25 Things You Should Know About Tulsa

Dave5957/iStock
Dave5957/iStock

In Tulsa, Oklahoma's second-largest city, you can enjoy Prohibition-themed theater and visit a former speakeasy that looks like it was made in Barney Rubble's backyard. Plus, some say the very center of our universe is located at a downtown intersection. Here's your tipsheet for all things Tulsan.

1) Gordon Matthews, a native Oklahoman and University of Tulsa graduate, invented what he called a "voice message exchange" in the late 1970s. Today, we call it voicemail.

2) Woodward Park is home to the Anne Hathaway Herb Garden—named after Shakespeare's wife, not the Oscar-winning actress. Tulsa resident Jewell Huffman designed the plot in 1939 after she visited Hathaway's cottage near Stratford-upon-Avon, England. Arranged in the style of a formal English garden, it includes medicinal and culinary herbs like rosemary and catmint.

3) Fred Flintstone may not live in Tulsa, but he'd probably feel right at home inside the famous Cave House on Charles Page Boulevard. Resembling a shack made of cartoonish boulders and built in the 1920s, it functioned as a novelty restaurant by day and a Prohibition-era speakeasy by night. Patrons could enjoy an illegal beverage in a bunker accessible by a secret passageway behind the fireplace. It's now a private residence, but tours are available on weekends.

4) Tulsa's establishment predates Oklahoma's statehood. In the late 1820s, the federal government evicted Muscogee (Creek) people from their ancestral lands in the southeastern U.S. and forced them to march west to present-day eastern Oklahoma, then called Indian Territory. There, they joined the similarly relocated Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Seminole peoples. A Muscogee band settled the area that would become Tulsa in the mid-1830s, while Oklahoma didn't become a state until 1907.

5) January 18, 1998 marked the 100th anniversary of Tulsa's incorporation. To celebrate the occasion, a city officials buried a '98 Plymouth Prowler in a custom-designed concrete vault at Centennial Park. Future Tulsans will dig up this huge time capsule on January 18, 2048, at which point the car will be given back to the Chrysler corporation.

6) On the surface, Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Tallahassee, Florida, don't appear to have much in common. But both city names are derived from "tulasi" or "tallasi," meaning "the old town" in the Muscogee language.

7) Tulsa businessman Cyrus Avery was known as the "Father of Route 66." Frustrated by the region's poor roads, he started pushing for improved transportation and was named Oklahoma's Highway Commissioner in 1924. When the federal government started planning an interstate highway from Chicago to Los Angeles, Avery lobbied for the route to run southwest rather than west over the Rocky Mountains. The road that would become Route 66 was laid through Arizona, New Mexico, the Texas panhandle, and (conveniently) Tulsa.

8) Garth Brooks, born in Tulsa on February 7, 1962, is the music industry's best-selling solo artist. Brooks has racked up 148 million albums and singles sold in the United States, 12 million more than second-place finisher Elvis Presley.

9) Tulsa has been called the buckle of the bible belt. To illustrate that claim, a sculpture of two 60-foot-tall praying hands marks the entrance to the campus of Oral Roberts University, an ultra-conservative Christian institution. The hands were cast in 1980 of roughly 30 tons of bronze.

10) Tulsa's Gilcrease Museum houses the world's largest collection of art and artifacts from the American West. The collection of more than 350,000 objects, including a handwritten copy of the Declaration of Independence, was amassed by oilman and philanthropist Thomas Gilcrease. Allegedly, his ghost haunts the halls of the museum.

11) The U.S. National Arabian and Half-Arabian Championship Horse Show has been wowing crowds at Tulsa's Expo Square since 2008. One of the most illustrious equestrian events in America, it features more than 1800 exhibitors and 1700 horses each year.

12) Tulsan racing enthusiast and industrialist Jack Zink sponsored race cars in the Indianapolis 500 every year from 1952 to 1967, and won twice, in 1955 and 1956. He also drove his own cars in a variety of racing competitions and was inducted into the Indianapolis 500 Hall of Fame.

