As a cold month of February comes to an end it might be a good time to look forward to spring time while and glancing back to Claremore’s downtown region 55 years ago...
In order to do so let us return to 1960 and take an early morning stroll through the main street business district. The area chiefly consists of four blocks of Will Rogers Blvd. between the Missouri-Pacific and the Frisco railroad tracks.
By going this time of day we might see several of the store owners and employees arriving to open up for business.
Since a slight morning chill could be lingering let us take the north side sidewalk so we can enjoy the bright sunshine.
As we approach from the east and step over the Mo Pac rails the City Hall/ Fire Department on the south side bid a welcome.
Crossing Muskogee Street there is Eltinge Streeter opening the door to his cleaning shop. Across the street Ralph Lingenfelter is washing the windows of a customer’s car while filling his tank with D-X gasoline.
As we cross in front of Nell’s Café the smell of cooking bacon delightfully fills the air. A city tradition for home-cooked meals, the small café is always busy from opening to closing.
Two furniture stores, owned by the Clark Masons and Earl Jones, are divided by Ava Powell’s Cleaners.
On the corner just before Cherokee Street is lore of Claremore. Mary and Joe Moore’s Bell’s Confectionery has a whole line of magazines for all ages. It is the Joe Freeman-made real ice cream shakes and malts that bring it the most customers.
North on Cherokee stands the Glencliff Store. Across the street Ray Akin II is loading up his truck for a plumbing call.
Taking up the opposite side on the 300 West block is the Claremore Progress newspaper owned by recent local resident Ed Livermore. Carl Thomas is now managing editor.
Walker Bros. Furniture anchors the southwest corner of the block. M.C., Mickey and Rose are ready with a smile and a good joke or two.
Across the intersection back on the north side stands Christine’s Flowers.
Inside Kelly’s Men Ware was next. Looking in the window we can see the always handsomely dressed Harvey Swan Sr. selling a teenager a Madrus button-down shirt.
Going on we see Sam Haddad picking up a loose piece of paper in front of his Ben Franklin 5 & 10 cent store. It is better known as Haddad’s. Wife Edwina is inside putting up a new display of glassware.
Bud Gentry is washing down the glass door leading into his drug store.
The old Cadet Theatre has featured its last John Wayne shoot-em-up movie. It is now a four lane bowling alley and remains a favorite for the Oklahoma Military Academy students on weekends. Gene Jacobs manages to keep the balls rolling and resetting up the pins.
Jay Sanders is always willing to share a tall tale when anyone stops by his barber shop. One must go through here to drop off a pair of shoes for repair by Bob Shelton.
Need something for the house or yard? One can usually find it in Wilson Hardware. Owner Jim Wilson has over 200,000 items and he and the always happy Levi Harlin know the location of each.
Among the businesses on the south side of the 400 block is chain stores J.C. Penny’s and C.R. Anthony’s plus Rexall Drug and Western Auto.
Drs. Gordon and Kaho have upstairs medical offices as does dentist Dr. Green.
Rogers County Bank with the community’s only revolving glass door occupies the corner.
Before crossing Missouri Street, a look to the north shows Safeway across the alley behind Wilson’s. Down the next block is Dick Legate Grocery that features home delivery.
It is rumored Mr. Legate is thinking about running for mayor later this year. When elected a city resident can discuss a neigh hood pothole while buying a pot roast.
Crossing over to the 500 block McClellan’s has a wide assortment of 5 & 10 items also.
Next is Ernie’s Pool Hall. Want to play dominos, shoot pool or snooker, and enjoy a cold soda pop, this is the place. Owner Ernie Smart is usually preparing his next sports story for the newspaper between the times he racks the balls.
Before reaching the community’s tallest building, the Will Rogers Hotel at the end of the block, we pass Talley’s Hardware, the side-by-side Wadley and Gallatin shoes stores, Denbo Jewelry and Montgomery Ward. All are ready for the day’s sales.
Among the businesses on the south side are First National Bank, Marshall Cigar Store, Collins Drug, the Majestic Café, Youngblood Jewelry, and the city bakery.
Continually across busy Highway 66 at the traffic light to the west we see the block-long three-story Mason Hotel. Businesses facing the street include the rustic hotel lobby, the bus stop, Huffman Real Estate, Mason Coffee Shop and Mason Dress Shop, and Twist Barber Shop.
Before turning around and heading back, we need to cross the street and stop at Copp’s Restaurant for a hamburger steak and coke. Maybe police officers Buck Johnson and Virgil Still from the nearby police station will be there.