Mapping History

Reading maps was a skill they once tested in a final section of the standardized tests I took in grade school in the 1970s. That section of the tests always struck me as ludicrously simple, as I had grown up poring over road maps on our automobile journeys.

My parents kept a pile of road maps in the glovebox of the car. Each year we would stop at a tourist center and get the latest state map, and I enjoyed spotting changes as the road network evolved. I would also compare the population figures for various cities to see if they had changed.

I moved to Bartlesville in 1989, and one aspect of its history which interests me is how the city grew rapidly in the 1910s and 1950s but has grown relatively little since 1980.

I will use that as a way to illustrate the map resources I have collected about the Bartlesville region, how you can access them, and provide tips on how you might search for similar resources for areas that interest you.

Early Maps

If you are lucky, you might find an old panoramic map. Thaddeus Mortimer Fowler of Fowler & Kelly of Passaic, New Jersey published such a map of Bartlesville in 1917, near the end of its early growth spurt.

Bartlesville in 1917

Fowler was known for his panoramic maps, and the Library of Congress has an extensive collection of his and others’ works. There is a page that lets you search them by state, and for Oklahoma they had Guthrie in 1890, Ardmore, Fort Reno, and Edmond in 1891, and Tulsa in 1918, along with the 1917 one of Bartlesville.

I have annotated the 1917 panoramic map in high resolution to illustrate twenty prominent structures, most of which no longer exist:

In Fowler’s panorama, Bartlesville is depicted from Comanche Avenue on the east to the Osage county line to the west, and from First Street south to Thirteenth. Below I’ve shown that as a trapezoid overlaid on the city’s current boundaries.

The 1917 drawing’s limits compared to today’s city limits

When creating the above map, I wasn’t satisfied with the available views in Google Maps, Google’s My Maps, or Google Earth, nor Bing Maps. I wanted a view that stressed the city limits, while providing a hint of the street grid and topography. An easy way to annotate the map with my trapezoid would be a bonus.

So I used the City of Bartlesville’s Geographic Information System. I loaded the online map using my desktop computer’s web browser and then adjusted the layers to turn off World Imagery and turn on World Topo w/o labels. Then I used the system’s built-in drawing tools to superimpose my trapezoid. A big advantage of doing it within the mapping system, rather than as an overlay on a static image, is that your drawing will scale with the map if you adjust the view.

You can search for similar mapping systems on city and county websites. Bartlesville uses ArcGIS Online, from Esri. You can access many free maps with the ArcGIS Explorer.

Neighborhoods and Subdivisions

Another way to illustrate the city’s early growth is to compare the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps which are also in the Library of Congress. There were several of them from 1904 to 1920, and I downloaded all of them in high resolution and compiled each set into a PDF:

To see the impact of the boom in the 1910s, we can compare the map of 1909 to that of 1920. The city’s population grew from 6,181 in 1910 to 14,417 in 1920. The 1909 map covers roughly 2.5 square miles, while the 1920 map covers roughly 3.2 square miles.

The maps show that new housing additions that decade that were northwest of the railroad included the Commercial Club, National Zinc Company, Bartlesville Zinc Company, Mound, Keller’s, Cass, Mountain View, Taylor’s Midway, Overlee’s 3rd, Parkview, Industrial, and Park Grove additions.

You might wonder about the Commercial Club and zinc company additions. Three zinc smelters were operating by 1907. The Commercial Club, the predecessor of the Chamber of Commerce, realized housing would be needed and purchased ten acres six blocks north of the initial Lanyon-Starr smelter. The land was divided into 50×125 foot lots and inexpensive frame homes were constructed to sell to smelter workers at $100 each.

Smelter information from The Interurban Railroad booklet by the Bartlesville Area History Museum

The smelter worker communities of Fly Point and Mosquito Row/Skeeter Row were north of the mound in a swampy area, hence their colorful names. My guess is those correspond to the Cass and Mountain View additions.

Additional smelter communities were Smelter Town, Border Town, and Frog Hollow amidst the smelter operations, and Rag Row or Pruneville just south of the smelters. Pruneville got its name from liquor that Polish immigrants made using prunes.

The maps also show how the city grew southward with the Grandview and Belle Meade additions. Belle Meade was originally a mansion constructed by Harold and Zora Lannom around statehood at what is now 14th & Hickory. The mansion, named after the French translation for “beautiful meadow” and which served as inspiration for the later Frank Phillips mansion in town, burned in 1926. It was constructed on 500 acres formed from the Cherokee land allotments of Zora Swafford Lannom and her children.

Finally, the maps show how the city also grew to the northeast with the Armstrong’s 4th, Lucinda Armstrong, Washington Terrace, Capitol Hill, Plumber & Barkers, and Parr & Harnett additions.

We tend to think of cities in terms of neighborhoods, and the local Chamber of Commerce has a map of them in the modern era.

Bartlesville Neighborhoods

But you can get far more detail by focusing on the actual housing additions. You can map all of their modern-day boundaries in the city’s Geographic Information System by clicking on the layers icon, opening CityMaps and turning on Subdivision outlines.

The city map with the Subdivision outlines shown

As an example of the detail you can obtain, Wendy and I live in one of the Arrowhead Acres additions in the southeast part of the city. See the blue square I drew on the above map? Below is what you see if you zoom in on that in the city’s online mapping system.

We live in one of the Arrowhead Acres subdivisions, which were developed from

And you can get even more granular by zooming in even closer and turning on the LandRecords_property outline layer. You can then click on a property to view the more detailed public information about it, including the name of the property owner, its area, when it was last sold, how much it sold for, and the recent land, improvements, and total valuations.

The mapping system is useful in other ways. I’m thinking about adding some fencing along two sides of our lot. Rather than pace it off, a few clicks of the mouse told me that would take about 200 feet of fencing.


Wendy and I live in the former Cooweescoowee District of the Cherokee Nation in what was once Indian Territory. So this land went through an allotment process just before statehood. Each member of the tribe received an 80-acre allotment and an equalization payment from the sale of excess land, with individuals selecting 40 acres of their allotments as a homestead. I’ve collected the Dawes Act Cherokee Nation Allotment maps for Bartlesville and the areas north to the Kansas border.

But to use those, you need to know the Township, Range, and Section of the property in question. And for a little lot like ours, which quarter of which quarter-section to focus in on. I like Randy Majors’ Oklahoma Section Township Range map, which lets you locate an area of interest in Google Maps and get the relevant information. For example, to look up our land, I clicked on our house in his map and it told me that we live in the SW quarter of the NW quarter of Section 22, Township 26 North, Range 13 East of the Indian Principal Meridian in Oklahoma.

The Cherokee Nation Allotment map for our township and range

Then I looked at the Township 26 North Range 13 East allotment map and located Section 22. I’ve outlined the northwest quarter of that section in yellow. It shows allotments to Joseph Sturdivant, Harry Arnold, and three smaller ones.

Then we look for the southwest quarter of that quarter-section, which I’ve outlined in orange. And that is the lower half of the allotment to Joseph Sturdivant. Success!

The Oklahoma Historical Society has an extensive online collection of maps, but it can be a challenge to navigate. Here is how to obtain additional American Indian allotment maps for Oklahoma:

  1. Go to
  2. In the left sidebar, scroll down to select Search the Online Catalog
  3. Select Archives Catalog
  4. Select the ▶ next to Core Collections at the bottom
  5. Select American Indian Archives; it will be slow to load the next screen, so be patient
  6. In the left sidebar, click the + sign next to Maps
  7. Select the + sign next to tribe of interest, such as Cherokee Nation Maps
  8. Find a map, such as Map of Cherokee Nation township # north, range # east using the township and range numbers you determine using the locator
  9. Click the PDF icon at the bottom to load the map in question

Later Plats

Plat maps sometimes just show the lots when a town was initially laid out. I’ve collected those for Washington County, Oklahoma. But those are not nearly as interesting as plat maps which, like the above allotment maps, show who owned the land outside of city limits. Sometimes you can locate such plats from various points in history.

For example, I’ve recently been digitally archiving records that were in deep storage at the administrative building for the school district where I work. One thing I found was a school district boundary map from between 1947 and 1961. It was drawn atop an old plat map which I then annotated with mile street labels.

Old school district boundary map drawn atop an older property plat map

If you study the underlying map, you can see T. 26 N. on the left edge for Township 26 North, and the numbers in each square mile are the section numbers. So if I look in the SW quarter of the NW quarter of Section 22 (in Range 13) I see that the land once allotted to Joseph Sturdivant was later owned by J.A. Beall with some carveouts to the northeast for H. Bowen and J.W. Coke, et al.

How do you find such maps? Well, a Facebook friend asked me to let him know if I ever came across a similar plat map for the area around Copan, a town north of here. I knew that Oklahoma State University maintains an extensive online map collection. So I searched through all of their maps involving Bartlesville and found a 1960 map by Phillips Petroleum that showed pre-1950 plat ownerships for the areas outside the city limits of Bartlesville, Dewey, Copan, and Wann. Bingo! Saving links to good sources and some perseverance can pay off. And by the way, that map showed that a M. Cunningham once owned over half of the mile section where we live, including our little city lot.

Back to Bartlesville’s Growth

Okay, let’s circle back to mapping Bartlesville’s historical growth. The other big growth spurt was in the 1950s. That forced the development of land that was not contiguous, as Bartlesville was bounded by the Caney River flood zone to the north and east and the Eliza and Sand Creek flood zones to the west and south. Another map handily illustrates what I mean:

Bartlesville was constrained by flood zones

I got that via the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Flood Hazard Layer ArcGIS Viewer.

