Posts By: lrostochil

On the Market: Living the Country Life in the Middle of the City

Posted by on Nov 1, 2018 in Mod Blog | No Comments

text and photos by Lynne Rostochil, except for the first image, which is from Nathan’s listing.  Vintage images courtesy of the Oklahoma History Center.

I’m feeling very tranquil and at-one with nature after visiting Sqadder, Nathan’s, recently listed home on five acres along NE Grand.  It was really hard to believe that I was in the heart of the city as I strolled around the bright house and hilly, wooded grounds, which are located just a few blocks from the Science Museum.  Yes, if you’re looking for a centrally located mid-century modern oasis where you can relax and enjoy the surrounding nature, this brick and flagstone abode may be just the ticket for you.

The home was constructed in 1953 and is sited atop a hill overlooking the five acres that is part of the property.  It was built for C.E. Bretz and his wife, Mamie, pictured here with their award-winning pointers, Pat and Mike, in 1944:

Bretz was originally from Pennsylvania but moved to Oklahoma City in 1919 as the town’s Water Works Superintendent.  Here he is within a few years of his arrival:

Very dapper.

Bretz was in charge of the construction of Lake Hefner, as well as the Atoka Water project.  At some point in his career, he realized he could earn more money as a contractor instead of a city employee, set up his own hydraulic engineering firm, and hired out to OKC and other municipalities at much higher rates than his former city salary.  Ole C.E. was right and quickly became an affluent man.

After World War II, acreage belonging to the old Borne Dairy Farm on Eastern (now Martin Luther King Blvd.) became available, and Bretz purchased a large parcel.  He planned to develop a small housing subdivision on part of the land that would then pay for the personal residence he planned to build on the northernmost section of the land.  He hired Berlowitz & Commander to draw up plans for his new abode, which are still with the house today:

And here’s a site plan:

C.E. and Mamie had no children together (he had an older son from a previous marriage), so they built a comfortable two bedroom home that more than met their needs.  The couple lived here until their deaths — his in 1977 and hers 20 years later.  A second owner had the place for about a decade until the current owner purchased the place.  So, now that you know its history, let’s begin our tour.

From the front door, the very spacious formal living and dining spaces are on the right:

Of course, no mid-century-era home would be complete without a bay window:

I’ve always wanted a home with a bay window with a comfy cushion on the windowsill where I could sit and read books on chilly winter afternoons, and this looks like the perfect spot for such mind expanding activities.

You can enter the kitchen from this room, but we’ll save that for a bit later.  Back at the front door, walking straight ahead takes you to what the blueprints have labeled as the Club Room, which sounds so much more raucous and fun than calling it a den, don’t you think?

I don’t know what to salivate over more, that drop dead gorgeous flagstone fireplace or the view to the backyard.  Let’s start with the fireplace:

How great is that?  I’ve never seen one quite like this with both brick and flagstone, but I really like it.  And those built-ins are all original, too.  LOVE!

This room has some beautiful parquet flooring, too:

A conveniently located half bath separates the Club Room from the kitchen, which received a not-so-great remodel before the current owners moved in:

Nope, it’s not my favorite, especially when you see photos of how it used to look:

There is a silver lining to the kitchen, though, which you’ll see in a bit.  The good thing about it is the kitchen is huge and the current owner had some preliminary ideas to redo this space in a much more thoughtful and mod way, including extending the windows over the sink all the way to the doors to take full advantage of the backyard views.  I think that would be the first thing I’d do with this space — get the most out of that glorious view!

Going toward the two-car garage is a large laundry room and another half bath.  Now that you’ve seen the common areas of the home, let’s turn to the left from the front door and check out the more private spaces:

The first bedroom is so large that I immediately thought it was the master,

especially when I looked into the giant dressing room/closet that goes with it:

You know how people always lament about the lack of storage in older homes?  Well, that is absolutely NOT the problem in this house.  All of the closets are made for hoarders like me and there are an abundance of them scattered throughout the house.  So, go ahead and move all your clothes and goodies in and don’t worry about where you’ll put everything.

Another closet in the hallway contains even more blueprints:

Across the hall is a well appointed bathroom that could stand to have some mod put back into it:

The tile and sink are all original, so this space could be funked up by tossing those pulls and that mirror and maybe painting the cabinets.

At the end of the hall is the true master bedroom that is surrounded by a wall of windows looking out onto the pool area and backyard:

Both bedrooms have these corner windows on two sides, allowing for some great cross ventilation when the windows are open and tons of light.  Oh and the closet in this room is so big that it holds two dressers in addition to clothes and the sort.

Even with all of the great things about this house,  I know that some of you are poo-pooing the idea that it’s two bedrooms.  Well, the current owner hired Ken Fitzsimmons of TASK Design to come up with an idea to add a master suite to the home, and, as usual, Ken returned with something that is truly inspired.  The plan is to convert the garage into the master wing, with a huge window overlooking the backyard and framed by a cantilevered private patio:

How incredible would that be?  But wait, there’s more.  Ken would then add a complimentary porte corchere on the front of the house for parking:

Here are a few bird’s eye views of what the home could look like:

Pretty fantastic, aye?

Okay, so now that we’ve checked out the house and have explored all of its possibilities, let’s go out the back doors of the Club Room and see what is definitely my favorite backyard in the city:

You could definitely have some shindigs on this enormous patio overlooking the backyard, which is exactly what Mamie and C.E. did during their years here.  They were known for throwing quite a few dances and gatherings at the house, which was obviously made for entertaining big crowds.  Here’s the view from the patio looking toward the master bedroom and pool area:

The current owner installed the pool a few years ago and it fits right in with the entertaining desires begun by the Bretzs:

From the main house, take a few steps down to the valley of the property, which is open and looks like it’s ready to accommodate a hearty game of flag football or even a hole of golf:

On the opposite side of the valley, go up a few rock steps…

… and it’s back to more woods.  On the right is a sweet concrete picnic table with, yes, an original Sundrella shade:

You don’t see those in the wild very often.  This cozy, shaded spot offers a beautiful view of the valley and house beyond:

Turning away from the house, a few steps up the hill is a rock-faced fireplace and horse barn that date to the days of the dairy farm:

The century-old horse barn is in great condition and has its own driveway, so it could be converted into an Airbnb or even a rent house.  Let’s go to the arched front door…

… and take a peek inside:

It’s difficult to tell from my crappy photos, but this is an enormous room.  The current owner planned to install a kitchen and bathroom in two of the old horse stalls and convert the attic space into a master suite:

Again, my photos don’t do this place justice — the attic is BIG, with a lot of old and untouched furniture and boxes left over from Bretz’s days as owner.  I looked into one box and found information about a gas station he owned near the Las Vegas neighborhood in the 1940s:

I’m assuming that the gas station is this one, which received a mod awning in the 1950s:

Oh, remember when I said there’s a silver lining with the kitchen?  Well, here it is.  The second owner kept all of the original cabinetry and countertops, and they are stored in the barn’s attic:

I’d definitely reuse those cabinet doors and would also try to match the countertop color as closely as possible to restore the kitchen to its former glory.

Back outside and around to the back of the barn is flat ground that was once the dancefloor at the Bretz’s gatherings:

There’s a private entrance here, as well, so this could be converted to a driveway for the barn.  Oh and we haven’t seen all that the barn has to offer.  The Bretzs kept the original doors to the barn and added screen doors on the inside so that everything could be opened up on those fun party nights for easy access inside and out without having to worry about pesky bugs and critters:

Pretty nifty.

There are a lot more things to see on the acreage, including the swing that hangs from a tall and sturdy tree — and yes, I tried it out:

There’s also a picnic area where you and a gaggle of your pals can hang out and enjoy long summer evenings:

The current owner also built a fabulous treehouse for his kids that is guarded by concrete lions that actually once adorned the front of my house:

Let’s head back up the tree-lined path to the house:

Can we take one more look at that phenomenal backyard, please:

Can you imagine waking up to any more beautiful surroundings in our normally flat-as-a-pancake city?  Me, either.

During the Bretz’s tenure at the home, they had all kinds of animals, including their beloved pointers, chickens (there’s still a coop in the barn)…

… and even peacocks.  Passersby were so intrigued by peacocks roaming around the property that they often confused the Bretz house with the Oklahoma City Zoo down the road.  That’s when a sign for the zoo was posted outside the property, and one has remained there ever since:

There is so much to love about this place — the house, the history, the barn, the land.  I hope the next owner loves everything about this bit of paradise in the heart of the city and continues the tradition of treasuring everything about it.

If you’re interesting in touring the home, please contact realtor Kacie Kenney of the Kinney Team at 760-3455.  The two bedroom/three bath home is 2,162 sf and is listed for a very reasonable $375,000.  Also, go here to see much better photos of the property and to view the listing.

From Mies to Oklahoma Mod: The Life and Legacy of Robert Lawton Jones

Posted by on Oct 16, 2018 in Mod Blog | No Comments

by Lynne Rostochil.

To say that Bob Jones enhanced Oklahoma’s architectural landscape with his visionary designs is an understatement.  Simply put and with no exaggeration at all, he was a creative genius who has left his home state with a treasure trove of modern buildings that I hope we will preserve for eons. Sadly, Jones died on September 14th at the ripe old age of 93 but instead of dwelling on the loss of such a visionary, let’s take a minute to celebrate all he achieved in his long and interesting life.

Robert Lawton Jones was born on May 12, 1925 in McAlester and spent his youth there.  Upon graduating from high school in 1943, he left Oklahoma and joined the Navy, where he served as a midshipman in the Pacific theater for the remainder of World War II.  After the Allied victory, Jones enrolled at the University of Notre Dame, where he received his Bachelor’s in architecture, graduating cum laude in 1949.

