My First Home

I couldn’t sleep this morning. So I got up, went to Waffle House for breakfast, and then decided to set out on a journey. A journey to the first house and town that I knew. I have some pictures here, and more on the Flickr! page.

Some folks don’t know this, but I spent the first six years of my life in Claremore. We moved to Broken Arrow in January of 1988. It had been awhile since I’d been around, so I thought this cold morning would be a good run. I got myself full of good eats and headed Northeast on historic Route 66.

Just as I was getting through Catoosa, I saw my first landmkark. The Blue Whale is a landmark not only to me, but just about everyone that has ever traveled this corridor of the Mother Road. It was built in the 70’s by some fella as a gift to his wife. The area has recently been restored and was in much better shape than I remembered.

Next came the marker that I was leaving civilization for awhile. This classic old railroad bridge was my indicator of the Tulsa/Catoosa border. On the way home when I was wee, I could expect nothing but boring ol’ highway until we got back to Claremore. It had been awhile since I really paid attention traversing this stretch of road, and I was surprised how much shorter it has become. Verdigris is right here? Where is the lack of civilization? It’s essentially businesses and homes scattered all the way to Claremore.

On top of that, the ‘Welcome to Claremore’ sign comes up WAY earlier than it should! It’s been moved a mile. I had just gotten used to the fact that the town border was the new Wal-Mart SuperCenter @ Country Club Road. There are thousands of businesses before you get to Wal-Mart now, and a cursory glance proved that the Wal-Mart was no longer ‘new’. Sigh. At least the car dealerships look EXACTLY the same. Lots more Will Rogers signage, too. Claremore is his hometown, ya know…

I approached another landmark. The EAT sign! Always a good idea and my internal indicator that we had arrived back at Claremore proper. Underneath the classic signage is the New China Buffet, who I believe was the victim of a fire recently. Also underneath is a tattoo parlor, interesting in and of itself because tattoos are only recently legal in this state.

As I pulled into the left turn late at JM Davis Blvd, I see the Atwoods there on the corner. THAT was the Wal-Mart I remembered! Long gone. It looks like that building has always been Atwoods. Which, for most, maybe it has. There’s a QT there at the junction as well. Do I remember them building that? I think I do. I may not. Perhaps it was just the strip center down the road. No more old Jeep dealership on JM Davis, but Pixley Lumber is still there. Another old sign gone at the tire shop @ Will Rogers Blvd/JM Davis Blvd intersection. It was a horse head, something to do with tires if I remember right. No matter, tis gone now.

Heading down Will Rogers Blvd was a shocker. The Kentucky Fried Chicken is gone; it’s now a Quizno’s. The ancient Burger King is gone, possibly replaced by Charlie’s Chicken? Not sure, the whole old building is gone. The Ne-Mar Center looks pretty much the same, but the businesses are different. No more NAPA, the Silver Screen Cinema is gone, as is the old video store. I must’ve rented Lucky Luke and Donald Duck: Bee Pictures about a zillion times from there. Wasn’t there a Goldie’s back here? Down a little further is the Autozone/Locke complex that once housed my father’s grocery store. He managed it back with it was Hobo’s.

Across the street is the McDonald’s that I went to on a 1st grade field trip. I was so amazed at how food was made and how the drive through window worked. Oddly, the Git ‘n Go that used to sit next door is COMPLETELY gone. Destructed! The road that runs between those two establishments was my road. Many memories of this house, from our velvet couch to holding to my brother for the first time to getting stuck in the mud. Learning how to ride my bike in the backyard on Easter Sunday. Getting broken into. The clicking sound the step made when you went from the dining room to the den.

My elementary school was right across the street. It looked closed; I can definitely say the playground equipment was gone and it was just sad. No more pre-fab where my kindergarten was held. I used to go play there in the afternoon. I used to get terrorized by these two black kids that also lived in the neighborhood, they would chase me and my friends from the playground and taunt us. Don’t remember their names, though.

The old Will Rogers hotel was quite a sight. I had my cub scout meetings there (I think?) and I used to think the little corner spire dealy was awesome. It looked to be in good shape overall. As I was taking a picture of the hotel, I suddenly remembered a tip that my friend Malinda gave me. A sight that I thought had been lost forever. I took a breath and drove north on 66 past the hotel.

I never went farther north than Will Rogers Blvd. At least, I don’t REMEMBER anything north of it. I was suddenly in the ‘Director’s Cut’ of Claremore. This doesn’t exist in my original version. As the town started to dissipate back into countryside, I started to get instinctively nervous. Why? Well, if Malinda was right, I was about to come face to face with my childhood terror. Or, if not that, then something that closely resembled it. After a few minutes drive, there it was.

The Gorilla.

I have these HORRIBLE memories of riding with my folks past this gorilla! At least, I think it was this gorilla. I used to think it was between Tulsa and Claremore, but this is on the opposite side of Claremore. And my memory Gorilla has glowing red eyes. And is 10 feet taller. It was unsettling at first to see this, but then I came to my senses. I have come back, you! And I’m bigger now! You can’t hurt me anymore.

Satisfied with my progress, I headed back home. On the way home, I did something I always wanted to do. I stopped just before I got back to Catoosa to take a closer look at this pipe road. Where does it lead? It was a mystery to me and I looked at it EVERY time we passed it. Was there some magical land on the other side of this portal? Actually, that’s almost right. There are a few cabins and a small lake back there. It was very peaceful.

So that was my drive this morning. It was enjoyable. Perhaps I’ll do a go-thru of my old Broken Arrow neighborhood next. Don’t forget to check out the other pictures @ Flickr!

About rhysfunk

Rhys Martin was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1981. In 2009, he sold everything he owned and left the country, living out of a backpack for ten months. He discovered a passion for photography while traveling throughout Southeast Asia and Europe. After returning home, he looked at his home town and Oklahoma heritage with fresh eyes. When he began to explore his home state, Rhys turned his attention to historic Route 66. As he became familiar with the iconic highway, he began to truly appreciate Oklahoma’s place along the Mother Road. He has traveled all 2,400 miles of Route 66, from Chicago to Los Angeles. He has also driven many miles on rural Oklahoma highways to explore the fading Main Streets of our small towns. Rhys has a desire to find and share the unique qualities of the Sooner State with the rest of the world. Cloudless Lens Photography has been featured in several publications including This Land, Route 66 Magazine, Nimrod Journal, Inbound Asia Magazine, The Oklahoman, and the Tulsa World. Rhys loves to connect with people and share his experiences; ask him about enjoyable day trips from Tulsa, locations along Route 66, and good diners or burger joints along the way.
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One Response to My First Home

  1. Lanna says:

    I commented on your Flikr, but I’ll leave it here instead. My husband also grew up in Claremore. Well, not so much in as North of, in Sequoyah schools. Kong’s is about a block from his dad’s house, maybe two. The pictures only make me think of the stories my husband tells as we drive out to his dad’s or back into town. It’s kind of surreal to see another set of stories.

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