June 17 - Oklahoma Route 66 - "The World's Largest Totem Pole"

In the morning I woke up and saw that some people had occupied the site next to mine during the night...there were about 8 people and three cars. They were a group of guys in town for a huge paint ball war. I talked to them for a little while. They told me about their '70's model Westfalias, two of them, that they had at home. The paint ball war was a 36 hour "Saving Private Ryan" scenario....there would be more than 2000 people involved. Sounded interesting, but I figured I had road to cover.

Oklahoma is unique in that I-44 From Missouri to Oklahoma City is a toll road. As a result, Route 66 has been almost completely preserved, acting as the main frontage road for local traffic..although you wouldn't guess that if you saw some pieces of this road....much of it is very desolate.

I passed through Vinita, White Oak, Catale, and Chelsea....finally arriving in Foyil on the original pink concrete of the old road. Not too far East of Foyil on SR 28 you will find a great piece of Americana. "Ed Galloway's Totem Pole Park."

It is an unassuming place. Just a little house with some concrete Totem Poles in the side yard. Ed Galloway was just a regular guy. When he retired he began building these things. He was not an indian, it is said that he just admired them. He just decided to make these totem poles one day. It took him from 1937 to 1948 to build the largest one. It's 90' tall, 18' in diameter, and has a 54' base. It's made of 100 tons of sand and rock, 28 tons of cement, and 6 tons of steel. There are more than 100 carved pictures on it with four, nine foot indian chiefs carved near the top. There are other smaller totem poles on the property, as well as a table with stools around it supported by smaller totem poles for passing picnickers to use.

During his retirement he taught wood carving at a local Children's home. Also on the grounds is the "Fiddle House", another structure he built to house all of the fiddles that he made. Along with some of his other wood creations. Pictures that were made up of tons of little slivers of different kinds of wood creating pictures.

After Ed Galloway died, in the early 60's I believe, the park and totem poles fell into disrepair, the paint faded and flaked off, but thanks to a grass roots folk art organization it has been restored to ensure that this unique spot will remain for many more years.

There was an older lady in the "Fiddle House", which today also acts as a very modest gift shop offering postcards and the like of the park. I talked to her for a while...or rather she talked to me.....

"Oh yeah, I love telling people about the park."
She went on and on. Apparently the "Fiddle House" was broken into in the 60's and many of the fiddles were stolen, along with the wooden pictures Ed had made of every president of the United States up until his death. Many fiddles remained.
"Did he play the fiddle?" I asked.
"No. He didn't know how to play the fiddle, he just liked making them. None of them were ever strung." she replied.
I looked at them closely and sure enough...no strings. They were very intricately carved though, all different, amazing.

I took a last look around at the totem poles and took some more pictures. I decided I'd like to make something like that someday...not totem poles, but something. This place has endured because it is close to Route 66....people used to drive to the Totem Pole Park to have a picnic, or would just go out of their way 10 minutes to see "the place with the totem poles". The American road is a funny place.

I motored on, through Tulsa, Where I began to see cowboys for the first time in great numbers.....well a lot of the men wore cowboy hats and jeans with boots anyway. The landscape began to open up, cattle grazed across open fields.

I drove through the small town of Sapulpa, OK on the Southwest side of Tulsa and took a few pictures of some of Route 66 there. As I said, some parts are very desolate. I met a guy and a girl who were moving from Chicago to California on the bridge. They were checking it out too. John and Shelly, they had a white Hertz rental van they were doing the trip in....full of their stuff. The deck of the bridge was brick...pretty cool.

I stopped for the evening at Heyburn Lake Army Corps of Engineers Park. I was actually trying to find Heyburn Lake State Park, but the signage wasn't too good. I ended up going down a country lane, then the pavement stopped and it dead ended into a farmer's barn yard....so I turned around and tried another road. I eventually came to this park. I told the lady at the front gate I didn't think I was where I was planning to be, but that if the had sites open I'd happily take one.
"Oh yeea, we got sites. We like to think that were nice and hidden away up here...the state park is on the other side of the lake."
I drove through and picked my site, number 30, and went back to pay the lady at the gate.
"You know," she began, "I think number 30's the prettiest site in the park."
"So do I." I said and I thanked her.

As usual, I cooked dinner and made up the bed.

It was still raining.


Original pink concrete on Route 66.


The totem pole park.

Cows graze as the landscape changes.

The old cobblestone bridge.
 
A desolate part of the old road.
 

 
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