Tuesday, January 31, 2006

uHollywood BOWLSA

Fun with Flickr

Just playing around with Spell with flickr. You type words or names in, press spell, and it finds the letters on flickr and displays them together. Click any individual letter to browse through all of the possible choices for each letter. It's cool.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Mervyn's Stores Leave Tulsa

According to Mervyn's press release from last September, "As a part of a strategy to become a stronger and more profitable company and better serve customers in its core markets, Mervyns announced today that it is closing 62 underperforming stores that do not contribute to the Company's success. Closing stores that create a significant drain on the Company's overall profitability will allow Mervyns to invest in and focus on its stores and infrastructure in the West and Southwest making them more competitive than ever."

Well, they're gone. Woodland Hills Mall and The Promenade will probably quickly secure new tenants for their available spaces. The departure of Mervyns from Eastland Mall leaves Dillards as the last anchor remaining. Dillards actually owns their portion of the mall, so the recent sale of the mall to NSC New Market Real Estate of Atlanta did not include that building. I don't know what Dillards has planned. I guess a lot of it will depend on what the new buyer's plans are for the empty shopping center. I've heard everything from office complex to Hispanic retail shopping mall to outlet mall to big hulking mass of concrete and steel (hey, it knows that role well). I'd really like to see a reliable source stating what NSC's development plans are. Unfortunately, they have little presence on the web, so I've been unable to find any additional info. I did find this 1/3/06 article from The Journal Record in Oklahoma City. [Tulsa's Eastland Mall's future uncertain after sale]

It's disappointing to see a large retail chain pull it's tax dollars away from a town, but I'm impressed that Mervyn's had the business sense to retreat and downsize to their core market, in order to remain a healthy corporation. I guess everyone feels the pinch in today's WalMart economy, particularly department stores. Sears Holding Corporation (Kmart+Sears=SHLD) aren't exactly doing that great either and JC Penny is learning that they can be nearly as profitable online as with brick and mortar storefronts.

I've added 6 additional pics to the end of my Eastland Mall 2 photoset. They show the front of the Eastland Mervyns after they removed the signage earlier today as well as a couple more interior shots. I'll try to get shots of Woodland Hills and Promenade this weekend.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Lost Tulsa Interview on Tulsa Times

For those of you who either missed the show last Saturday, or live out of range of our local PBS station, I've posted the Tulsa Times interview [streaming Google Video] up for viewing.

A couple of notes. First of all, I was incredibly nervous...and it's apparent. I didn't even realize that my vocabulary contained the phrase "..what have you.", but after seeing myself repeat it 4 or 5 times, I've vowed to eliminate it forever. I also had a killer case of cottonmouth, which I just couldn't seem to get over throughout the interview.

There are a couple of corrections I'd like to make. I watched them bulldoze the remainder of the Will Rogers Theater into a big pile of rubble sometime around '84, rather than the late '80s. It had been closed since 1976. Also, the photos shown during my comments near the end about Tulsa's Lost Twins were not quite what I'm talking about (and those aren't my shots, either). They are cool pics of former Tulsa drive-ins, but that's already been covered very well over at TTM. The twins I'm speaking of include the ones mentioned in the interview (Park Lane and Boman) and others well known for their lively Midnight Movies.

Enjoy the video. Try not to laugh too hard. I've been asked by Denver Foxx to speak with him on his KRMG show Saturday morning. I'll try to record it and post it up too...since it'll be at 7:30am.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Tulsa Signage Pt. 2

Here's another round of miscellaneous signage pics from around town. These don't really merit a photoset of their own (well, some might...like the Oasis or Brookshire), but I can't just ignore them as I drive past. There's still a lot of signs on my Most Wanted list. I just need to find a few evenings to go out and shoot them. Enjoy!

