A Traveler and his Cat exploring America.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Filling in the Wall Station Hole

(notice how I rearranged the words from yesterday's title for today. I amaze myself sometimes)

As I left off yesterday, while taking pictures this guy came out from the ice cream shack across the way.

He proceeded to tell me how this was never a functional filling station, when it was built, why, and on and on and on about the history of the area while his chocolate ice cream cone dribbled down his hand in the Oklahoma heat.  He got on a roll and details were just pouring out barely without pause to take a breath.  As he put it in 1928 a loaded ore truck from the mines came roaring down the road out of control right where the Little House on the Highway is parked, and plowed into the side of the brick building taking out the entire side.  He said the wall we see now was an interior wall in the building and the windows were installed when the wall was redesigned with salvaged brick from the crash.

Here you can see how the windows didn't fit right.  Later when spray foam sealant was invented that was used to fill the void.

From the remaining rubble this little filling station was built.  But fuel tanks were never put into the ground (it was here he led me around pointing out some detail with the curbing, the concrete slab, the original building, the road, all regarding the missing fuel tanks - I barely kept up)  and in the end it was all just for looks.  The current owner lived 20 miles away and filled the station with Route 66 memorabilia thinking it would sell.  But usually when anyone arrived in Oklahoma they’ve by now had made enough stops along the way from everyone else trying to cash in on the Route 66 thing, they had no need for anything more.  His venture lasted for 6 months and here it sits, unmolested, a fact which continued to amaze me as I looked around.  By now my new friend had built up a full head of steam and the stories were pouring out of one after another.

He got going on about Bonnie Parker of Bonnie & Clyde fame.  Bonnie had an aunt who lived in Commerce and she spent a lot of her time at her aunt's home.  Bonnie married at 16 to a "no-gooder" who ended up in jail for robbery or manslaughter, he wasn’t sure which.  This is when she ran off with Clyde Barrow.

So a lot of the time the authorities were in Commerce trying to close in on the duo.  Bonnie and Clyde kidnapped the sheriff and constable of Commerce where in the end they killed the 60 year old constable - “He was a mean guy anyway.”  But Percy Goode, the young sheriff (31) had always been nice to Bonnie and let her slip by on a lot of her misdeeds of youth.  And in that they feel Bonnie was instrumental in sparing his life.  The sheriff was to die 10 years later of an heart ailment. (He would just throw out these little side-bits of information and kept moving on with his non-stop monologue while I watched the chocolate ice cream drip, drip, drip onto his shoes)  It was here in Commerce they hastily left their apartment when the law was closing in and the famous roll of film in the Kodak was found that contained the well known photos of Bonnie posing with cigar in mouth and pistol in hand.

When looking for this photo I saw another taken on the same day with Clyde, the two playing around.

With chocolate ice cream still running down his hand and he taking the occasional swirling lick he went on to tell me how 90mph winds whipped through the area three days earlier and that was the reason the backside of the brick building was ripped off leaving a pile of bricks lying on the ground.  This same Microburst played out in my visit to Chris Bisbee the bowling ball guy (Nowata OK.) who had some of his yard art blown away and the last Laura Ingalls home I visited (Caney Kansas) that sustained broken windows.  I took more pictures squeezing my guide with cone in hand in on the side.

   Then he took off on how where the tan metal building now stands, there use to be a brick two story rooming house where Harry Truman once stayed - before he was President, while the show girls worked in back.  It was really a brothel and the girls did a bit more than just being "show girls".

The young man was a wealth of information and accurate or not, he was entertaining.  I eventually had to put a stop to him and his stories and slip away under the premise that I had to go pee.  I simply was unable to retain anymore of what I had already heard and was afraid I wouldn’t remember it all when I went to scribble it down in my notebook.  I learned from then on that I needed to carry my notepad with me at all times.  Even that little trailer sitting there had a story.  A woman from out of state pulled up to check it out while I was taking pictures and we got to talking.  She had heard about the trailer sitting there by some means and had driven all this way as she was had been looking for a vintage trailer.  It was a great story but I didn't remember to write any of it down after what I had went through with my historian friend.  I never got his name either.

 I didn't made it into the ice cream shop and I sure could have used a cookie and a glass of milk too.


  1. That is quite a story, it seems that all famous people had visited this place from Bonny and Clyde to Truman. I can imagine all the information confused you a bit.
    But it is nice everybody is willing to talk with you, maybe they don't see so much visitors there.

  2. he sounds interesting - but mentally exhausting, too. interesting history of the service station that never was. :)

  3. Wow! And did you know that much about Commerce, OK when you first rolled into town? I think not.

    Sounds like you need to carry a tape recorder around with you instead of a notebook. It also sounds like your tour guide was dying for someone to talk to.

    Awesome story and post.

  4. What an "interesting" chap. Im sure people see us with camera in hand and think, "oh, they look interesting to talk to about nothing". was he really that boring that even his ice cream was trying to escape

  5. Interesting post. Like that old camper.

  6. Not only do I love the stories you were told, I love the way you tell them. I'm jealous!


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