Heading west from El Reno on Route 66, the old highway travels through a number of small towns that show the obvious suffering that results from superhighways bypassing small towns. The first three, Calumet, Geary and Bridgeport were cut off very early in the Mother Road’s history, when the El Reno bypass took them off the route in 1933.
Though very small, both Calumet and Geary are still intact today. Calument originally established in 1893, supports a population of just over 500. In the very early days of Route 66, the old dirt road ran right through the center of town, which still provides a peek at its vintage past with several wall murals painted on its buildings.
Geary fared a little better and is still called home to about 1,400 souls. Established in 1892, Geary provides a couple of old views worth a stop. The Canadian Rivers Museum features a log jail, railroad caboose and many antiques of the area. Jesse Chisholm, the founder of the Chisholm Trail is buried just northeast of Geary. Southwest of town, you’ll find a very old portion of the old dirt Mother Road as well as the ruins of an old suspension bridge.
After leaving Geary, you will soon come upon a long steep hill called Bridgeport Hill. Legend has it that in the early days of the Mother Road, many of the old Model A’s and Model T’s had to climb the hill in reverse in order to generate enough power to climb the hill.
Soon, you will come upon a Pony Bridge, famous for its 38 trusses that form a nearly 4,000 foot span across the Canadian River. Built in 1933, the bridge is the longest truss bridge in the state of Oklahoma. This bridge was along the newer section of Route 66 that bypassed these three small towns, replacing the old suspension bridge between Geary and Bridgeport. Properly referred to as the Canadian River Bridge, the west end of the span appeared in the 1939 classic film “The Grapes of Wrath.” This was the scene were Grandpa dies and is buried.
Though Geary was able to hold on, Bridgeport died and today is little more than a ghost town. Although Bridgeport is still called home to a few residents, all of its businesses have long past their prime. Here, you have several great photograph opportunities at the First Methodist Church, built in 1907; the fading remains of the old post office; rusty water tower; and an abandoned motel and café at the intersection with N2590 Road.
As you continue the short thirteen miles to Hydro, Route 66 winds through the Oklahoma countryside where you can see multiple old bridges along this stretch of the old road.
Established in 1901, Hydro was named for its abundance of good well water. The town grew with an economic base of agriculture but really began to bustle as Route 66 came through town. The Mother Road skirts the southern edge of the community, but taking the time to see Hydro’s downtown district will reward you with several vintage peeks, including the Route 66 Soda Fountain, where you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped back in time and the Graffiti Grill, featuring a restored 1940 purple Cadillac out front. Both businesses are located on Hydro’s Main Street. Another stop is the Johnson Peanut Company, located at the intersection of Highway 68 and Route 66. This place has been doing business for more than 60 years along the old highway, offering every kind of peanut, peanut candy, and peanut oil available. Try the hot and spicy peanuts as you take a tour through this historic facility.
One-half mile southwest of Hydro is Lucille Hamons’ Station, for which Hydro is best known. Built in 1927 by Carl Ditmore, Carl and Lucille Hamons bought the gas station and auto court in 1941. However, their timing wasn’t very good as World War II started just two months after they purchased the property. Carl began hauling hay to the northern states to support the family and Lucille learned how to pump gas, change headlights and fix flat tires.
The Hamons lived at the station in quarters located behind and above the business. In addition to taking care of her three children, Lucille also maintained the seven cabins, doing the wash in an old wringer washing machine.
On January 31, 1971, Carl Hamons died and Lucille was left alone to run the business. Before long, I-40 would arrive through Oklahoma, taking Route 66 off the maps. Many of the old businesses died, but Lucille, who had long tended to travelers of the Mother Road, hung on.
In the 1990s, when Route 66 began to see a revival, Lucille was made famous and dubbed “The Mother of the Mother Road.” In July, 1997, Lucille’s station was placed on the National Historic Register and in 1999, Lucille received the Oklahoma Route 66 Hall of Fame Award.
Lucille continued to run the store until the day she died, 59 years after buying the property. Mrs. Hamons died on August 18, 2000, but is lovingly remembered by the many long time travelers of Route 66.
Today, this classic old gas station is only one of two upper-story over style stations left on Oklahoma’s ribbon of Route 66. Route 66 enthusiast Rick Koch shored up the gas station building in 2007 as a photo-op and built the popular Lucille’s Roadhouse restaurant in nearby Weatherford in tribute.
If you continue your journey west towards Weatherford at night, keep your eyes open because legend has it that this part of the old Mother Road is haunted by an elderly humped back man. Said to appear in a brown trench coat, wearing a Bogie style hat pulled down over his eyes, he has often been spotted walking along the old highway, especially on foggy or rainy nights. Reportedly, one person picked this old figure up one wet night and the eerie little man wouldn’t talk to him. Soon, the vagabond tried to jump out of the moving car. The driver pulled over to the side and let him out only to spot the man walking again several miles ahead of the driver on down the road. Another person said that they thought they had hit the man with their vehicle but when they stopped to check on him, no one was there.
Do you believe it? Keep your eyes peeled!