Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Oklahoma Ape Escape of '44


It's time to take a look back at Captain Marvel's visit to Oklahoma City.  It was 1944 and the day started off in the most normal, mundane way: a clown was trying to commit suicide by leaping to his death.  (Mondays, amitite?)

Well that's all it took for young Billy Batson to say the magic word and transform himself into Captain Marvel, the world's mightiest mortal.  The Captain immediately proceeded to go about the business of clown catching only to be told that it he was not stopping a suicide but responding to a super responsible way of getting someone's attention.  So who is this clown?

Now this is where things get interesting.  The clown identifies himself as Zoo Keeper/Radio Personality "Uncle Leo" and of course the Captain recognizes a fellow broadcaster...but I didn't.  Not until I did a little research and discovered that Uncle Leo was a real guy:

(From "Images of America Oklahoma City Zoo: 1902 - 1959," Arcadia Publishing)

I assume there was some kind of cross-promotion going on at the time with radio stations and Fawcett Comics but I haven't found any confirmation yet.

But I did find some exposition a few panels later as Leo explains that a gorilla named Colossus has escaped from the Lincoln Park Zoo (now known as the Oklahoma City Zoo).  There's also apparently an "armed posse" out to get the gorilla because that's the kind of thing that happens I guess.  So it's up to the super strong and near invulnerable Captain Marvel to safely bring the great ape in.

So the search is on...

...starting with the Civic Auditorium (now known as the Civic Center Music Hall)...

...and then the Skirvin Tower (now the Skirvin Hilton Hotel)...

...Union Station (now known as Oklahoma City Union Depot)...

...the Lincoln Park Amphitheatre (now known as the Oklahoma City Zoo Amphitheatre)...and culminating in an exciting King Kong-style denouement atop an oil derrick at...

...the State Capitol building.  Captain Marvel used the Wisdom of Solomon to outsmart the beast and, in doing so, procured himself an attaboy from the Mayor:

It all worked out with a minimum of shenanigans and with Colossus heading back to the zoo with visions of candy canes dancing in his head.  Is it okay to give candy to gorillas?  The clown zookeeper DJ seems to think so.  And that's good enough for me.

The last panel features young Billy saying they have an adventure planned in Indianapolis next month so this must be in a series highlighting various American cities (not unlike Sad Sack visiting select U.S. states).  But that's a job for the guy who does the Indiana Pop Culture blog.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Top 5 Things For Sale at Antiques Etc.


Small-ish towns typically try to broker their small-ish nature with the goal of increasing tourist interest (and tourist dollars).  One of the more common ways to do this is with Ye Olde Antique Shop™ (or Shoppes, preferably).  And it's with this unnecessary factoid that we begin yet another "Top 5 Things For Sale at..." entry.  Today we visit Antiques Etc. in Ardmore.  Let's go...

5.  Ardmore Matchbook & Postcard

I tell ya, man, ya gotta get into ephemera if you want to start picking up souvenirs.  It's cheaper that collectible spoons or shot glasses and takes up much less space.  There was tons of this stuff in the store but I picked these two due to the local connection (and because they were right next to each other...what?  I'm not being lazy...YOU'RE being lazy!!)

4.  Famous Oklahoma Indian Glasses

Forget your Burger King Return of the Jedi glasses, these are older and rarer.  From the late 50's, the "Famous Oklahoma Indian" glass set was designed by Native American artist Blue Eagle.  The store didn't have a complete set but there were several options available to start your Oklahoma themed promo glasses collection.

3.  Dick Tracy Whitman Big Little Book

Big Little Books were all the rage for decades and featured popular characters of the day including Mickey Mouse, Batman and Dick Tracy, who was created by Pawnee Oklahoma native Chester Gould.  This one is from 1967 and has the hard boiled detective facing "Facey."

2.  Chicken in the Rough Postcard

What did I tell you about ephemera?  It's the best!  Chicken in the Rough was a chain of chicken joints founded in Oklahoma City.  (And apparently there are three of them left.)  There's a lot going on with this postcard, from the brag(?) that they serve a half a fried chicken "unjointed" and with no silverware, to the little chick that is "gladly" offering himself up to be fried.  I'm not sure he's thought that through.