I marked the narrowing of the Caney River flood zone northeast of Bartlesville’s downtown with Tuxedo, as that is where Tuxedo Boulevard runs eastward to the old unincorporated namesake community. My father was born in Dewey, the town just north of Bartlesville, and lived there until his family moved to Kansas when he was eleven. He could remember how the Caney River would often flood, cutting off the Bartles Road (now Highway 123) from Dewey to Bartlesville.

My father’s family would then roughly follow the route of the old interurban railway which ran between Bartlesville and Dewey from 1908 to 1920. They would head south to the high ground of Tuxedo and then turn west to follow the Tuxedo road into Bartlesville.

The unincorporated Tuxedo community was on higher ground and is evident by the density of plats;
there were three schools east of Bartlesville that impacted its development

One obvious solution to building more housing was to jump across the Caney and build housing near the unincorporated area of Tuxedo and the ranch lands south of there. A school for the Tuxedo area called Highland Park had existed since 1909 and its district had been annexed into the Bartlesville schools in 1930.

A Limestone Prairie dependent school district existed south of there. Dependent districts in Oklahoma often only offer elementary and sometimes middle school grades, with older students traveling to independent districts. A one-room Prairie School had operated from 1907-1939 southeast of Highland Park, while a couple miles south of Highland Park was the Limestone School which had grown in 1939 into a three-room school with an auditorium. So one might expect new housing to concentrate around those areas.

That was confirmed by the historical city street maps in the Oklahoma Digital Map Collection at Oklahoma State University. A 1950 Bartlesville street map shows three developments east of the Caney River: Tuxedo, Limestone, and Prairie Heights.

By 1950, three areas east of the Caney had housing additions

Those areas developed over the 1950s, along with the isolated development of Oak Park northwest of Bartlesville on high ground north of the Butler Creek flood zone. A 1960 street map shows various additions that sprang up.

Housing additions east of the Caney River in 1960

I have labeled most of the new subdivisions. The developers of the land beyond the floodplain usually emphasized altitude: Pennington Hills, Prairie Heights, Sivalls Heights, Crestview Heights, Oak Ridge Heights, Limestone Heights, Hillcrest Heights, and Washington Highlands. Only one subdivision, just northwest of where I live now, had the temerity to dig down and proclaim itself Beall Valley.

Bartlesville’s growth continued through the 1960s and 1970s, albeit tempered by the nationwide baby bust that began in the mid-1960s. A 1976 street map shows how east Bartlesville continued to fill in.

New additions between 1960 and 1976

Woodland Park crossed a brook to add several more additions southwest of its original area. Arrowhead Acres and Colonial Estates began with their initial additions. And there was one major new addition west of the Caney: Circle Mountain Estates up on one of the Osage foothills.

Here is how things had filled out over the next decade as shown on a 1987 street map:

New additions between 1976 and 1987

But the 1980s also brought a big oil bust that brought most development to a halt. There were 34,568 people in Bartlesville in 1980, and only 34,256 in 1990.

I purchased my home in the 5th addition of Arrowhead Acres in 1994. It had been built in 1981 as one of the last tract houses Bobby Hindman built in the addition before the bust, as evidenced by the drywall in a closet. It is inscribed, “Another Hindman Home, Drywall by the Hands of Barnhart, Sept 1981” and a handprint.

Wendy and I routinely drive through the 6th and 7th additions of Arrowhead Acres to reach Meador Manor, but those streets were vacant when I bought the house in 1994 and only gradually filled in over the following 20 years with custom-built homes.

Bartlesville only grew by 1.4% in the 1990s, 2.9% in the 2000s, and 4.3% in the 2010s. So let’s see what caught my eye as new additions over almost thirty years between 1987 and 2015:

New additions between 1987 and 2015

I watched the two additions closest to me, Southern Hills and Covington Park build out, although they never filled in completely. There are still a dozen lots without houses in Southern Hills and a half-dozen empty lots in Covington Park.

As I write this in 2023, there are a few additions in development: Park Place near Wayside School, Bison Trails northwest of Bison & Nowata Roads, and Stone Branch between Parkhill and Prairie Ridge north of Tuxedo Blvd. So Bartlesville continues to gradually fill in east of the Caney River between Coon Creek on the north and Rice Creek on the south, with only the Covington Park and Southport additions southeast of Rice Creek.

Below is a wider view of the floodzones map, showing that there remains plenty of room to grow to the east if needed.

Bartlesville grew east of the Caney River between Coon Creek to the north and Rice Creek to the south

Can you tell just how much I love maps? I close with a link to all of the maps I’ve mentioned, along with additional maps I’ve collected of Washington County:

But bear in mind this cautionary note from Herman Melville, when Ishmael wrote of his shipmate:

Queequeg was a native of Rokovoko, an island far away to the West and South. It is not down in any map; true places never are.

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Route 66 versus I-44

Our cabin in Missouri

I grew up in Oklahoma City, and when I was little my parents purchased a cabin on Table Rock Lake in the Ozarks of far southwestern Missouri.

That second home was the destination for most of our vacations from 1968 to 1984. Getting there took a long time from the perspective of a child, so I also have vivid memories of the long drive along this route:

A route I traversed throughout my childhood

That trip originally took about four-and-a-half hours of driving time, which lengthened by an hour when I was in second grade. The Arab oil embargo hit, and to conserve fuel highway speed limits were lowered to 55 miles per hour. That cap held until 1987, by which time I was halfway through my undergraduate studies in college.

The trip would have been even longer had we chosen a more famous road over Interstate 44.

Route 66

The most famous highway in Oklahoma is U.S. Route 66, which was established in 1926. Cyrus Avery of Tulsa championed the development of the route from Chicago to Los Angeles, and it would enter popular culture.

John Steinbeck called it the “Mother Road” in his 1939 novel The Grapes of Wrath. The highway spawned a hit song in 1946, a 1960s television series, and more. I was certainly aware of it, as I lived only blocks away while in grades 1-12.

A century ago, the rapid growth of automobiles created a demand for better roads. Oklahoma had 15,000 cars and trucks in 1914 and over half a million by 1926. The dilemma is clear when you look at the 1925 state highway map.

In the excerpt below I’ve outlined original Oklahoma Route 7 from Edmond, north of Oklahoma City, running northeast to Tulsa and Vinita. The route connecting Oklahoma’s two major cities was still graded dirt from Arcadia to Sapulpa, and again just graded dirt northeast of Tulsa from Claremore to Vinita and Afton before it became a paved road heading north to the mining district around Miami.

In 1925, much of what would become Route 66 through Oklahoma was still graded dirt roads
Cyrus Avery

Cyrus Avery was a businessman with experience in insurance, real estate, oil and gas, and farming. He successfully pushed to bring water from Spavinaw Creek, where he had lived briefly as a teenager, to Tulsa, which ensured its future. He was also an advocate for better roads and responsible for the construction of the Eleventh Street Bridge over the Arkansas River in Tulsa, which was completed in 1915. Avery was appointed to the state highway commission in 1923 and implemented a gas tax. In 1925, he was appointed to the federal Joint Board of Interstate Highways.

Congress had requested a route from Virginia Beach, Virginia to Los Angeles, California. Avery successfully argued that to avoid the high peaks of the Rocky Mountains the road should not cross Kansas but turn south through Tulsa and Oklahoma City and then head west through the Texas Panhandle. He also persuaded the board that a highway was needed along the flow of commerce northeast from Springfield, Missouri through St. Louis to Chicago.

Avery wanted the Chicago-to-LA route numbered 60 in the new numbering scheme, but Kentucky would have been left without a major numbered highway in the overall scheme, and pushed to have 60 designated from Virginia Beach to Springfield and Avery’s route numbered 62. He disliked that number, and instead chose 66, which was ratified by Congress in 1926.

In 1927, Avery pushed for the creation of the U.S. Highway 66 Association to promote paving the route end-to-end and tourism along it. It took a decade to realize that ambition, with it paved from Oklahoma City to Vinita by 1933, the entire way through Oklahoma by 1937, and end-to-end by 1938.

Bronze of Cyrus at the Cyrus Avery Centennial Plaza on Route 66 in Tulsa

Sadly, Cyrus Avery lost much of his money in the Great Depression. He was unsuccessful in a 1940s race for Tulsa County Commissioner, and a son died suddenly in his 30s. At nearly 80, Cy Avery took a sales job with Lock-Joint, the company that had made the pipe connecting Spavinaw to Tulsa. But through it all, he remained upbeat. On his 85th birthday, Avery remarked, “I’m just a little guy, but I like Oklahoma and this region. I appreciate all the kindness that has been shown me.” He passed away at age 91, while living with his daughter in California…at the end of Route 66.

One of the most popular road songs ever written, Get Your Kicks on Route 66, was penned by jazz musician Bobby Troup in 1946 while driving west to seek his fortune in LA. He credited his former wife, Cynthia, for the half dozen words of the title and refrain. I grew up watching Bobby portray Dr. Joe Early in the television show Emergency! which also starred his second wife, singer Julie London, as nurse Dixie McCall. Here is Bobby singing and performing his song at his second wife’s show in Japan in 1964:

Pianist, singer, and actor Bobby Troup performing his song

It was Nat King Cole who made the song a hit back in 1946, but I would have loved it had Johnny Gage and Roy DeSoto called Rampart Hospital between calls to have Dr. Early and Nurse McCall sing about getting their kicks on Route 66.

In 1990, author Michael Wallis wrote Route 66: The Mother Road, and his distinctive presence and voice are now inextricably linked in my mind with the old road. Watch the next clip to see what I mean:

You can watch the entire 1994 video here.

Route 66 has various alignments over the years. Here is an online map of its pathways in the Sooner State.

Old 66 was replete with tourist traps, motor courts, and Americana. But the narrow two-lane highway couldn’t keep up with America’s growing car culture. The construction of the new Interstate Highway System began in the mid 1950s and by 1970 Route 66 had been bypassed by interstates 55, 44, 40, 15, and 10. It was decommissioned in 1985.