Deciding that he wanted to be exposed to “the most exciting city in architecture,” Jones went to work in Chicago for the firm of Perkins & Will.  Two years later, he was accepted at the Illinois Institute of Technology, where the ambitious young man began studying under the most modern of modernist architects, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe:

Mies, who coined the term “less is more,” believed that modern architecture should be simple, straightforward, and without unnecessary ornamentation.  His “skin and bones” designs favored industrial steel that framed lots of glass to blur the lines between the indoors and outside world, as is illustrated by what is perhaps his most famous design, the jaw dropping Farnsworth House outside of Chicago:

Bob Jones flourished under Mies’s tutelage and, after receiving his Master’s degree in 1953, earned a Fulbright grant to study at the Technical University of Karlsruhe, Germany, which is famed as being one of the leading engineering and technology schools in the world.  At the university, Jones studied under one of Germany’s most preeminent postwar architects, Egon Eiermann:

While he was a renowned architect who designed the incredibly sexy Olivetti headquarters in Frankfurt…

… you may know Eiermann best by his 1950s chair designs.

With all of that exceptional education under his belt, Jones returned to his home state in 1954 to begin working in Tulsa as the master planner for the city’s new civic center.  As part of the Architectural League composed of other local architects, Jones and his comrades “worked together in a Gropius-idealized planning process to create the Civic Center plan which the city officially adopted in 1955,” according to the Tulsa Preservation Commission.

It was as part of this group of forward-thinking architects that Jones befriended brothers Lee and David Murray, Tulsa natives and OSU grads who embraced similar modern aesthetics as Jones.  The simpatico trio decided to form a partnership — Murray Jones Murray — in 1957 and were determined to become Oklahoma’s most respected firm within five short years.  According to Jones’ obituary, as “director of design and planning with Murray Jones Murray, he sought an architecture which would meaningfully respond to the imperatives of nature, humanity and technology. His commitment was to quality and the development of professional teams at a time of great social and economic change. Former associates describe him as ‘scholarly, witty and driven.'”

The three men’s lofty goal began to take root when they were recognized for their efforts on the Civic Center plan.  Just a year after the formation of Murray Jones Murray, the Architectural League’s Civic Center plan was cited in a book, Architecktur und Gemeinshaft: Tagebuch einer Entwicklung, as one of the world’s foremost architectural projects, “only one of twenty-three top architectural achievements in the world during the past century.”

The newly minted firm’s good luck continued when they were hired to design a new Tulsa airport in 1957.  I once asked Bob about the design of the International-style airport, and he explained that the design process began long before the inauguration of jet service in the U.S. in 1959.  He said, “We had to anticipate something that even aviation officials had trouble forecasting at the time.  Many other airports being built at the same time didn’t take jet service into consideration and were functionally obsolete only a few years later.  The Tulsa Airport design was flexible and allowed for expansion and, as a result, it is still a functional airport today.”

It may be hard to believe now, but in the late 1950s many people thought that Tulsa would never have many jets flying in and out of town, but the architects rebuffed those short-sighted notions and built a lot of flexibility into their design.  As an example, David Murray once explained, “We designed the roof structure of the one-story concourses so that they could accept floor loads if you wanted to add a second story.”  Within 10 years, their vision paid off when a second story was, indeed, added without detracting from the original design.

The Tulsa Airport is perhaps Oklahoma’s most impressive example of Mies-inspired commercial architecture.  The terminal, which won the Architectural Award of Excellence from the American Institute of Steel Construction in 1962, is comprised of steel and pre-cast concrete walls in a series of rectangles, each filled in with a grid of floor-to-ceiling windows that give the building a stunning indoor-outdoor perspective on a grand scale.  Consisting of elevated concourses that cater to pedestrian traffic above and roadway traffic below, the building also provides a harmonious, people-friendly environment that is further accentuated with double glazing that reduces outdoor aircraft noise.  You can read more about the innovative airport design here.

At the same time he was working on the airport design, Jones purchased two acres of land near a pecan farm on the outskirts of town and built the perfect abode for his growing family, which included his wife, Lynn, and their seven (yikes!) kids in 1959.  Here are a couple of very famous Julius Shulman images of the Jones’ “House in the Orchard”:

And here’s the restored Jones House, which is on the National Register, today:

You can read all about the history of the Jones House and its restoration here.

Other buildings the firm designed over the years include Bishop Kelley High School, First Place, Tulsa City Hall, Center Plaza Apartments, OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine, Texaco Headquarters Building, Chapman Hall School of Nursing at the University of Tulsa, and the Davis Gun Museum in Claremore.  While all of these are impressive designs, one of my favorite Murray Jones Murray designs is the Sigma Nu house on the University of Tulsa campus.  I didn’t know this building even existed until I started working on the Julius Shulman exhibit at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art in 2008.  Sadly, by that time, the building was gone.

When it was built in 1961, the Sigma Nu house was a standout among the more traditional Greek houses that were lined in long rows along one end of the University of Tulsa campus.  Designed by the firm in association with Joe Wilkinson & Associates, the building contained housing and social spaces that were bright and open, as well as large outdoor spaces for various activities.  The building also featured a roof of folded plates made of thin-shell concrete, which enabled the architects to open up the interior space without having to include column supports that would inhibit its expanse.

I believe the firm received this commission because David and Lee Murray, along with Joe Wilkinson, were Sigma Nus during their college years and remained active alumni long after graduation.

By far, my favorite Bob Jones design is for the award-winning St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Oklahoma City:

Not only is the building itself full of heart-stopping surprises, but story of how it was constructed is also quite fascinating — go here to read all about it.  Yes, everything about this space awes, inspires, and delights, and we are so lucky to have such a significant piece of architecture right here in Oklahoma:

In addition to designing some of Oklahoma’s best examples of modern architecture, Jones was active in the AIA.  The year after St. Patrick’s opened, his presentation, “Nature and the Built Environment,” motivated the AIA to create a nationwide program called “The War on Ugliness,” which was one of the first professional efforts to address pollution in the United States.  In 1970, he was named an AIA Fellow, and he later served as chairman of its selection jury.

By the 1980s, Murray Jones Murray was one of the most prestigious firms in Oklahoma, just like its principles had hoped it would be way back in 1957 when they formed their partnership.  The firm employed over 60 people and the projects were rolling in.  At the peak of his career, Jones decided to start teaching at the School of Architecture at the University of Oklahoma (later becoming a director), and he became a mentor to many young architecture students in much the same way as Mies and Eiermann had guided him as a student.

As for the firm the partners worked so hard to build, each of the principles were gone by the early 1990s.  The first to leave was Lee Murray, who spent several years working in Saudi Arabia.  Then Jones left to direct the architecture program at what was then called the University Center of Tulsa. Dave Murray, who retired last, left in the early 1990s, and the firm was taken over by partners Britt Emory, George Miller, and John Sanford before eventually closing for good a few years later.

Jones retired from practicing architecture in 1997 and he and Lynn sold their Tulsa home in 2005 to move to the desert climes in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  It was there that he died on September 14th.

Thank you, Bob Jones, for leaving Oklahoma with such an impressive body of work.  Now, it’s up to us to take care of your rich legacy.


Another One Bites the Dust: Founders National Bank

Posted by on Oct 9, 2018 in Mod Blog | No Comments

text, current photos, matchcover, and playing cards by Lynne Rostochil.  Vintage images by Bob Bowlby, Oklahoma History Center, and Julius Shulman.

Today, the Okie Mod Squad group is mourning the loss of one of Oklahoma City’s most beloved buildings, the gloriously mod Founders National Bank located at May and United Founders Boulevard.

It’s sickening to think that we won’t get to enjoy this elegant arched building anymore and will instead be viewing some ugly box store, gas station, or strip mall on the site.  Oklahoma City has certainly lost an important piece of its distinctive architectural character that can never be replaced.  To let the impact of this sink in, let’s take a look back at the lighter-than-air Founders National Bank in better days.  The following is from a Mod Blog we wrote a few years ago that was devoted to the building’s architect, Bob Bowlby:

Seeing an opportunity to capitalize on Oklahoma City’s suburban expansion, movie theater owner, Jerry Barton, who also sat on the board of Founders National Bank, decided that the area around N. May and Northwest Expressway would be the perfect place to construct a new bank building that would serve the quickly growing suburban area.  Once the board approved his idea, Barton enlisted the services of (former Bruce Goff student) Robert Alan Bowlby to design the new bank, giving the young architect free reign to create something bold and unique.

Bowlby’s bold and elegant design for the new bank, which opened in 1964, incorporated the use of two 50-foot exterior arches that supported the building and removed the need for interior walls altogether.  This allowed for expansive, open spaces inside that gave the structure an exuberant feeling of lightness, so light it seemed the entire building could lift up and fly away with the breezy Oklahoma wind if not for the giant arches tethering it to the ground.

Other distinctive features of the bank included a concave, floating roof that provided a substantial amount of indirect lighting; large floor-to-ceiling windows that made the interior spaces look much larger than they really were, and a century-old, 16-ton vault door shipped from Toledo, Ohio, that both protected the bank’s assets and became the focal point of the otherwise modern lobby:

When LA-based architectural photographer, Julius Shulman arrived in Oklahoma City to take images of Herb Greene’s Cunningham House in 1964, he asked Bowlby, who was also an architectural photographer, to assist him during his stay.  The two spent the next three days photographing the home and other buildings, during which time Bowlby drove the always-curious photographer to the recently completed Founders National Bank.  Shulman was immediately intrigued by the bank’s unique design, as well as the photographic possibilities it presented, and added the building to his list of structures to shoot while he was in town.  On the last day of his visit, Shulman and Bowlby headed over to Founders National Bank just before dusk one evening, and the famed camera man captured the stunning building in all of its dramatic glory just as the sun was setting in a cloudless sky:

There was also a cute drive-thru:

The building’s unique design was so popular that it graced the covers of matchbooks and playing cards distributed by the bank over the next two decades:

In the 1980s, the glass wall around the perimeter of the building was removed to increase the office space, and a brick surround took its place.  With the addition, the building has certainly lost its lighter-than-air feeling, but, luckily, the iconic arches and roofline remained:

In 1992, Boatmen’s purchased Founders and then a few years later, NationsBank bought Boatmen’s and then Bank of America took over NationsBank.  Bank of America remained in the former Founders building until August 2017.  The building and the surrounding undeveloped area were listed for sale in October 2017 and it was demolished today, supposedly to make the cleared site more attractive to developers:

I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.

RIP, beautiful Founders Bank.

Recent Developments in OKC … Circa 1970

Posted by on Oct 4, 2018 in Mod Blog | No Comments

by Lynne Rostochil. 

I always love getting a great vintage gift and my pal, Koby Click, who owns Space. 20th Century Modern, recently dropped by and presented me with a cool booklet that was published in 1969 by the long defunct Oklahoma City Times.

This booklet is a treasure trove of plans and building projects that were in the works at the dawn of the 1970s and while I’ve seen many of them before in other documents, it’s really interesting to see all of them collected in one document like this.  It makes me realize what a boom time the metro area was experiencing then … much like the one we are living through now.  It’s also interesting to note how some of the planned projects morphed as they became reality and the ones that never left the drawing board at all in the wake of the bust a decade later.  I hope you enjoy this fascinating piece of local history as much as I have and be sure to click a photo to enlarge it so you can see every last detail of each page.


On the Market: A Gentle House to Solace the Soul

Posted by on Sep 24, 2018 in Mod Blog | No Comments

text and photos by Lynne Rostochil

If you are like me and love to drive around neighborhoods looking for mid-century modern homes just for the fun of it, then you definitely know this beauty in one of the loveliest neighborhoods in the city, Forest Park.  This home, located at 3500 E. Maxwell, has been the topic of many a mod conversation in Mod Squad circles for at least a decade, with many admirers wondering what the fates held for this low-lying and increasingly forlorn looking rancher at the corner of E. Maxwell and N. Cardinal.  Well, I’m happy to say that this beautiful mid mod in need of a little love is now on the market … but, before we get to that, let me tell you a bit about the home’s fascinating history and the family who has lived here for over 60 years.

The home’s first and only owners were C.C. “Bill” Cody, his wife, Marian, and their two kids, Carol and Mike.  I’ve heard a lot of stories about Bill and Marian and have come to consider them two of the most interesting people who ever lived in Oklahoma City, and I’m truly sorry that I never met them.  Bill and Marian met as geology students at OU and theirs was a beautiful, five-decade-long love story.  Here’s the tale of their meeting and subsequent few years from Marian’s obituary:

Marian began college at Oklahoma City University as an accomplished ballet dancer and an avid student of the arts, until one day a Geology professor began her class with the poem “Each in His Own Tongue” by William Herbert Carruth, which instantly inspired her to change her focus and devote her studies to Geology at the University of Oklahoma.  It was this change in course that led her to the love of her life, Bill Cody.  She met Bill at OU.  They were both enrolled in the Geology department.  Often admiring each other’s work and success in class, Marian became curious about the man who always made a perfect grade, and Bill wanted to meet the woman whose work was truly impeccable.  Bill introduced himself to Marian and asked her to join him for a cup of coffee at the Town Tavern on Campus Corner.  She agreed, and before they had finished their cup of coffee Bill asked her to marry him and move to South America with him.  Her response, “Well, sure!”  They finished their coffee and walked next door to the local jewelry store, and picked out a ring.  Thus began their instant and timeless love story.

Marian graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a Bachelor of Science in Geology in the summer of 1940.  Upon graduation, Marian moved to Tulsa where she worked as a geologist for an oil company.  It was during this time in Tulsa that she discovered her passion for flying.  She earned her pilot’s license in 1941, and joined the Tulsa Civil Air Patrol.  Her heart soared when she flew and every time she recalled her flights above the clouds. 

On November 5, 1942, Marian and Bill were married at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Oklahoma City.  Almost immediately after they were wed, they began their adventure together and moved to South America where she worked for Tropical Oil running her own paleontological lab and where Bill was the Party Chief for Seismograph Service Corporation in charge of all Columbian operations.  They made their new home in Columbia, a place that captured their hearts.

It was there that she and Bill bought their “Espiritu” – a lovely little sea plane.  Bill got his pilot’s license as well and they flew over land and sea taking turns at the controls.  She once wrote about their time flying their “Espiritu” and stated that when she and Bill were flying together, they were “no longer earth-bound; free of all responsibility except to each other . . . .   It was a point of time of pure abandon and delight that could never be equaled in just the same way again.”

In 1944, they moved to Caracus, Venezuela, and on December 24th of that same year, their daughter, Carole Anne, was born.  Marian began working as the Venezuelan correspondent for the Oil and Gas Journal, a job that allowed her to devote herself to being a mother.  On October 7, 1947, their son, Michael Frederic, was born.  By 1948, she and Bill decided to move back to Oklahoma City so that their children would not be denied the American heritage and opportunities. It was there that they built their dream home.  Together, they had lovingly imagined every detail of the design so that it would perfectly suit their family of four and provide them with a place of joy and comfort for all the years to come.

Marian did all of these things in a day when, if a woman wanted to be a professional, her options were limited to teaching and nursing.  To say that she was special is a vast understatement, indeed.

As for their home in Oklahoma City, the Cody family purchased a four-acre plot of land, complete with private pond, in gentried Forest Park and selected Raymond Carter to design it.  The Codys wanted a modest abode that took full advantage of their acreage in the heart of the city, and the designer returned with plans for a distinctive ranch house that comfortably fit their needs.  The home was constructed but it burned to the ground within a year, so Bill, Marian, and Raymond went back to the drawing board and came up with a second design that was very similar to the first but larger at 2,257 square feet.  The three bedroom, two bath home was completed in 1956 and the family once again settled in, this time for good.

With its long and low lines, abundant use of rock, and signature lattice work, the Cody House is a quintessential Carter design.


Yes, the home is in need of some love, but it doesn’t take much imagination to envision what the place looked like in its prime.  If you’re just not seeing it, let me help you out by showing you a few exterior shots of the place from about 20 years ago:

It was gorgeous then and is gorgeous now, even in its present unkempt condition:

Before we go inside, let’s meander down to the pond, where generations of kids have enjoyed hot summer days playing and swimming to beat the heat.  Here are a couple of vintage shots of the pond as fall leaves were changing color:

Simply magnificent.  Here’s a photo I took of the pond toward the end of summer a few years ago:

It’s difficult to imagine with this view that we are just a few short miles from all of the action of the city, isn’t it?  It is pure natural bliss, and I now understand why the Codys moved here in 1956 and never left.

Now that you’ve seen the outside, let’s get to the best part … the interior of the Cody abode!  A covered corridor leads to the one-of-a-kind front door:

Inside, a latticed entry acts as a buffer between the outdoors and the living room and teases you with all of the beauty beyond:

And, ta-da, move around the lattice and you are greeted by this jaw dropping view of the open concept living/office/dining area with a wall of windows looking out to the backyard:

To the left is a cantilevered, built-in sofa:

And behind the sofa is an office with the coolest built-in desk EVER:

This baby is much larger than the photo indicates and cantilevers just like the sofa on the other side.  Another great thing about the office and many other areas of the home is the storage.  Many of the panelled walls of the home hide closets — in this case, just pop open a hidden door and voila, a closet with all kinds of storage for plans, correspondence, and files:

Another nice feature of the office is a built-in bench that appears to run seamlessly from inside to the outdoors:

Such beautiful attention to detail!  Another great detail is the hanging lighting fixture over the desk:

I’ve seen these exact lights in a couple of mid-1950s homes designed by Carter.  Love the perforations, especially when the light is on:

I don’t know what it is about perforated lights that is so thrilling to me, but I wish I could buy this house just for this fantastic feature alone.  And, luckily, there’s another set of these lights next to the two-sided rock fireplace that divides the living room and more informal den — you can see them on the right in this photo I took of the home in 2014:

Yeah, I know, you’re eyeing all of the great furniture, aren’t you?  Well, to answer your unspoken questions, 1. yes, it is all original from the time the home was built, and 2. some of it may be available for purchase, too.  Obviously, all of the built-in furniture comes with the house, and the owner may have the option of buying some of the sofas.

Okay, you can stop jumping up and down like a giddy two year old now … we don’t want any heart attacks while reading the Mod Blog so just re-laaax and bring that heart rate down.  It’s going to be a challenge as we go on with the tour, I promise, but I know you can do it.  If you’re calm now, we can move on….

Looking to the right from the above view is the friendly dining room:

Marian loved the bamboo that waved in the lattice-trimmed, floor-to-ceiling dining room window, and I do, too:

It lets in a perfect amount of dancing daytime light and makes you feel like you’re inside and outside at the same time.  To the right of the dining room is the all-original kitchen.  And, when I say all-original, I mean matching top-of-the-line 1956 appliances and everything:

I can honestly say that I’ve never, ever seen a vintage Revco Bilt-In refrigerator in the wild until now.  Wowza!  According to Pam at Retro Renovation, “vintage Revco Bilt-In refrigerators and freezers are the ‘holy grail’ of refrigerators from the 1950s and 1960s, more even than the vintage GEs constructed like wall cabinets and even more than the Kelvinator Foodarama.”  (Read more of the Revco article here.)

For comparison, here’s the GE cabinet fridge, a brand that I know a few of you Squadders own:

And here’s the Kelvinator Foodarama:

The first prize for the best brand name obviously goes to the oh-so-fun and very ’50s Foodarama.  (I think just about everything back then had an “orama” attached at the end.  Here’s more information about the origins of this oft used mid century suffix.)

As for these particular appliances, I have to say that, even though the Foodarama wins in the Best Name category, I like the sleek styling of the GE and Revco fridges quite a bit better, with the Revco beating out its GE rival because the flexible built-ins could be configured either horizontally like the GE fridge …

… or vertically as a standard refrigerator:

In the Cody House, the refrigerator is stacked vertically and angles toward another set of very rare appliances, the glorious and very rare in-the-wild GE Wonder Kitchen.

The GE Wonder Kitchen was introduced just in time for the construction of this home in 1956 and was the very latest in design with an all-in-one unit containing an electric range/stove, dishwasher, and combo washer/dryer all united by a long stainless counter and sink.  These marvelous Wonder Kitchens came in such enticing colors as Canary Yellow, Turquoise Green, Petal Pink, Cadet Blue, and, in the Cody home, Woodtone Brown.  The Cody House kitchen also features a custom-made vent hood:

Another feature of the Wonder Kitchen is built-in storage running along the top of the stainless counter:

I didn’t get a great shot of the GE Wonder Kitchen in the Cody House, so here’s a better photo of a pink one from Retro Renovation:

You can read some history about the GE Wonder Kitchen here.  At some point, the Codys replaced the Wonder Kitchen dishwasher, but I’ve done a little research and because these “kitchen centers” were internally plumbed and wired, the appliances in the Cody house could be refurbished and restored.  There’s no doubt that, if I were the lucky buyer of this home, I would be doing that exact thing.  Same for the very rare Revco fridge, too.  Nope, no doubt about it at all.

Moving on with the tour, to the right of the Revco is an angled bar and another set of wall panelling that pops open to reveal a very generous pantry:

I know I’m repeating myself here, but this all-original kitchen is so rare and beautiful and I really hope that the new homeowner strives to restore it rather than knock it out and “modernize” it.  If it has survived practically untouched for 60 years, it deserves to stay, if at all possible.

Okay, with that preservation emphasis made, on the way out of the kitchen is another panelled wall that opens to reveal a second pantry:

Let’s take a look at the view from the kitchen into the living room:

I mean, honestly, does it get any better than this?  And, yes, that is beautiful and much-coveted terrazzo flooring that runs throughout the common spaces of the home:

On the other side of the fireplace is the aforementioned den:

Oh, did I happen to mention that the new owner may have the chance to buy some of the sofas in the house?!  Well, this beauty is one of them!  Sit … back … down … and try very hard to avoid the temptation to start jumping up and down again.  If you’re calm now, we can continue….

Atop a round table in the corner sits a half-finished and very detailed homemade model of the Cody House that Bill worked on during his final years:

Maybe the new owner will be as meticulous as he was and decide to finish it someday.

On the far wall of the den, once again hidden by the panelling, is another treasure … a built-in bar with an original tiled countertop:

Off of the den, you’ll find two bedrooms separated by a Jack and Jill bathroom.  Each bedroom is identical in size and features built-in twin beds and desks:

Each bedroom also boasts a unique sliding shoji screen style door:

The huge master suite is at the end of a small hall off of the den:

A panelled wall on the other side of the room includes a built-in bench and a pop-open door for a TV:

Another wall of panelling hides two closets just before you get to the master bathroom:

So, that’s it for the house itself.  Yes, it needs love but it has SO much potential, don’t you think?

Here’s a bonus.  When Bill and Marian moved back to Oklahoma City, he started his own company and as it grew, he decided that he needed much more room than the home office could provide, so he designed and built a much larger office and storage space in a separate building next to the house that nicely compliments the home’s unique design.  The two-room office definitely needs a lot of love but could be fully functional again with a little elbow grease:

I know, I know, it looks scary but there’s a lot to love about this space, especially the very cool table on the right.  There’s a protective glass top covering it, and I think the table could be completely restored:

And now you’ve seen the Cody House inside and out.  Bill and Marian lived in this beautiful home very happily together for over 40 years until Bill died at the age of 84 in 1999.  In typical independent style, Marian stayed on here by herself until her death in 2014 at 96.  Their children and grandchildren enjoyed so many years of great times in the home that Carol and Mike haven’t had the heart to sell the place until now.  However, I’m sure they will be very relieved if the second owner of this unique property full of history and love will restore this unique abode to its original glory — I hope that happens, too.

Finally, in her waning years, Marian composed a lovely piece of prose about the home and land she and her family loved and enjoyed so much for over six decades.  Enjoy!

A Place That We Love

A beautiful house of glass and wood,

Held up and about by rock;

Moored to the ground on staunchions of steel,

With wood roofs free to fly.


A nurturing house set into the land,

Seeming to grow one with it.

The feeling of space, the wild wide open space

Of being untethered and free.


A gentle house to solace the soul,

Of colors to us that bring joy;

Of sun and shadow, to excite and calm down

A place to delight the eye.


Almost fifty years new, we’ve lived with its spell,

And watched as the cloud pictures changed.

The violent storms, the zig-zag sky streaks

That thundered to earth with a crash.


Snowflakes in winter, red-gold leaves in the fall,

Summer’s clear-blue azure sky;

White scuttling clouds playing touch-tag with each other

The tall towering nimbus as well.


A liveable house

To meet changing needs,

As our lives changed each decade of years.

And each decade of needs

Was beautifully matched,

Our beloved house supplied all of these.


The old oaks that surround it

The old willow that fell

To the pond one long-ago day;

The cottonwoods rustling and singing their song,

The bamboo of delicate grace.


A charming house, a solace, a joy.

A place we love to come home to.

A shelter, a center, a haven, a base.

The calm in the eye of the storm.


The spirit, the joy, the elan of this place,

Has been ours to have had, to have held.

The spirit, the joy, the elan of this place.

Has been ours to have had for awhile.



The Cody House is on the market for $205,000, and you can call Susan Granger at Metro First Realty to schedule a showing — 684-1338.  No need to be calm and collected now.  Jump up and down, get giddy, give Susan a call, and be the lucky person who gets to call this solace in the woods home.

On the Market: A Dreamy Nichols Hills Mod

Posted by on Sep 21, 2018 in Mod Blog | No Comments

text and photos by Lynne Rostochil.

A few years ago, the Mod Squad was invited to tour the recently remodeled Troup-Barnes House that sits on a diagonal at the corner of Penn and Wilshire — go here to read all about it.  The place was one of the few in the 1950s that was designed by a woman, in this case the owner Marie Troup.  She meticulously planned every detail of the home and, once it was constructed in 1950, didn’t change one thing for the next six decades.  She and her husband, Woody, adored their Nichols Hills palace and lived in the house the rest of their lives.  In 2012, the home came on the market for the first time ever and its good luck continued with buyers Robert and Cara Barnes.  For the next two years, the couple painstakingly and very thoughtfully remodeled the home, keeping all of its original character intact while greatly enhancing its best features.   Now, this revamped mid-century modern delight is on the market and waiting for a third owner to appreciate and love it as much as its last two have.

Every room of the 4,220 sf, three bedroom/three-and-a-half bath abode is open, airy, and full of bright natural light, and from the first step inside, you know this is a special place.  Actually, even before you step inside.  Have a look at the front door knobs, for example.  You get a funky, one-of-a-kind stamped metal guard on one side:

And an atomic starburst on the other:

Once inside, the large and comfy dining room is on the left:

Yeah, I know, how great is that wall color?  It’s so, well, so BLUE and friendly and is such a breath of fresh air after seeing so many homes with nothing but white everywhere.  To all of you flippers and HGTV lovers out there: color is good — on second thought, it’s GREAT!  I don’t know exactly how to describe this particular shade of blue: it’s not deep like a sapphire or as aqua as a 1950s pool and it’s not the color of Paul Newman’s perfect eyes or as rich as a royal robe.  But it is somewhat like the blue of the Mediterranean sea: vibrant, deep yet bright at the same time, teeming with vim and vigor.

Besides that great blue wall, how perfect is the hanging light over the table?  Wow, wow, wow!  The interior design is thanks to the very talented Vicki VanStavern.

Now, let’s enjoy more of the brilliant blue wall as we follow it out of the dining room toward the luxurious formal living room:

On the way, check out the stunning and all original mid-century staircase:

That wood!  The brass!  The floating steps!  It is sheer perfection, don’t you agree?  I know it’s difficult to take your eyes off of such beauty, but be prepared for even more when you turn around from this view to face the giant formal living room:

What a fun room!  Love those corner windows that bring the outdoors in, and the wood paneled wall with a marble-faced fireplace ain’t too shabby, either:

I’m so enamored with this home because the formal spaces aren’t at all fancy pants — they are comfortable, relaxing, livable spaces that are incredibly friendly and practical all at the same time, as you’ll continue to see.  That Marie Troup certainly knew what she was doing when she designed this place.

Back toward the staircase, a glass wall and planter greets visitors to the more informal areas of the home: the open-plan kitchen and den:

I have to say that I’ve got a huge crush on this kitchen, mainly because all of the best parts of the original kitchen were saved when it was remodeled.  What do I mean by best parts?  Well, how about this crazy funky floating peninsula, for one:

I’ve honestly never seen anything like it and it is a jaw dropper, for sure.  The other side of the peninsula is just as gorgeous and practical as the bar since it features all kinds of great storage.  I love, love, love it and am so glad it was saved:

The rest of the kitchen is equally as beautiful and is so spacious.  You and 10 of your best pals could easily work together in this well appointed room:

To the left of the kitchen is a giant, storage-laden laundry room:

Honestly, there is so much incredible storage in this house that I think I’d have to go on a huge, years long shopping spree to fill up even half of the cabinets in this place.  Empty cabinets — what a nice problem to have, aye?

Let’s go back into the kitchen, which opens up into one of the best dens I’ve ever visited.  It’s huge, dramatic, friendly, and oh so comfy all at the same time:

No joke, this is one fantastic room.