1.  Oklahoma Souvenir Plate

The mother of all old school keepsakes was the souvenir plate.  They used to be offered everywhere that might be considered a destination (or on a way to a destination) and celebrated things like the Golden Gate Bridge, the Statue of Liberty and everything in between.  The Oklahoma plate celebrates the Land Run, Will Rogers and a few other Okie milestones.

Now that the antiquing is done we'll just hit the local tea room for a Cobb Salad, find a restroom and then pile back into the RV to head to the next small town... 

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Where the Red Fern Grew


If you went to grade school at a certain point in the 80's then wheeling in the projector for "movie day" meant a pull from only a handful of movies.  It seemed like one of the ones that was in the heaviest rotation was 1974's "Where the Red Fern Grows," based on the book by the same name.

The Depression era story is a coming of age tale about a boy growing up in the Ozarks with his two beloved hounds and his quest to hunt raccoons for some reason.  It's a "dog movie" for kids so, of course, the dogs die at the end.  Spoilers, I guess.  Despite the downer of an ending, the film does take advantage of some great Oklahoma scenery for its locations.

Natural Falls State Park in the eastern part of the state, near the Arkansas border, was the filming location for many shots in the film.  Formerly known as Dripping Springs, the park has a 77 foot waterfall that the filmmakers used as a backdrop for a few scenes in the movie.  Here's the view of it from the park's observation platform:

Here's a look at it in the film (it's around the 31 minute mark):

Some other scenes were shot in the nearby town of Tahlequah.  But with a period piece it's always hard to try to match up locations since filmmakers try to stay away from big buildings that might create any anachronisms.  Occasionally some signage will leak through the Hollywood magic though:

So the next time you're in that area maybe stop by the falls to take in some famous scenery.  According to the park's website pets are welcome too so bring the dogs.  Just try not to tree any raccoons.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Top 5 Things for Sale at the Choctaw Welcome Center


Crossing state lines is typically celebrated by a quick stop at the "Welcome Center."  These can range from surprisingly elaborate to disappointingly drab.  Typically, the beckoning of free coffee and pamphlets are more than enough to press pause on the road trip but occasionally a place will go above and the Choctaw Welcome Center in Colbert, OK.  So lets take a look inside to see what souvenirs we can take with us along the ride.

5.  Fry Bread Recipe Magnet

The traditional Native American treat is great to make tacos with or to pour some honey on.  And this magnetized beauty will guarantee that you always have the recipe on hand.  It's definitely a uniquely Oklahoman keepsake.

4.  Sports Related Feathers

What stands out here is the selection between OU Sooners and Dallas Cowboys.  The Welcome Center is right on the Texas border so it makes sense to include America's team but the exclusion of the OSU Cowboys?  Maybe they're sold out?  Regardless, these add a great Oklahoma flair to any sports fan's decor.

3.  Achukma Pecan Oil

Seen any good Fry Bread recipes lately?  If so, you'll probably need some oil.  These guys are made by a company called "Native American Specialty Products", which I'm REALLY hoping is not some subsidiary of a huge corporation owned by white dudes but rather a mom & pop operation staffed by a hard working native family.  Either way, I'm not going to try to find out.  I can't handle another let down.

2.  Vienna Sausage & Cracker Snack

I don't know why this appeals to me so much but I love it.  I spend a lot of time on the road and a lot of time eating road food from various gas stations, so when someone puts even the smallest effort into offering a different kind of snack I really appreciate the effort.  This comes with a side of small town Oklahoma charm.

1.  Bigfoot Charm

I've said it before and prepare to hear it again, but Oklahoma does NOT take enough advantage of the Bigfoot sightings that happen throughout the state.  So of all the handmade "charms" available, this is the one that caught my eye.  And, yes, I choose to believe that it's made from authentic, genuine Sasquatch hair.  Prove me wrong!  (Please don't)

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Frasier's Dog is Not Buried in Oklahoma

The best parts of many road trips involve stopping along the way at some of the more unusual attractions.  Oklahoma is full of these kind of stops, not just along Route 66, but across the state.  You never have to look too far to find some roadside wonder to brighten up your travels.

But one thing you won't find along the back roads in the Sooner State is a monument to "Moose," the canine actor who played the role of "Eddie" on the long running NBC sitcom "Frasier."  Why would anyone even expect to find such a thing?  That's all thanks to another sitcom...