Oklahoma has more drivable miles of Route 66 than any other state, and our family could have taken old Route 66 from Oklahoma City all the way to Vinita before veering off to the Ozarks. But we avoided the road, which was old, slow, and free. Instead we paid to drive on the state’s first turnpikes along Interstate 44.

Although it was bypassed by Interstate 44 decades ago, you can still drive old Route 66 almost the entire way from OKC to Vinita

The Turner Turnpike

Governor Turner wrote this song which was released as a 78 rpm record in 1949

The Oklahoma Legislature authorized a turnpike from Oklahoma City to Tulsa in 1947, almost a decade before President Eisenhower and Congress launched the interstate highway system.

Roy J. Turner was the Governor of Oklahoma from 1947 to 1951. A group of Oklahoma City and Tulsa businessmen convinced him of the need for a four-lane divided highway between the state’s two major cities. Traffic studies back then determined that the average speed along Route 66 between the two was only 36 miles per hour.

An interesting thing about Governor Turner is that he wrote songs as a hobby. While he was in office, My Memory Trail was a 1949 single with Henry Jerome and His Orchestra and sung by Hal Barton. And during his term he also composed and published Oklahoma – When the Red Bud Blossoms Bloom.

Turner had established the 9,600 acre Hereford Heaven ranch five miles east of Sulphur in 1933, so I’m not surprised that he had earlier composed the song Hereford Heaven, which was sung by the Flying L Ranch Boys from nearby Davis: Slats, Shorty, Bill, Smiley, and Stumpy. I kid you not.

And yes, I tracked down a recording of them singing the song! Roy Rogers’ 1946 film, Home in Oklahoma, was filmed on the Bill Likins’ Flying L Ranch, and the ranch boys were featured. The song begins at the 53:20 mark in that old singing cowboy movie.

By the way, it was on the Flying L Ranch that Roy Rogers and Dale Evans were married on December 31, 1947. And the boys were there, singing Governor Turner’s songs before the nuptials, switching from “Hereford Heaven” and “Oklahoma Paradise” to “I Love You Truly” for when Roy walked in and “Here Comes the Bride” for Dale. Only in Oklahoma, folks, but it worked well, as Roy and Dale were married for the next half-century until Roy’s passing in 1998.

By the way, Turner’s famous 1936 international champion bull, Hazford Rupert 81st, could easily have been the model for the later portable statues they used to plant in front of the old Sirloin Stockade restaurants of my youth.

The governor’s turnpike was the first one built west of the Mississippi River. It had two 12-foot-wide asphalt lanes in each direction, separated by a low earthen berm that was 15-foot-wide. It stretched 88 miles from far northeastern Oklahoma City to southwestern Tulsa. They originally thought of making the speed limit 90 miles per hour but pulled that back to 70 by opening day.

Turner Turnpike in 1955, with a Howard Johnson’s counter-service cafe and Phillips 66 gas station pull-out

As research for this post, I purchased something special.

That quaint publication helped me recall that once there were pole-mounted reflectors on the side of the shoulders every 100 to 200 feet down the entire length of the turnpike, and every mile there was a number on a plate on a reflector pole. I couldn’t read in the car, as that made me carsick, so I remember planting my nose on the edge of the door and looking out a side window trying to guess when the next mile marker would go whizzing by. The old reflector and mileage marker poles are gone now, with the shoulders now imprinted with rumble strips down their lengths instead.

I also learned that the Turner had no concrete panels underneath the asphalt. Its “flexible paving design” consisted of 12 inches of compacted soil at the base, 7 inches of crushed stone with a soil binder above that, 3 inches of coarse asphalt above that, topped off with 2 inches of fine asphalt. The brochure includes both a model cross section as well as a cross-section drawing across the entire width of the turnpike. One thing about having to pay for the road is that the Turner’s surface has usually been kept in good shape, especially when compared to the free roads of Oklahoma, which are notorious for being poorly maintained.

I also learned that the H.E. Bailey turnpike, which I have driven many times from Oklahoma City to Lawton, was named after the engineer who was once the General Manager of the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority, and the Turner’s Hoback Plaza near Stroud was named for the authority’s former Chief Engineer.

The Turner Turnpike has gradually evolved over my lifetime. By 1997, the grassy center median had been completely replaced by concrete barriers. In 2017, 17 miles of the turnpike from the Tulsa end were widened to six lanes with lighting along the median and enough right of way purchased to allow even more lanes to be added in the future, such as truck-only lanes. Eventually the entire turnpike will be similarly widened to handled the ever-increasing traffic, but for now that project is, like many previous turnpike projects, stuck in the courts.

The original toll for a two-axle vehicle was $1.40 one-way, which would would be $15.72 in early 2023 when adjusted for inflation; the actual toll these days is $5 or less. Some people complain how the turnpike was supposed to become a free road after being paid off in 1991, but in 1954 cross-pledging began where any new work on the state’s system of turnpikes is paid off from tolls collected on all of them, and there are now a dozen state turnpikes. I don’t expect any of them to ever become free roads. If they did, they wouldn’t be maintained well.

Oklahoma’s turnpikes in 2023

The Turner Turnpike once included multiple rest stops as well as service plazas. Howard Johnson’s won the restaurant concession. The most prominent was built at mid-way near Stroud on the eastbound side, with an enclosed pedestrian overpass to a parking lot on the westbound side. Howard D. Johnson himself was at its opening in 1953 along with Phillips 66 dignitaries.

There was a Howard Johnson’s restaurant midway near Stroud, with an enclosed overpass to a parking lot for traffic flowing the other way
Phillips station on the Turner in 1953

There were also four counter-service cafes linked with Phillips 66 gas stations at Heyburn and Chandler. Phillips built the service areas and sublet the restaurant spaces to HoJo. The Howard Johnson chain peaked in the 1960s, but I have no memories of visiting them. Some of the smaller HoJo stops later became Stuckey’s, with a barrage of highway signs about pecan rolls and the like, but we seldom stopped at those, either.

My father did enjoy having coffee while driving to Tulsa, always packing a long green thermos. We sometimes pulled over at a small rest stop for him to take a sip. He sometimes wanted to enjoy some cheese and crackers, but my mother and I were always raring to keep going until we reached Tulsa where we could have lunch at a restaurant.

In 1985, the old HoJo near Stroud was slated for demolition and the midway service plaza was reworked into the Hoback Plaza, situated in an enlarged center median, with a McDonald’s and a separate gas station and convenience store. Now that plaza is only a stop for westbound traffic. For eastbound traffic, a new Chandler service plaza opened in 2020 with a McDonald’s, Back Forty BBQ, and EZ Go fuel and convenience store.

There used to be emergency telephones along the turnpike

In 1970, 18 emergency telephones were installed at nine locations along the turnpike. If you lifted the handset, a light would flash in the nearest toll booth indicating the location, and the attendant could answer. As a child, I was reassured to see them along the road, although by 1988, only one of them was actually working, and all of them were eventually removed.

There were manned toll booths at most entries and exits. The driver was handed a long IBM-style punch card. My father would often stow it behind one of the car’s sun visors. When exiting at a later toll booth, the card was given to the attendant, who would insert the card in a machine to ring up the charge and then tear off a perforated end which became your receipt.

The original Turner Turnpike toll plaza at Oklahoma City
An old punchcard receipt

I was fascinated by the punch cards, wondering what the various holes represented to the machine. My parents had to keep an eye on me to ensure I didn’t play with the card so much that the perforated receipt end would come loose.

The high cost of manning the toll booths 24 hours a day kept the number of turnpike entrances down. Originally there were only entrances at Oklahoma City, Chandler, Stroud, Bristow, Sapulpa, and Tulsa.

The Legislature approved a toll gate for Luther near OKC in 1971, but that was only built when the Kickapoo Turnpike came along in 2020. Years earlier an unmanned gate was added at Wellston to provide access to Route 66, making it easier to reach Arcadia east of Edmond with its historic round barn and Pops Soda Ranch. A gate was also eventually added at Kellyville in the eastern portion of the turnpike.

Some toll plazas had coin machines
An older PIKEPASS transponder

PIKEPASS, an electronic toll collection system, was initiated in 1991. It originally had a large transponder in a yellow plastic box that you affixed to the windshield with Velcro. Later boxes were white and smaller, and eventually those were replaced with small radio frequency identification stickers. I was gratified as the state gradually upgraded its turnpikes with dedicated PIKEPASS lanes which did not require one to slow down at all when zipping by a toll plaza.

In 2024, the Turner will go cashless and the last manned toll booths will close. The state already installed cameras for PlatePay along eight other turnpikes. They photograph drivers’ license plates with invoices sent to each vehicle’s registered owner. Since they will no longer need to man or maintain toll booths, the plan is to add entrances at N 3505 road at Davenport, S 481st Street at Depew, Post Road near Arcadia, Highway 102 at Wellston, Highway 16 near Bristow, Route 66 near Heyburn, and Highway 99 in Stroud.

It will be interesting to see access increase along the Turner from the original six points to sixteen. Little towns along Route 66 like Davenport and Depew, which withered after the turnpike opened, will see some impact, although I’m not sure if it will help as much as some might hope.

After I moved to Bartlesville in 1989, my journeys along the Turner continued for visits with my parents in Oklahoma City until 2022, when Dad passed away and Mom moved to Bartlesville. Now my trips along the Turner have been sharply curtailed. As for Route 66, I only took it the entire way between Tulsa and Edmond a few times over the decades, although after Pops Soda Ranch opened in 2007, I did occasionally travel along 66 from Edmond to Wellston.


