Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Downtowner: Part 4

Anyone remember Coman’s Grill? I can’t find anything on it. 15th and Peoria was the Alhambra area, where the Plaza movie theater was so it must have been close to that, which would make it very convenient to stop in to after a show. It could be one of the shops right next to the theatre, but I can’t tell for sure. I know I touched on the old Will Rogers Theater awhile back but here are a few more pictures of the interior.
And there is Danny Kaye in “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” that was opening later that week. (“Luscious Virginia Mayo”?)
Sol’s Grill appears to have been right about where the garage entrance to St. Johns Hospital is now. Here is what SJH looked like at this time:In my researching this particular area, I came across a photo from 1938- this is 20-21st and Utica- that is right on the northwest corner of 21st and Utica. I had no idea a hotel (The Patio) was there at one time.

Bordens- I ate quite a few meals at various Bordens around town. My grandpa loved to eat there. In 1947 I’m guessing there were at least 2 of them downtown. This first one was in the Daniels Building.

And this one was on Boston and 6th:

Next up: Things get a little racy!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Downtowner: Part 3

Did you know that the Elephant Trunk Company has been around since 1907? It has changed locations of course, but it’s still here, which I find amazing.

Drive-Ins evolved in the mid 1920’s. They combined the newest fad- automobiles- with food you could order from and eat in your car. Some drive-ins were also like mini stores, offering candy, gum, cigarettes and beer. My (paternal) grandfather owned such a place in Cushing, OK and even hired musicians to play outside for the customers in the summer.

And has anyone NOT been to a Shrine Circus when they were little? Granted, I didn’t get to go when it was in the old Coliseum. I bet that was really neat. (click on photo to enlarge)

The Coliseum was located on Elgin between 5th and 6th. It opened January 1, 1929 and was the venue of ice hockey, Monday night wrestling, Ice Capades, boxing and more. Hockey was a Tulsa passion from Day 1. With only a chain link fence on each end, spectators had to be careful of flying pucks and players.

Many local high schools used the building for their graduations. Sam Avey owned this building, as well as the Tulsa Ice Oilers and the local wrestling league. The stadium held approximately 7500 people and was destroyed by a fire in 1952.

The Coliseum was also home to radio station KAKC (look center/left):
Mack Creager just starting out in the broadcasting industry at this time (1948). Mack was a Central HS grad who became a popular local sportscaster. You can read more about him here Mack Creager

This next page also has the line up for the KVOO radio shows- nostalgia deluxe. I also love what Wally says in the last sentence about Tulsa.

Next up: Are YOU a Mitty?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Downtowner: Part 2

On almost every page of this little pamphlet there is a tiny ad for Canada Dry’s Spur Cola (click on photos to enlarge). I have always associated that brand name with Ginger Ale, but my research shows Canada Dry produces more flavors than I ever realized! And we all know who their direct competition was for cola products, so it stands to reason they advertised a lot back then.

In the early 1920’s Hunt’s was a dominant department store in Tulsa. In 1924 John A. Brown and John Dunkin of Oklahoma City bought the store and renamed it Brown-Dunkin. This is my great-grandmother selling Singer sewing machines at Brown-Dunkin in the late 1920’s.

My mother did a lot of modeling for Brown-Dunkin from her high school years through college. Most of these photos were in local publications featuring the fashion preview for the next season. She got to be the cover girl for Magazine Tulsa in 1946, just after she graduated from Will Rogers High School.

Other fabulous stores downtown were Seidenbachs, Renbergs, Vandevers and Frougs to name a few.

In the 1940's and 1950’s, downtown Tulsa was considered The Place to shop for fashion clothing.

