Roadside Oklahoma Through the Eyes of John Margolies, Part 1
by Lynne Rostochil. Photos by John Margolies courtesy of the Library of Congress. Other photos by Lynne Rostochil unless otherwise stated.
Photographer and author John Margolies spent much of his adult life, from 1969-2008, travelling around the country snapping photos of roadside architecture and signs that were, even then, rapidly beginning to disappear. Googie motels, interesting attractions, crazy novelty architecture, fun signs … you name it, he captured it all in stunning color on Kodachrome film. Luckily for us, Margolies donated his incredible collection of nearly 12,000 slides to the Library of Congress before he died in 2016 … and what a collection it is! I’ve culled through the collection and have pulled out his Oklahoma images to share with you, and here they are in alphabetical order according to location:
Green Acres Motel
This one is gone, but I did find a postcard view of it:
It’s also featured here.
Liquor Store and Gas Station
I’m happy to report that this building was restored and turned into the Afton Station Route 66 Museum. If you haven’t been, you need to pop in and check out the incredible Kane family car collection, including this ultra rare 1958 Packard Hawk — yeah, you heard me right, it’s a Packard and not a Studebaker Hawk:
If you’re lucky, you can also meet museum regular and Legends of Oklahoma honoree, Ron Jones, who is covered in Route 66 tattoos and even had his ’57 Chevy decked out in Route 66 signs on “Counting Cars” — so cool!
These photos of Indian City were taken in 1979, long before the iconic Indian City closed its doors about 10 years ago. Here’s a video of the site in 2017.
Gibble Gas station, 1979
The building has either been severely altered or demolished.
Boals TV, 1979
I wasn’t sure if this building was still around until Mary Anglin Salazar confirmed that it is, indeed, still there. Go here to view the building now.
Tastee-Freez and Zesto Ice Cream Shops, 1979
Both of these Bartlesville icons are long gone, but one local reporter remembers them fondly.
Cotton Boll Motel, 1982
Although the motel closed long ago and is now a personal residence, I’m happy to say that the beautiful Cotton Boll Motel sign is still up and has become a Route 66 destination for photographers around the world. Here’s the sign in 2013:
and in 2016:
Blue Whale tables and chairs
Surprisingly, there’s not an image of the famous Blue Whale in Margolies’ collection, but the tables are still there as you can see here:
And here’s a better view of the iconic Blue Whale:
Miller’s Dairy King, 1979
I believe this one is long gone.
Tip Top Cleaners
The building to the right in the background looks like the Petroleum Building at the corner of 4th and Chickasha, but I can’t find structures that resemble the Tip Top Cleaners, so it has either been altered or is gone, I’m assuming. If the building is still around, I think it must be one of these.
Gas station, 1979
I think this has been demolished.
El Sueno Motel, 1982
Constructed in 1938, owner Jack Sibley modeled the building after the famous Alamo Court Motel chain.
Founded in 1929, at one time there were over 20 Alamo Plaza Courts motels spread throughout the Southwest, making this one of the first motel chains in the country. Go here to see photos I took of the Alamo Plaza Courts Motel in Dallas in 1985 and again in 2010 before it was demolished in January 2011.
And, in case you’re wondering, there was an Alamo Plaza here in OKC, too, at 4407 S. Robinson. It was constructed in 1937 and demolished in the 1980s.
As for the El Sueno, it’s still around and is now the Adobe Village Apartments.
Round Up Motel, 1982
While the motel is gone, this fantastic sign was saved and restored.
Ideal Trailer Park and Fireworks Stand, 1982
I believe this one is gone.
Borden’s Ice Cream, 1996
There’s not much left in Coyle, including the ice cream shop, which I believe was located in this building.
Free Museum, 1996
In this near ghost town, it looks like there’s still a little life left at the museum.
Dairy Boy, 1979
I also took this shot of the Dairy Boy in Lexington in 2009:
That location is now the site of a propane company.
Oasis Drive-In, 1979
This great and very tall sign with two palm trees advertised the iconic Oasis Drive-In along Route 66 on the outskirts of El Reno. By the early 2000s, the building and sign were in sad shape, but because it was such a Route 66 icon and beloved by the citizens of El Reno, owners received grant money to restore the sign. The sign’s good fortune didn’t last, unfortunately, and it toppled during a heavy storm in 2009:
Sadly, this optimistic promise didn’t come to fruition and the two palm trees and building were demolished.
Queenann Indian Trading Post, 1982
Charburg Ice Cream, 1979
This local gathering spot was located on E. Main, but I’m not sure where.
Downtown buildings, 1996
Whoever would have thought that a Radio Shack sign would become something you see only in vintage images? Here’s the first view today and the second view today, where the building on the right is gone.
Here’s another downtown beauty that given a Streamline makeover and covered in peach vitrolite decades ago:
And the same building now. If you like vitrolite, there’s another similarly covered building down the block. This one was originally peach, too, as you can see in this image from 2013 — the sign is pretty great, too:
Alas, the sign is gone and the building has been painted a bland green.
Gibble Gas Station, 1979
There were several Gibble gas stations around the state, with a few fading and abandoned examples remaining. I found this Gibble gas pump back in 2008 in Bristow:
Al’s Corner, 1982
Does anyone know if this building is still around?
Rosa’s Fruit Stand, 1993
Rosa’s was located on Route 49.
Capitol Drive In Theater, 1982
According to cinematreasures.org, this theater opened on June 29, 1950 and could accommodate 282 cars. It closed in 1969, and here’s the site of the theater today.
Merry Circle, 1993
I think that this was the entrance to the cabins on Merry Circle — if that’s the case, it’s no longer there.
Cherokee Motel, 1982
At the Cherokee, there was an onsite marriage parlor so that patrons who didn’t care to endure the three-day wait period could get married and honeymoon at the same spot. The motel is history, but here are a few postcards from 66postcards.com that will give you an idea of what this mid-century modern beauty looked like:
Gibble Gas Station, 1979
Yep, we get to see another Gibble gas station, this time in Norman. According to Roadside Architecture (a.k.a. Debra Jane Seltzer, who is a member of the Mod Squad), the station “was probably built by an independent company. By the mid-1930s, it was a Phillips 66 station. In 1938, it was a Deep Rock station and by 1940, it was a Barnsdall station. In the 1960s and 1970s, it was in use as a Gibble station.”
The station, located at Himes and Porter, has been abandoned for decades:
Park Lodge Motel, 1979
Oh my gosh, how cute is this place? Unfortunately, it was demolished sometime in the 1980s or early 1990s and replaced with a Braum’s.
On that sad note, we will wrap things up for the week. Next time, we will explore more of John Margolies’ incredible photos as we make stops in OKC, Perry, Sallisaw, and more towns around the state.