On our trips to the cabin, we would reach Tulsa and drive along what was called the Skelly Bypass. Its first segment, from the Turner Turnpike to Utica, opened in 1953, and the entire bypass along the southeast edge of the city was finished by 1958. Its four-lane bridge over the Arkansas River was the first four-lane highway bridge in the state.

From the 1960 state highway map; Skelly Drive used to skirt the southeast edge of Tulsa

The bypass was named for Tulsa oilman W.G. Skelly. Skelly Drive had no median in those days, just a chain link fence down the middle. The perils were obvious, even to a child. Skelly Drive was notorious in other ways. Highway department employees later testified that they had faked lab tests of construction materials to accept items that did not meet specifications. Some items were double-billed, and private engineers who checked the road found over a half-million dollars in overpayments. A state highway commissioner from Claremore was charged with receiving kickbacks on sod. Those charges were dismissed on technicalities, but in typical Oklahoma fashion there is still a bridge in Catoosa named in his honor.

At Across the Street, you picked up a telephone in your booth to order

We often stopped in Tulsa for lunch. I remember stopping at an El Chico at 51st and Lewis. I also remember us pulling into a shopping center and my father going to one restaurant, my mother to another, and me ordering something at Across the Street and then us all meeting back up to eat our respective meals. I felt very mature getting to go to a restaurant and order by myself. Across the Street was a chain of restaurants where you ordered your food from a telephone in the booth.

The Will Rogers Turnpike

A second turnpike from Tulsa to Missouri was completed in 1957, and a year later the Will Rogers Turnpike and the Turner Turnpike were designated as part of Interstate 44. Like the Turner, the Will Rogers had a restaurant near its midway point, but it was even more impressive.

The Glass House Restaurant was built directly over the turnpike just southwest of Vinita, with full-service gas stations on each side initially operated by Conoco. It was the first bridge restaurant in the world and featured escalators that carried you up to a large restaurant that occupied over 20,000 square feet. It once had large aluminum shutters that used to turn throughout the day to shade the interior.

I thought it was nifty, although we didn’t stop there to eat very often. One time we ate there, we were all in shorts and it was very cold inside. We spread cloth napkins over our laps to stay warmer, and resorted to grabbing napkins off other tables to get more coverage.

In the mid-1970s, it became a Howard Johnson restaurant and later became the world’s largest McDonald’s of its day, although that was a bit misleading since the actual restaurant was normal-sized and they were counting the entire building which also had a souvenir shop, ice cream vendor, etc.

The facility was renovated in 2013-2014 and renamed the Will Rogers Archway, with a McDonald’s, a Subway, and Kum & Go convenience store and gas station. After I moved to Bartlesville in 1989, I would take US 60 eastward to visit the Ozarks, only popping onto the Will Rogers Turnpike between Vinita and Afton. The Glass House/Archway is southwest of there, while I was always headed northeast. So I haven’t visited it in many years.

The Will Rogers Archway after a 2014 renovation


We would exit the turnpike at the Afton exit, although Afton is southwest of there, and we almost always proceeded east on U.S. 60. A few times, however, my parents agreed to dip south to old Route 66 to take me to the Buffalo Ranch.

Russell and Aleene Kay opened it in 1953, with live buffalo, llamas, yaks, and peacocks roaming the grounds. There was a covered wagon and a stuffed buffalo you could sit on for a photo, and of course many souvenirs. They also served buffalo burgers, hamburgers, and hot dogs. The tourist trap closed in 1997 and is now just a convenience store.

The Rest of the Route

We rarely drove past the Afton exit on I-44, let alone Route 66. 66 heads up to the mining district around Miami and clips the southeastern corner of Kansas, while I-44 ducks into Missouri just barely missing an entry into Kansas. Route 66 and I-44 then roughly parallel each other onward northeast across Missouri to St. Louis. There I-44 terminates, while old 66 continued on to Chicago. A new freeway opened across Illinois in 1957 as a realignment of US 66, gaining the designation of I-55 in 1960.

As for tracing 66 west from Oklahoma City, Interstate 40 closely follows old 66. Wendy and I often travel along I-40 through Amarillo and past Tucumcari and Santa Rosa, New Mexico, but we seldom continue onward to Albuquerque, instead veering northwest to Santa Fe. The original 1926 alignment of 66 also veered off to the beautiful capital of New Mexico, but it was rerouted in 1937.

As for whether to travel what remains of Route 66 versus the various interstates, it’s your choice. There are lots of online resources about the various attractions along the way. Just bear this in mind:

Thanks to the Interstate Highway System, it is now possible to travel across the country from coast to coast without seeing anything.

Charles Kuralt
Posted in history, music, travel, video | 1 Comment

A break in Bella Vista

Wendy and I spent part of our Spring Break 2023 in Bella Vista, Arkansas. It is the northernmost of a chain of cities in the Northwest Arkansas metropolitan area, NWA, which has more than tripled in population during my lifetime.

NWA now has over 560,000 residents, with its high growth driven by three Fortune 500 companies which are based there: Walmart, Tyson Foods, and J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Inc. Those companies in turn have attracted over 1,300 suppliers and vendors.

For comparison, the city of Tulsa, Oklahoma is the nearest big city to Bartlesville, where we live. As of 2020 Tulsa had over 400,000 residents in a metropolitan area of just over a million people. Bartlesville is about 45 minutes north of Tulsa and has about 37,000 residents.

In my youth, my parents often took me to their cabin on Table Rock Lake in southwest Missouri. We visited Springdale, Arkansas a few times to eat at the AQ [Arkansas Quality] Chicken House. Springdale’s population has more than quadrupled since then, while Rogers to the north has sextupled, and Bentonville has exploded from 6,000 to almost 55,000 residents.

Wendy and I have been repeatedly drawn to Bentonville since Alice Walton opened her Crystal Bridges art museum there in 2011. The fastest route between Bentonville and Bartlesville flows through or around Bella Vista, which I have always known as a retirement community with a bunch of golf courses. I’m no golfer, but I thought it would be interesting to rent a house there via airbnb for a few days in the woods, exploring if we might be interested in retiring there some day.

Crystal Bridges

We headed out on a Monday morning, driving south from Bartlesville to Tulsa for lunch at an El Chico. Then we headed due east on US 412 to NWA for a brief stop at Crystal Bridges.

We parked in overflow and walked past the ongoing construction of a school of medicine to reach the museum, which is itself under construction for a sizable expansion. As members of the Woolaroc museum near Bartlesville, Wendy and I enjoy free entry to the temporary exhibitions at Crystal Bridges thanks to the North American Reciprocal Museum Association.

So we got a free look at Diego Rivera’s America. Neither Wendy nor I are fond of much of his work, but we do find his murals interesting, in particular the Man at the Crossroads one for Rockefeller Plaza which was destroyed because of his insistence of including in it a portrait of Vladimir Lenin.

The Crystal Bridges show included studies for that and other mural projects. But what Wendy liked best was Rivera’s Symbolic Landscape painting from 1940. I saw a clear influence of Dali in the work. Its description read, “…the stony outcrop resembles an enraged man — his fists emerge from the earth, and his angry face appears upside-down in the lower left. This man seems to attack the fallen tree, which resembles a reclining woman. A bloodied glove and knife lay on the ‘face’ of the earth, and a gold wedding ring encircles the blade. These details may refer to a murder that took place while Rivera was visiting Taxco in 1937.”

Symbolic Landscape by Diego Rivera

After that, we headed north to our cabin in Bella Vista, stopping at a Harp’s grocery along the way for some victuals.

Bella Vista

Bella Vista began as a summer recreation resort in 1915. It catered to wealthy urban families who could spend an entire summer on vacation. The resort had declined by the 1950s, and in 1965 it was repurposed as a vacation-retirement community.

Some folks would buy lots to be paid off over time for a retirement home, while others immediately built vacation homes intended to eventually transition into retirement homes. Owners enjoy access to recreational amenities, which over the decades grew to include parks, clubhouses with workout areas, swimming pools, five 18-hole and two 9-hole golf courses, seven lakes, a marina, tennis courts, and an extensive trail system. From 1965 to 2005, about 38,000 home sites were sold, of which 12,600 lots were developed.

Bella Vista’s population grew from 2,589 in 1980 to 9,628 in 1990 and to 16,582 in 2000. It finally incorporated in 2007, growing to 26,461 in 2010 and 30,104 in 2020. Almost half of its residents were 65+ in 1990, but in recent years they account for about 1/3 of its residents as the town has also evolved into a bedroom community for nearby Bentonville.

The median household income in Bella Vista was almost $75,000 in 2021. Bentonville’s is even higher, at almost $90,000. That compares to less than $55,000 in Bartlesville, which is more in line with that of Springdale over in NWA.

Modern OZ Cabin at Summit School Trail

For vacations when we will stay in place for over a day, Wendy and I have grown to prefer renting cabins or homes over hotel lodging. So I booked the Modern OZ Cabin in Bella Vista for three nights, attracted by its isolation from any neighbors, a spacious deck, and close proximity to one of the more primitive trails in Bella Vista.

I was truly grateful for GPS when navigating to and from that cabin. Just a glance at a map tells you that Bella Vista is no ordinary town. It is filled with a maze of twisting, interconnected residential roads which mostly follow the top of Ozark mountain ridges, while Bentonville and Rogers have more conventional street grids on the flatter land to the south.

Just listing the roads on the fastest route from Bentonville to our rented cabin in Bella Vista illustrates the complexity of Bella Vista’s roads: Take Interstate 49 north to exit north onto North Walton Boulevard, which is also US 71. Then turn right onto West McNelly Road, then left onto Spanker Road, then right onto Dartmoor Road, then left onto Euston Road, then right onto Kingsland Road, then right onto Trafalgar Road, then left onto Berkshire Drive, then left onto Sandhurst Drive, and finally left onto Didcot Lane. Whew!

