Postcards of Lost OKC
by Lynne Rostochil
I have a thing for postcards from the 50’s and 60’s.
Maybe it’s the the over-the-top, too-saturated color that you know could never be real but makes you hope it was, anyway. Or, it could be the way that old postcards make even the most bland roadside motel look peppy and inviting. Think of the old motel postcard with smiling bikini-clad and bouffanted ladies hanging out by a sparkling pool that is surrounded by those gorgeous, candy cane-colored umbrellas, and you know what I mean.
I find one of those postcards (like the one pictured above of the Surf Motel in Santa Rosa, NM) and immediately want to be at that party, when, in reality, the pool pictured on the card likely saw more snotty nosed, screaming kids using it than hot party girls and boys.
Over the years, I’ve collected some of these upbeat postcards of clean and shiny, mid-century structures and signs around Oklahoma City, many of which are, sadly, no longer around. Here are a few of my finds:
The Plaza Tower Hotel
Designed by Bailey, Bozalis, Dickinson & Roloff and built in 1960, the 10-floor, hexagonal-shaped Plaza Tower Hotel was the first hotel built in OKC since the Skirvin Tower was completed in 1938. The hotel never really took off, however, and the Plaza Tower became an office building and, later, and elderly living center. It was demolished in the late 80’s and only a rectangular planter on the vacant lot remains. (For more information about the Plaza Tower Hotel, go to https://okcmod.com/?page_id=102)
Who doesn’t remember the lovely but doomed YMCA building downtown? With its long, sleek lines and stark white facade, the 1948 structure was one of OKC best examples of modern architecture, and, after it was damaged in the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, many fought hard to save this structure from the wrecking ball. As it was about to be declared a landmark, the beautiful YMCA building was unceremoniously demolished, and the site is now a parking lot. (For more information about this building, go to https://okcmod.com/?page_id=922)
Opened in 1958, the 35-acre Wedgewood Amusement Park was a favorite hangout for teens and families throughout the 1960’s. Located on NW Expressway just west of NW 63rd, the park boasted a 9-hole golf course, go-carts (always my favorite), a monstrous pool, tour boats that meandered along the lake bordering the west side of the park, and all kinds of rides and games. Wedgewood was also the largest concert venue in town at the time and hosted such bands as The Yardbirds, Herman’s Hermits, The Dave Clark Five, and, most notably, The Who. The iconic, thin-shell concrete pavillion (pictured above) was originally home to the bumper car ride but later became a concession area after the ride was moved elsewhere. When the park closed its doors in 1969, the rides were sold off and this great structure was demolished when an office building and apartment complex was built on the site. If you go to the old amusement park site today and look closely, you can still find a few remnants of Wedgewood — the bridge that visitors crossed to enter the park, the stairs to the boat dock, and the giant pool that now serves the apartment complex. (For more photos and history about Wedgewood, go to http://www.flickr.com/search/?w=25726169@N03&q=wedgewood)
The Rocket Skating Club Sign
An Oklahoma City institution for over 30 years, the Rocket Skating Club, located at 815 N. Virginia, was known for its wavy floor and great neon sign. Legend has it that the sign came down during one of Oklahoma’s many tornadoes, probably sometime in the early 80’s (which was also around the time the rink closed, so there may be no truth to the tornado rumor). After the club closed, the 50’s-era building was boarded up and used for storage until 2010, when the Rocket was completely demolished in a February blaze.
The Voyager Inn
The Voyager Inn opened in 1960 along an increasingly busy stretch of NW Expressway east of Baptist Hospital. The motel also housed a popular beauty shop and a busy cafe.
In the early 1970’s, several waitresses at the cafe walked off the job and staged a protest because they claimed they weren’t being paid for all of the hours they worked. The management finally caved in and paid them, but the motel was never the same again. The owners soon sold the building to another company, and the Voyager Inn became the Mayfair House Motel.
In 1976, a company that owned an apartment complex next door bought the motel and tore it down so that they could expand the complex. Nothing remains of the old motel except the rock sign you can see in the center of the photo. I believe that this was saved and that it’s the entry to the Warwick West apartment complex that’s there now.
See what you think — here’s the sign today:
Oklahoma City Arts Center
After years of being located at the Civic Center Auditorium downtown, many thought it would be a good idea to move the Oklahoma City Arts Center to the newly-built Fairgrounds . The architectural firm of Parr & Aderhold designed the round building, which was often considered to be the most visually interesting building in the Fairgrounds complex. After the museum moved back downtown in 2002, the building sat for a few years before it was going to be reused as office space. However, chronic flooding and roof issues thwarted the planned renovation, and the Arts Center was demolished in 2008. (For more information and photos of the Arts Center, go to https://okcmod.com/?page_id=920)
This is one of the few postcards I’ve found that looks as depressing and dismal as the actual place; maybe because it was taken in the post-Watergate era when our blinders were off and we saw how ugly and corrupt the world really could be. No girls in bikinis partying in this photo — just an old dumpster and Pinto in the parking lot of a bland mom-and-pop that boasted a sign that was vastly more impressive than the accommodations themselves. Sitting along old Route 66 (at what is now NW 39th and Hefner Parkway), the Arcadia Motel somehow managed to survive until the mid-2000’s, when it was sold to a car repair shop and dealership. Although parts of the original sign remain, it’s looking sadder by the year and will probably be completely replaced in the near future.
And, that’s the tour!
Do you have any mid-century postcards of the Metro? If so and you’d like to include them on the website, just contact us.