Bill Tilghman, was once a deputy in Dodge City and was the man who brought Bill Doolin, the leader of the infamous Wild Bunch, to justice in 1896. Tilghman himself was killed in a shootout in 1924 and is known as the last man killed in an old west-style showdown.
Henry Starr
Next up was Stroud, a town which got it's start by selling whiskey to the cowboys and travelers coming from the "dry" Indian Territory. With 9 saloons and a number of "houses of ill repute," it soon became known as a hell-raising town.  In 1907, when Oklahoma became a state, it was forced to become "dry" and the partying was over. On March 27, 1915 though, Stroud became the victim of one of the last outlaw robberies in Oklahoma when Henry Starr, brother-in-law of Belle Starr, decided to rob two of the town's banks in a historic double daylight heist. Henry and six other outlaws thought they could do much better than the Dalton Gang who had disastrously attempted to rob two banks in Coffeyville, Kansas.

While robbing the Stroud National Bank and the First National Bank, word got out and the citizens took up arms. In the ensuing gunfight, Henry and another bandit were severely wounded and captured. The other outlaws managed to make a clean getaway with $5,815 in stolen loot. Starr recovered from his wounds and was sentenced to serve time in the Oklahoma State Penitentiary. Just 4 years later, he was paroled and less than two years after regaining his freedom, he was shot dead during a robbery in Harrison, Arkansas.

The famous Rock Cafe on Route 66
Rolling into Stroud, it was close enough to lunch time that we stopped at the famous Rock Cafe at the intersection of Main & 8th Ave. (N3544 55.4 W096 39.16.1). Opened in 1939, for years it was open 24 hours per day and was THE place for travelers to stop for a bite to eat and some good, strong coffee. On May 20, 2008, the place caught fire and except for the stone walls and the steel grill, burned to the ground. The good news though is it has been rebuilt and is good as new. The grill, nicknamed "Betsy," is back in service and has cooked over 5 million hamburgers. One of them was mine! Good atmosphere and good food at a reasonable price. Here's hoping it's still there serving up grub in another 70 years!

Inside the Rock Café
In the Rock Cafe - Youngest-daughter doing a
"Price Is Right" takeoff  with a ketchup bottle.

Old Conoco station where counterfeit bills
were made.
Leaving the Rock Cafe with our tummies full and ready to see more interesting sites, it was only a few miles to the next one. It sure didn't look like much; just a couple of rock walls standing on the side of the road (N35 39 36.1 W097 16 26.1), partly covered by trees and brush. But those ruins were part of an interesting story.  It was the site of an early, primitive Conoco gas station built some time between 1915 and 1920.  It was so remote that electricity was never ran to the building. Chocolate candy was only sold during the winter months because it melted on the shelf in the summer. Once a week a truck brought blocks of ice and until the ice melted, cold soda's were sold. With no electricity, kerosene lamps were used for lighting at night. Oil was also sold which was dispensed from a large metal drum with only a simple spigot to control the flow. The same with kerosene. It's a bit of a miracle that the place never blew up!

Youngest-daughter inspects the station ruins.
In the 1930's during the depression, times were tough and coming by a dollar was hard. One day, a traveling "salesman" stopped to fill up his car with gasoline and before he left, had sold the two men who owned the place a way to make a lot of quick cash - a printing plate to make bogus $10 bills. The men added on a tiny room to the back of the station which only had a small window for an opening. It was built around the printing press and was so cleverly disguised that nobody even knew it was there. Eventually the counterfeit bills were traced back to the station and after a very thorough search, the plates were found. The station owners were arrested and sent to prison, never to be heard from again.

It wasn't all that long before Youngest-daughter was ready to fire up the truck and get to our next stop - a red, round barn. She knew there was some shopping to be done there and she had a couple of dollars burning a hole in her pocket!
Go to the first Route 66 entry here.
Or go to the first entry of each state: