Saturday, July 30, 2005

Photon - 48th & S. Memorial

I had recently turned 21 years old when I first heard the following words:

"Welcome Photon Warriors, commence strategic maneuvers at audible command signal. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, BEGIN." [6.3MB .MP3]

All of a sudden, I'm scrambling for cover in a carpeted bunker off a long corridor. The white smoke is so thick that it makes it hard to even see my friend Glenn, who's less than 15 feet away. The large green helmet strapped to my head does nothing to help visibility. Jumping at every movement out in the murky distance, pulsing, throbbing ambient sounds fill my ears...then out of nowhere ZAP! I'm hit! My weapon temporarily disabled, I streak across an open area and dive behind a wall as we make our way steadily towards our goal, the Red Base. Six minutes later, we're walking out of the arena exhausted, drenched in sweat and grinning from ear to ear.

For less than 5 years in the late 1980s, before Q-Zar, Laser Quest or any other number of offshoots, there was Photon, The Ultimate Game on the Planet Earth. Unique in its use of reverse-IR that allowed such features as targeting lock-on and instant hit/miss feedback, Photon's technology was advanced even by today's standards. It also allowed non-participants to practice their aim from the phaser stations on the observation deck without affecting the game's scoring or outcome. Everything gets relayed back wirelessly to a central computer, which displays real-time scores and rankings on strategically positioned monitors throughout the facility.

I can remember Glenn and I riding double on my Kawasaki to Photon for afternoons of exhilerating gameplay and drainage of the wallet. I even managed to talk Brent into joining us one day. I don't think he was prepared for the amount of physical activity that took place on the field, as he never came back with us (still glad you came with us, bud). This was one of the last years that I was really able to act like a kid. A year later, I was married and moving from Tulsa to N. Texas to embark on a exciting career in wireless communications. In the end, Photon went out with a whimper. The corporate office went out of business in 1989, even though they avoided bankruptcy. Without the technical support from corporate and other business issues, most Photons were unable to remain in operation and shut their doors. Tulsa's Photon closed down in late 1989.

I've heard rumors that some of the playfield still resides inside the old Tulsa Photon building...but I have my doubts, particularly since it spent some time as a country nightclub after Photon closed. I imagine that it was gutted. I have been in contact with Jim Strother, a Tulsan who also remembers Photon from its glory days. He's gone as far as to start collecting original Photon equipment and is working on getting it all working. If things come together, he'd like to open up a gamefield in Tulsa using the original Photon hardware. He has licensed the Photon trademark, and you can buy t-shirts from his web site. He also has some great pics from an incredible find, a garage full of vintage Photon equipment in Phoenix (Pictures->New Equipment). I offered to be a "beta tester" if he ever needs a warm body to test the equipment out.

The pics in the Photon gallery are not all mine. I included some extra photos from unknown sources that show the interior of the lobby, observation deck, staging areas and the playfield itself. Although none of these were of the Tulsa Photon, they look remarkably similar, as most arenas were built from the same plans. If anyone knows the photographers of these pics, please let me know so I can give full credit.

"Congratulations Photon Warriors. You have successfully completed your strategic maneuvers. Disperse to exit. Disperse to exit. Disperse to exit...."

Friday, July 29, 2005

The Camelot

What site that covers empty buildings in Tulsa would be complete without the obligatory Camelot entry. Built in 1965 at Peoria and I-44, the Camelot Inn (later Camelot Hotel then Camelot Parkside Hotel) quickly became the "place to be". However, during the 80s, it suffered a swift decline and was abandoned. In 1996, it was condemned for public habitation, although not for structural integrity. The future of this massive "castle" is uncertain.

There is a fantastic GTR article that goes into much more detail of the rise and fall of one of Tulsa's former world-class hotels. Also, you can view recent pictures of the interior of the Camelot on Abandoned Tulsa. This is a site similar to this one. It's tracking the making of a documentary of historically significant Tulsa buildings that are abandoned and demolished.

