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The Car Shack: 1939

The Car Shack: 1939

July 1939. "Activity around station master's shack. Streetcar terminal, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma." 35mm nitrate negative by Russell Lee. View full size.


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You mean Bricktown ...

which is the "entertainment district" created out of a derelict warehouse district just east of downtown OKC. But the streetcar terminal which formed the subject of this series of Russell Lee's photographs from 1939 was located in downtown proper, on the north side of Grand Avenue (now Sheridan), between Harvey and Hudson. The site of the terminal is now occupied by the tallest building in Oklahoma, the 850-foot high Devon Energy Tower.

Writing on the wall

The ad on the building was hand painted, a lost art. Now we have vinyl decals that wrap around a honking blemish on the side of the highway.

These old ads required the use of special lead based long-lasting paint. One of the requirements of the paint was that the surface needed to be hot for the paint to cure. That meant the sign painter was busy at work in the afternoon when the sun was burning his back. Lead poisoning was common in sign painters, as they sometimes got a drop or two on their bare skin. No time to clean it off, just wipe off most of it and get back to work.

[Actually it's a billboard, made of bills (printed sheets of paper) pasted to the board. You can see the seams where the sheets don't align. - Dave]

White water

That's a "White" water cooler. You can see the other one in this more famous Russell Lee photo, which was probably taken on the same day.

Watering Stop

Looks like the two men and the boy are partaking of free water. When you're finished with your drink just drop your cup on the ground. Bare feet were common among children of the Depression. The postwar boom and the widespread sales of sneakers had yet to occur.


Was probably in what is now called the Brickyard near downtown OKC.

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