Downtown Sapulpa, in the 1950s and 1960s, was vibrant and bustling with commerce. Virtually every building in the downtown area was occupied with a thriving business. Sapulpans could buy almost anything their hearts desired without going to Tulsa.
If you wanted a new car, there were four car dealerships within a few blocks of each other. There was Ray Martin Plymouth, Standard Chevrolet, Bill Herring Buick, which later became Marcus Horn Dodge (which subsequently became Kennedy Buick-GMC), Leachman Ford, which became Denton-Easterling Ford.
If you were looking for new furniture or appliances, there was Tyler’s Furniture and Appliances, Sheffel Furniture, Rule-Reel Furniture, Gilliam’s Furniture, Western Auto, Anguish Appliance and TV, and OTASCO(Oklahoma Tire and Supply).If you wanted used furniture, appliances, or just about anything second-hand, there was Haistin’s second-hand store and, of course, my father’s store, Betzler’s New and Used.
Hungry? You could eat at Willingham’s Café, Royal Café, Chieftain Café, Little Gem Café, and Courthouse Grill. Willingham’s, in my 6-year-old opinion, was the only place to eat hamburgers.
Bayouth’s, Katz Department Store, Paul Geetah’s, Morton’s, and Harrison’s all had large selections of clothing and shoes. For Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, Bayouth’s was the only shop in town.
Washing machine, waffle iron, toasters, radios, phonographs ad TVs could be repaired. There was Wayne Jameson’s shop, Anguish Appliance and TV, and my father’s shop, Betzler’s TV Service.
Drug stores were not chain stores like Walgreens, but Mom-and-Pop drug stores, which made sandwiches, had soda fountains, and sold a plethora of periodicals, like the Saturday Evening Post, Life, Good Housekeeping and Mechanic Illustrated. City Drug, Bateman Drug, Plymouth Drug, were all within walking distance of my dad’s store on N. Main St. I fondly remember walking to City Drug, for a 5-cent fountain Cherry Coke and to read comic books while sitting in one of the booths
For a confectionary delight, there was only one go-to bakery, Tasty Pastry on South Main. You could buy a dozen doughnuts for 50 cents, which were far superior to Krispy Kreme. A cream horn “to die for” cost a dime.
When it was sweltering outside, you could sit in air-conditioned comfort at the Criterion Theater. Oh, how we loved to sit in the balcony, and throw popcorn and ice on the people below. A Thursday matinee was only 35 cents.
If you wanted sporting goods, such as fishing tackle or a baseball glove, you could shop at Sapulpa Sporting Goods or OTASCO. I loved buying fishing tackle at Sapulpa Sporting Goods because they had a large selection of hooks, sinkers, and bobbers that you could buy individually. Bamboo fishing poles (cane poles) were very affordable and you could set them out and leave them for hours without worrying about losing an expensive rod and reel. Fifty cents for two poles.
There were two banks, Security National (now First United) and American National (now American Heritage, in the same locations. There was also Sapulpa Savings and Loan.
Sapulpa had five grocery stores, Sheffel’s Grocery, later to become Naifeh’s Grocery, Jones Supermarket (3 blocks west of the Library), and Gerald Barkley’s grocery store on Hobson. In the early 50s, Safeway and Warehouse Market were both downtown, too.
There were many more goods and services available downtown. For jewelry Rainwater’s Jewelry was where you ordered your class ring. For printing your wedding invitations, there was Harmony-Woodruff on S. Park. Office supplies, like typewriter ribbon, carbon or fountain pen ink, were available at Gabe’s. If you needed legal help, Young’s Law Office, next door to my father’s store, was the best place in town. It still is.
If you wanted to place a classified ad or sell your house, you stopped by The Sapulpa Daily Herald. You could pay your gas, electric, and phone bill, in person in those days.
During Christmas season, downtown was fully decorated. I remember many a snowy Saturday night, when downtown Sapulpa looked like Bedford Falls in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” I have fond memories of growing up in downtown Sapulpa and it saddens me how Wal-Mart (and the Super Store concept, in general) has been so detrimental to Main Street America and Mom-and-Pop businesses.