Next Up: Sports On Parade

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Downtowner

The Downtowner was a weekly publication distributed freely around town starting in 1942. In addition to highlighting where all of the action was, publisher Walter Cox wrote in the “filler” between all of the ads. The ads are fun to read now. And Mr. Cox's (Wally) observations are sometimes very surprising. I have this copy of The Downtowner from 1948 because of that week’s cover girl, my mom. click to enlarge

You will note that the restaurant, The Louisane, is the sponsor of the Downtowner. This was, apparently, the first time owner Herb Kallmeyer had sponsored the Cover Girl. My parents ate at the Louisiane a lot, mostly for special occasions. I never got to go. The Louisiane was located at 118 E. 18th (18th and Boston). Here is the original restaurant:

And in 1960 after it was remodeled:

Any time I have pulled one of these out (I also have a copy of the Downtowner’s competitor "This Week In Tulsa") I always have to sit and look through it. So I thought I would begin a series on this, going (almost) page by page and we can all enjoy what it was like back in 1948 when downtown Tulsa was alive and vibrant. When there were no less than 29 movie theatres in a 2 mile radius of downtown.
Here is the Orpheum and the Ritz during this time frame:

Next up: Spur Cola??

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Historic Food

The next couple of posts are about some Tulsa restaurants that have been around for many years. Perhaps not in their original locations, but around nonetheless.

Nelson's: It Really Is (Still) All That!

My mouth had been watering for 2+ weeks thinking about having a Nelsons chicken-fried steak (CFS) again. With the dreamy gravy on top of real mashed potatoes...... So it was with much anticipation that I picked up my friend and drove just barely under the speed limit to get to the new location of Nelson's Ranch House at 1547 E. 3rd. We purposely left to get there before noon (which we did) only to find the parking lot already jammed. Fortunately, several people were leaving as well as coming, so I felt lucky to get a parking spot quickly.

I loved the welcoming sign painted on the glass door: Hello Chicken Fried! Woohoo! When we walked into the crowded restaurant, I looked around, saw a waitress writing up a guest check, then saw the familiar line and quickly ran over to get in it. It all came back to me how it's done at Nelsons: you go through the line, get your plate of food, find a seat then the waitress will bring you your silverware, drink and later check to see whether or not you want any of their divine pie, made by Rogers mother (if there is any left).

My eating companion had never eaten at the old Nelsons. Not only that, she'd never even had a chicken fried steak before. Shocking as it is, I couldn't think of a better place to introduce her to this fabulous meal. As we stood in line, we saw a sign on the wall that issued the warning: be ready to order! I'd forgotten about that rule. It can produce a little anxiety to the first-timer, so to help you out a little, here is a run-down of the menu:
These entrees come with 2 sides and your choice of roll or cornbread:
Chicken Fried Steak
Pan Fried Steak
Chicken Fried Chicken
Grilled Chicken Breast

Sandwiches - Served with one side
French Dip
Pan Fried Steak
Chicken Fried Steak
Chicken Fried Chicken
Grilled Chicken Breast
Brown Bag Special - Egg or Ham Salad with Chips

Mashed Potato, Green Beans, Fried Okra, Mac N Cheese, Baked Beans, Spinach
Coleslaw, Pasta Salad, Broccoli Salad, Tossed Salad

The special of the day when we went was Meat Loaf. I'm told that the Chicken & Dressing made on Thursdays is beyond wonderful. On this day, the man in front of me wanted what I (and 99% of everyone else) wanted, and I watched with fond remembrance: cream gravy is spread on the plate, the CFS goes on top, then mashed potatoes, then more gravy. Then the plate is passed on for your bread and other side. When it was my turn, I blurted out "Do it again!" like I had done many times before, years ago, when I worked downtown.
The line moved fast. The food all looked and smelled divine. But, because this was my first time in 5 years to eat at Nelsons again, I simply had to have what I had been craving. Owner Nelson Rogers (who was working the food line)

pointed out to the seemingly non-stop orders of CFS that "people were missing out" on the other dishes on the line. Not to worry, I plan on returning again n the very near future. I think we all needed our fix first.

Since you cannot have CFS without mashed potatoes and cream gravy, that left me 1 other side choice, so I chose the fried okra (figured why not just be bad all the way around). My companion is a macaroni and cheese fanatic so I knew what she was getting. Both of us got our wheat roll and set out to find a place to sit. We ended up in a very interesting location next to the line and close to where we could hear the unique way that more food was requested from the kitchen: "Hello green beans!" "Hello gravy!!" The okra I got was made from fresh, not frozen, okra. You can just taste the difference. I could have eaten a plate of that alone. Everything was as I remembered. So immersed was I in my delirious food-haze, I almost completely forgot to get a photo of our food. Thankfully, my friend is a much slower eater than I am (OK she was talking while I was devouring):
Here is my plate:
As you can see, I was not disappointed. When our waitress came around the final time, she informed us that there wasn't much pie left and did we want any? We politely declined (this time) and my friend asked me if their pie was good. Um, yeah. It is.

