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Abandoned Tulsa Speedway

I have spent my winter traveling around northeast Oklahoma looking for abandonment. We have had a very mild season this year so I tried to take advantage of it by doing more photographing than writing.  Not that I was ever really good about writing a lot of posts!  Ha!  But, now that the Bradford Pear trees are bursting with white blooms, the grass is getting greener, the ranchers are burning off pastures, the weatherman is predicting thunderstorms and the trees are beginning to leaf out, it will be hard to access, let alone see, some of Oklahoma’s abandoned places that I have taken an interest in photographing.  Like the old Tulsa Speedway that sits empty and decaying along Highway 75, just north of the city.

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Entrance to the abandoned Tulsa Speedway on 66th Street.

I had no idea this place even existed until I saw someone post a picture on the Abandoned Oklahoma Group Facebook page.  This group is an excellent resource for history, directions, photos and just general information when I am looking for new places to explore.  Anyway, I had to check it out.  Had to see if it was still there as the posted photo was several years old.  Saturday was beautiful!  Sunny, warm and low winds.  Perfect weather for exploration and photography.  I found the speedway with no problem, but wasn’t sure how much of it I would be able to actually explore.  To my delight, there were no signs posted and just one gate that I could easily climb over.  I adhere to the rule, “take only photos and leave only footprints”.  And if there are signs posted, I don’t enter at all.

 

I wandered down the old beaten path to the buildings and found the concession stand, the ticket booth, the press box and just beyond that, the track.  Long forgotten and neglected, littered with old tires and race programs, it looked like something straight out of a movie set.  Once the movie was made, everyone just packed up and left.  But, if I stopped long enough, I could almost hear the roar of the engines and the smell of gasoline in the air.

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An old sign leans broken and forgotten against the fence separating the track from the long gone grandstand.

 

 

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One of many tire graveyards at the old Tulsa Speedway.

I poked around this place for over an hour, loving every minute of new discovery.  There was graffiti in the pressbox and old tires everywhere.  An old desk stood on one end  at the first turn.  How strange, I thought, that this desk was out here.  Piles of old race programs and a tattered phone book fluttered in the breeze coming from the open door of one of the empty buildings.  O’Riley  Auto Parts must have been a huge sponsor as their logo was everywhere.  Kind of ironic that this sponsor lives on while the racetrack died, what seems a sudden death.

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Get your tickets here.

 

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The infield of the old Tulsa Speedway.

 

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The abandoned press box.

It was getting late in the morning and I had a lot of miles yet to cover on this day, so I packed up the camera and headed back to the car, with  the echoes of past races still ringing in my head.  I  don’t know what will happen to this grand ol’ track.  Maybe nothing. After all, it has been here, empty, for years.  But, it sure would be nice if someone could fix it up and let the next generation of dirt track racers experience this piece of our past.

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The Old Schoolhouse

In an earlier post I had included a couple of images of an old schoolhouse that my other half had stumbled upon while delivering feed to a customer.  I have re-visited that old school several times since to see how it changes (if at all) through the seasons.  On one visit, the grass had died down enough that I was able to venture all the way up to the front entrance and step inside, hoping to glimpse a piece of “undiscovered” history.  An old desk or two, a textbook or even an old blackboard clinging to the old, sagging walls.  Man, was I disappointed!  The current owner was using it for storage and it was packed from front to back with old junk.  Bed frames, shelving, chairs and the like filled this old schoolhouse.  The chalkboards were long gone and nothing resembling a school existed on the inside.

At least the outside was still a joy to look at and photograph.  I was able to get up close and personal with the merry-go-round and teeter totter.

The old merry-go-round sits in a field of late summer wildflowers.
The old merry-go-round sits in a field of late summer wildflowers.
The teeter totter still has one seat left, but I don't think I would trust it.
The teeter totter still has one seat left, but I don’t think I would trust it.
The fence in late summer lined with pretty lavender wildflowers.
The fence in late summer lined with pretty lavender wildflowers.

This fall I returned again.  I was hoping to capture the fall colors behind the building.  No such luck.  The trees had turned all right, but to a dirty brown.  I did find one red tree by the road and managed to photograph the schoolhouse with it.

Schoolhouse in fall.
Schoolhouse in fall.

This winter I am hoping for a light covering of white snow.  Just enough to cover the ground and blanket the old tin roof.  I want to be able to drive the red dirt roads that lead to this old beauty without ending up in the ditch (they don’t plow the back roads down here).  Wish me luck!

Just a note about the history I haven’t been able to find on this school.  On one of the more recent visits, I ran into the owner and talked to him.  He had the name of the school on the tip of his tongue, but couldn’t get it to come out of his mouth.  The school is still unknown to me.  He did tell me that classes were held in the building up until the mid 60’s and that a folding door ran the length of the building creating two class rooms.  I gave the guy one of my business cards and told him to call me (or email) with the name of the school.  I still haven’t heard from him.

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Elgin, Kansas

Creepy.  That’s the one word I would use to describe Elgin, Kansas.  Have you ever been somewhere and it felt like all eyes were on you?  And you were constantly looking over your shoulder to make sure no one was sneaking up from behind?  Well, that’s the way one of the teenagers and I felt one hot evening we ventured across the state line.

