Thursday, May 1, 2008

Our Mother Road and Our “True Founding Fathers”

We visited the National Route 66 Museum in Elk City, OK. This is a great museum complex, and is actually four different museums: Route 66, the “Mother Road;” Route 66 Transportation Museum (vehicles of the era of Route 66); Old Town Museum, in a grand old Victorian home; and the Farm & Ranch Museum, featuring tools, implements, tractors, and major equipment from early farm and ranch days in Oklahoma. For $4 each (Senior Citizen rate) it was a great value. We couldn’t take it all in, but we had a grand time.

I paused for the requisite photo shot with Myrtle, the iron kachina.

Suzy sat in this cut-off pink Cadillac to experience a simulated ride down the Mother Road.

I wanted to take this 1917 Rio Fire Engine out for a spin, ring its bell and crank its siren.

This 1940 Chevrolet is nearly identical to the one my mother drove from Portland, OR to Oakland, CA in the winter of 1950 with two tired and fesity youngsters in the back seat. No Interstate Highways in those days!

The Joad Family, from Grapes of Wrath, loaned the museum this 1927 Ford Truck they drove across country during the Great Depression. Doesn't that fellow look like Henry Fonda?

This young lady was getting a permanent wave in the Old Town Museum's beauty parlor.

From Elk City we traveled to Anadarko, OK, a major center of Native American culture, and the location (nearby, at least) of the tribal complexes of several Indian tribes. In fact, the State of Oklahoma houses the tribal headquarters of 39 of the over 500 recognized tribes in the United States.
On the way to Anadarko, we traveled through Hinton, OK, a delightful small town with a big sense of community pride. They have lovingly restored many old buildings for modern use, and have painted murals depicting their history.

The big attraction in Anadarko is supposed to be Indian City USA, and it does have its good points. Indian City is 58 years old, and was purchased two months ago by the Kiowa Nation as a tribal enterprise. If Indian City didn’t live up to its fanfare, it’s not the fault of the Kiowas, who are working to upgrade and rebuild its representations.
This is a reduced-in-size recreation of the Indian Agency Office of 1890, rebuilt using timbers salvaged from the original.

A decorated buffalo hide hung inside the Agency building.

On the guided tour, we visited residences and villages of seven different tribal cultures, ranging from nomadic tribes such as the Kiowa through farming tribes such as the Pueblo and Navajo.

A Kiowa teepee.

The corner oven provided heat and cooking for the Pueblo home.

The Caddo nation was driven out of Louisiana into Oklahoma. They were farmers, and built semi-permanent homes.

Suzy found the doorway to the Navajo hogan to be just the right size.

We were intrigued by the “earth mound” homes of the Pawnee, which were disguised into the landscape. The Pawnee were considered traitors by other tribes, since they served as scouts for the U.S. military, scouting out and betraying other tribes. They learned to build their homes in mounds covered by growing grasses, which made them harder to identify from a distance.

The Chiricahua Apache were a short, nomadic people. They built these small wickiups, then left them to return to the earth when the tribe moved on. The women and children slept inside, the man slept outside across the doorway to protect them.

Indian City’s advertising (pre-Kiowa ownership, we presume) talked about a 45-minute guided tour followed by authentic Indian dancing presentations, at least on weekends during the winter. We were there on Sunday, but our guide explained that the dancers were all school students, aged 8 to 18, and would only be dancing during their summer vacation. We had come prepared to see the dancing, and prepared to pay the advertised senior rate of $5. The new ownership had raised the rate to $9 a person, and didn’t offer the dancing exhibition. We felt somewhat cheated, but we recognize that new ownership sets its own rules, and they need to make a buck just like anyone else.

Another attraction in Anadarko is the Native American Museum. Unfortunately, it is closed on Sundays and Mondays, so we moved down the road to the Native American Hall of Fame.

The Hall of Fame is mostly an outdoor presentation of bronze busts of American Indian citizens who figured prominently in the civic or battle leadership of their tribes, or in the advancement of Native American culture with respect to the overtaking white invaders, or sometimes in their own personal accomplishment. Each of the 500 recognized tribes has been invited to present their own individuals for inclusion in the Hall of Fame. They must provide their own sculpture for the walkway, as well as an explanation of the reason for acceptance. There are presently 43 busts in the display, with room for nearly as many more as they are presented.

We were pleased to recognize many of the names of the Indians represented, and especially pleased to be able to identify a few of them before we even read their nameplate. We recognized, for example, Will Rogers (easy), Jim Thorpe, Chief Joseph, Sacajawea, Sequoyah, Tecumseh, and Geronimo. But there were so many others that we were impressed with in terms of their contributions, either to their own culture or to the life of America.

Will Rogers - Cherokee

Sacajawea, who helped Lewis and Clark and the Voyage of Discovery

Chief Joseph - Nez Perce. "From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever."

Sequoyah, who developed the first ever written dictionery of the Cherokee language

Cochise and Geronimo - Apache

We had a special blessing in Anadarko: we learned about a city park with electricity at each RV site, water nearby. The going rate was $4 a night. We stayed three nights in Randlett City Park, never found any information on paying, were never approached by park management, so we had three nights with 50-amp electric at no cost whatsoever. We have heard about city parks in the Midwest, and we are now learning about their great value to us as well as to the local community.

Next time, we’ll tell you about Duncan, OK, and the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center, as we go about … Our Life on Wheels.


  1. Thanks for the wonderful photos and descriptions of the Indian Tibes of the midwest. And love the city park setting . . . nice place to relax!

  2. I can't imagine getting a perm all wired up like that! No way - straight, thin hair is just fine, thank you.

  3. Deb, that's escatly how I felt too!


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