The Rock Cafe in Stroud was destroyed by fire – you can see all the stories, photos and videos at www.newsok.com. But this is how I want to remember the landmark – a place where a group of Norwegians become instant friends with bikers from Hawaii. They gathered at the Rock Cafe because it reminded them of the America that’s continuing to disappear either to fires, floods, the deaths of their owners or the unabated explosion of big box retail and architecture.
I took my boys to the Jenks Acquarium during spring break and had to decide whether to take them to the Rock Cafe or another Route 66 landmark, Ollies. I chose Ollies, where they had a great time. But it’s a bittersweet decision for me now – they’re big fans of the movie “Cars” and those napkin sketches by the Pixar guys are gone forever, as is the uniqueness of the building itself.
Here’s what I wrote last summer during a tour of Route 66:
The flow of customers seems endless at Dawn Welch’s Rock Cafe in Stroud. Welch has become a celebrity, thanks to last year’s hit animated movie “Cars.” Wallis, an adviser on the Route 66 tribute movie, voiced the sheriff’s character, while the role of town booster “Sally” was inspired by Welch’s determination to make her restaurant and town standouts on the Route 66 map.
Whenever Wallis makes a stop at the Rock Cafe, he calls ahead. Beverly Thomas, the cafe‘s manager, appreciates the warning, because they always have to make an Oatmeal Pie (a “poor man’s pecan pie”) for Wallis to bring back home.
“She’s a good little business woman … Dawn really knows how to run that business and get people in there,” Wallis said. “And when I say gimmick, I don’t mean gimmicky; I don’t mean it in a negative sense. I mean it in a smart business sense”
Wallis calls Welch’s Rock Cafe an example of a classic Route 66 success story, calling her business “authentic, genuine and unpredictable.”
Notes from the road:
Every inch of the restroom in the ancient Rock Cafe is covered with graffiti. Seemingly all of it is free of any obscenities or hatred — just good natured greetings and sign-offs by travelers leaving their mark. At Waylan’s KuKu in Miami, one sees the last surviving restaurant of a burger chain that boasted 200 locations. The restaurant is designed to resemble a kuku clock, and its owner is on the job throughout the day. Children delight at carrying off meals in boxes designed to look like classic cars from the 1950s.
“That unpredictable factor is what separates it from what is very predictable: that super-slab a few miles over,” Wallis said. “It’s my least favorite ride from Oklahoma City to Tulsa, where you are literally separated from the ecology of the land and you might as well be riding on a runway.”
Tom Elmore picks up on an old thread at www.okctalk.com today about the old railway depots downtown, and also recalls how railroad buffs who helped fight for preservation of the Walnut Avenue bridge weren’t invited to the grand opening of the rebuilt structure that links Bricktown and Deep Deuce.
I remember that day very well. City officials also chose to ignore the efforts of preservationists like Randy Floyd, who put in tremendous amounts of time fighting an effort by then City Engineer Paul Brum to raze the bridge and replace it with an at-grade crossing.
The city instead chose that day to honor Dr. G.E. Finley, who was a leader in nearby Deep Deuce but had nothing to do with the bridge’s history or preservation.
It was said that Paul Brum was more powerful than than the mayor or city manager. And while not naming names, I heard two mayors say just that. During my stint covering City Hall, it was always interesting to see projects like the new roads and intersections serving the Belle Isle shopping center completed rather quickly, while other projects – like the bridge and the conversion of downtown streets to two ways (now getting done eight years after they scheduled) drag on and on.
Were folks like Tom and Randy left off the guest list on purpose? It’s history now, but I wonder if it would be any different today?
And one last thought: over the years we’ve seen a small group of people fight to preserve landmark properties that weren’t always popular with the masses. While it seems everyone loves the Skirvin, attitudes were mixed on the Gold Dome (saved), the Walnut Avenue Bridge (saved), and the old YMCA (lost forever).