Elgin, Kansas, sits in Chautauqua County, right on the Oklahoma border.  I had heard about this ghost town and seen photos on Flickr, but wanted to experience it first hand.  As ghost towns go, Elgin did not disappoint, but man, was it creepy!

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Elgin was founded by Romulus “Rome” Hanks, a cousin to Abraham Lincoln.  In 1889 the population was 300.  In 1890, when the Santa Fe railroad came through, the population grew to 2300 residents and Elgin became the world’s largest cattle shipping point.  Rome established a trading post and post office and was instrumental in developing the shipping that brought Elgin its short-lived prosperity.  During the town’s peak, it had 5 general stores, 2 livery stables and 9 saloons.  Elgin was a haven for outlaws, including the Dalton Gang and “Dynamite” Dick.

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When Indian territory opened for settlement and railroads extended south, Elgin’s economy fell.  Even though oil was discovered in 1902 and delayed the death of the town, the oil soon depleted and Elgin dried up.  The current population is around 80 people.

The teenager and I took the “scenic” route into town.  I’m always thinking I can find a shortcut to where I want to go and looking at my map, I thought there was a nice road going from Caney to Elgin.  Wrong.  There was a county dirt road that wound around and damn near got us lost as the sun was getting lower in the sky.  We finally rolled into town and turned down an empty street.  I was shocked to see a very old house literally falling down right next door to the Methodist Church, which is still in use.  The house was a gold mine for photo ops so I parked the car and got out, camera in hand, ready to start firing.  The teenager stayed in the car.  I lined up my composition and pressed the shutter.  That eerie feeling of being watched came over me, but I ignored it.  I kept my eyes and ears open though, while continuing to compose my frames.  When I was done, I climbed back into the car.

“Did you see that old lady over there?”, the teenager asked.

“Yes, I did.  She was watching me the whole time I was taking photos.”

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We drove down the street and found the “main drag”.  Beautiful old buildings that now stood empty and broken along an old brick street, which seemed to be in better shape than the buildings themselves.  Most of the old storefronts were boarded up and had large “Keep Out” signs posted on them.  The old bank was the only building that seemed to welcome this curious photographer.  The door stood open so I went in and was greeted with a cracked concrete floor and a fallen in ceiling.  Tucked back in the corner was another open door.  I peeked inside and was tickled to find the old safe still sitting under the stairs.  As dark as it was in that room, I managed to get the camera to focus and fire. The sound of a loud truck barreling down the street with it’s radio blaring startled me back to the present.  Creepy feeling again.  Time to move on.

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We drove back down the main street and found the city park.  A lonely basketball sat next to the goal.  I composed a frame and thought that it was symbolic of this creepy little town.  Abandoned, forgotten and broken.  A dog came trotting down the street with a strange man calling after it.  Again – time to go.  The guy creeped me out.  And I didn’t want to get bit by his dog.

“Can we go now?”, the teenager asked.  “This place is weird and there’s a creepy guy over there watching us.”

“Yes,” I replied.  “I think we have over stayed our welcome.  If there ever was a welcome.  Let’s head back to Oklahoma.”

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Even though we left town the same way we came in, we managed to find a paved road back to Oklahoma.  I was able to get a lot of nice photos of Elgin, but I’m not sure I want to go back.  Just to creepy for my taste.  I think I’ll stick to chasing ghosts on this side of the border.

Safe and happy travels!

Bird Creek School

Wow!  It’s been quite some time since my last post and I apologize.  I have changed the name of this blog to reflect the types of photos I love to take, but the content will remain the same. I’m back and ready to tell you about my latest adventures!  I’ve already got a few short road trips under the 2015 belt that I have been meaning to tell about.  Here is one of them.

The old Bird Creek School is in Osage County, way back in the middle of nowhere, behind Bluestem Lake, near Pawhuska.  It is old, abandoned, decrepit and full of mystery.  Just what this back roads photographer is always looking for.  This one room schoolhouse was built in the early 1900’s for Native American children.  It is rumored to be haunted.  It has been said if you enter and write your name on the blackboard then leave that when you come back, your name will have been scratched off the board.

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The day I was there, was warm and sunny.  I saw no one around and it was obvious that others had gone inside so I climbed over the bent wire fence and cautiously entered the building.  I will admit, it was creepy.  The wind rustled through the broken windows sending the dirty, torn curtains a flutter.  The only sound I heard was the steady buzz of a hundred million wasps flying around the ceiling where they had made their nests.  No laughter of children playing, no scraping of chairs against the hardwood and no voice of a teacher lecturing her class.  Just that constant buzz.

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I didn’t leave my name on the blackboard this day.  It seemed to me that the rumor was just that, a rumor.  There were tons of names on that board and I doubted that any of them were very fresh.  But, it was fun thinking that the possibility of ghosts erasing the present to preserve the past was swirling around that board.  Maybe next time.

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Before I stepped back out into the warm Oklahoma sunshine, I took one last look around.  It saddened me that some of the graffiti on the walls was so graphic that I had to watch my composition so as not to include it in my final image.  Why can’t people just let things be?  I shook my head and carefully made my way back to my car, where I started it up and drove off down the dirt road and up onto the wide open prairie where another photographic adventure awaited me.

Happy and safe travels!