KOTV Coverage of Lost Tulsa

I was somewhat taken aback when I received a phone call this morning asking for an interview. It appears that KOTV news reporter Steve Berg had stumbled upon this site and wanted to do a feature on it. You can view the video segment online here.

Thanks to everyone who have left comments!! I'm so moved by some of the stories. It really changes my perspective on many of these places when I read memories like this:

"I especially liked the picture of the old Mayo Motor Inn sign. My Dad worked there when I was very young, 3 or 4 yrs. old. He would always let me ride up on the 'lift' and take me across to the Mayo Hotel coffee shop and buy me a cherry limeade. I miss my Dad and I miss those great days!" - Linda Hodges

Wow...I mean, WOW! Before, I loved the clean art-deco styled lines of the Mayo Motor Inn. But now whenever I see that building, I'm going to think of that little girl and her dad back during the structure's grander days. Completely different perspective! This is why I created Lost Tulsa.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Bartlett Square and Main Mall

5th and Main
Completed in 1978 by HTB, Inc.
Lawrence Halprin, consultant

In 1978, at the same time construction was just completing on Tulsa's new Main Mall, many cities throughout the country were ripping their pedestrian malls out. It seems that closing off downtown streets to motorized traffic wasn't such a great thing for retail business. Ooops! By 1996, the city was already trying to find ways to bring a very stagnant downtown back to life. In 2005, they completed the removal of Bartlett Square and the Main Mall, opening the heart of downtown to traffic once again. This has been repeated all over the country numerous times. Of the over 200 pedestrian malls that were built during the late 60s through the 70s, only a handful were successful. For a good chunk of the 90s, I lived near one of the few that continue to thrive, the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder, CO. Too bad Tulsa's couldn't turn out this way. Hopefully the new changes being made downtown will bring positive results to the city.

I really wish I took more photos during the early 80s when this was still new. I attended numerous events and concerts in Bartlett Square. When the fountains were running, it really was a nice place to hang out. Waterfalls cascaded all around. The mature trees provided shade during the day and the ambient lighting of the fountains and lamps created a wonderful nighttime mood.

These photos were taken during the Summer of 2003. It includes several photos of some buildings of interest. The Froug's Department Store building at 3rd and Main was demolished last August. There are also shots of some of the surrounding buildings such as the empty Lerner building and it's companion, the Sinclair, McFarlin, Vandever, Pythian, Mayo Building and Hotel.

Since I started working in Bartlesville in late '03, I haven't been down there to see the "new downtown". I'm working on a before/after gallery, so I'll see if I can get some new shots to work into that project.

Edit: Sorry, I didn't mean to include that last shot of Jazzcow...although they were a good band. I've already closed I'm not re-doing it!

Edit 7/30/05: The photo galleries aren't the most user friendly, so I'm trying to get all of my sets online with Flickr. A test set of the Bartlett Square and Main Mall pics is here. Let me know if you like this better. It certainly gives them more exposure due to the number of tags I can put on them.

Thanks for Visiting!

I've noticed that a few people are actually visiting the site these days. Much thanks to Michael Bates of Batesline for helping get the word out. It's hard to get things started from scratch, so little word of mouth goes a long way.

Thanks to everyone for their comments. I am no expert historian, so I really appreciate any additional info you can add to any of these entries. Also, if you click on each entries header pic, it will take you to a gallery of photos related to that particular location.

One suggestion for Tulsa signage was the neon Donut sign at 31st and Yale. I have this one in the Signage Pt. 1 gallery, showing both day and nighttime shots (I love the way it just lights up "NUTS" at night). The Sheridan Lanes animated GIF was a much more ambitious project than I expected. I used a very old 1.3mp digital camera that had about a 30 second delay between the time you pressed the shutter and when it actually took the shot. I stood out there one night for nearly an hour trying to get all possible combinations of the neon. If you look closely, you'll see the moon in the background "setting" as time elapses. In addition to that, I had taken these shots in landscape mode, so I had to consistently crop each pic to create the animation. Next time, I'm just going to use a video camera! heheh. that I have actual visitors dropping by, I'll get pack to posting some new entries. Take care!