Everyone knows 11th Street on the east side of Tulsa as the famed Route 66, but its west-side counterpart along Southwest Boulevard doesn’t always get as much attention.
Former state legislator Russ Roach would like to change that.
Roach, who founded the nonprofit Route 66 Development Group, has spearheaded efforts to get vinyl prints showcasing the historic highway at certain businesses. Each project is unique and takes an effort from a variety of sources, he said.
The most recent addition is a partially colorized print of a picture of the old Crown Drug Store, which is now Merge Church, at West 41st Place and Southwest Boulevard. The installation went up about two weeks ago.
“One thing I’m aware of from living here a long time is that a great many people in the rest of Tulsa never go to and never have any connection with west Tulsa,” Roach said. “It’s kind of its own area; they feel very close to each other and to their history. They also realize the rest of Tulsa doesn’t really know much about them or have much contact.”
The origins of the photo are intriguing in that no one is really sure where it came from. Roach went to the Southwest Tulsa Chamber of Commerce and told them what he was looking for.
What emerged was a home photograph that someone had taken — presumably between 1958 and 1960, based on the DeSoto in the picture — of two men outside the west Tulsa hot spot.
No one is sure who the two men are, either, Roach said.
“What I like about it is that you probably will have a dozen different people claim they know who it is — either a cousin, an uncle, a boyfriend or whatever — just because of the time length involved,” Roach said.
The Route 66 Development Group worked with another nonprofit group, the Route 66 Main Street Program, and Tulsa City Councilwoman Jeannie Cue to make the project a reality. The Red Fork Lions Club provided funding.
A photo of a 1962 Chevrolet Corvette went up in west Tulsa last month at Appliance Stove Doctor, and two more prints are in the works at Crystal City Shopping Center.
One colorized photo will feature the original Crystal City Amusement Park for which the shopping center is named. The other will showcase a 1957 Ford Thunderbird from the Tulsa Thunderbird Club. Both are at the printer and should be ready within the next few weeks, Roach said.
The four installations west of the Arkansas River will join the five others already placed along 11th Street in east Tulsa. As far as future projects, it will just depend on financing, Roach said.
“It’s not me putting my stamp on things; it’s them expressing themselves and what they want,” he said.