13) Tulsa spent more than six decades as the "oil capital of the world." The boom began in 1901, when black gold was struck in Red Fork, now a neighborhood in southwest Tulsa. Then, in 1905, prospectors discovered the Glenn Pool oil field, which has yielded 340 million barrels and counting. By the time Oklahoma became a state in 1907, nearly 100 oil companies had set up shop around Glenn Pool alone.

14) Tulsa's tallest structure is the 52-story Bank of Oklahoma (BOK) Tower, which looks a lot like a single, short version of the World Trade Center's twin towers. Both were designed by architect Minoru Yamasaki beginning in the 1960s.

15) With more than 2.2 million tons of cargo passing through it annually, the Tulsa Port of Catoosa on the Verdigris and Arkansas rivers ranks among America's busiest inland river ports.

16) Pop superstars and Tulsa natives Isaac, Taylor, and Zac Hanson formed their eponymous band in 1992. Hanson's very first appearance was at the city's annual Mayfest when the brothers were just 12, 9, and 7 years old.

17) The "yield" road sign was invented by Clinton Riggs, a Tulsa police officer. In 1950, Riggs tested his creation by posting a sign at the corner of First Street and Columbia Avenue. Collisions decreased, and the signs spread throughout Tulsa, America, and the world. When Riggs died in 1997, a yield sign was engraved onto his tombstone.

18) When the Sex Pistols played at Cain's Ballroom in 1978, Sid Vicious punched a hole into one of the walls. Instead of filling it in, the management framed the hole. Touring musicians often take selfies with it.

19) A sacred tree is rooted near downtown Tulsa. The Muscogee carried a pot of burning coals with them on their forced march to Indian Territory, and after choosing a settlement site near a massive oak tree, they scattered the ashes to establish their new home. The Council Oak Tree at 18th Street South and Cheyenne Avenue still marks the historic spot.

20) The Drunkard, a charming 1844 dramedy about alcoholism, and Olio, a brief musical skit following the play, opened on November 23, 1953 at Tulsa's Spotlight Theatre. It's been running there ever since, making it the longest continually-running stage play in America. Performed on a weekly basis, The Drunkard & Olio can be caught every Saturday night at 7:30. Four separate casts perform the show on a rotating basis.

21) In the Great Plains and southwestern U.S., you'll never be too far from a QuikTrip. This wildly successful chain of gas and convenience stores was established in 1958 by Tulsans Burt Holmes and Chester Cadieux. The original store opened on Peoria Street in September 25 of that year. The company, still based in Tulsa, now has more than 700 locations.

22) UHF, Weird Al Yankovic's 1989 cult comedy flick, was filmed mainly in the Tulsa area. Parts of 1983's The Outsiders were shot here as well—in fact, the drive-in movie theater that Rob Lowe and company snuck into during one scene is still in operation.

23) Tulsa's answer to the iconic Citgo sign in Boston is its famous neon Meadow Gold sign, a landmark on Route 66. Built during the Great Depression to promote the Beatrice Food Company, which went out of business in the 1990s, the sign outlived the establishment it advertised. Today, it sits at the intersection of 11th Street and Quaker Avenue.

24) Before they made it to the big leagues, pro baseball players Matt Holliday, Sammy Sosa, R.A. Dickey, Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez, and Mark Teixeira suited up for the Tulsa Drillers, now a Double-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

25) On a railroad overpass in the city's downtown, a mysterious brick circle laid into the ground is dubbed "the center of the universe." When people stand in the center and shout, they hear an extremely loud echo that is barely audible outside the circle. Scientists aren't sure why. Who knew the portal to parallel worlds ran through Tulsa?