The names of the “building huggers” include Randy Floyd, Michael Smith, Marva Ellard, Todd Scott (he has since moved away), and Lisa Chronister (whom I also believe has moved away).
They’ve been quiet lately, and Randy Floyd, Michael Smith and Marva Ellard have all transitioned from protesting demolitions to redeveloping old properties.
Will a new generation rise up to take their place? Expect some properties with significant histories to be targeted for demolition soon. The question is, will anyone speak out?
The new Kansas City Sprint Center arena on Wednesday, March 12, 2008, in downtown Kansas City, Mo. The new $276 million arena seats more than 18,000 people and has 72 suites. BY CHRIS LANDSBERGER, THE OKLAHOMAN
The last time I visited downtown Kansas City was eight years ago. I was, to be blunt, bored. I was attending a convention, and downtown was simply dull day and night. I had to drive to Crown Plaza to have some fun. Putting all bias aside, I swear downtown OKC even then was far more enjoyable to visit.
But Kansas City is changing. And in light of a package of stories done by the Kansas City Star which I referred to in today’s Main Street column, it’s appropriate to begin my second You Tube downtown tour with a stop in Kansas City.
They have a new arena. It’s sharp, and yet OKC is staying in the fight for hosting Big 12 basketball tournaments. But Kansas City also has the Power and Light district coming up – and the city is really exploding with downtown housing.
So let’s begin our tour….
I’m not sure how some do it, this day to day blogging. Just four months into this new role and I’m amazed at how some, like Charles Hill at Dustbury and Michael Bates at Batesline have kept their blogs updated day to day, year after year.
Not sure what to share with you today. The new Devon Tower project is progressing rapidly. I’m seeing more and more sales activities in just about every sector of downtown Oklahoma City. Yes, we’re going to see more housing projects announced. Yes, I expect we’ll hear some more hotel projects announced. Yes, more restaurants will open. Yes, more restaurants will close. Yes, I expect we’ll see some sort of limited grocery open downtown. No, it probably won’t meet everyone’s expectations. Yes, the is getting pretty serious about developing Core to Shore.
Yes, I’ll likely remain busy throughout the year and next.
But it really is time for me to hit the road, to reconnect with some Main Street communities across the state (my last trip was in June, 2007 – way too long a gap). It’s also been too long since my trip to Tulsa (September, 2007).
Of course, you’re not checking in to hear all this, right? So I’ll give you some intriguing “cliffhangers” that a lot of people are eagerly awaiting to see resolved:
1. Will SandRidge seek to tear down the Braniff Buildings?
2. Will SandRidge and Devon Energy attempt to buy city-owned garages, and if so, how will that change downtown parking supply?
3. Why is Nicholas Preftakes buying up chunks of properties at Sheridan and Hudson? Will Chip Fudge succeed in his efforts to redevelop Film Row? Will the city get aggressive in prompting Bricktown property owners to take the district to the next level?
4. Will the Urban Renewal Authority allow Randy Hogan to proceed with plans for a one-story building on one of the last undeveloped spots along the Bricktown Canal in Lower Bricktown?
5. Will the city find a consultant with new ideas?
6. Will the Sonics come this year, next year, 2010 or never?
7. What will rand Elliott’s plans be for Kerr Park?
8. Will it rain on Wednesday’s downtown Farmers Market?
9. What will Devon Energy do to improve the Myriad Gardens?
10. Will this blog, now ranked No. 2 among all of the NewsOk blogs, ever top the Nerd blog authored by Matthew Price?
I had to work late Thursday, covering the grand opening of Block 42. Below, soon-to-be resident Dick Rodine shows off the view to former Mayor Kirk Humphreys.
More views of the Rodine residence:
All smiles for developer Grant Humphreys. His next project: the Flatiron.
“Oscar” greets visitors and residents as they enter into the main lobby of Block 42.
Read the paper tomorrow and visit www.newsok.com. Maybe I’ll have something fun to share with you.