On the way out, we stopped and looked at the newspaper clippings and old photos of days gone by. They have the sign that used to be out front:
Right now they are open for breakfast and lunch M-F however they will soon open for dinner on Fridays. We were told to call ahead (551-7601) to see, as it could happen any day.

It may not be downtown anymore, but I'm so very happy that it's back.

Hello Nelsons! Gosh, I've missed you.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Diamond Jacks

I have been a Diamond Jack's fan almost my entire life. The first DJ opened in 1965 in the Country Club Plaza at 51st and Harvard. It was around in the back, where Crawpappy's is now. The 1880's saloon motif has never changed, although the ownership did once.

I was around 7 yrs old when we started going and have therefore had a life-long love affair with their Drip Beef sandwiches. Back then I ate 1/2 of a sandwich and took the other half home or split it with my mom. I really can't remember if there was a kids menu or not. Just the sandwiches, the potato chips and the pickle. And the potato (or bean) salad, too. Yum.


In 1967 Diamond Jacks expanded and opened a second restaurant over in Southroads Mall. In 1989 it changed hands and in 1990 it was the only DJ in Tulsa when the one in the CCP closed. The restaurant was forced to move in 1994 to to the 51st location:

And in 2008 they were forced again to move, this time to their current location at 7031 S. Zurich. Wherever they go, I shall follow!

click to enlarge

I've rarely strayed off the Drip Beef path. My mother was a fan of the Italian Rich Boy and the Diamond Lil. This is one of my hub's favorite, a Reuben
I'm not a big mustard person, but they have a "house mustard" that is just divine. It doesn't even taste like the American mustard we are used to. I now use copious amounts of that on my drip beef. There are squeeze bottles of it on the tables. Try it just once and let me know what you think.

I love that the owners have been able to keep the chandelier from the original restaurant in Country Club Plaza; it hangs in the main dining area. And the door pulls as well as the chandelier over the bar are from the Southroads location. Speaking of bars, it's too bad they couldn't bring that great bar that was also from the Southroads location, but I can see why. There was just no place to put it and the bar that's there now is very functional.

I'm just glad to see they -and their delicious sandwiches- are still around.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Milkman Cometh

Remember the milk man? He came to our house in the dark of night/early morning and left whatever had been ordered in the metal milk box by the back door.

Of course, milk came in glass bottles at that time, and he would take the empties and replace them with fresh milk and whatever else was ordered. When we moved “out in the country” it was probably more necessary than ever to have milk delivered, since grocery stores hadn’t yet been built all the way out at 51st and Memorial. I suspect ours came from the Meadow Gold plant that was located at 51st and Garnett.

Dairy farming was abundant around Tulsa and has been for decades. There were 9 dairy plants operating in Tulsa in the late 1940s. This is the Pure White Dairy Company off Highway 64:

The Farm shopping center was actually a real dairy farm. This is the Tyrrell dairy farm.

Before it was called Meadow Gold, it was called the Oklahoma Dairy Company (for more history on this company, see the comment section)

The Dairy Council was very active in promoting their products. From displays such as this in 1937- (that is a butter sculpture there!) Dairy Princess Parades. This is 6th and Boston, 1961:
Another popular dairy company for many years in Tulsa was Hawks Dairy.

It was headquartered on the northeast corner of 11th and Lewis where products were processed and the truck fleet was located.

When their building was built in 1947-48 it included a retail outlet which, of course, sold ice cream on a cone and was very popular. Hawk’s dairy farm was located in Owasso and their products were sold in grocery stores in the surrounding states. Here is my Mom hawking Hawks (probably for a Sipes ad) in the early 1950s.The company closed in 1961.