Signs o’ the Times in Small Town Oklahoma

text and photos by Lynne Rostochil.

On a recent girls’ trip to a secluded cabin in the eastern part of the state, I marked two great vintage signs off my must-see list — the deliciously Googie Isle of Capri, which has been a mainstay in Krebs since 1950:


… and the stunning End of Trail Motel sign in Broken Bow:


These are just two of a plethora of great signs located in small towns all across Oklahoma.  I have dozens more that I’ve “collected” over the years, including several in Bartlesville:


Murphy’s Steakhouse is a true Bartlesville icon and is home to the famous hot hamburger — you can try the recipe for this gut buster at home if you dare!


Sadly, the Limey was closed and long gone when I took this photo, but the cheerful sign still spins in its efforts to advertise … well, nothing.


I love the Googie greatness of the Comanche Center sign, don’t you?


The Traveler’s Motel sign isn’t too shabby, either.

I took these on a trip to Muskogee in 2010:


This beautifully restored sign in downtown Muskogee, OK, received the Downtown Mainstreet Best Sign award in 2009. Here’s what the Main Street newsletter said about the sign:

“The black metal sign with neon tubing and diamond design projected from the Surety Building above the corner of Third and Broadway for over 90 years. After four generations of family ownership, the jewelry store closed over 30 years ago. However, the sign remained a landmark in Muskogee. Martha Griffin, who rents the space where McEntee’s was, received permission from the building’s owners to restore the sign. She incurred the expense herself as a gift to the community. Work included removing the sign, simply cleaning the surface, replacing the neon gas, and reinstalling it. As the nomination states, ‘It took several attempts to get the neon to work properly, but the sign now provides a beautiful glow over a very historic corner of Muskogee’s downtown.'”

The eight-story Surety Building where McEntee’s Diamonds lived for decades was built in 1910 for the Southern Surety Company. It was added to the National Register in 1986, and, after being vacant for years, was converted into an apartment building. It looks like it’s in great shape today.


There was talk a few years ago of restoring the circa 1922 Muskogee Hotel and turning it into artist space, but I’m not sure if that has happened.


Sadly, a 2007 fire destroyed the cluster of beautiful gingerbread buildings that made up this business in downtown Muskogee, and the ruins and sign came down a couple of years ago from what I hear.


The very original Trail Motel in Enid is one of my favorite mom and pop places to stay, and the sign is so fun!  And how great are these gems in McAlester?



I love these beauties in Chickasha, too:




And you have to love a little God Mod neon, like this one in Healdton:


The long-gone Eagle Park in Cache is still remembered through these wonderfully rusty and crusty leftovers:



The trading post is still open, and you can book tours of the nearby Quanah Parker house here.

Shawnee is home to some great signage, too:






And, finally, this is one of my very favorite sign finds ever:


This sticker sign was on a window at an abandoned sheet metal and appliance repair shop in Sulphur, OK.  When I took the photo in 2010, Sulphur was a pretty bleak looking place with just a few businesses open in the downtown area.  Here’s the building as it looked then:


All of that changed when the Artesian Hotel opened, of course, and now most of the structures have been restored and are occupied.  The building that accommodated this beautiful sign for decades has been revamped, too, and this delightful piece of signage is, sadly, gone.

Such is progress.