Bella Vista’s roads wind about mostly on top of Ozark mountain ridges

We enjoyed our stay at the cabin. Despite it being a bit chilly, I liked relaxing in the sun on the deck in a reclining chair. I did try the hammock, but I always find hammocks far more attractive to look at than to actually occupy.

View from one end of the immense deck

As usual, we ignored the hot tub and the televisions, but Wendy did make use of the kitchen to prepare a hot breakfast for us each morning. We had turkey sandwiches a couple of times and drove into Bentonville for one meal at a Five Guys and a couple of meals at a Beef ‘O’ Brady’s. At the latter we had a combination appetizer platter with fried cheese, onion rings, fried chicken strips, and cheese quesadillas. Wendy liked the spicy boom boom sauce so much that we returned the next day so that she could have it with some chicken strips while I had a bit of chicken with rice and steamed broccoli.

Traffic in Bentonville can become intense, complicated by both road and building construction projects. Trixie, my TomTom GPS app, did a good job of rerouting us around choke points. We were particularly glad during one rush hour when it led us off US 71 onto Punkin Hollow Road for a much more leisurely return to Bella Vista. I couldn’t help but wonder if we were actually travelling down Punkin Hollow or Pumpkin Hollow. I later checked the topographic map; sure enough, it was actually Pumpkin Hollow despite the cute road name.

We took it easy at the cabin on Tuesday, and after dinner in Bentonville I enjoyed the golden hour out on the deck.

Golden hour on the deck

A brief hike

We had good weather on Wednesday, making it the best day for a hike. Unfortunately, I had endured a night of gastroesophageal reflux and was under the weather from that and a hypertension headache. So while we did make it onto the nearby trail, our hike was brief.

I wasn’t feeling well, so we only hiked one mile round-trip

We simply walked down the short road past a few houses to where the Summit School Trail crossed.

Summit School Trail crossing near our cabin

I chose to head left, winding down a small switchback along the side of a ravine to then follow a small creek that eventually feeds little Lake Ann.

Summit School Trail switchback

I was glad to see that the trail eventually ducked down to cross the stream, as I knew that Wendy would enjoy looking at the streambed rocks in her usual hunt for crystals.

Google Maps misleadingly showed a marker for the Lamberton Cabin just off the trail where we were walking. That is a 1920 cabin from the old resort days which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Even in my weakened state, I could tell there was no such cabin as indicated. Later investigation revealed the cabin’s Universal Transverse Mercator coordinates, and I used Google Earth to determine that the old cabin was actually 2.5 miles southwest of the marker on Google Maps; I submitted a correction.

The Summit School Trail is part of an elaborate system of mountain bike/hiking trails in Bella Vista. The Walton Family Foundation provided $3 million to fund the construction of 40 miles of soft surface trails in 2016 and another $3.9 million for even more trails in 2018. Trailblazers is a nonprofit that has developed over 300 miles on multi-use trails in the NWA region.

There was a time when trail access in Bella Vista was limited to property owners. So I had made sure to obtain Bella Vista guest passes via the airbnb host. But it appears that the entire Back 40 trail system is now open to the public, and there wasn’t anyone around anyway to care whether or not we were properly credentialed for our walk.

Summit School is rated very difficult for bikes, as it is 18-24 inches wide. We had it all to ourselves.

Summit School Trail, with the ravine on the right

As for its name, there was a Summit School in Bella Vista from 1896 to 1945. It was about 1.25 miles southeast of the eponymous trail. The trail which actually runs close by the former Summit School’s location is the Mulligan Trail. It seems fitting that Bella Vista’s trail system has names as confusing as its maze of streets.

After Wendy had some time to explore the creek bed, we turned around and hiked the half-mile overland and up 120 feet to return to the cabin. I felt better after dinner down in Bentonville with our drive down Pumpkin Hollow for the return to the cabin. There I relaxed again out on the deck, despite the skies closing up.

Ending the day out on the deck

I had been careful to eat blander food for dinner, and Wendy kindly found some sturdy pillows around the cabin and used them to prop up the head of the mattress, so I had a better night.

We returned to Bartlesville on Thursday morning, amidst gray skies and brief sprinkles of rain. It was nice to arrive home in less than three hours to enjoy the rest of Spring Break back in Bartlesville. All of the growth in NWA means we wouldn’t consider it as a location for our eventual retirement, but we enjoyed our visit.

Posted in art, day hike, photos, travel | Leave a comment

The Recordkeeper

Recordkeeping was my least favorite course in high school. I was 15 years old, and only took the class because I wanted to drive a flimsy green 75-horsepower car that my parents had obtained from my grandmother’s estate.

1976 Toyota Corolla

I was anxious to take Driver’s Education in the second semester of my sophomore year so that I could have a learner’s permit. That would allow me to tool around, with a fully licensed driver, in my woefully underpowered studmobile which came with one, and only one, added option: an automatic transmission. No air conditioning or power steering, no power windows or locks, no interval wipers, no cruise control, and just an AM radio. My parents did add air conditioning, but that sapped the car’s power so much that you had to turn it off every time you took off from a stop or wanted to pass someone on the highway. But it was eventually slated to become a car of my very own!

Welcome to high school!

The single-semester Driver Education course in the spring had to be paired with a single-semester course in the fall. My schedule forced that to be in the final period of the day, and I groaned when I read the semester-length offerings for that period, having already used up the Library Aide and Research Skills options:

  • Vocal music? When our church’s junior choir did It’s Cool in the Furnace, I was made the narrator…who wouldn’t have to sing much. Lord, no.
  • Guitar theory? I was in my eleventh year of piano lessons, with plenty of daily practice already. I’d rather hammer than strum the strings.
  • Typing? I had learned to touch-type in the fifth grade on my own, working through my mother’s old Gregg typing manual.
  • Recordkeeping? Are you kidding?
  • That just left athletics. I had always been a short and skinny kid. Just how short and skinny? Below are charts comparing my height and weight up through junior high to the percentiles for males in the USA. Puberty had boosted my height so that only 2 out of 3 boys were taller, but 4 out of 5 were still heavier than me. And yes, I realize those charts also clearly illustrate my consummate nerdiness and…recordkeeping.

Thus for my first semester of high school, Recordkeeping it would be. That was my first mistake in high school; I should have opted for vocal music.

Recordkeeping requires patience and endurance

At that time, Putnam City Schools still had junior highs for grades 7-9 and its high schools were for grades 10-12. Two different junior highs fed into my high school, and there were always familiar faces in my classes on my first day…until Recordkeeping at the end of the day.

I walked into the class and my heart sank. I didn’t know a single person in there. I think I might have been the first Honors kid to ever enroll. Our teacher passed out the books.

Today is day 1, our first day. So today is Job 1.

I was baffled until I opened the book and saw that it was one dreary and painfully obvious assignment after another. Job 1, Job 2, Job 3, Job 4, ad nauseam. Oh, dear.

It didn’t take long to realize that the teacher had an intellect rivalled only by garden tools. As my memories of him are unkind, I’ll call him Mr. Sputter. I was seated right behind Big John, whose daily goal was to get out of class. Day after day I endured the same exchange:

Today is day #. So today is Job #.

Mr. Sputter, I forgot my book.

John, you need your book to do your job.

I know, Mr. Sputter, but I need to get it from my locker.

John, you were gone for half the class the last time you went to get your book.

I got a big locker, Mr. Sputter. That book gets buried.

That exchange occurred on a daily basis. At first, I thought it was some sort of joke, but then I realized John was the only one with a sense of humor. I began dropping my head in my hands during the daily routine, silently praying for one of them to choke to death. John would usually talk his way out of class, be gone for at least half of the period, and then saunter back in, smirking, often still without the book, prompting another ridiculous exchange.

One day, Sputter had a brainwave on how to keep John from leaving class. We were supposed to be learning how to calculate time-and-a-half overtime pay.

Mr. Sputter, I forgot my book.

John, you won't need your book today. Just take notes.

Mr. Sputter, I forgot to bring any paper. I need to go to my locker.

Granger, loan John a piece of paper.

Thanks. Uh, Mr. Sputter, I forgot to bring a pencil. I need to go to my locker.

Granger has a spare pencil.

This was followed by some sputtering through the amazing mathematics of calculating overtime pay. John interrupted time and again, with one polite but ridiculous question after another. Sputter. Question. Sputter. Question. On and on it went, dragging a 5-minute lesson to 30 minutes or more. As the teacher sputtered, his face reddened and his eyes began to bulge. And then…

Mr. Sputter, I think I could figure this out if I could just go get my book and read it.

Granger, loan John your book.

Good Lord, what next? My spectacles?

On we slogged, day after day, job after job. Okay, John never slogged. And then, finally:

Today is day 88, our last day. So today is Job 88.

Mr. Sputter, I forgot my book.

A soft keening wail began to emanate from about a foot above my desk.

I finally exited Recordkeeping, with my 100% average, and I was off to Driver’s Ed with Mr. Cornelius, a tale for another time. But I was then a trained recordkeeper, and the next semester also featured a course in Research Skills with the librarian, featuring mind-numbing lessons on things like The Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature, which I had already mastered as a library aide back in junior high.

Library aide had been the authorized way to get out of a semester of physical education back in junior high, although they still forced you to do it the other semester each year…until I invented my own extended chemistry course to escape even that. I was short, skinny, and smart.

Some might think that my library aide service in junior high and the research and recordkeeping courses during my first year of high school forged my lifelong interest in collecting, sorting, organizing, labeling, filing, digitizing, and sharing data. But maybe, just maybe, my father had something to do with it.

