Saturday, November 10, 2018

Travels on the Mother Road, Route 66: Part 22, Tulsa

Tulsa is the second big city in Oklahoma that Route 66 travelers passed through (coming from the west). According to the Route 66 Adventure Handbook, Tulsa was the home of Cyrus Avery, who was instrumental in the establishment of Route 66. Tulsa was historically a major oil city.
In the 1930s, Meadow Gold Diary erected a large rooftop sign on a low building on Eleventh Street (Route 66).  In 2004, the sign was saved and re-erected on a Route 66 commemorative brick base, now at Quaker Street. Nice work to save this handsome icon.
The Boston Avenue United Methodist Church is one of the most amazing examples of Art Deco architecture that I have seen outside of New York City. According to their tour web page,
It is considered to be one of the finest examples of ecclesiastical art deco architecture in the United States and has been designated by the Department of the Interior as a National Historic Landmark. It is also an international United Methodist Historic Site and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Like many Art Deco buildings, Boston Avenue United Methodist Church reveled in the use of various different building materials, so metal, glass, terra cotta, Indiana limestone and Minnesota granite can all be found. The exterior is decorated with numerous terra cotta sculptures by the Denver sculptor, Robert Garrison, who had been a student of Adah Robinson's in Oklahoma City. These sculptures include several groups of people at prayer representing Spiritual Life, Religious Education and Worship. In these groups again can be found the motif of two hands together upward in prayer. While the building is in many ways unique, the idea of the large, semi-circular main auditorium has an earlier precursor in another Methodist church, Louis Sullivan's St. Paul's Methodist Church, designed in 1910 and built, somewhat modified, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in 1914.
The building's straight, vertical lines suggest the church's reaching toward God, and the tower's four shards of glass are placed at angles to the four directions - receivers and reflectors of light. The downward-flowing lines in the terra cotta motif symbolize the outpouring of God's love and are echoed throughout the building. The tower is 255 feet high and fifteen floors. The first fourteen are offices, and the top floor is a small prayer chapel with space above for an electronic carillon.
11th Street (Route 66), Tulsa (Kodak BW400CN film, Olympus Trip 35 camera)
Route 66 signs will direct you through central Tulsa, although with traffic and other distractions, they can be a bit hard to follow. On the day I was in town, the temperature was blazing, but there was a brilliant clear sky. In the northern part of town, Route 66 follows Eleventh Street for several miles. This is now a typical nasty American strip, and there was not much Route 66 architecture. I hope the photograph above conveys the sense of summer heat.
8929 11th Street, Tulsa. Olympus Trip 35, Kodak BW400CN film, Leitz polarizer filter.
We saw some old motels and car dealerships, but not as interesting pickings as I expected.
Oasis Motel, 9303 E 11th Street, Tulsa,, Oklahoma
The Oasis Motel at 9303 East Eleventh Street has a Route 66 appearance. The sign is, I think, a modern one intended to resemble a classic Googie sign. Googie design elements developed in the 1950s as an offshoot of Streamline Moderne architecture. "This was achieved by using bold style choices, including large pylons with elevated signs, bold neon letters and circular pavilions."

Dear Readers, this ends my 2017 trip along Route 66. Some day, I will drive the section between Tulsa and Chicago. If you want to see my articles covering the Mother Road between Los Angeles and Tulsa, you can type "Route 66" in the search box or use a Google search:  Route 66 .

En route to Tulsa, we passed through McGehee, Arkansas, another small town lost in time.

The black and white photographs above are from Kodak BW400CN film taken with an Olympus Trip 35 camera, with a polarizing filter to darken the sky.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Travels on the Mother Road, Route 66: Part 21, east central Oklahoma

Heading out of Oklahoma City, we continue east on the Mother Road.


Arcadia is famous for an amazing example of woodworking: the Round Barn. It was constructed in 1898 and was restored a few years ago. It houses a gift shop, which is well worth a stop. The gift shop has photographs of other barns with unusual configurations. The round design is efficient in wood use and provides a large interior volume without the need for pillars. I asked the proprietor why there are so few true round barns, and he said one main reason was that construction required a level of skill similar to boat-building. The normal country farmer did not have the woodworking skill. Look at the astonishing roof in the photograph above (click to enlarge it).
Tuton's Drugstore from the 1890s is in an unusual limestone building. 
This old gas station at 109 Main Street may date to the Route 66 days. The asbestos siding on the building could be any date from the 1920s to the 1960s.