To the left is a easily hidden storage center and bar:

Just open the accordion doors and voila:

On the opposite wall, Robert and Cara removed a dark paneled wall and replaced it with glass and a two-sided fireplace.  This is a crappy photo, but you get the idea:

The addition of this glass wall catapulted a very nice den space into a truly remarkable one, but Robert and Cara didn’t stop there.  They also opened up the adjacent wall and installed a bank of sliders that open onto the huge back patio to create a very inviting indoor/outdoor living space:

Check out the back patio:

When the Barnes purchased the home, an ancient pool in need of all kinds of repairs completely dominated the backyard off of the back of the house.  Instead of trying to fix the drab pool, they filled it in and hired landscape architect Randy Marks to create an outdoor oasis …

… complete with built-in bench …

… and a water feature created with recycled bricks that once comprised an accent wall in the front yard:

Beyond the water feature is another seating area bordered by an outdoor kitchen that is, no joke, better equipped than most people’s indoor models:

I mean, honestly, you could have a major party out here.  And, as if this weren’t sexy enough, here’s a view of the other side of the two-sided fireplace:

Yes, this is the absolute perfect outdoor space, which would make it very difficult to decide where to spend cool evenings — inside admiring the blue wall?  curling up in the lovely den?  or out here listening to the fountain and enjoying a fire while wrapped up in a soft blanky?  Yep, that’s a tough call.

Before your brain explodes pondering that conundrum, I have to share a little mystery with you that may both delight and frustrate you in equal parts until you solve it.  Several years ago, Cara found a Bertoia-like sculpture and mounted it in the backyard.  Over the years, she has tried to find out out who designed it, with no luck at all.  Maybe the next owner will be able to solve the mystery:

Now, let’s go back inside and check out the three bedrooms.  The thing I like best about them is that each one has its own bathroom so any can be used as the master.  The first suite takes up the entire second story of the house:

Yep, that’s another exciting corner window that overlooks the lush green front yard.  Here’s a view from the windows back toward the staircase:

That mirrored wall is the best! The adjacent bathroom is pretty incredible, too:

Love that floor tile detail …

… and the sweet and very vintage flower petalled screws holding up the mirror:

They are so stinkin’ cute!

Back downstairs, this bed and bath combo features a wall of windows overlooking the backyard:

Those bathroom windows are SO amazing!

Across from this bedroom is the true master suite … and my, is it a good one!  The rectangular room is massive and features a cozy sitting area anchored by a flagstone and copper fireplace overlooking a private patio:

Oh my, that fireplace literally takes my breath away, it’s so perfect.  I love it so much and would have to add this space to my growing list of possibilities for the the perfect room to spend a quiet evening.  I don’t know which one to pick!!  Indoor or outdoor?  Den or this space?  I’m so confused!  Maybe I’d just have to pick a different space every day of the week — Mondays in the formal living room in front of the marble fireplace, Tuesdays in the beautiful den, Wednesdays outside by the fire, Thursdays at the dining room table marveling at the cheery blue walls, Fridays in this perfect and very cozy nook, Saturdays on the back patio, and Sundays sitting at the bar on the kitchen peninsula.  I think I could live with that.

Before you wrap yourself in a blanky and grab a good book, have a look at the master bathroom:

Darn it, it looks like I now have to add this inviting tub to my list of places to curl up with a good book in the evening…. Okay, so maybe I’ll alternate Sundays with the kitchen peninsula or switch that with the formal living room or … well, I don’t know.  There are too many choices and I’m all confused again.

While I ponder my options, you can check out the exterior of the Troup-Barnes house, where you’ll find plenty more drama along the master bedroom patio with these diagonally lined acrylic panels designed by the uber talented Klint Schor:

At night, LED lights illuminate the panels, enhancing the peaceful and elegant vibe of the home.

Yes, this home is absolute perfection and a true oasis in the heart of the bustling city.  I love every single inch of the place and hope it will find a new owner who agrees.  Marie Troup and Cara and Robert Barnes’ creation is on the market for $1,499,000, which is pretty reasonable for fashionable Nichols Hills.  If you’re interested in touring this mid-century marvel, realtor Kerry Norman will be happy to schedule a showing — just give her a call at 848-4940.

In the meantime, it’s Friday so maybe you’ll find me reading a good book in that delicious bedroom nook — oh the bliss!


Oklahoma’s Existing Route 66 Signs

Posted by on Sep 13, 2018 in Mod Blog | No Comments

by Lynne Rostochil.  Photos by Lynne Rostochil unless otherwise stated.

Recently, I was hunting around the internet looking for a comprehensive list of all of Oklahoma’s Route 66 signs and was very surprised to find absolutely nothing.  Nada.  Zilch. What do you do in that case?  Well, you make a list, of course.  So that’s exactly what I did and instead of keeping it all to myself, I thought I’d share it with you.  I’ve sorted the list of 100+ signs alphabetically by town below — please let me know if I’ve missed a sign and I’ll be sure to include it here.


Avon Motel

Although it’s in ruins, it looks like the town of Afton appreciates this old motor court sign and has no plans to take it down.  You can find it just west of town near the intersection of S. 1st Street and S. Monroe.

Palmer Hotel

Located in the heart of downtown on Main Street, the Palmer Hotel sign rests on another unused building that is just across from Afton Station (where you can also find an old DX sign and a vintage Packard sign).  Be sure to go inside and check out the great car museum at the station.

Rest Haven Motel

A couple of blocks east of the Palmer Hotel is another abandoned beauty, the Rest Haven Motel.  This is another weathered sign that has seen better days but is still loved by the community:



Lake Air Drive-In Theater

From what I’ve read, the drive-in was a golf range first and then morphed into a drive-in movie theater in 1950. According to one expert, “It was built by Robert and Charles Mc Farland and sold to local theater magnet, Robert Lewis Barton in 1959.  The first movie shown was ‘Francis’, starring Donald O’Conner, Patricia Medina and Ray Collins. The second feature was ‘Francis, The Talking Mule.’ Admission price was 50 cents for adults.”

Another source on Cinema Treasures says, “The entrance drive was lined by lattice fencing, with baroque trim, topped by Victorian gaslight fixtures. Manicured landscaping was exceptionally lush with a vast array of varied foliage. Below the screentower was a small playground park surrounded by royal gold cannas, boardered by hostas plants. There was a candy cane striped swingset, candy striped teeter-totters, spiral slide, and a round trampoline housed inside a white gazebo.  The concession stand had a brick patio enclosed by an iron picket fence. The enterior was Victorian styled with flocked foil wallpaper and gingerbread trim.  It offered the usual hot dogs, popcorn, candy, and pop, but its popular specialty was a breaded mutton steak sandwich, topped with mayo and onion rings (this sandwich was also a favorite across town at the Ice Cream Parlor inside Frontier City Amusement Park).”

The drive-in closed after the 1967 season and became a go-cart track then a golf range again and maybe even a church before being abandoned altogether in the early 2000s.  Here are photos of the sign and snack bar/projection booth:

Western Motel

Located on the western edge of Bethany, the appropriately named Western Motel opened in 1953 and hasn’t changed much since then.  The motel was closed for awhile and rumors circulated that it was going to be demolished, which landed the motel and many of its Route 66 counterparts on the 2007 Most Endangered Places list.  But the motel is open again to long-term residents and it’s still there, I’m happy to report.

Norm Smith Auto Sales

This great sign is located at the intersection of NW 39th and Rockwell and is in great condition.

Comet Skating Rink

This cutie is located just off of Route 66 on NW 36th east of MacArthur.  The sign has been repainted since I took this photo and the place is now called Skate Galaxy.


Beard Motor Company Chrysler-Plymouth sign

Located at 210 E. 9th, this giant of a sign sits a couple of blocks off of Route 66 but is still impossible to miss.  It’s one of the few Oklahoma signs on the National Register, too:


Cotton Boll Motel

The Cotton Boll Motel, located just east of 6th Street, became a private residence a long time ago, but the sign remains and is a Route 66 icon:

Washita Motel

Down the street from the Cotton Boll just east of 1st street is another motel that is now a private residence, the Washita.


Country Courts

I haven’t photographed this one myself and I’m not sure if it’s still there or not — hopefully so.  Here’s a link to a photo of the motel sign that was taken in 2010.


Mullen Drive-In Restaurant

The drive-in closed long ago, but the sign and building are still there.

St. Cloud Hotel

The St. Cloud Hotel on the southern tip of downtown was built by John E Gromley and opened in 1903.  It’s on the National Register and features a fun ghost sign on the side advertising the hotel and Coca-Cola.  This shot was taken by Kim on Flickr:

Lincoln Motel

One of the most iconic signs along Route 66 is the fun bow tie-shaped beauty that stands in front of the Lincoln Motel at 740 E. 1st just east of downtown.  The place is busier than ever and draws an enthusiastic and loyal Route 66 crowd.

66 Bowl

This iconic sign sat just west of NW 39th and Portland until the bowling alley closed in 2010.  For years, the fate of this beauty was unknown until it was erected just east of downtown Chandler a couple of years ago.  It marks the spot of an entertainment complex that is currently under construction.


Dorothy’s Flowers and Dot’s Cafe

Dot’s Cafe and Dorothy’s Flowers are neighbors on the 300 block of W. Will Rogers in downtown.  Dorothy’s has been serving the community since 1947, and I imagine that Dot’s has been around just as long.  This photo is from


Glancy Motel

What’s not to love about this delicious piece of Googie goodness located at 217 W. Gary?  The motel has been recently remodeled and is looking pretty good these days.

Redland Theater

This theater was originally called the Rialto and opened around 1920.  It became the Redland sometime after 1957.


This rusty crusty beauty in downtown is barely readable now but is still very cool.

McClain Rogers Park

Here’s another beauty that has been recently restored.  The 12-acre park was built as a WPA project between 1934 and 1937 and named after the then mayor of the town.  Photo from

United Supermarket

There are a few of these signs scattered around Oklahoma — this one is located at 1029 S 10th Street.