Family archives

My father’s archive

What you see here is my father’s largest bookcase. He had a bunch of barrister bookcases, but this open one was four feet wide and almost seven feet tall. As an elementary school kid, I remember climbing up its shelves to retrieve some books filed away on the top shelf.

There was a two-volume abridgment of Toynbee’s A Study of History, which was far too dry to hold my interest, although I did like the huge timeline chart of world history my father had drafted, which extended across the back of multiple natural gas pipeline blueprints. I presume his Toynbee’s helped with that. Another book up high had an intriguing title: The Monkey on Your Back or something like that. I remember working up the courage to climb up to get it, only to discover it was a book about middle management. Sad trombone!

Over a retirement that lasted about four decades, my father gradually filled that bookcase with his archives. He sifted, organized, categorized, and labeled papers and photographs from and about his career, family, vacations, cartoons, poems, and genealogy. I shudder to think how much money Hewlett Packard made off the overpriced ink for his inkjet printer, which was used daily.

But that mound of material helped him write a World War II memoir, an autobiography, and a biography about my mother. I scanned and inserted photographs, maps, and the like and reformatted the WordPerfect files he created.

My father and his antique yokes

Dad also accumulated collectibles and artifacts, but thankfully divested himself of most of those in his later years, giving many of them away to relatives. I had no interest in antique yokes, potato mashers, and the like, as I can always go to Har-Ber Village to see plenty of that sort of thing. Dad also whittled down the family archive a bit.

But when he passed away last year, and Mom moved to independent living in Bartlesville, the remains of Dad’s archive, along with our family photo albums and reels of standard 8 home movies, were still enough to fill that big bookcase.

So I had the thing moved from Oklahoma City to a bedroom at little Meador Manor. I’ve been retrieving childhood photos from it for months for #grangerthings and #ThrowbackThursday posts on Facebook. And I have my own smaller personal archive of photographs, yearbooks, and scrapbooks, both physical and digital. That includes MEADOR.ORG, with 744 posts and over 670,000 words which have accumulated over 140,000 visits and over 336,000 views since 2006. Did I mention that I took Recordkeeping?

My recent recordkeeping

There were thousands of photographic prints and negatives left in my office

Over five years ago, I transitioned from teaching physics at Bartlesville High School to managing the district’s technology and communications. That landed me in an office at the district’s Education Service Center with a filing problem.

That office had housed the previous few community relations directors and there were two large filing cabinets stuffed with old paper files, photographic prints, some slides, brittle copies of newsletters and brochures, and outdated photography equipment. Much of the physical material dated from the 1980s through the 2000s, including many black and white photographic prints with no labels or organization. Figuring out what to do with that older material was a low priority.

Newsletters, Minutes, and Websites

An early focus was creating an online archive of the district’s digital newsletter from 2007-2018

For years, Community Relations Supervisor Ken Dolezal produced a weekly paper newsheet for district staff. Few of those survive. Some time after Ken passed away in 2001, at the far too young age of 52, the district transitioned to digital photography and newsletters.

So I first concentrated on a digital archive of The Bruin newsletter from its origin in 2007 through its demise in 2018. I also ensured that the school board minutes since 2008 were organized into an online archive, compiled an incomplete teaching awards database, and preserved articles about the inductees into the local school foundation’s Educator Hall of Fame.

The district website was my next major project. I had taken over the high school’s website back in 2004 and the district one in 2012. I hand-coded the district website for years, augmenting that with a hand-coded mobile version and using Google Sites for news articles. I eventually transitioned everything to the free Google Sites service. But then Facebook began blocking links to Google Sites, a new version of Google Sites was going to make the existing websites obsolete, and I needed a way for us to write news items and have them easily distributed across multiple social media platforms, given that my technology responsibilities didn’t leave me with enough time to compose a regular newsletter.

So my next focus was on identifying and funding a vendor to supply a content management system for our websites and establishing and linking social media accounts for the district and each of its schools, including iOS and Android mobile apps. The COVID-19 pandemic struck during that transition, with technology and communications challenges which kept me incredibly busy for several years. The countless old photos at my workplace had to wait.


With COVID-19 finally subsiding into an endemic phase in 2023, I had time to return my attention to the vintage photographs in my office filing cabinets. I opened a drawer and picked up an intriguing little envelope. It said it contained negatives for Jefferson School from 1939-1942.

Dozens of 70mm negatives from 1939-1942, sent to the district decades ago but never used

I began compiling a school facility history archive long ago, so I knew all about Jefferson, although it was no longer used for classes five years before I began working in Bartlesville and was razed five years after my employment began. What I was not familiar with were those odd negatives.

The image that revived my interest in digitizing the archive at work

Instead of a long narrow strip of 35 mm film with multiple images, these were large single-image negatives that were 4.25 inches by 2.5 inches. They were clearly black-and-white, and one immediately caught my eye since it showed costumed kids in front of a large sign about a circus.

I realized it showed kids celebrating the 66th birthday of Frank Phillips in 1939. He had founded Phillips Petroleum in Bartlesville, and I knew Frank had loved the circus and was known to send area schoolchildren. I held the 84-year-old negative up to the fluorescent ceiling lights in my office and snapped a shot of it on my iPhone. I then reversed it with my trusty ThumbsPlus software on my Windows desktop and posted the image on the Once Upon a Time in Bartlesville Facebook group.

That generated a lot of interest, but I needed a much better setup to properly digitize the old negatives. The next morning, Wendy loaned me her fluorescent lightbox which she had used to trace artwork. I took it to work and set my iPhone 14 Pro on a tripod to snap the dozens of negatives with even lighting. I straightened, cropped, and enhanced the results in the iOS Photos app, and then I used ThumbsPlus to flip them from negatives to positives. That work over an hour or two that morning produced superb results.

In 1939, Frank Phillips sent 4,000 children from grade school through senior high, including Catholic students and the segregated blacks, to the Al G. Barnes and Sells-Floto Circus. At his 66th birthday bash a few months later, he was still going through stacks of thank-you letters from the children.

The negatives were 70 mm Kodak 116/616 film, used back in the day for direct contact prints. Their large size meant that my simple setup with the light table and my smartphone worked fine. I posted 49 of the shots to a public Google Drive folder, along with another 11 shots of Jefferson students in Halloween costumes. I also posted the shots to the Facebook group, which elicited plenty of likes.

That was a shot in the arm for me to begin the task of digitizing the jumbled community relations archive. There were thousands of black-and-white photographic prints and boxes of photographic negatives and slides. Many of the older prints had been taken by Ken Dolezal. I know he used to have a photographic darkroom up above the print shop, and I was blessed to know Ken from 1989 until his untimely death in 2001. Few of the prints, however, retained their stapled captions. So what next?

The jumbled mess awaiting digitization

I had already figured out that I could post images on a Shared Google Drive at work, where they should be safe even past my retirement in 5-10 years. And I found I could annotate the Description field for each file and that was searchable. I didn’t mind looking at each image and typing in a brief description, including anyone I could both immediately recognize and remember their name. I wouldn’t have time to consult old yearbooks to try and identify more people, but it would do, and I could sort the photos into rough categories. So this little Recordkeeper had his organization, labeling, and distribution solution. But the light table and smartphone setup wasn’t going to work for digitizing thousands of prints and 35 mm negative strips and slides.

A thousand dollars later…

I knew from scanning snapshots for my father’s and mother’s memoirs that scanning thousands of photos on a regular flatbed scanner wouldn’t be feasible. I needed a specialized high-speed scanner with software to decurl and enhance the resulting images. Similarly, I’ve used a mirror accessory before to scan 35 mm negatives and slides on a flatbed scanner, and that was also a pain in the rear. I would need an even more specialized scanner for them.

I work in Oklahoma, which has among the lowest per-pupil school funding in the nation. So I wasn’t about to spend scarce taxpayer school dollars on equipment to digitize the old photos. But I had that immense home archive of family snapshots that also could use digitizing…

That was enough to convince me to cough up $545 of my salary to purchase an Epson FastFoto FF-680W high-speed photo and document scanner to digitize the prints at work and hopefully eventually tackle my home archives. And I was certain that no one but me would ever bother with the old negatives at work, so even though I have no remaining film negatives at home, I coughed up another $435 for a Plustek OpticFilm 8200i SE 35mm film and slide scanner. Being a history hero ain’t cheap.

My setup for scanning thousands of photos and annotating their online descriptions

The Epson print scanner worked like a charm. I could load dozens of photographic prints, with each taking only seconds to process. Occasionally I had to rotate an image 90 or 180 degrees, but that was about it. I set the software to automatically upload the output to the Shared Google Drive.

Then I viewed each file in the Google Drive, annotating the Description field for each one. The first wave of prints were from the mid-1980s. I started working in the district in 1989, so I recognized some adults but few students. When I could dredge up a name from my memory, I added that to the description. I eventually sorted the prints into about 20 categories, grouping all of the Athletics images in one folder, Student Awards in another, and so on.

Later I came across some prints from the 1990s and some color prints from 1999-2005. There was a smattering of very old items, such as this print of the Bartlesville High School girls basketball team from 1915-1916:

Bartlesville High School basketball players in 1915-1916

I also found 15 color prints of aerial photos of the record 1986 flood in Bartlesville. Below is one of the them, showing the flooding of Custer Field and Stadium at Bartlesville High School.

I set up a camera to show how quickly those flood prints were scanned:

And here are the rest of the flood photographs:

I have now scanned, uploaded, and partially annotated over 2,100 prints. Here are some links:

Building the archive will remain a work in progress for a long time, as there are still many more photographs to be digitized. Unfortunately, they are not in the convenient form of photographic prints.

There are the many envelopes of color photographic negatives which are painfully slow to scan. Here’s a video of me scanning a single color negative…it is longer than the one where I scanned 15 color prints.

