Goodbye, Git-n-Go No. 2
Remembering a forgotten strip center.
Eulogy to a strip center? While many words were written when the white frame house called Jamil’s vacated, there are no tears for the nearby strip center.
The cause of this demolition, a good test of longevity in Tulsa, is to ask the name of the road removing memories. If the response is “I-44,” you’re talking to a relative newcomer.
That road, the expansion of which is leveling a wide swath around East 51st Street and South Harvard Avenue, is the Skelly Bypass. If one is truly steeped in Tulsa history, it’s the 51st Street Bypass.
The mid-1950s saw the first major wave of population move south in Tulsa. Tanglewood, south off 51st onto Toledo, so named because of the grapevines that wrapped themselves around the trees in the area, was one of the early housing additions. The Hamill family was among the first to buy a home — ours near 52nd at Toledo with three empty lots to the north.
The 51st and Harvard intersection didn’t rate a four-way stop sign. There was a Sinclair Station on the northeast corner (the last occupant of that land was a strip, as in clothes being removed, club) and a Phillips 66 station on the northwest. A fruit stand would seasonally occupy the southeast corner. Going east, 51st was a two-lane road out of town and the stop sign was to halt traffic, what little there was, going north and south on Harvard.
It was 1958/1959. (I date this with Git-n-Go’s first store that opened in September 1958 just north of 31st and Sheridan. Git-n-Go soon opened its second store where the empty Moto-Photo store now stands awaiting demolition.) The initial (Phase I, if you will, was built east of the Sinclair station and a similar “strip” was built east of that a number of years later) “Woodland Village” went up east of 51st and Harvard. A Git-n-Go store anchored the west, or Sinclair, end. Various shops, including a shoe repair emporium and, most importantly, a hobby shop, lined up east of Git-n-Go. The first Rubiot, Sonny Gray’s jazz club, would also locate here.
There was so little traffic on 51st Street that there was a well-worn path on its south side — worn by both youthful feet and Schwinn bikes as Tanglewood kids went west from 51st and Toledo to the hobby shop for Revell model car kits, or to the Git-n-Go for Batman comic books and Topps baseball cards.
Tulsa’s lunge to the south caught its leadership napping and schools were bursting. We moved from the Lindbergh district in mid-school year of 1956-57 and I was bussed past my “neighborhood school,” Revere Elementary School at 51st and Lewis (north of the area’s grocery store, Fike’s), to McClure, several blocks west of 61st and Lewis. There was no cafeteria and we sipped warm milk, which was delivered each morning, with our brought-from-home lunches each day around noon. There was also no gym and we stayed in the same classroom with Mrs. Jones all darn day.
While we waited for the school bus to take us to McClure, we would watch cowboys ride fence along the north side of 51st Street — that was working ranch land with cattle between the bypass and 51st Street. We could turn back south and see nothing but land for nearly three blocks. Tanglewood had been a sheep ranch and the land had been cleared — there were no trees from here to there at that time on Toledo. Today, even with the ravages of last year’s ice storm, the view south from that vantage includes a forest.
Git-n-Go is gone now. Soon what remains of Store No. 2 will be dust. Tulsa’s grown up. Even the “new” Tulsa is disappearing. And there are no eulogies to forgotten strip centers.