Friday, January 20, 2006

Lost Tulsa featured on OETA's Tulsa Times

Tomorrow night (Sat. Jan 21st) at 5pm, OETA CH 11 (Tulsa's PBS) will present their weekly production of Tulsa Times. This week, it will include a feature on Lost Tulsa. David Crow and I discuss this site's current and future entries. The show will be split between Lost Tulsa and the new OK Powerball Lottery. The interview is around 10 minutes long. If you have no social life, and are around a television late Saturday afternoon, tune in and check it out.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Peaches Records & Tapes - 5150 S. Sheridan Rd.

In the 1970s, deep discounted music was a rare occurance. Small, independently owned shops couldn't afford to do without the small profit they were making off low-volume album sales. At some point during the decade, Honest John's (predecessor to Starship Records) and Sound Warehouse started discounting. In 1976, a new store owned by the Peaches record chain was built near 51st and Sheridan. They boasted a million dollar inventory...practically everything (domestic) in print was stocked. You could find almost anything there without having to order it. Since they had deeper pockets, they cut prices even more than the local guys. They focused keenly on high-volume album and tape sales, although they also did a brisk business in a few accessories items like the popular Peaches album or tape wooden crates. Woodland Hills Mall opened a few years later, adding more cookie-cutter music stores to the area. Sadly, by the end of the '70s, most of Tulsa's independant record stores had been put out business by these new corporate stores in town.

Peaches' future wasn't that great, either. They made a gamble when they decided that the average consumer would not be interested in a budding new audio format, the Compact Disc. This proved to be quite untrue. Before they could change course, the cash-poor business faltered and the company went bankrupt in the mid-'80s. The store was quickly reopened as another large chain music store called Buttons. After a few years, it failed as well. It was also a Blockbuster for a period of time before the current furniture store took ownership.

Part of the Peaches tradition was to have large concrete squares along the sidewalks surrounding the building. Musicians would be asked to sign and put their handprints into the squares like Mann's Chinese Theater. Quite a few celebrities visited the Tulsa store long enough to leave a memento behind. Despite the turnover of the Peaches property, all owners have left the handprints alone. Some have aged so badly that they are completely unreadable, but most are still in decent shape. I took a visit over there yesterday to get them all recorded for posterity...just in case. There's a new Peaches photoset available of these photos.

The pic above was a feeble attempt at recreating the look of the original Peaches. I chose 1981, since that was the year I probably spent the most money in Peaches. Don't scrutinize the photo too closely, as I'm no master of Photoshop.

How many Peaches crates do you still have?

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Lost Quarters

As I type, scattered across the country, there are rarely seen sections in storage buildings, sheds and warehouses that are home to a generation of dusty, aging relics of my youth...the coin-operated video game. I turned thirteen the year that Space Invaders was introduced to the United States. As a teenager, these were the greatest games EVER. When the modern multi-level mall, called the MetroCenter, opened in Jackson, MS in 1978, the arcade was the highlight of my visits (along with Camelot Music and Spencer's Gifts). My fondest memories of my Uncle Larry are of us playing Gorf in the Whitehaven Mall (South Memphis, TN).

On into my High School years, I kept dumping cash into these quarter-eaters. In 1981, I started my first "real" job at ShowBiz Pizza Place at 71st and Memorial. At that point, I was constantly surrounded by the latest games...Space Duel, Star Castle, Qix, Star Wars. I took my lunch break every day, sitting at an Asteroids Deluxe cocktail (tabletop) machine, stuffing my face with Aloha pizza (pineapple, ham and shaved almonds) and blasting rocks. We would have long overnight inventory and maintenance parties there, where they would just hand out bags of tokens and let us loose after hours. It's amazing how good you can play a game of Centipede at 4am when you're really into it. I have some great memories of the short time I worked there. The Rock-afire Explosion were pretty creepy after they were shut down (they were pneumatic, so sometimes they would move or make noises long after the last show). The Billy Bob suit was extremely hot, but the belly did make for good groin protection from the ankle-biters during the birthday parties.