Clearly I’m hoping that many of the negatives in the file are for prints I have already scanned, as scanning negatives is quite tedious.

There are also dozens of CD-RW discs which need to be processed and uploaded into the cloud since we no longer buy desktop computers with compact disc drives, plus the CD-RW discs will eventually be unreadable due to bit rot.

But more intriguing to me are items that were stashed high up in a second-floor storage room. Wade Kester, who has worked for the district since 1980, had stashed away some treasures up there. I found lots of 35 mm color slides along with cans of film negatives. Here is what it is like to scan a color slide:

Thus far I have digitized several interesting sets of slides. A bunch of photos were taken in 1983 of seven different elementary schools that were later closed.

I also found a bunch of slides from the 1970s.

And I found two sets of slides that combined my interests in technology and history, as they were from a 1970 project that linked a mainframe computer at Oklahoma State University with video terminals at the two high schools in Bartlesville.

I especially enjoyed the stereotypical late 1960s and early 1970s elements in the those slideshows.

My frustration in not being able to identify one of the principals in a 1983 photo at Oak Park, until someone in the Once Upon a Time in Bartlesville Facebook group helped me out, has led me to do some classic recordkeeping this week. I found old state directories up through 1985 and have spent hours in the district vault checking old personnel records to fill in gaps, building a spreadsheet which I’ll eventually share in the online archive as well.

Here is a peek at one part of a big spreadsheet I’m building on who was the principal at each of the Bartlesville Public Schools; sharp-eyed readers will notice there are gaps during the Great Depression and World War II, which created recordkeeping challenges

Once that recordkeeping exercise is as far as I can reasonably take it, my next project will be photographing and inverting large-format black-and-white negatives that were taken from 1970-1972 by Don Gregg. The state directories revealed he was the district’s public relations guy from 1966 to 1972. He used the darkroom in the district’s then-new Media Center, which was created in 1970 from a remnant of the old Horace Mann school. In 1974, the district added onto the Media Center to create the Education Service Center where I’ve worked since I left the classroom in 2017.

I’d been up in the weird old darkroom over the years, which is where some Ellison die-cutting machines and many old dies are now tucked away, without realizing its original purpose. Those negatives Don developed over fifty years ago are especially nice since they are organized into little manila envelopes with brief descriptions scribbled on them. I’ll be able to give them informative filenames and descriptions when I add them to the online archive.

After that, there are still uncounted photographic negatives and hundreds of slides to peruse, along with the bevy of CD-RW discs. This little archivist still has his work cut out for him. However, unlike John, I brought my Recordkeeping book to Mr. Sputter’s class every day of my first semester in high school. So I am up to the challenge.

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Last week I began my exploration of favorite elements of childhood mysteries with a look at hidden treasures. This week, we’ll dig into tunnels. I was sufficiently intrigued by the topic to purchase a $5 Kindle edition of a 1947 book I had as a kid, as well as a $28 hardcover of a poorly written series book from 1940. I read them as “research” for this post. 😆


A 1950 book in the Hardy Boys series with a spot-on title was #29 The Secret of the Lost Tunnel by Andrew Svenson. It was, like all of the early books, revised and shortened, and I only read the 1968 version in my youth. The 1968 cover art by Rudy Nappi illustrated the moment the boys discovered the Civil War tunnel, which contained cannonballs with their own secret.

I don’t remember much from that tale, but at one point during the COVID-19 pandemic, I needed a very light escape. So I reread a later work, Hardy Boys #44 The Haunted Fort, a tale written by David Grambs in 1965, late enough that it never received a rewrite. It was better written and included the same tropes of a secret tunnel with a hidden treasure.

The Disappearing Floor

But one of my favorite Hardy Boys stories has an interesting history. John Button took over the ghostwriting for the series from Leslie McFarlane for #17-21. His books were published from 1938 to 1942 and are known for their inferior writing and bizarre elements with futuristic gadgets and exotic locations. Button wrote the 1940 edition of #19 The Disappearing Floor, which is regarded as the worst written story in the canon. I had never read his tale, instead only knowing the radical rewrite in 1962 by John Leone. I loved the eponymous disappearing floor in the rewrite, which was basically a large elevator which lowered to reveal…a secret tunnel. The story included intercoms, sensors, machinery, furniture bolted to bedroom walls, and how the floor killed its owner. The mechanisms fascinated me, much like the ones on Krakatoa in William Pène du Bois’ The Twenty-One Balloons, which won the 1948 Newbery Medal.

The original 1940 version of The Disappearing Floor is the worst written of all the series.

But I was intrigued by this summary of the original version of Hardy Boys #19: “The Hardy Boys smash Duke Beeson’s (AKA Chief Shining Light Of The Sun-Worshipping Ozonites) robbery gang using the weird inventions of Aunt Gertrude’s former classmate, Eben Adar.”

That sounded like a hoot, but only had the 1962 edition for free online reading.

I first realized there were two versions of many of the Hardy Boys books back in elementary school when I spotted two Hardy Boys books in our church’s little library. They had brown covers, rather than the picture covers I was used to.

Opening one up, I immediately noticed that the end papers were a single orange drawing instead of the little line drawing vignettes in my books at home. Then I noticed these editions had more pages than mine. What was going on? What sort of alternate reality was this?

So I checked them out and was staggered to find they were quite different. Even at that young age, I could tell they were better written, although they did have odd terms like “jalopy” and “rumble seat” and some obvious racial stereotypes. The original books were 225 pages with 25 chapters, while the revisions were 180 pages with 20 chapters. In the original books that Leslie McFarlane wrote, Frank and Joe gradually aged, they had far less respect for law officers, and Aunt Gertrude was a major character.

Thus I knew what physical characteristics to look for to identify an original 1940 edition of The Disappearing Floor. I found one at and bought it as “research” for this post.

Oh, my. What an incoherent mess. It leaps from one bizarre incident to another. The boys beat escaped tigers to death. People are repeatedly frozen by an ice ray or magnetism, take your pick. There are plants grown only with electricity. Frank and Joe dress up as old ladies and easily fool the villain, who dresses up sometimes as an Indian cult leader, an idea that gets zero development. Yikes!

Almost no one in the book acts rationally, especially the adults, and the disappearing floor of the title doesn’t make an appearance until the final pages and is itself nonsensical. I snapped a photo of one page so that you can sample the execrable writing.

It appears that Button was fairly dutiful in following a bizarre 10-page plot outline by Edna Stratemeyer Squier, the daughter of Edward Stratemeyer. Edward had founded the syndicate responsible for so many children’s series books. After he died, from 1931 to 1942, Edna and her sister Harriet alternated in writing the outlines for the books which the ghostwriters were to follow. Edna moved to Florida in 1942 and left the syndicate in the hands of Harriet, and 1942 also marked the end of the Button era. Leslie McFarlane returned to write a few more of the books before a series of other ghostwriters took over.

The revisions of the original 38 books which Harriet Stratemeyer directed from 1959 to 1973 usually resulted in worse books. But #19 is a glaring exception. The total rewrite of The Disappearing Floor was desperately needed.

Stop, Thief!

I remember noticing as a child how some series books stole elements from each other. Mildred Wirt Benson wrote Nancy Drew #2, The Hidden Staircase, in 1930. It featured a mansion connected to a neighboring one by a secret tunnel with a hidden staircase, and one neighbor used it to harass the other. Later I read Trixie Belden #14, The Mystery of the Emeralds, which was written by Virginia McDonnell in 1965. In it, Trixie discovers a hidden staircase in a mansion that leads down to a secret tunnel that connects to another mansion, and again a meddlesome neighbor is making trouble with it. Dionne Warwick has something to sing about that.

I also noticed that after Mildred Wirt Benson had retired from her time posing as Carolyn Keene, the Nancy Drew series stole from itself: #34, The Hidden Window Mystery, has yet another mansion with a secret tunnel and staircase. Jeepers, Scooby, that sounds familiar.

Tunnel Two

Another tunnel I was intrigued by as a kid was Tunnel Two in The Three Investigators books. First published as “Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators”, those books were better written than the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and Dana Girls books from the Stratemeyer Syndicate.

Robert Arthur, Jr. wrote the first books in the series from 1964 until his death in 1969. He had been a story editor and script writer for Alfred Hitchcock’s television show, and he was asked by Random House to edit a series of literary anthologies that capitalized on the famous director’s popularity. Their success led Arthur to suggest he write a new children’s book series, and he wrote two each year.

A criminal popping up from Tunnel Two!

His mysteries were far more elaborate than anything in the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew books. I especially liked #2 The Mystery of the Stuttering Parrot, and I dreamed about the secret HQ the three boys used. It was an old 30-foot mobile trailer hidden among the piles of junk in the Jones Salvage Yard. It had secret exits, a lab and darkroom, office, and periscope. Red Gate Rover led through the salvage yard fence, Green Gate One led to a workshop and printing press and on into Tunnel Two, which ran beneath some junk and under the trailer, entering through a trap door. Easy Three was a false door leading into the front of the trailer, with the key hidden in a box of other keys in the yard.

The higher quality of that series meant that my school library actually stocked them, whereas many librarians turned up their noses at the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and their ilk. So I enjoyed checking out those books from the Leo C. Mayfield Junior High library. But I was puzzled by how books 1-9 and 11 were together on the shelves, but #10 was missing. I figured out its title from the back covers of the others and found it was shelved not under Robert Arthur, Jr. but under William Arden. And lo and behold, there were several more of the books under that name.