Chandler has an old Philips 66 gasoline station with an appropriate Cadillac in front, awaiting gallons of gasoline and patiently awaiting restoration. I have previously written about an old Valentine diner on a side street in Chandler (click the link). A 2018 comment by a reader said the diner has been moved to another town for restoration. 
It looks like folks are conservative here in the Heartland. I hope it pays off for them.


Bristow is a quiet town about 20 miles southwest of Tulsa. I did not see too much Route 66 memorabilia on Main Street. The downtown looks prosperous, and the shops are occupied. Nice little town.
We stayed the night in a modest motel run by a Pakistani gent. The place did not offer breakfast, so we headed downtown. Bristow has a real coffee shop! I am impressed, coffee culture is finally spreading out from the cities into smaller communities. As I recall, we had excellent coffee and scones.

Continuing east from Bristow, Route 66 passes under Interstate 44 and then curves to the east, eventually crossing and running south of the interstate again.


Kellyville is quiet. I saw an old brick warehouse that may have been once a shed for locomotives. 


Contunuing east, we reach the small town of Sapulpa. This was once the home of Frankoma Pottery, according to the Route 66 Adventure Handbook. An older alignment of Route 66, Frankoma Road, winds through woods. The Rock Creek Bridge is an early-20th century keystone type. similar to the Fairground Street Bridge in Vicksburg.

Most photographs above are from a Fujifilm X-E1 digital camera, with raw files opened with Photoshop Elements and black and white filtering with DxO Filmpack 5 using the Kodak Tri-X emulation. The two pictures from Sapulpa are genuine BW400CN film, shot with a Olympus Trip 35 camera.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Travels on the Mother Road, Route 66: Part 20, west-central Oklahoma

Dear Readers, after several interruptions for other photographic projects, it is time to continue east on our Mother Road trek. After all those interesting sites in Texas, we finally reach Oklahoma. Many people think of Oklahoma when they hear the term "Route 66," probably because of old movies and the architecture of the many classic motor courts, drive-in restaurants, and gas stations that once served travelers.


One of the first Route 66 towns in western Oklahoma is Canute, named after "Cnut the Great," King of Denmark, Norway, and England (1016 - 1035). I am not sure how a small town on the prairie came to be named after a Viking, but anthropologists do have evidence that Vikings reached North America, so it is a appropriately noble name. Did they drive on Route 66? Regardless, Route 66 was routed through town in 1926, bringing some degree of prosperity as travelers patronized restaurants and motor courts.
Waiting patiently for the photographer to finish in Canute.

El Reno

Southern Manor, 319 S. Grand Ave, El Reno, OK.
Gallagher's Pub, W. Wade Street, El Reno, OK.
El Reno looked pretty rough to me. It is a historic town at the junction of Route 66 and the old Chisolm Trail. The Southern Manor on Grand Avenue was near the Rock Island Depot and was once a businessman's hotel. As of 2017, it was being used as a residence for elderly. They were in the process of moving out pending renovations. My Route 66 Adventure Handbook claims that El Reno is widely considered the home of the onion burger. OK.....
The Hotel El Reno Hotel is supposed to be the oldest surviving commercial building in the city. It was built in 1892 at 300 South Choctaw, then the city's business district. It operated as a hotel until 1975, when it closed and deteriorated. In 1984, the Canadian County Historic Society moved the building to its present location near the Rock Island Depot. Notice how much this modest frame building looks like the Gallagher's Pub in the photograph above.

Oklahoma City

Oklahoma City is the state capital and is a major metropolitan area. I did not take any pictures in town for several reasons. First, the car thermometer was showing 38° C, or 100° F, and I was lethargic and uninspired. Second, I did not see much Route 66 architecture or memorabilia, although there must be some scattered along the original route. The state capitol has producing oil wells on the capital grounds. The first automatic parking meters were invented and installed here in 1935. The city has an Arts District and a Bricktown, so someday I need to return and explore properly.

Most photographs are from a Fujifilm X-E1 digital camera, with most raw files opened in Adobe Photoshop Elements and converted to black and white with DxO FilmPack 5. Photographs 2 and 3 in Canute are from Kodak BW400CN film shot with an Olympus Trip 35 compact camera, with polarizer filter to darken the sky.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Romanian Railroads 1: Curtea de Argeș

Red circle shows Curtea de Argeş, Romania, from ESRI ArcGIS online (click map to enlarge).
Curtea de Argeș is a charming city in south central Romania. It is on the left bank of the Argeş River, which flows southward out of the Carpathian Mountains. The town is near the southern end of the famous Transfăgărășan Highway, Route 7c, which was featured in a Top Gear episode. The town is at the end of a rail line from Pitești.
My wife and I were on the main road heading out of town and passed by the old railroad station. Quick stop - places like this are too good to resist. The first thing I noticed was the unusual dual towers with arched windows, almost resembling Moorish architecture. Also, the facade of the station was covered with a tarp on which windows has been painted or printed. I assume the plaster was failing and the tarps covered the poor surface.
The track side of the station is also covered with tarps. The tracks are in fair condition but rusting. If there had once been rain sheds along the tracks, they are gone now.