After High School, my buddy Greg and I used to play arcade games almost every night over at the 101st and Sheridan Quik Trip. They started with a Galaga, which we eventually got very good at (he always beat my overall percentage, though). Then they switched to a Moon Patrol, which we kicked butt at. The best period, however, was when they moved in a Robotron 2084. This is the ultimate classic arcade game. With only two joysticks...one moves you around, one fires your weapon...you navigate a highly pixelated landscape with enemies that will draw sweat onto your brow and leave you shaking when you're done (argh...the tanks!). Greg and I went on to play Tag Team Wrestling and Punch-Out when we were working together at TJC Southeast (we helped open the LRC), and I got really good at Dragon's Lair at TJC Metro...but it was never as fun as playing at the Quik Trip and chatting with the interesting (and sometimes gullible) night managers.

Over the past 7 years, I've watched a resurgence of interest in classic games. Much of this has been driven by the success of the MAME project, which emulates most of the classic games on a variety of platforms. Despite the improvements in graphics and sounds of today's modern game consoles, gameplay is still what it's all about...and some of these relics were very strong on gameplay. They had to be, with the limited resources they had to work with. But when I saw that Target were selling a MAME arcade emulation cabinet for around $400 over the Christmas holidays, I knew that it had really hit the mainstream.

I'll be honest, these pictures were not taken in Tulsa. However, I've seen similar stashes all over the United States in places large and small. I visited a warehouse in Denver with over 300 games from 1978-1984, the Golden Age of Arcade Games. Sometime in 1984, the bottom fell out of the arcade gaming industry. With the increasing popularity of improved home consoles, coin-op games went into a huge slump that they arguably have never recovered from. The older games stopped bringing in the quarters that they once raked in on route, so they were pulled and either converted into newer games (boo...hiss) or put into cold storage somewhere. I'm sure that there are several hidden treasures like this around the Tulsa area. Most times you can find them just by looking them up in the yellow pages (vending or amusements). I haven't done so since I moved back here, as I already have more projects to complete than I have time for.

The photos were taken in a small two-story warehouse. At some point during the mid-'90s, in order to consolidate from two to one warehouses, they took approximately 250 old arcade games and dismantled them. Upstairs, the the monitors went onto metal shelves, the control panels were stacked up haphazardly. Mountains of wiring harnesses and coin doors and stacks of marquees, bezels and locks and so many keys, grew as they stripped the games bare, broke down the wood cabinets and threw them away! Very sad indeed. All that wonderful sideart...gone. They did, however keep a small percentage of the original batch, including many classics like Centipede, Galaga, Pac-man cabs of all flavors and even a Star Wars. In a closet off to the side, there are shelves stacked full of neatly boxed and labeled motherboards. Most of these are brand-new (what they call "New-Old Stock" or NOS) boards that have been stored in perfect condition for over 20 years. Some came out of the machines that they scrapped, but they appeared to be in great shape as well. This is pure gold to a arcade game collector. I stood and drooled as my eyes scanned across labels...Scramble, Dig-Dug, Tempest, Robotron, Moon Patrol, Punch Out, Satan's Hollow, Gravitar...it was almost more than I could take. Asking the owner if he'd sell me a Asteroids Deluxe board for my cab at home, he quickly says "Nope." It was not up for discussion, apparently. This guy knows what he's sitting on. This was over 3 years ago, but he was looking to sell the entire place, lot, building and all inventory for a single lump sum.

These days, I'm a grown man with a 25" MAME cabinet (built in 1999) to the left of my computer and a 1981 Omega Race to the right. In my garage, I have a Star Trek, Asteroids Deluxe and Rastan (Robby Roto cabinet) waiting for my time and attention. Somehow I doubt that I'll ever make time to work on these as much as I used to before I became a Daddy. Besides, as a hobby, photography is much lighter than moving around 6' 250# arcade cabinets. If anyone is interested in talking arcade stuff with me, please comment. Where in Tulsa did you play your favorite arcade game? Even if you don't care about arcade games, comment anyway and tell me what you think about Lost Tulsa so far. This is a two-way medium we're working with here...I'd love to hear more from you readers.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Casa Viva (Formerly Casa Bonita) Restoration Pics

Bill Waugh, original owner of Casa Bonita at 21st and Sheridan, has been renovating the location to be re-opened as a Casa Viva. He has pics of some of the work being performed to get the restaurant ready. I look forward to visiting when they reopen.

