The Threatt Filling Station is waking up. Built in 1915, and noted as the first black owned gas station on Route 66, the bungalow style building three miles east of Luther has been shuttered since the 1950s.
Many in modern-day Luther have a connection to Mrs. Elizabeth Threatt, who died in 2009, or a number of other family members including former Luther Mayor Ed Threatt. Elizabeth Threatt was a longtime school teacher and also operated the station with her husband, Ulysses Threatt. The local library is named for her.
Recent action of descendants of Ulysses’ parents, Allen and Alberta Threatt who acquired the land, are breathing life into an effort to restore the building, the family’s land and their legacy.
Grandson David Threatt, 45, is leading the way with other family members, some of whom journeyed to Tulsa last Sunday for an event that featured the Threatt Station and a showing of Green Book, at the art house theatre, Circle C.
“It’s a really really amazing story that has driven me to start the process of restoring the filling station for my family … I’ve learned there’s a lot of stories that don’t get passed down, and sometimes history gets lost,” he told the audience at the Circle C Theater.
The movie, earning awards, depicts the true-story journey of an Italian-American driver who chauffered world-class musician Dr. Don Shirley on a tour of the deep south in the 1960s using The Green Book, a guide that alerted black travelers of where to get fuel, food and rest during the Jim Crow Era.
While the Threatt Station was not in the Green Book, the movie’s subject draws attention to the era when travelers were discriminated against based on race. Threatt’s, however, was a welcome spot to travelers on the Mother Road.
David Threatt is collecting records and family stories of the family’s busy enterprise. The Threatt land also was a working farm, sold sand stone from the quarry on the land, and hosted games of the Negro Black League, Saturday night dances and many many family gatherings. There was even a rattle snake pit where venom was collected and sold.
A recent $5,000 grant from the National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program is allowing the family to secure the paperwork, research and plan to restore the station that sits on a lonely corner at Route 66 and the County Line Road.
The Threatt Filling Station was constructed circa 1915 along State Highway 7 by Allen Threatt, Sr. on land homesteaded by the family during the Oklahoma Land Run. After State Highway 7 became US 66, a grocery and a cafe known as “The Junior” were added. The Threatt Filling Station served locals and travelers along Route 66 through the 1920’s, the Great Depression, the War Years, and the Post-War Boom, finally closing in the 1950’s. Currently vacant, the property has been in the Threatt family for over 100 years.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Threatt Filling Station is historically significant for its association with Route 66 and as an example of an African-American owned business on the highway during the era of segregation. Travel could be difficult in the early days, and African-Americans had even more difficulty, as they were not always welcome at roadside businesses, including service stations. This station catered to those who might be turned away elsewhere. Grant funds will assist with the preparation of a Historic Structures Report, which will include a thorough history of the building, condition assessment, measured drawings, and a preservation plan for the restoration of the station. The goal is to establish an interpretive center in the station that celebrates the history and contributions of the Threatt family, and African American experiences in Oklahoma.”
Several friends are coming alongside the family, providing momentum for the project. Artist and Route 66 historian Shellee Graham produced artwork for a fund-raiser t-shirt and graphics for the Facebook page.
And family friend Sharina Killingsworth has caught the vision of restoring the station to a community space that celebrates history. She has spent hours at the Oklahoma County courthouse examining deeds and records, and helping the family with fund-raising and awareness.
“I’ve learned about what history can do for others if we just look and learn. I got behind this effort as a friend of family. When I think about if I were to travel with my children in that era, I wouldn’t have been able to stop freely for my children to get a drink or play,” said Killingsworth who praised Allan Threatt Senior’s vision and courage to acquire land and run successful businesses as a young black man of that era.
A tshirt fundraiser recently concluded and another one is underway to order sweatshirts or mugs here. To help the effort, contribute to a gofundme page, and watch for other projects brewing to help Restore the Threatt Filling Station.