The Romania 100 printed on the tarp refers to 100 hundred years of Romanian independence, following the collapse of the Habsburg Empire in 1918. The rail line and station were probably built in the late 19th century, when the empire engaged in a comprehensive rail construction project to tie together the far flung reaches of Habsburg lands in central Europe.
The waiting hall was clean and intact. This is a classic European rail station, and I am glad a preservation effort is underway.

Photographs from a Moto G5plus phone (sorry, no film pictures this time).

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Vicksburg's Seale-Lily Ice Cream Parlor and Tire Emporium

Tri-State Tire, at 2209 Washington Street, Vicksburg, occupies an unusual old shop with decorated pillars and big plate glass windows. This was a former Seale-Lily ice cream parlor. Preservation Mississippi has written about Seale-Lily stores in Jackson, but I found minimal information about a Vicksburg store. In 1943, a lawsuit was filed by a winner of a cash prize who claimed that the Seale-Lily Vicksburg store did not award him the prize. The summary of the lawsuit did confirm the address of 2209 Washington Street. I buy tires at Tri-State, and my friends there generously let me take some photographs one day when my tires were being replaced. One of them said the Seale parlor closed in 1958 or 1959.
2209 Washington Street, Vicksburg, MS.
View of Washington Street looking north.
I am not sure what this style of architecture is called. The arches have a pseudo-Moorish appearance, but the tiles along the roof facing give it a Southwestern look. As you can see, the glass windows once went to the top of the arched frames but were changed some time in the past. Tri-State has been here since the 1980s, and before that, a tire re-capping business occupied the premises.
The building was decorated with medallions and a checked pattern on the facade. The current owners have recently painted, but I wish they could return to the original round-top windows.

These are ½ sec. exposures taken with my 24mm Super-Multi-Coated Takumar lens. I placed the camera on a shelf or beam and set the self-timer to eliminate vibration. As you can see, the fluorescent lights create some odd blooming. Still, I am pleased with this 1970s lens, and am surprised how much detail in film recorded in the black tires.
The tire technicians told me that many years ago, there was a tall stainless steel tank in the middle of the room where the tire racks are located. I assume the Seale operation made ice cream in it.
This is the former Coca Cola bottling factory at 2133 Washington Street, about a half block north of Tri-State Tires. The 1938-vintage building has been leased by several users since Coca Cola vacated the premises about 20 years ago. The current tenant (or owner) sells furniture and gift items now.

All photographs are from March 6, 2018, taken on Kodak Tmax 100 film with a Pentax Spotmatic camera.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Photographing the Cotton Compress of Vicksburg with the Texas Leica (black and white film)


Dear Readers, for many years, I have used a splendid bear of a camera, the Fuji GW690II rangefinder, also known as the Texas Leica. It has a similar morphology to a Leica rangefinder, except it is, well, really big. The name is most appropriate. As you know, everything in Texas is larger: the vast open spaces across which you must drive, the enormous pickup trucks with dual rear wheels, the oil pumped from the  Permian Basin, the out-sized personalities like President Lyndon Johnson, the magnificent mansions in the River Oaks section of Houston, and the credit card bills of the ladies who occupy said mansions.

Notes on the Fuji Rangefinders

Fuji's original medium format cameras using 120/220 film were the Fujica G690 and GL690 from the late 1960s and mid-1970s. These had interchangeable lenses, and examples in good condition are highly coveted now. They provided a generous 6×9 negative area (actually, about 55×82mm). The GW690 Professional followed in 1978. This differed from the earlier models by having a fixed 90mm f/3.5 lens. The GSW690 Professional had the same body but was equipped with a wide-angle 65mm f/5.6 lens.

In 1985, Fuji made minor revisions and introduced the GW690II, GSW690II, and GW670II. My Texas Leica is the GW690II, which I bought new in 1991.

In 1992, Fuji introduced version III in sizes 6×7, 6×8, and 6×9. It is confusing to keep them all straight, but all are excellent picture machines; choose the negative size you want and look for an example in good condition. The leaf shutter is in the lens, and all controls are in the lens. On mine, filter size is 67mm.