Centre Theater

The beautiful Centre Theater in downtown El Reno was designed by Jack Corgan and opened in 1944.  Sometime in the 1050s, it received a new facade that aged pretty poorly over time.  In 2010, a big wind storm blew through town and literally ripped off the ’50s facade, exposing the original streamline moderne gem underneath. After painstakingly refurbishing the theater inside and out and replicating the original neon sign, the theater is once again alive and hosting all kinds of events.

Ranger Motel

At one time, there were several motels in El Reno that boasted some pretty fantastic signs, including the Big 8 Motel that was featured in the 1988 film, Rain Man.  Unfortunately, all are gone now except for the Ranger Motel just east of town.  It’s still looking pretty great:


United Supermarket

What’s not to love about the typography used in the United Supermarket sign?

Westland Theater

Although it hasn’t been a theater in quite awhile, the Westland sign downtown is still in great shape.


Elm Motel

This was probably a cute little motor court at one time, but the old Elm Motel is looking pretty sad these days and the sign is looking even worse.

Cabana Motel

Just west of town between Birch and Cedar streets sits the long-vacant Westwinds Motel.  The sign fades a little more each time I visit town, but it’s still a stunner.

U.S and Oklahoma Flags

In the downtown area, this great ghost sits and slowly fades away.


Coleman Theater


“When it opened on April 18, 1929 along Miami’s Main Street segment of Route 66, the Coleman Theatre was proudly billed as the most elaborate entertainment facility between Dallas and Kansas City. Local mining magnate, George Coleman, who conceived and funded the theatre, determined to give Miami–and Mother Road travelers– the very best entertainment in the most modern surroundings….   The Coleman’s Spanish Revival style exterior was a favorite choice of the Jazz Age, and this stucco palace is considered one of the best surviving examples in Oklahoma….  It was added to the National Register in 1983.”

Ku Ku Burger

Waylans Ku Ku Burger was once part of a chain that was built in the 1960s, and it’s the only Ku Ku left today:

Miami Armature Wks

Unfortunately, I didn’t get a shot of this zippy sign when I was in Miami last time, but I did find a Flickriver shot of it:


There were several Route 66 alignments that ran through Oklahoma City over the years, which is why these signs are all over the place in town.

Jack’s Bar-B-Q

The stalwart Jack’s sign on NW 39th and Meridian is so good, I’m including a night and day shot of it.  The food’s not too shabby, either.

Credit Connection

This is a new sign but it’s a great addition to Route 66 at NW 39th and Meridian, I think.  Who doesn’t love a sign with a guy wearing a blingy C necklace?

Arcadia Motel

Once, not too long ago, several motor courts dotted NW 39th — the Suntide, Carlyle, Tower Courts, etc. — including the Arcadia with its deliciously Googie sign.  Here it is in its heyday:

The motel ceased operations around 2006 and it became home to Tioli Motors two years later.  Here’s the sign from that time:

Since then, the sign has lost more and more of its bits and little of it is left.

FA Highley

At Northwest 39th just west of Portland next to the old 66 Bowl is the FA Highley sign.  It was restored about a decade ago and looks fantastic today.  It’s so good, it gets a day and night shot, too.

Drexel Cleaners

There are a few great signs along the NW 23rd stretch of old Route 66, too, including one of my favorites, even if it has been mucked up a bit.  That’s the very Googie Drexel Cleaners sign.  Here it is when it was shiny and new:

And today:

It wouldn’t take much to spruce up this baby and bring it back to life, which is exactly what I hope happens someday.

Hoover Service Center

This ghost sign sits on a faded building across from the Gold Dome at NW 23rd and Classen.

Cheever’s Cafe

From the Cheever’s website:

“On May 19th, 1889, the first baby was born in the newly formed Oklahoma City. She was proudly named “Oklahoma Belle Cunningham”,and—in 1912—she married Lawrence “L.L.” Cheever. In 1927, Oklahoma Belle began her flower career selling roses from her backyard to help with family finances. When L.L. became unemployed during the Great Depression, the flower business became the family trade. In 1938, the Cheevers moved into Belle’s family home on Hudson Avenue, and purchased the property from her grandmother. They added a stylish Deco storefront–built of limestone and black glass with huge plate glass windows and terrazzo floors. The Cheevers also procured a 20-foot flower display cooler from Chicago. All the while, they lived in the back portion of the original Victorian house. Cheever’s flowers continued in this location until the mid-nineties and served as the home to three generations of Cheevers….  Heather and Keith Paul purchased the building in 2000 (and opened Cheever’s Cafe).”


Bunker Club

This is a new sign in the Tower Theatre complex, but it’s so atomic age good that I had to include it.  The Bunker Club itself is as great as the sign, so check it out:

Tower Theatre

The Tower Theatre was designed by W. Scott Dunne and built in 1937.  After the theater closed, it became a concert venue for awhile in the late 1990s before closing for good and sitting empty for nearly 20 years until it was purchased by the Pivot Group, who completed a $6.5 million renovation of the building and sign and reopened the beloved building as an event space in 2016.




These restored signs are near the downtown area at the intersection of Water and Hobson.


Happy Burger

Originally a Tastee-Freez when it opened in 1957, the owner changed the name to Happy Burger when he wanted to leave the franchise in the early 1970s.  The place has been thriving ever since and serves a mean peanut butter shake.

Starlite Skating

The Starlite Skating sign is one of the most beloved Route 66 icons in Oklahoma.  The rink closed around 2000 and sat closed for a couple of years, but I believe it has reopened and is a rink and events center.


Grain elevator ghost

Locate near the train tracks is this fantastic ghost sign the covers the entire surface of an old grain elevator.

Owl Rexall Drugs

What’s not to love about this old sign?

Stovall Theater

The theater has been remodeled and the sign restored since I took this shot in 2010.  The theater got a blah facelift, but the sign looks great.

Go here to see what it looks like today.

Western Motel

One place that hasn’t changed, I’m happy to say, is the fantastic Western Motel.  Long may it live!


Skyliner Motel

This is surely one of the most photographed signs along Route 66 because it’s so fabulously Googie and dramatic.  Love it!

Rock Cafe

A true Route 66 icon, the Rock Cafe has been around since the ‘30s and in addition to owner Dawn Welch being the inspiration for Sally in the Disney Pixar film “Cars,” you can get one of the best burgers in the state at this friendly roadside eatery.


By far, T-Town has the largest collection Mother Road signs in the state, and they are working hard to capitalize on their Route 66 heritage and preserve them.  Way to go, Tulsa!

Here are some great motel signs:

Brookshire Motel

The once charming motel with its cottage-style office has been closed awhile and is deteriorating more each day.  Same case with the sign.  Go by and take a look before it’s all gone — 11017 E 11th St.

Desert Hills Motel

This U-shaped motel located at 5220 E. 11th was constructed in 1953 and the sign dates from around that time, too.  In 2007, Oklahoma’s Route 66 motels were on the Endangered Places list, with several were deemed worthy of being on the National Register and, for obvious reasons, the Desert Hills Motel was eligible.  I don’t think it has ever made it onto the Register, but it’s still in great shape today.

Oasis Motel

Located at 9303 E. 11th, the Oasis Motel sign is simply sublime.

Elm’s Court Motel

With its rock cabins, this old motor court looks like it’s been around since the 1920s or 1930s.  It’s been closed for a really long time, but whoever owns it keeps the property well maintained and the buildings look like they could open back up for business with a little love and elbow grease.

Saratoga Motor Hotel

Here’s what the once-glorious Saratoga Motor Hotel at 10117 E. 11th looked like in its heyday:

At some point, the motel became an America’s Value Inn but the giant Googie sign remained somewhat intact — here it is in 2009:

Sadly, when I went back to photograph the place earlier this year, it was all closed up and the starburst on the sign was gone:

The neon Restaurant sign is barely hanging on:


There are a cluster of great signs just south of Route 66 on Harvard that are worth checking out:

C&C Tile and Carpet

Pioneer Cleaners

Moody’s Jewelry

This one is so good, both day and night:

And in no particular order, here are some other great Route 66 signs that are scattered around Tulsa:

Marshall Radio & TV

Here’s another one that’s not quite on Route 66 but is worth taking a detour to check out — it’s located at 4128 E. Admiral:

FYI, there are a lot of great signs up and down Admiral, so it’s worth going east out of town on Route 66 and driving back on Admiral to see them.

Clay’s Motors sign

This Googie-licious beauty is located at 4507 E. 11th.  I took the first photo in 2009 and the second one at 2018:


Skateland is the last of Tulsa’s skating rinks.  It opened in 1968 and is located just off of Route 66 at 1150 S Sheridan Rd.

Rose Bowl

One of the very best buildings in all of T-Town is the lovely and oh-so-fun Rose Bowl, which was designed by Bill Ryan and opened in 1962.  Here it is when it was still a baby:

The bowling alley closed over a decade ago and the place has been a recreation center for underprivileged youth since then, but the Rose Bowl is currently for sale and its fate is uncertain.

Day & Nite Cleaners

This sweet Streamline building at 1012 S. Elgin was designed by William H. Wolaver and opened in 1946 — the sign looks like it might be a bit newer than that, and both it and the building are in great shape today:

Rancho Grande Mexican Restaurant

This glorious was built in 1950 and moved to its present location at 1629 E 11th St three years later.  In 2009, the sign was completely restored and is ready to light up Route 66 well into the 21st century.

Meadow Gold

The Meadow Gold sign was erected for the Beatrice Food Company in the 1940s atop a small building at 11th and Lewis.  It was a Route 66 icon for over 60 years until the building sold in 2004 and the new owner planned to demolish both the building and the sign.  Through the combined efforts of the National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Program, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Tulsa Foundation for Architecture, and the OK Route 66 Association, the sign was saved and eventually restored.  It now rests atop another small building at 11th and Quaker and remains a Route 66 gem.