Here’s the latest from Downtown OKC Inc:
Yard Dawgz this Saturday
OKC Yard Dawgz vs Iowa Barnstormers
May 17, 2008
5:30 PM – Fan Fest on Reno
7:05 PM – Kick off
Ladies Night (special giveaways to celebrate Mother’s Day)
Compassionate Care Hospice proud Yard Dawgz sponsor
Tickets starting as low as $10 each! Call 228-3294 to reserve your tickets today!
Camille Harp Today at SoundBites in the Park!
SoundBites concerts happen Fridays in May and June from 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. in Couch Park, located between Broadway and Robinson at Robert S. Kerr, adjacent to Kerr Park.
SoundBites concerts include:
May 16….Camille Harp
May 23….Horseshoe Road
May 30….Starkweather Boys
June 6…..Shakespearean Afternoon Delight by Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park June 13…..Aranda
June 20…..Groove Merchants/SoundBites at Sunset 4:30 – 6:30
Hungry downtowners are encouraged to visit one of the many fine SoundBites restaurant partners to grab a lunch to go and enjoy the tunes. These restaurant partners are offering a special $5 “SoundBites2Go” lunch special! Couch Park features tables with umbrellas and cozy shaded seating areas and is the perfect spot for a midday Downtown retreat from the office.
To take advantage of the SoundBites2Go $5 lunch specials, visit the following:
Quizno’s………………110 N. Robinson….232-7773
Sub Stop……………..120 N Robinson…..232-3332
Interurban……………..204 N. Robinson….235-4448
City Bites……………..211 N. Robinson….232-3322
Ground Floor Café…..211 N. Robinson….232-2233
Crave……………………211 N. Robinson…..606-6691
SoundBites in the Park is presented by the Downtown Oklahoma City Business Improvement District, managed by Downtown Oklahoma City, Inc.
For more information regarding SoundBites in the Park or the BID, contact Downtown Oklahoma City Inc. at (405) 235-3500.
Untitled [ArtSpace] Features installation by Narciso Argüelles With works by Luis Jiménez and Joe Ramiro Garcia through June 28
Narciso Argüelles grew up on both sides of the US and Mexican border and developed the issues surrounding that divide installation at Untitled [ArtSpace],
Narciso Argüelles collaborated with the internationally known Border Art Workshop/Taller de Arte Fronterizo while an undergraduate student at the University of California, San Diego. He currently teaches at the University of Central Oklahoma and creates art that deals with Chicano issues.
Luis Jiménez, who died in 2006, was a sculptor who is most locally known for his eight-foot-high sculpture Mesteño (Mustang) whose glowing red eyes stare out from the edge of the University of Oklahoma campus. He was killed while working on a larger version of the Mustang for the Denver International Airport. His large fiberglass sculptures, paintings, and prints were often controversial and centered around Southwestern and Hispanic imagery. His work is included in many museum collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Chicago Art Institute, the National Museum of American Art in Washington, DC, the Centro Cultural Arte Contemporaneo in Mexico, the National Collection of Fine Arts Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Untitled [ArtSpace] is a not-for-profit arts organization in downtown Oklahoma City committed to stimulating new ideas and creative thought through contemporary art. Untitled ArtSpace’s exhibitions are f*r*e*e and open to the public Tues-Thurs 11 am–6 pm, Fri 11 am–8 pm, and Sat 11 am–4 pm.
For more information about Untitled [ArtSpace] visit 1ne3.org or call 405.815.9995.
Tickets are on sale for this weekend’s Oklahoma-Oklahoma State baseball games at AT&T Bricktown Ballpark. The Oklahoma City games are May 17 at 7:35 p.m. and May 18 at 4 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at The Brick’s ticket office, by phone or online by clicking here
The ticket office is currently open Monday-Friday from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Tickets are also available by phone at 405-218-1000 during ticket office hours or by calling 1-866-698-4253.
In case you missed it, I got to visit a pretty hip new downtown cafe last week (and by hip, I mean, can you dig it?). Read the story here.