The GW690II camera is a handful. The rangefinder is not as contrasty as one in a Leica, but the Fuji one works well. The body does not have the über-precise meticulous craftsmanship feel of a Rolleiflex or a Hasselblad, but the optical results from the 90mm f/3.5 EBC Fujinon lens are stunning. It is a five-element design with  four groups, all multi-coated. The film moves flat across the film gate and may lie flatter than in the Rolleiflex or Hasselblad. With the 690, you get 8 exposures on a roll of 120 film. When 220 film was in production, a roll would yield 16 exposures.

The main feature I miss in the GW690II is a self-timer. Because I often take pictures in old factories or buildings, I like to place the camera on a shelf or platform for a long exposure. But the lack of a timer means I need a cable release to avoid vibrating the camera. The older Rolleiflex is more handy in this respect.

The classic Panatomic-X Film

My favorite black and white film is the long-discontinued Panatomic-X. Eastman Kodak Company introduced Panatomic-X in 1933 and discontinued it in 1987. The film had been reformulated during its five-decade existence, so my late production was likely different than the original. It was designed to be an extremely fine grain film, which meant it could be enlarged for large prints and still retain details. This was of value to architectural, fine-art, and aerial photographers. Some 9-inch aerial photography film was a version of Panatomic-X. The version I have in 120 size was rated at ISO 32, but I shoot it at 20 and develop it in Rodinal at 1:50 dilution. Agfa’s Rodinal was a developer that retained the grain structure and therefore looks “sharp” (i.e., it does not have solvent action to partly dissolve the edges of the grain clumps). Used with good lenses and careful technique (that means a tripod), the detail in a Panatomic-X negative is astonishing, even in this age of 36-megapixel digital cameras.

My stock of Panatomic-X expired in 1989, but the rolls have been in the freezer and seem to be perfect. Unfortunately, only 15 rolls are left. Eventually, all good things come to an end. And honestly, Kodak TMax 100 or Ilford Delta 100 seem almost a fine grain and will be a suitable replacement.

The Vicksburg Cotton Compress

A cotton compress was a facility that compressed raw cotton into dense bales. Early compress facilities were steam-powered and were active in Autumn, when the cotton was being harvested. Decades ago, compresses were found throughout the US South when cotton was king. The cotton bales were transported away by rail or by steamboat. When I visited Łódź, Poland, a major textile and industrial center in the 1800s and early 1900s, I was surprised to learn that much of their raw cotton had once come from the USA South. I assume cotton bales from towns like Vicksburg were shipped down the Mississippi River and then transferred to ocean-going vessels in Baton Rouge or New Orleans.

In recent years, cotton production in Mississippi has greatly reduced and has been replaced with corn (for ethanol) or soybeans (export to China). The Vicksburg compress at 2400 Levee Street was in business through the late 1990s or early 2000s. I wish I had asked the operators if I could take photographs when it was in action. 
The historic brick buildings at the Vicksburg Cotton Compress at 2400 Levee Street are almost completely gone. Around 2010-2011, a company bought the buildings and removed the bricks for use somewhere else. Newer steel sheds are still standing but abandoned. There is no obvious action to reuse them.
I took the black and white film photographs in this article on a cold, gloomy day in late December of 2010. I also used a Sony DSC-R1 for digital photographs, which I have shown before (click the link). (Also click any photograph to enlarge it.)
I especially liked the textures and complexity of the tool benches and storage bins. These were old and well-used - from an era when we made things in the USA.
I think this was the machine that compressed cotton into mashed bales. I do not know how it all worked, and I wish I had asked to see the process when the compress was open in the 1980s and 1990s.
Cooper Postcard Collection, courtesy of Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Date not specified.
Vicksburg compress, from the Cooper Postcard Collection, courtesy Mississippi Department of  Archives and History.  Date not specified.
 I hope these massive old timbers were recycled. These were probably old-growth pine or cypress.
An interesting pedestal sink with a single metal support post. I could have a traditional sink like this at home.

Photographs technical:
Film: Kodak Panatomic-X film, which has been out of production since the late 1980s. I developed the film in Agfa Rodinal 1:50.
Camera: Fuji GW690II 6×9 rangefinder camera with a 90mm EBC Fujinon lens.
Exposures: I exposed at EI=20, so all frames were tripod-mounted, and many exposures were ½, 1, or more sec. long.
Scanning: Minolta Scan Multi medium-format film scanner, operated with Silverfast Ai software, film profile set at Tri-X 400 setting.
Clean-up: I used the heal tool in Photoshop CS5 to clean up lint and other marks.