Day Twelve: Miami to Muskogee, Oklahoma

October 24, 2019

Retracing Lena Huppler Bevers Travel Log

Fri. – Oct. 24.

Left Miami, had muddy road in the forenoon but good in the afternoon.  Ate dinner at Big Cabin. Stayed all nite in Muskogee. – Lena Bevers

The town of Miami, Oklahoma, which was named after the Miami Indians and is pronounced “My-Am-Uh,”1 is only about 10 miles south of the border between Kansas and Oklahoma.  Miami’s Main Street is the longest main street on Historic Route 66.2  When the Bevers family arrived in Miami, they may have entered the town through the “Gateway.”

“In the early 1900s a steel arch greeted visitors entering Miami (by train), as it spanned East Central Avenue (between C and D Streets) next to the railway station. … The arch was removed in the 1930s.”3

“Gateway”, Miami, Oklahoma (Courtesy of John Scherer)4

“As part of the city’s project to reinforce its Route 66 roots, a replica of the classic steel structure was planned in 2007. It was built and finally erected by Heck and Wicker Inc. in July 2012, but now on Main Street.

“The new steel structure with a triangular top, proclaims to all visitors ‘The Gateway, Miami, Okla.’”5

(Photograph by MRW October 24, 2019)
(Photograph by MRW October 24, 2019)
A view of Main Street in Miami, Oklahoma (Courtesy of John Scherer)6

One of the architectural gems on Historical Route 66 is the Coleman Theater Beautiful, an historic vaudeville theatre with a Spanish Colonial Mission-style exterior and Louis XV interior, costing $600,000 to build.7  Tickets sold at $1.00 each when it opened April 18, 1929, ten years after Lena and Herbert had passed through the town.  Current “programming ranges from ballets and operas to country and western acts to jazz and dance bands. Plus, … silent movies with the ‘Mighty Wurlitzer’ providing the music and sound effects.”8  During a tour of the theater given by a woman who had begun performing on the stage when she was about five years old (which was probably in the late 1940s), my mother and I were very impressed with the interior design, the carvings and paintings, and the care that devoted volunteers have given to restore the theater to its former glamour.

Coleman Theater Beautiful (Photograph by MRW October 24, 2019)
The backdrop on the stage is 90 years old (Photograph by MRW October 24, 2019)
One of the tasks volunteers completed during restoration was applying gold leaf throughout the theater (Photograph by MRW October 24, 2019)
One of the highlights of our tour was hearing this Wurlitzer organ play, the pipes are on each side of the stage. (Photograph by MRW October 24, 2019)

Two other beautiful sights on Main Street in Miami are murals painted on the side walls of buildings.

Herbert and Mr. McElhany drove about 100 miles on October 24, 1919.  Lena wrote that they had a muddy road on their way to Big Cabin, which is 40 miles from Miami.  Due to the muddy road they probably were driving about 10 miles per hour.  Then in the afternoon the road was good, so they accomplished the 60-mile drive to Muskogee at about 15 miles per hour.  According to The Official Automobile Blue Book 1920, the speed laws in Oklahoma were regulated by the towns and cities.9

Before heading toward Big Cabin, we tried to locate a stretch of the original Historic Route 66.  It took about 45 minutes to find it because the directions I obtained from a website were not specific enough and there either wasn’t a road marker or we missed seeing a road marker.  When we felt we had gone too far, we asked my mother’s phone to navigate us to the location of The Ribbon Road and after passing it once, we finally located the road.  The Ribbon Road is only one lane.  “Legend has it that the funds were insufficient and that the engineers chose to build only one lane, nine-feet wide and pave the whole length between Miami and Afton rather than pave half the distance with a regular width road.”10

The Ribbon Road, a section of Historic Route 66 (Photograph by MRW October 24, 2019)

On the map below printed in the International Tourist Guide, the route on the left is the branch of the Jefferson Highway that the Bevers’ family traveled on this day.11  Route 36 in The Official Automobile Blue Book 1920 lists many of the towns that Lena and Florence record in their travel logs.  In the introduction to this route, it states: “This is a section of the King of Trails, the Jefferson highway and the Ozark trail.  Good supply stations and stopping places all along the route.”12 According to a 1924 Rand McNally map, the King of Trails Highway merged with the Jefferson Highway at Vinita.13  As my mother and I traveled down this route, we found that the towns are still small except Muskogee.  In Big Cabin, where the Bevers had their dinner, there were only truck stops, so we decided to continue down the road to Pryor.  We ate lunch across the street from a building dated 1900.  Then continuing on, we arrived at our motel in Muskogee at 3:00 PM.

(Courtesy of Jefferson Highway Association)
Historic buildings in Vinita, the one on the right is dated 1910 (Photograph by MRW October 24, 2019)
Historic building in Pryor dated 1900 (Photograph by MRW October 24, 2019)

Notes:

  1. Miami Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, History, http://www.visitmiamiok.com/history/.
  2. Miami Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, Route 66 Miami Itinerary, http://www.visitmiamiok.com/map/route-66-miami-itenery/.
  3. Road Trip Journeys, TheRoute-66.com Online Travel Guide, https://www.theroute-66.com/miami.html#gateway.
  4. Gateway, Miami, Okla., http://schehrer2.homestead.com/Miami25.html.
  5. Road Trip Journeys, TheRoute-66.com Online Travel Guide.
  6. Main Street, Miami, Oklahoma, http://schehrer2.homestead.com/Miami25.html.
  7. Shannon Duhon, The Coleman Theater Beautiful, http://www.colemantheatre.org/opening-weekend.
  8. Shannon Duhon, The Coleman Theater Beautiful.
  9. Automobile Blue Book Publishing Company, The Official Automobile Blue Book 1920, vol. 7 (New York: Automobile Blue Book Publishing Company, 1920): 864, https://ia601208.us.archive.org/26/items/case_gv1024_a92_1920_v_7/case_gv1024_a92_1920_v_7.pdf.
  10. Road Trip Journeys, TheRoute-66.com Online Travel Guide, https://www.theroute-66.com/ribbon-road-us66.html.
  11. Jefferson Highway Association, International Tourist Guide, Jefferson Highway (Saint Joseph, Missouri: Combe Printing Co., 1923): 31.
  12. Automobile Blue Book Publishing Company, The Official Automobile Blue Book 1920, vol. 7: 98.
  13. Rand McNally and Company, Commercial Atlas of America, “Auto Trails Map, District No. 12, Southern Nebraska, Eastern Colorado, Kansas, Northeastern New Mexico, Northern Oklahoma” (Chicago: Rand & McNally and Company, 1924): 372-373, https://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/detail/RUMSEY~8~1~201708~3000668:AutoTrails-Map,-Southern-Nebraska.

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