Center Theater

I believe this was originally called the Lyric and it opened in 1922.  In the 1990s, it was renovated and converted into a three-screen cinema.  It is located at 124 S Wilson St., and here’s a photo from Cinema Treasures of the building and sign:

Hi Way Cafe

The cafe is located at 437918 Hwy 60 just west of Vinita.  Here’s a photo of the sign by Kelly Ludwig:

Right ghost sign

I’m always a sucker for a good ghost sign, and this one in the downtown area is beyond good.



Obviously, this was a diner at some point in time, but the place, located on Route 66 just west of Yukon, sits quiet and abandoned now.

Yukon’s Best

The stunning 42′ x 55′ sign was restored in 2013 and relit for the first time in decades.  Here’s a photo by the Lope of it looking happy and bright once again.  Here it is at night:

… and during the day:

And that’s it for our tour of signs.  Of course, I probably missed some and if that’s the case, let me know and I’ll be sure to add them here.

Sadly, a lot of Oklahoma’s Route 66 signs are gone — soon, we’ll take a look at some of those.





Oklahoma Mod in Faith & Form Magazine

Posted by on Aug 31, 2018 in Mod Blog | No Comments

by Lynne Rostochil

I had never heard of Faith & Form magazine until I came across a couple of issues at an estate sale awhile back.  It was especially exciting to open this October 1969 issue and find an Oklahoma building inside and also to read an article by my favorite architectural photographer and pal, Julius Shulman.  So, I snapped it up, of course, and will share it with you here.  This issue features the winners of the annual National Liturgical Conference’s design competition and Murray Jones Murray’s Mt. Olive Lutheran Church in Miami made the cut. Here it is, along with the other winners:

It looks like the church is still around and is in good condition — view it here.

And here’s Shulman’s article about his view of church design at the end of the decade — it’s good stuff:



On the Market: A Lakeside Oasis in the Heart of OKC

Posted by on Aug 21, 2018 in Mod Blog | No Comments

text and photos by Lynne Rostochil

There are so many things to love about this 1958 home that sits on a peninsula overlooking peaceful Parker’s Lake near Dolese Park.  I mean, for one, it sits on a PENINSULA – duh – which means that every room of the home has a gorgeous view of the lake beyond.

Yes, this view is in the heart of OKC!  And, don’t worry, you’ll be seeing plenty more of the lake as we tour the house, which sits at the end of a cul-de-sac and is completely hidden from public view by a long privacy fence:

A small corridor leads to a charming courtyard and the front door:

The original home was a tiny fishing cabin that was likely built in the 1920s or ’30s.  As the city crept further north, the once-distant lakes in the area, including Twin Lakes, the lake at Lansbrook, Silver Lake, and the lakes at Ski Island and Blue Stem, became less remote and open for development of suburban homes.  Many of the old fishing cabins along the banks were either demolished or incorporated into the new homes, as was the case with this one.  But, even though this place once started life as a modest cabin filled with fishing tackle and maybe a bunk or two, it is now a stunning mod ranch house that is excitedly awaiting its new owner.

Before we move on with the tour, there’s one more intriguing bit of information about this house.  In the early 1960s, Jack Rodgers and his family lived here.  Who was Jack Rodgers?  Well, he was the brother of our favorite storybook home builder, Luke Rodgers, and his designer wife Dorothy.  Jack was responsible for a lot of the woodworking in these homes, and he was a home builder himself.  If you’ve been inside a Luke and Dorothy Rodgers creation, you know that there’s enormous attention paid to every little detail, and you’ll see a lot of that attention in this house, too, which leads me to believe that this may be a very rare modern Rodgers creation.  I’ve still got some research to do to prove this, but I have a hunch that this is the case.  If so, that would make this home even more special than it already is.  So, with that in mind, let’s get on with the tour.

Through the front door, the first thing that greets you is a crazy rock floor that runs the length of the entry:

I know!  How great is that?!  To the right is the main living room with a turreted bank of windows overlooking the lake and a giant fireplace faced with the same rock that is in the entry and on the exterior of the home:

There are so many amazing details in this room that would make you want to camp out here forever and never leave.  First, check out the spoked beam ceiling above the windows — it’s wondrous:

And just look at the panoramic view from this vantage point:

Spectacular!  There’s a sliding glass door in this room that provides an opportunity for some great cross ventilation:

Almost every room in this house has a door you can open to let in the breeze.  The day I visited the home, the a/c was off, several doors were open, and it was extremely comfortable inside, so I imagine that you could get away with no a/c most of the spring and even into the summer months on milder days.

Oh, and did you notice the super cool light fixture above the card table?

I’ve honestly never seen anything like it.  The lucky new owner will receive it and the other furnishings in the room that the current owners purchased just three years after moving into the home in 1965.   Their 1968 shopping spree at Suburban Contemporary must have been so much fun, and the furniture they bought is still in great shape today and fits the room perfectly.  Those furnishings include the card table and this incredibly fun sofa, table, and ottoman pair:

Next to the turret of windows is the gorgeously curved rock fireplace:

I can see reading a good book and enjoying many a winter fire in this space with the warm glow of the fire and the Spanish-style fixture hanging from the rock:

Yes, I’d definitely spend a ton of time in this space enjoying the scenery and watching the light change as daylight turns into night.  As much as I want to sit here and do that right now, it’s time to move on and continue the tour.  Just off of the living room is a small office space:

That door leads to the two-car garage:

There’s an ample storage room in the garage…

… with another door that leads outside.  We’ll go outdoors in a bit, but right now let’s go back through the office and living room to the front door.  From there, if you turn to the left, you’ll head into the open and quite large den/kitchen area:

Like I said earlier, there’s a magnificent view from every single room of this house — from the den, you get to see an entirely different side of the lake through the dramatic wall of windows:

How much greater does life get than sitting in your mod tulip chair, enjoying a cup of steamy rich coffee, and watching families of ducks paddle by?  And, yes, the tulip set does come with the house, so the lucky buyer doesn’t have to change a thing in this view.  Sigh….

If we can pull our eyes away from that view for just a second, here’s a view of the bright den from the kitchen:

The kitchen itself was remodeled fairly recently.  It’s not at all mod, but it’s spacious and very functional:

And, yes, there’s a window and door out to the lake:

Doing dishes is drudgery, but it may not be such a terrible chore if you get this view while doing them:

Yep, maybe I’d kind of be happy to do the dishes if I could look up and see the lake … or maybe my husband, kids, and I would start fighting over who gets to do the dishes … or maybe that’s just wishful thinking on my part.  No one in my house would ever willingly wash a dish unless I beg, plead, scream, or put dirty dishes in their beds (which I have been known to do when my kids have been less than willing to wash up at the end of a meal).  So, I guess this view would be all for me … and I think I could live with that.

Back in the den and looking toward the entry hall is a great divider that is not only very attractive but also provides a ton of storage:

And did you notice the ceiling in this room?  It runs throughout the den and kitchen and is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before — it’s really special and is certainly something I’d expect Luke, Dorothy, and Jack Rodgers to do:

The den floor is pretty special, too, and is comprised of little Chiclet Gum-looking wood tiles:

I really love the floor, and you’ll be seeing more of these unusual Chiclets later on used in a very creative way.

On the other side of the divider is a long, closet-lined hallway leading to the three bedrooms.

The first two bedrooms are on the right and feature sliding glass doors that lead out to the north side of the lake:

Love the bakelite door handles:

Near these two rooms is a built-in hamper — this is the second time I’ve seen a built-in hamper in the last couple of weeks and now I really want one:

Across from these two bedrooms is a really sweet bathroom with more closets and, most unusually, a vanity surrounded by windows — yep, you even get views of the lake from the bathrooms in this house:

And, how cool are the Hollywood Regency closet doors?  You’ll find them throughout the house — such nice detailing that you won’t find in many other homes, which, once again, makes me think that this is a Rodgers design:

At the end of the hall is the enormous master suite:

I’m not in love with the yellow paint or the dated ceiling fan, but that fireplace is pretty spectacular.  Remember when I said that you’d be seeing the wood Chiclets later?  Well, here they make an appearance providing all of the drama on the fireplace:

And, speaking of drama, check out the view from the master bedroom:

Oh how I would love to wake up and see that every single day!  Here’s another view of the bedroom to give you an idea of just how large it is:

The master bathroom is also nice sized and has a very special feature I can’t wait to show you:

The vanity has mirrors that you can fold away to expose the view of the lake.  Pull the mirror to hide the view:

… and push it back to the wall to show off the view:

Such a simple idea and so ingenious at the same time!  I’ve seen so many similar innovative details like this in Luke and Dorothy Rodgers’ homes, which argues for this being one of their designs, in my opinion.

As for the master shower, it’s really big and is in great condition:

Love the scrolling light fixture plates throughout the house, too:

So, that’s it for the interior spaces.  Now for the big bonus — the yard and lake!  Let’s go out the door from the round living room.  Stepping outside, this is what you see:

I just can’t get over this place and all of its jaw dropping views.  I mean, guys, we are in the heart of Oklahoma City and it seems like we are out on a country pond somewhere:

While wandering around outside, I had the overwhelming temptation to snap up this place before it hit the market because it reminds me so much of being a kid and hanging out on long, lazy summer days at my grandparents’ house on nearby Silver Lake.  Even though we lived just a few miles away in a typical grid of modest suburban homes, going to their house was like going on a grand vacation where we could swim, sail, paddleboat, sun ourselves…

… and dig up slimy worms that our grandfather would later use as bait.  My grandfather was a pretty humorless and stern guy on land…

… but once he pulled up his waders and grabbed a fishing pole, he completely transformed:

His ever-present Germanic scowl was replaced with a gentle smile and easy going laugh that made him much less intimidating and scary and even kind of fun, especially after he caught a few:

On occasion, if we kids were really lucky, he would pull out his canoe and take us, one at a time, for a fishing spell on the lake.  I never caught one thing, but these were the best times I ever spent with my grandfather, and it was all because of that beautiful lake and the peace he got from living so close to the water.