Unlike the Stratemeyer Syndicate, which used the Franklin W. Dixon and Carolyn Keene pseudonyms for their series no matter who wrote the book, The Three Investigators’ authors received full and proper credit, although some still used their own personal pseudonyms. The Mayfield library’s card catalog, which was actual 3×5 inch cards back in my day, didn’t have a way of tracking book series. So it became a tiny mystery to figure out who wrote the different books so I could locate them on the shelves. I eventually found the tomes written by Mary Virginia Carey and Nick West (really Kin Platt).

A Religious Experience

My parents sometimes bought me books written for Christian youth. I laughed at the clumsy writing in Bernard Palmer‘s Jim Dunlap and the Secret Rocket Formula, while I remember being confused by the Sugar Creek Gang. I think being an only child made it difficult for me to keep up with stories about a boy with six brothers. Holy testosterone.

But one award-winning religious book of my youth which featured secret tunnels was my musty green hardback edition of The Hidden Treasure of Glaston by Eleanore M. Jewett, which was published in 1946. It was a Newbery Honor book that my father probably picked up at a garage sale. It drew upon the legend that a series of tunnels lie beneath Glastonbury Tor.

My copy was either sold off or donated in childhood, and I didn’t find it at for checkout. I remembered it as being a quality story, so for this post I invested $5 to order the Kindle edition and reread it for the first time since elementary school.

The book was certainly more sophisticated than any of the series books I enjoyed. I remember relying on context clues to figure out some of the terms as a child, occasionally resorting to my trusty Webster’s for help. This time around, I could just tap a word and see its definition in my Kindle.

I remembered the plot and crucial elements, but now I have the benefit of knowing more about the murder of Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury, as well as King Henry II thanks to seeing Becket in high school. And I know much more about monastical life thanks to the Brother Cadfael books of Edith Pargeter.

The tunnels and hidden treasure were there as I dimly recalled, including how the doors of an aumbry concealed one tunnel. See what I mean about vocabulary? I’ve inserted in this post what my Kindle’s default dictionary showed for aumbry. But since 2014 I’ve had a soft spot for the 1913 Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, thanks to James Somers. So here is its definition:

The Hidden Treasure of Glaston also has atmosphere and clear messages about self-reliance, seeking and following the path which suits a person’s talents and personality, and effective leadership. I can see why it was a Newbery runner-up, and appreciate how it was careful to make the Holy Grail a visionary and not a physical object.

Real-World Tunnels

The Paoli Underpass

An interest in tunnels whetted by my childhood reading was first rewarded when I was shown an old underpass that ran under Highway 77 near my grandmother’s home in Paoli, Oklahoma. Before Interstate 35 was built, the traffic on old 77 was intense. By the time I was around, 77 was far less traveled, although big trucks still rumbled by and shook my grandmother’s house. Unfortunately, that underpass was underwhelming — it definitely smelled like urine.

The old underpass at Paoli, Oklahoma

The only tunnels I use routinely are five short roadway underpasses along Bartlesville’s Pathfinder Parkway. And my printable and interactive maps help ensure they are anything but secret.

One of the underpass tunnels of Bartlesville’s Pathfinder Parkway

The OKC Conncourse

The OKC Underground in 2017

Far nicer and more extensive were the tunnels that Jack Conn promoted between the downtown buildings of Oklahoma City. I loved exploring the Conncourse in the 1970s, which is now called the Underground. The tunnels were anything but secret, of course, but I don’t remember the Hardy Boys getting to order and enjoy a slice of Ricoletto’s pizza in any of their tunnels.

I remember how in the 1970s some of the tunnels had bold abstract patterns that flowed across the carpet and up the walls and around the ceiling. More recently they’ve used dramatic and colorful lighting. The tunnels are over a mile long and cover over 20 square blocks, with many of them now serving as designated art galleries.

Other Undergrounds…and Skyways

Tulsa has some tunnels of its own, and even little Bartlesville gets in on the act with tunnels linking the various Phillips 66 and ConocoPhillips buildings and a parking lot. However, I’ve never been in any of their passages.

From my Seattle Underground tour in 2005

A far more famous city’s underground I have seen are a few of the passageways and basements in Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood, created when the town’s streets were regraded up a story or two. If you’re ever in Seattle, Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour is a fun outing.

I expected that Minneapolis would have an extensive tunnel system, given its harsh winter weather. So I looked it up, only to find that it instead has a skyway system of enclosed pedestrian footbridges. Its 9.5 miles of pathways connect buildings over 80 city blocks. So maybe they prioritized natural light? Well, it turns out that the skyways weren’t originally conceived to escape the weather but instead were used to reduce congestion on the city’s sidewalks and streets. That’s nice, but I’m skeptical that any children’s books would include a lost secret skyway.

The Tunnels of the Marland Mansion

One of my favorite places in Oklahoma is the Marland Mansion, built in Ponca City from 1925-1928 by oilman E.W. Marland. It was a 43,561 square-foot $5.5 million “Palace on the Prairie” situated in a 2,500 acre estate on the edge of town. He and his second wife, Lydie, moved into the mansion, but only occupied it for a few years. (She was his niece by marriage, his adopted daughter from ages 16-28, and then his second wife. Yes, it is quite a story.)

In November 1928, Marland had to resign as president of his oil company in a hostile takeover by J.P. Morgan & Co. and by 1931 the Marlands could no longer afford the utilities on the huge mansion. They moved into the Artist Studio on the estate, and the mansion was only used on special occasions, such as his gubernatorial inaugural ball in 1935. Marland sold the mansion to a religious order in 1941.

A long tunnel connects the mansion to the former boathouse

I first visited and toured the mansion in the 1980s with my best friend. We were intrigued to read that there were tunnels from the mansion to the artist studio and the boathouse, and disappointed that they were kept locked. It wasn’t until decades later that mansion director David Keathly came across a group of my friends touring the place and offered to take us along the 550-foot tunnel from the mansion to the boathouse. What a treat! I found a video online where he provides a look at the hidden whisky room and a glimpse of the tunnels:

If you like architecture and are ever near Ponca City, I urge you to tour both the Marland Mansion as well as Marland’s Grand Home, where he lived with his first wife. They are both interesting showplaces from a century ago. And while you’re in town, I recommend eating at Enrique’s at the Ponca City Airport.

Utility Tunnels

Utility tunnel at the University of Oklahoma

Tunnels are frequently used to route steam and chilled water pipes, electrical cabling, etc. underground, especially on campuses with a central plant. The University of Oklahoma has seven miles of such tunnels, some of which date back to 1948. When I was taking undergraduate classes there, I was told that some of the steam tunnels were deliberately run underneath sidewalks to help reduce ice and snow accumulations on them in the winter. As one would expect, students are known to sometimes break into the system to explore.

A tunnel I currently still have access to is one at the high school where I taught for 27 years. I’ve never actually ventured through it, since it is not standing-height. It was built for steam pipes and the like running from the old boilers in the basement of the main building to the separate field house. It runs from underneath the 1939 auditorium, which is now a library, to the Phillips field house.

Bartlesville High School utility tunnel

Sixteen years ago I made a crazy video where I walked down the stairs off the old stage to that tunnel, tacking on several different clips to zoom way, way out from it.

Drainage Tunnels

City storm sewers vary greatly in size, sometimes enlarging into tunnels that youngsters may be tempted to explore. When I was in junior high school, I lived in a neighborhood in Oklahoma City that formed the headwaters of the Deep Fork River. The former creeks were channelized, transforming deep ditches covered in brush into wide deep concrete channels that sometimes led into tunnel systems. One large drainage tunnel was constructed adjacent to a railroad track, and my friends and I traced it underground for several blocks. Parts of the system somewhat resembled a system a fellow explored on YouTube.

Those pale in comparison to the largest storm drain in the world. In Japan, there is an anti-flood system 165 feet below Kasukabe City with five silos connected by four miles of tunnels. The city offers guided tours of its $2 billion concrete temple.

The incredible storm drain under Kasukabe City in Japan

Highway Tunnels

I’ve been through many highway and train tunnels. Some of the most interesting ones I know of were narrow ones built along the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon from 1914 to 1921. The Mitchell’s Point Tunnel had five windows providing views of the gorge, but that tunnel was destroyed in 1966 to expand Interstate 84. The Mosier Twin Tunnels of 1921 were backfilled by 1958 but restored for bicycle and pedestrian use in 2000, and they have two adits, which are side passages leading to windows.

Subway Tunnels

We don’t have any subways around here, but I’ve ridden the subway in New York City, although I haven’t seen in person the abandoned City Hall station. A subway line in Rome continues to unearth archaeological items, as do train tunnels beneath Amsterdam.

Natural Tunnels

Nature creates tunnels, and I’ve enjoyed one made by water and another created by lava. There is an S-shaped tunnel at Bennett Spring park in Missouri which is 296 feet long, 16 feet high, and 50 feet wide. A stream cut it through a dolomite ridge. Dolomite is calcium magnesium carbonate and slightly water soluble.

Yours truly in the natural tunnel at Bennett Spring park back in 2011

Back in 2009, I hiked a mile down a lava tube in Oregon. I carried a lantern for that bizarre hike. The tube had no forks and simply got smaller and smaller. The temperature at the opening was 86 degrees Fahrenheit and it dropped to 42 degrees at its end.

And I’ve walked through many caves in the Ozarks, as well as the Oregon Caves and Mammoth in Kentucky, although I’ve never been to Carlsbad.

Building Your Own Tunnel

I have been fascinated by one man’s personal tunnel project. Colin Furze enthusiastically documented his long project of digging out a passage under his Lincolnshire garden to connect his house, shed, and eventually a bunker. It has been delightful to watch him pursue that labor of love.

Colin Furze’s homemade tunnel

Tunnels of Love

And I could go on with an example of a tunnel of secrets. The tunnel of love variation on the Old Mill ride was a mystery of a bygone era. Hundreds of them were included in amusement parks in the 20th century. But some mysteries are best left to the imagination.

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