Friday, September 1, 2017

"Ghost Towns"

An Oklahoma ghost town with nothing to show its existence but
an old town sign and a single skeleton of a building.
On another road trip with the granddaughters, we decided to research some ghost towns and visit a couple within reasonable driving distance.  That led us to Cestos.  In his book, “Ghost Towns of Oklahoma,” John W. Morris gives us a look into the life of Cestos that a passerby could never comprehend based on what time has left behind.

The general store with apartment behind and old gas pump pads
in front.
Cestos was an agricultural service center and community that sat near the northern boundary of the Cheyenne-Arapaho reservation when the area was opened for settlement in 1892.  It reached its maximum population of about 500 between 1905 and 1910.  The community was laid out along several streets with homes, 15 various stores, a bank, hotel, and a local newspaper.  The community had its own telephone exchange to service the town and surrounding area.  They had the services of a medical doctor and veterinarian.  Its greatest pride was the Cestos Milling Company.  Its Sno Flake and Olympic brands of flour were distributed throughout the Oklahoma Territory and the Texas Panhandle.  With poor roads and slow transportation, the wheat grown in the surrounding area anchored the commercial operation here, but slowly the area began to change.  Wheat fields were turned over to cattle grazing.  Between 1915 and 1920, the roads and the automobile improved, cattle and wheat alike began to move to railheads to the north and west, like Woodward, and Cestos was left behind. 

A close shot and then from a distance to show off the beauty of
the old case.  Like myself, some of you may remember being in
a store with refrigerated cases like this.

All that remains now is the old general store.  It sat facing Main Street, or what is now Rt. 60 leading west from Seiling.  The pads for old gasoline pumps can still be seen in front.  When the building couldn’t survive as the area’s store, it became a church, and then a home.  Now, of the entire community, this town sign and solitary building are all that remain to show where hundreds worked, raised their children, and lived. 
This Burroughs adding machine would just hint at the future of
business machines.
There are several things here the kids today find incomprehensible.  The idea that a business like this would be operated with a cigar box serving as the cash register.  Instead of a computer inventory system, or electronic sales and receipt computer, long hours would be spent at the adding machine crunching out long lists of numbers and then pulling the handle on the right side to make the machine produce a sum.  The American Arithmometer Company was founded in St. Louis in 1886.  It later became the Burroughs Adding Machine Co., and moved to Detroit.  Other Burroughs production plants sprang up in Scotland, England, and France.

These are the Woodward grain elevators that took Cestos' wheat
and shipped their future out of the area from the train depot and
station.  Here is the ticket office and waiting room, and where
the platform used to be where people boarded.  Light freight would
usually be loaded onto the raised platform and carted into the store
room.  Another larger door is on the other side of the depot.  A door
at the end of the building would be used for pickups where the freight
would be loaded into wagons and vehicles.
There were stacks and stack of National Geographics that were still in their wrappers from the printers that dated in the 1950’s.  The large meat locker is not only a beautiful piece of woodwork, but still shows off its sealing doors with heavy hinges, tapered door edges and double insulating glass faces to show off the meats and dishes inside and keep them cold. 
Now, instead of hearing people talking and kids playing with the backdrop of the mill’s sound, all you hear is the high-pitched sound of an occasional car or truck speeding past and the Oklahoma wind.

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