On a season 4 episode of The Mindy Project, two of the characters ("That Guy From That Thing" and "That Other Guy, I Know I've Seen Him in Something") decide to do a Road Trip Episode™.  Soon enough, the boys find themselves in Catoosa, Oklahoma.

Of course, it's a real life Oklahoma town along the Mother Road but the episode would have you believe it's the final resting place of "the dog from Frasier."  The prop department even whipped up a nice monument (which I wish I owned):

In my research I couldn't find the actual grave of Moose which leads me to believe there's just not one.  I'd like to think he was cremated and his remains were divided into lockets worn around the necks of the cast and crew of Frasier every single day.  It just feels right to me.

After reading this, if you are now in the process of canceling your plans for a Catoosa road trip, then allow me to talk you back into it.  You don't need a dead dog when you can have a giant whale:

The Blue Whale makes his home in Catoosa and travelers come from all over to walk into his big smiling face.  Unfortunately the only pic of him I have handy is this one of me shooting video of him several years ago.  At least it helps to give a little perspective of how big he is.

I'll head out there again soon to get some betters for his own blog entry.  And speaking of which, there is a grave of a famous TV animal in Oklahoma for your viewing pleasure but you'll have to head out to Tahlequah to see it:

But Mr. Ed's grave is a story for another be continued?!?

Saturday, November 25, 2017

On Location: Thunderstruck

It's not uncommon for professional athletes to make the transition into acting. Sometimes it turns into a prosperous second career and get movies like Thunderstruck. The 2012 film was legendary baller Kevin Durant's foray into movie stardom and featured the OKC Thunder in all their glory (kind of). So let's pop the top off this can of Pringles:

A fair amount of the movie was shot in Arkansas but since it takes place in Oklahoma City hey made sure to include some obvious local settings.  The most obvious, of course, is Chesapeake Energy Arena.  Plenty of game scenes were shot there:

The story is essentially your basic body-swap-without-a-body-swap story.  Young Brian is an Oklahoma high school student with dreams of being a basketball star but no actual talent.  After getting the opportunity to try to sink a basket from half court during a game, Brian screws it up monumentally and is consoled by KD.  And that's when this Friday gets freaky:

For no apparent reason they switch basketball ability.  Brian becomes incredible talented while Durant starts to play like a high school bench warmer.  As you can imagine, wacky hijinks ensue.  Instead of breaking down the plot (or "plot") let's take a quick look at the few Oklahoma filming locations they used, like this shot outside the Chesapeake Arena exterior:

Later in the film there's a nice establishing shot of downtown that shows crane work being done on the Devon Energy Center.   It was under construction from around 2009 to around 2012 with the cranes arriving around 2010 giving us a nice little time capsule moment for the movie.

Toward the end of the movie our hero Brian hastily heads over the bridge into the Bricktown area on his way to swap back b-ball powers with KD and you get a nice little look at the area:

Once he gets there it's time to de-magic the magic.  But who was the sinister fiend behind the curse this whole time?  It occurs to the guys that the switch first happened after the basketball bounced off Rumble the Mascot's head so they recreate the incident:

Yep, Rumble was apparently (perhaps unknowingly) the mastermind behind this entire voodoo dumpster fire.  At least the guys got their payback.  That monstrous, cheer mongering prairie dweller will think twice before he curses an NBA legend and some rando kid.

So after that, both of the guys win their respective games (spoiler warning, I guess) and we all learned some kind of valuable lesson...The End.  (Also, Jim Belushi was in this movie.)


Friday, October 6, 2017

Rubber Made

You may think of the Michelin Man as the quirky, bloated fellow who serves as a beacon of warmth when you have car trouble and have to go to the auto parts store, but the ribbed gentleman also serves as a reminder of economic prosperity to the people of Ardmore, Oklahoma.  And he's always there to greet you at their Michelin Plant:

The plant has been here for years and if you are like me and constantly on the search for photo ops with life sized advertising mascots then it's definitely worth a stop as you travel along I-35.  This tall drink of water is practically begging you to slap some skin and give him five:

Michelin has been so good for central Oklahoma that our lumpy buddy was even honored by the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City by displaying this smaller version of the legendary icon in one of their exhibits:

So around this area there is clearly some love for when the rubber meets the road.  And if you want to pay a visit to an advertising icon, you know where to go.