A Flickr contact suggested I go to Burbank, OK, to photograph some abandoned buildings. He also said while I was there, I should check out a small, but non-existent town called Whizbang. Whizbang? I chuckled. Whizbang, Oklahoma. I checked my atlas and Whizbang was not anywhere on the map of Oklahoma. I Googled it. Several links came up and I was able to get general directions to Whizbang. The name alone was driving my curiosity, and the possibility of abandoned buildings was just too good to pass up. So last Saturday morning I dragged my teenage daughter out of bed and into the car. We headed west into Osage County, one of my favorite places to photograph.
We arrived in Burbank and drove through the small, but busy little town. I found McCarkle Avenue, which according to Google would take me to Whizbang. We came to an intersection and I looked at the street sign. Sure enough, there was Whizbang Denoya Road. We drove down it for several miles, but didn’t see anything resembling an old ghost town. We crossed a creek and topped a hill that came out onto what looked to be someone’s private property. I turned around and we went back. Did not want some old coot coming out of that house with a shotgun pointed at me.
I was disappointed. I thought for sure we would see something. Bricks, foundations, walls or even an actual building. But, there was just the road sign. I needed a picture of it just to say I had been there. We got back to the intersection and a man on an ATV came up behind me. When he saw my car door open, he pulled around and stopped beside me. I told him I was looking for Whizbang. He smiled and told me to go back the way I had just come, cross over 4 cattle guards and top a hill or two and I would run into it. Ya just gotta love the way these ranchers give directions! He gave me a brief history of the town, part of which I already knew from my research on Google.
Whizbang, or Denoya as it was officially named by the post office, was an oil boom town in the 1920’s and 1930’s. At it’s peak, it had a population of 10,000 and 300 businesses had set up shop. The town came into existence overnight when E.W. Marland drilled a well which produced 600 barrels of oil per day. How the town got its name is uncertain. It could have come from a cartoon character of the day or a brothel madam who called herself Whizbang Red. No matter, Whizbang was a violent town. The bank was robbed twice and gunfights were commonplace. Women were not safe walking the streets. The town had a movie theater with a stage, which employed vaudeville acts that were done at their own risk. If a patron didn’t like the act, he would shoot the actors. In the late 1920’s, the petroleum reserves died and so did the town of Whizbang. The post office closed in the very early forties and fire destroyed most of what was left of the town. The most famous person to emerge from Whizbang was Clark Gable, who was a local roustabout before heading to Hollywood.
The teenager and I went back down the dirt road and followed the ranchers directions. We saw lots of green pastures with some unusual rock formations. Could those be remnants of Whizbang? I didn’t know, but I took pictures anyway.
The teenager pointed to a concrete pad sticking up out of the ground. I stopped the car and went to investigate. Remnants of Whizbang? Maybe. I snapped the shutter a couple of times and went back to the car.
“I’m hungry”, the teenager said as I got into the driver’s seat. Funny thing about teenagers. They are always hungry. “We’ll get something when we get back to Pawhuska”, I told her. We drove on and a large ranch entrance sign caught my eye on the left. We had found the Need More Beer Ranch. I am not kidding. Here is the photo.
“Mom, there is a foundation over here,” said the teenager. I looked to the right and low and behold, there was Whizbang. “We found it!” “No, I found it,” the teenager said, feeling rather proud of herself. Either way, the remnants of Whizbang were quite visible. There was a fence between me and Whizbang so I stayed on my side and took my photos. I could almost hear the gunfire in the streets and smell the oil in the air.
We drove into Shidler and I had every intention of going on to Pawhuska so we could eat. I didn’t see any open restaurants in Shidler. What I did see was a large sign painted on the side of a building. Little did I know that this sign would bring another adventure to our day. But, that story will have to wait because as my teenager often tells me, I’m hungry!
Happy and safe travels, everyone!