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Pearl Harbor Bar: 1942

October 1942. "Tulsa, Oklahoma. Gas station converted into a bar." Libation station for the Duration. Acetate negative by John Vachon for the Office of War Information. View full size.

October 1942. "Tulsa, Oklahoma. Gas station converted into a bar." Libation station for the Duration. Acetate negative by John Vachon for the Office of War Information. View full size.


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Tulsa is confusing!

For those of trying to figure out where this is - Google informs that there are no fewer than 5 intersections between "9th Street" and "Main Street": N 9th & W Main, W 9th & N Main, E 9th & S Main, E 9th & N Main, S 9th & E Main; there may be more, google only ever lists five suggestions.

If internet chatter is to be believed, Pearl Harbor Bar was where E 9th turns into W 9th as it crosses S Main.

Tough state to own a bar

On Oct. 24, 1942, after what photographer Vachon called his "two wonderful wasted sunny weeks in Tulsa," he complained in a letter to his wife Penny written in Oklahoma City's Biltmore Hotel that "this hotel, in this dry state, has a nice bar for army or navy officers only." In 1942 Oklahoma was mostly dry; hard liquor was illegal but watery beer (not more than 3.2% alcohol) was legal. (The governor and AG didn't concede an exception for military personnel, and tried and failed to convince the Supreme Court to let it keep whiskey seized en route from St. Louis to Fort Sill's officers club.) So with vast numbers of young men temporarily encamped or employed within Oklahoma's boundaries due to the war, an off-base bar like the Pearl Harbor could barely benefit from it.

Near two main streets

The owner's choice of an eye-catching name for the business may relate to its proximity to "The Main Street of America - Route 66 (which passed a block or two south of the intersection of Main Street and Ninth Street in Tulsa). No doubt the "Pearl Harbor Bar" name appeared among the many billboards facing those whose non-replaceable tires (and soon, ration stamps) enabled them to travel by car or truck during wartime.

Easier to say

I would have named it Pearl Harbar.

That poster

on the right side of the building is, I believe, this one.


A technically beautiful photograph. Great contrast. The diagonal slash of sunlight across the upper reaches of the dark-brick building in the background is mesmerizing.

Out of luck

Property looked good, apparently a vacancy as well -- just had to make it over to "1102 So. Boulder" to make an inquiry. Alas, the owners seem to have permanently moved out, like the Pearl Harbor Bar itself.

Keys, keys, keys!

I think they also make keys.

Seldom seen now

I had a good buddy who was an accomplished artist and a sign painter. He had to make ends meet, ya know. I always liked being able to identify his signs by the signature applied in one corner or the other. Now, with more and more signs done in other mediums, that characteristic is nearly vanished. Gone with the painter's touch under the modern vinyl or something. So, it was a pleasant thing to see the proudly added signature of "Cruzan" above the alcove's header. Hope he did well for himself, and my friend too. Nice picture, Dave.

Matriarchical neighborhood

The full name painted on the window is Ava's Pearl Harbor Bar, right across the street from Cathey's Furniture. I guess it was a time when women brought home the bacon and fried it up in a pan.

A question of taste

It's difficult for me to imagine a "World Trade Center Bar" in early 2002.

Infamy in a booth

This was looking north(west-ish) on Main from Ninth.

To the disappointment of many, I imagine -- but the surprise of few -- it's currently a vacant lot. The PHB seems to have lasted at least a few years, mostly making the pages via the police blotter: various nefarious goings-on which recalled the namesake in all the wrong ways.

[Meanwhile back at the mall, City Briefs is now called Urban Underwear. - Dave]

Ah yes, next to Wisenheimers.
But back to our station, it seems to have started life under the Rainbow Oil Company

operating under a number of titles - "filling station", "service company" - and mottos.... "Limp in and Leap out!" scored well on the Cleverometer

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