I first saw this on Batesline, who read it on the TulsaNow Forum. I thank them both for the link. I'm happy to see some visible signs of progress.

Saturday, January 07, 2006


The Texaco star has been permanently etched into my brain for as far back as I can remember. In my earliest memories, roadtrips and oil changes always led us to Texaco service stations. Of course, this was back when they did more than just gas. Back when you could "trust your car to the man who wears the star, the big bright Texaco star". Most of the stations I remember from this period looked something like these [gassigns.org]. O.K...so I'm not old enough to remember some of those, but it's a nice collection of Texaco signage, huh?

In 1982, Texaco replaced their 1966-vintage hexagon logo with a new rendition of the old banjo sign in red and white featuring the star and "T". They also started upgrading and building service stations with design emphasis on dark colors including, black, red and gray. Before long, these very recognizable, sleek Star Marts (and Food Marts) were popping up all over OK and TX.

In 2001, things changed drastically. Shell bought out Texaco's portion of a shared venture they'd been working on in order to allow Texaco to merge with Chevron. Shell picked up rights to operate former Texaco stations under the Texaco brand. The merger of Chevron and Texaco helped create one of the worlds largest oil companies. In 2006, Shell loses the non-exclusive rights to the Texaco brand. Therefore, over the past year, we've seen a mass extinctions of company-owned Texaco gas stations. A good article from GTR NewsOnline goes into more detail.

Several of Tulsa's former Texaco locations have been converted into (poorly designed IMO) modern Shell stations. However, a large majority of the stations in Tulsa have been simply leveled (well, removed...see pics) and rebuilt upon. I know that 81st and Sheridan, 31st and Garnett, 71st and Mingo and 71st and 145th have been completely cleared at this point. There's probably more that I'm just not aware of. This may be a strange subject to document on Lost Tulsa. I realize they're only gas stations. Just call it pre-emptive archiving. These stations were standardized landmarks that were scattered throughout our city. Now these numerous landmarks are being drastically altered in a short period of time. It really changes the "look and feel" of a city when this happens. It also creates an unique opportunity to improve the landscape of an area if the new owners are inclined to put some thought and planning into the new development of these lots.

I'm not sure what will become of most of these locations. I'm not thrilled with the decision to build an Advanced Auto Parts on the old 31st and Garnett location. I don't mind having a new parts store nearby...but a O'Reilly's Auto Parts was just built at that same intersection last year, joining a AutoZone just down the street. Is this Tulsa's auto-parts section of town, or what?! I'm sure that most of the spaces will be quickly rebuilt with similar Generica buildings. The Advanced Auto Parts is just a huge box, with minimal design elements to make it unique in any way. Sitting at the intersection next to this store, I could be in Tulsa or Denver or Wichita Falls...how could I tell the difference? But that's a tangent for another day.

Texaco Trivia:

3 different eras of Texaco stations were featured in Back to the Future and Back to the Future Part II: a contemporary self-serve station (1980s), a 1950s version with several full service attendants, and a futuristic version where a fully-automated station services flying cars.

Texaco was the first service station to have "Certified" public restrooms with very high standards for cleanliness.

Friday, January 06, 2006

All Tulsa-area Drive-In Theatres, past and present

Tulsa TV Memories (in association of the American Institute of Drive-in Archeology) has greatly expanded and updated their section on Tulsa area drive-in movie theaters. This is an extensive collection of information, recollections, photos and satellite pics of those long gone, as well as those still in operation. Jump over there and enjoy a great trip down memory lane courtesy of the best Tulsa nostalgia site out there.

While you're there, you should definitely check out the Google Earth tour of Tulsa's drive-ins from the air. What a great job of preserving the memories of these special movie theaters. Excellent job, TTM.