While walking around this property, I felt the same tranquil feeling come over me that he must have felt every day living on that lovely body of water.  The breeze was whispering through the trees, birds were chirping everywhere, and there was nary a manmade sound anywhere.  It was pure bliss.

The exterior of the house doesn’t look too shabby from the lake, either.  Here’s the north side of the house with the rounded living room:

And the south side of the house with the den and kitchen at the far end:

This side of the house is where the stairs to the lake are located:

On the west side is a volleyball court and an old brick oven that could stand a little love:

This spectacular lakefront 3 bed/2 bath home is 2,160 sf and is listed for $425,000.  Go here to see the Zillow listing with some great aerial images that show just how well sited the home is, and if you’re interested in taking a tour of the place, feel free to contact Keller Williams realtor, Greg Roberts at 405/704-0221.  And, if you buy the place, please invite me over on a hot summer day for an afternoon of swimming, paddleboating, sunning, and digging for worms.



The Saga of the Split-T Burger

Posted by on Aug 15, 2018 in Mod Blog | No Comments

by Lynne Rostochil.  Vintage photos courtesy of the Oklahoma History Center.  New photo by Lynne Rostochil.

Named after the football formation made famous at nearby OU, the Split-T was an OKC institution for over 50 years and served the BEST onion rings and charbroiled hamburgers (make mine a chili cheese burger — with real, grated sharp cheddar cheese — and raw onions on the side, please). I’m salivating just thinking about it….

With its football-themed decor, scattered OU paraphenalia on the walls, and red and white checked table cloths, Split-T was THE hang out for every high schooler of every generation from 1950 to the millenium. It was the place where a lot of people had their their first kiss, their first beer, their first… well, you get the idea. It was a hoppin’ place, indeed.

When my mom, sister, and I moved to Dallas in the early 70’s, my mom’s one lament was not having Split-T around. No more yummy, freshly charbroilered burgers. No more super crunchy, munchy onion rings.

She has always fancied herself a hamburger connoisseur and proceeded to drag my little sister and me to every burger joint in Dallas looking for a patty that compared with the juicy, well-flavored ones at Split-T. We ate at fancy places in North Dallas and Highland Park, hit every hole-in-the-wall spot in Oak Lawn and Oak Cliff, made the trek to the burbs of Mesquite, Richardson, and Farmers Branch, all to no avail. Nothing, I mean NOTHING, compared to a burger from Split-T, according to her. When we ventured out on our eating expeditions, I didn’t really care what the burgers tasted like — I was way more concerned about getting back home in time to plant myself in front of our small, late 50’s model black and white TV (with rabbit ears, of course) to watch “Bionic Woman” or “Match Game ’76.”

After years of trying every single place that sold a burger in Dallas — can I tell you how tired I was of burgers by this time? — my mother and aunt (who also lived in Dallas and was equally as disappointed in the quality of burgers there) came up with a great idea:

Why not go to Split-T, order a bunch of burgers, take them back to Dallas, freeze them, then simply pop one in the microwave whenever they were feeling the need to consume a really good burger?

It sounded like a great idea, so my mom and aunt gathered up as much money as they could afford to blow on such a frivolous expenditure (they were single moms with little extra income). They set out to (or I should say, they made me) return for deposit the dozens of cartons of Coke bottles that were piled ceiling high in a kitchen alcove; reduced their smoking habits by at least a few packs a week; and made my sister, cousin, and I sack lunches (bologna and white bread — yum) instead of buying us lunch tickets.

After several weeks of scrimping and saving, my mom and aunt had enough money to buy about 30 burgers each. So, the next time they took us kids to OKC to see our dads, they were ready.

That Sunday, on the way out of town back to Dallas, my mom and aunt pulled up to the Split-T drive-thru window in my mom’s sky-blue Pinto. Half giggling to herself, she said, “Um, I’d like 60 chili cheese burgers, please.”

“Excuse me, but did you say 60?” the employee asked, as if she didn’t quite hear my mother correctly.

“That’s right. Sixty. 6-0. Ten times six.” My mother and aunt were quite pleased at the incredulous stare on the poor girl’s face.

After the employee picked up her jaw off the floor, she shouted out a few commands to her cohorts and got the entire staff working like mad preparing the burgers, all the while suspiciously eyeing the two crazy ladies and three little kids in the blue sub-compact with Texas plates. I could tell that she was trying to solve the mystery of the 60 burgers while she was stuffing them, one by one, into huge white paper sacks with the red Split-T logo on the front. She still had that same quizzical look on her face as she placed the last burger in the last bag and handed it over to my gleeful mother, and I knew as we drove off that she still hadn’t figured out my mom and aunt’s brilliant plan.

So, we drove all the way back to Texas — two giggling adults, three kids squished in one half of the Pinto’s backseat, and one ice chest filled to the brim with chili cheese burgers. I was the lucky one who got to sit smashed up against the ice chest, smelling cooked beef and spicy chili the 200 miles back home.

All the way home, the conversation between my mom and aunt went something like this:

Mom: “I think I’m going to take one to work tomorrow.”

Aunt: “Oh, I might make one for dinner tomorrow night.”

Mom: “Should we have a party and invite all of our Texas friends to show them what a real hamburger tastes like?”

Aunt: “No way! We worked hard for those burgers. I want to eat every last one of them.”

Mom: “You’re right. No sharing.”

Aunt: “I think I might make one for dinner when we get home tonight.”

Mom: “Ooo, and I could pop one in the oven for a midnight snack.”

If I was sick to frickin’ death of hamburgers before this little adventure, imagine how much I hated them when we finally got home and my mom assigned me the job of wrapping each burger in foil and finding space in the munchkin-sized apartment freezer (half filled with a thick layer of ice — no defrosting freezer for us) for our new treasure.

All of the burgers finally crammed into place in the freezer, my job here was done, and I never wanted to see another beef patty again.

The next evening, my mother carefully removed one of the prized burgers from the freezer and took it over to my aunt’s house to heat up.

My aunt, who lived across the street from us, had just bought her first ever, refrigerator-sized microwave — I think it was one of the first ones ever mass-produced and I swear, that sucker took up half her kitchen. So, like religious devotees, she and my mom ever-so-gently placed their burgers in the microwave, turned the dial to one minute, and watched through the glass as those babies cooked.

Ding. My aunt slowly opened the giant microwave door, and both ladies breathed in deeply to catch a whiff of charcoal and chili spices. They looked like they were in deep, euphoric prayer paused like that in front of their dinner. I’ve never seen them more reverent.

They each took their burger and didn’t even wait to put them on a plate or grab a napkin (which you need plenty of with Split-T chili cheese burgers). They both opened their mouths as wide as they would go and chomped down on about 1/3 of the burger.

Eyes closed, their happy, food-filled smiles filled the room as they started to chew. Slowly, their looks of joy turned — their eyes began to bulge and water, their smiles became frowns, and they both made a mad dash to the sink to spit out a light brown, barfy-looking conglomeration of burger, cheese, and chili.

They spat and spat until every last morsel of food was in the sink. Then, they grabbed their ever-present Cokes and chugged them, ran for a few puffs of the smoldering cigarettes they had left in the living room, all the while primal screaming at the tops of their lungs.

“They’re AWFUL!”

“What happened?”


“Get out of the way, kids, I’m going to be sick.”

(You get the idea.)

Apparently, my genius aunt and mother didn’t anticipate the burgers getting freezer burn and very probably didn’t know how to use the microwave, either.

But, these two had saved and saved to get the money to buy 60 burgers, and they weren’t going to throw them away. Oh no.

For months afterward at dinner time, I would hear my mom — in her most sweet sounding voice, which always meant trouble – “Hey, girls, do you want a burger for dinner tonight?”

Imagine the loudest “NO” you’ve ever heard, then times that by about 10 and you’ll get some idea of the response my sister and I would shout back in unison. We were no fools.

So, not able to get anyone else to eat the burgers, my mom and aunt dug in and spent the next few months eating — and gagging on — every single last one of those chili cheese burgers.

They didn’t gripe too much about Texas burgers after that; in fact, I don’t think I remember either of them eating another hamburger for quite a few years afterward, much to my delight.

Skip forward about 20 years. I’ve just moved back to OKC and have probably (half-heartedly) eaten a total of three hamburgers in the years since the now infamous Freezer Burn Incident, as our Split-T misadventure has come to be known.

But, I’m back in town and decide to drop by Split-T just for fun. In homage to my aunt and mom, I order a chili cheese burger and some onion rings and sit back in my booth with the voice of “Why did I just order that?” ringing in my ears. The food comes out, and I gingerly pick up the burger, which is oozing cheese and chili all over the place, hesitate, then take a itty bitty bite.

“Hey, this is pretty good.” Then, I take another, bigger, bite and think, “Man, this is awesome,” and before you know it, the whole thing is gone.

Chili and cheese dripping from my chin a la a Carl’s Jr. commercial, I finally get it. I finally understand what my mom and aunt were talking about all of those years ago. There is no better burger than Split-T. Period.

Alas, Split-T closed in 2000, after 50 years in operation. Soon after, the building was torn down to make way for a strip center, and a Sonic was built across the street. This sign pays homage to an OKC institution and will forever remind me of my goofy mom and aunt, who would do anything for a good burger.

Here’s a photo by Jim Jordan of his classic Cadillac in front of the Split-T mural taken around the time it closed:

The mural was a popular backdrop for cool cars, as you can see in this 1998 shot by Ken Wentworth, Jr., of his 1996 Impala SS: