Road Trip: South Central Oklahoma

We decided Saturday afternoon that a trip to the world’s largest casino was a good destination.

WinStar Casino is in Thackerville, Oklahoma.

The casino was packed, it was almost overwhelming.

The casino is divided into areas named after the world’s best cities.  Beijing, New York, Paris, Rome, etc.  Each area is decorated to represent the city.  There were so many people it was hard to enjoy the architecture. 

We made our way to Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar.  I am just four weeks out of Gastric Bypass Surgery, so it was pretty much just mashed potatoes.  Toby Keith’s mashed potatoes were awesome.  Definitely homemade, you could taste the butter and cream cheese in them.  I do have one complaint, they were out of shot glasses, as were Mickey Mantle’s and the Dallas Cowboys Bar. 

There were two boutiques on the casino floor.  Neither of them sold shot glasses, but one did sell a $1,000 toaster.  I asked the lady at the counter, she said, she has never sold one.  She also pointed me to the hotel’s gift shop, as they sold shot glasses.  I was able to get a shot glass there.

Neither Jeremy nor I had much luck. We broke even in the casino.  Most of our time was spent on the Little Shop of Horrors slot machine and the new Little Shop of Horrors Director’s Cut, along with Press Your Luck.  I wanted to play Plinko from Price Is Right, but it looked pretty lame, so we skipped that one.  We wanted to try out Singing in the Rain, a new, at least to us, slot machine, but it was always busy.  Singing In the Rain was one of my favorites as a kid, it was one of my dad’s favorites, so we watched it a lot.

We got back to our room late and called it a night.

The next morning, we went to back to the WinStar to get a daytime picture of the Unisphere, one of many stops on the app.

The WinStar Globe began in early 2010 when the owners, envisioned recreating the Unisphere, the centerpiece of the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair.

The globe was designed and engineered to remain faithful to the original Unisphere’s design. Just like its predecessor, the WinStar Globe features three orbital rings, each with profound significance.

1. The first ring represents the orbit of Yuri Gagarin, the first Russian Cosmonaut to orbit the Earth.

2. The second ring honors John Glenn, the first American Astronaut to orbit the earth.

3. The third ring pays tribute to Telstar, the first active communications satellite to orbit the Earth.

After construction in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, the WinStar World Globe found its permanent home in 2011.

We visited four casinos on the way home.  Border Casino, Jet Stream Casino, Gold Mountain, and Treasure Valley Casino. Not a one of them had a gift shop, so no shot glasses.

We visited The Great Hanging Memorial in Gainesville, Texas.  In October 1862, during the American Civil War, 41 suspected Unionists were hanged, along with two additional suspects shot by Confederate troops attempting to escape. Suspects faced a “Citizens’ Court” with no legal status, making up its own rules for convictions. This court consisted of jurors, seven of whom were slave owners, despite only 11% of county households owning slaves.

The suspects were executed one by one, and mob pressure grew as more men were convicted and hanged. The mob eventually took matters into their own hands, lynching 14 men without trial. Even after some were acquitted, 19 men were returned to court and convicted without new evidence due to mob pressure. This one of the largest mass hangings in U.S. history.

This memorial was set up near the execution site in 2014.  While the site had a somber feeling to it, the weather was beautiful with a gentle breeze blowing and nothing but blue sky above.

The Toy & Action Figure Museum in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma, was named one of Time Magazine’s “Top 50 Most Authentic American Experiences.” This quirky museum had its beginnings in 2000 when the city wanted to make Pauls Valley a sought-after destination. With the creative guidance of local artist and toy designer Kevin Stark, a dedicated board formed and set out to create the world’s first museum focused on action figure art and sculpting. The doors opened on October 15, 2005.

The Toy & Action Figure Museum is an accredited institution featuring over 13,000 classic pop culture figures on display.

The museum houses the Oklahoma Cartoonists Collection, celebrating the state’s contributions to comics. Artists include Chester Gould of Dick Tracy fame, and Jack and Carole Bender, who work on Alley Oop.

I loved this museum.  The first area is the “Collector’s Bedroom” which features all types of action figures together in one giant playroom.  I can only imagine this is what my bedroom would have looked like if my parents were millionaires.

There were different areas dedicated to the various pop culture icons, the Simpsons, WWE, PEZ, Barbie, G.I. Joe, Masters of the Universe, Star Trek, and my favorite Star Wars.  There were so many toys, I think if I spent all day there, I would still not fully absorb everything.  I loved finding the toys I had and dreaming about collecting the ones I never got to add to my collection.

If I had one complaint about the museum, it was the lack of information.  I know it would be almost impossible to list every item on display.  I wish there was more explanation like which were re-releases of Star Wars toys and which were the originals, maybe a little more history on the various sets, like background info on the creator of Barbie, or a look at the comics that evolved into the Marvel superheroes.  That type of stuff would have been very helpful.  I was very excited that the museum offered shot glasses.

James Scott Garner, known for his roles in film and television, was born as James Scott Bumgarner on April 7, 1928, in Denver, Oklahoma. (Now under Lake Thunderbird near Norman) His career spanned over five decades, during which he played leading roles in more than 50 films.

His most popular characters were Bret Maverick, in the Western series “Maverick” and Jim Rockford, in “The Rockford Files.”

On April 21, 2006, Norman dedicated this 10-foot-tall bronze statue of Garner as Maverick.  The star was able to attend the ceremony.

While Garner faced health challenges throughout his career, including knee issues and a severe stroke in 2008, he remained dedicated to his craft. On July 19, 2014, James Garner passed away at the age of 86 due to a heart attack caused by coronary artery disease.

In the heart of the University of Oklahoma’s campus stands a unique sculpture, the “Covered Wagon,” a creation by Wichita, Kansas native and artist Tom Otterness. Unveiled on October 17, 2018, this piece sparked a blend of positive and negative feedback. Some students mistook it for a prank by the university’s arch-rival, the Texas Longhorns, given its longhorn with boots pulling a covered wagon.

However, what truly stirred the controversy was the artist’s troubled past. In the 1970s, Otterness acquired a dog from an animal shelter, tied it up and shot it, then used the footage in one of his art exhibitions. While he has since expressed remorse and apologized, the shadow continues to follow him, causing backlash every time his works are proposed for public installations.

This bronze sculpture featuring a teacher seated with two children was dedicated on July 3, 1999. The woman sits in a chair holding a book, while the young girl stands beside her, and a boy sits on the ground.

The sculpture is a tribute to the pioneers and educators of Oklahoma and was sculpted by L’Deane Minor Trueblood. You can learn more about her sculptures in Wichita by reading the story “Young at Art.”