Turn Your LEGO Bricks Into a Drone With the Flybrix Drone Kit

Flyxbrix/FatBrain
Flyxbrix/FatBrain

Now more than ever, it’s important to have a good hobby. Of course, a lot of people—maybe even you—have been obsessed with learning TikTok dances and baking sourdough bread for the last few months, but those hobbies can wear out their welcome pretty fast. So if you or someone you love is looking for something that’s a little more intellectually stimulating, you need to check out the Flybrix LEGO drone kit from Fat Brain Toys.

What is a Flybrix LEGO Drone Kit?

The Flybrix drone kit lets you build your own drones out of LEGO bricks and fly them around your house using your smartphone as a remote control (via Bluetooth). The kit itself comes with absolutely everything you need to start flying almost immediately, including a bag of 56-plus LEGO bricks, a LEGO figure pilot, eight quick-connect motors, eight propellers, a propeller wrench, a pre-programmed Flybrix flight board PCB, a USB data cord, a LiPo battery, and a USB LiPo battery charger. All you’ll have to do is download the Flybrix Configuration Software, the Bluetooth Flight Control App, and access online instructions and tutorials.

Experiment with your own designs.

The Flybrix LEGO drone kit is specifically designed to promote exploration and experimentation. All the components are tough and can totally withstand a few crash landings, so you can build and rebuild your own drones until you come up with the perfect design. Then you can do it all again. Try different motor arrangements, add your own LEGO bricks, experiment with different shapes—this kit is a wannabe engineer’s dream.

For the more advanced STEM learners out there, Flybrix lets you experiment with coding and block-based coding. It uses an arduino-based hackable circuit board, and the Flybrix app has advanced features that let you try your hand at software design.

Who is the Flybrix LEGO Drone Kit for?

Flybrix is a really fun way to introduce a number of core STEM concepts, which makes it ideal for kids—and technically, that’s who it was designed for. But because engineering and coding can get a little complicated, the recommended age for independent experimentation is 13 and up. However, kids younger than 13 can certainly work on Flybrix drones with the help of their parents. In fact, it actually makes a fantastic family hobby.

Ready to start building your own LEGO drones? Click here to order your Flybrix kit today for $198.

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17 Odd Things We've Sent to Space for Some Reason

There's a Starman waiting in the sky.
There's a Starman waiting in the sky.

Artifacts, personal and pop cultural totems, and even the dead have made the journey from our planet to the outer reaches of the heavens. We've covered some odd items that have gone to space before; here are 16 more unusual things that took a trip to the cosmos.

1. Human remains

Thanks to Celestis, a company that specializes in booking “memorial spaceflights,” and an agreement with private rocket company SpaceX, the remains of several people who have died have been launched into the great beyond (for a couple of hours, at least). Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry's remains were on the inaugural Celestis flight in 1997; his remains took flight again in 2012 with the remains of actor James Doohan, who played Scotty. Astronaut Gordon Cooper’s ashes were also on that flight.

2. A toy dinosaur

In 2020, astronauts aboard SpaceX’s first crewed missions packed an unusual travel companion: a plush dinosaur. During the historic flight, Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley were accompanied by “Tremor,” a sparkly Apatosaurus. The crews’ sons chose the toy, which acted as a zero-g indicator.

3. Actual dinosaurs

In 1985, astronaut Loren Acton brought small bits of bone and eggshell from the duck-billed dinosaur Maiasaura peeblesorum along on a mission on SpaceLab 2. Thirteen years later, the skull of a meat-eating Coelophysis from the Carnegie Museum of Natural History was a passenger on a trip to the Mir space station.

4. A car

Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster, with Earth in background
Nothing clears the head like a long drive through the stars.

In 2018, Elon Musk took off roading to a whole new level. SpaceX launched a red Tesla Roadster into space as part of the Falcon Heavy rocket’s test flight. “Starman,” a mannequin clad in a spacesuit, sits in the car’s driver’s seat. You can track Starman’s cosmic journey here.

5. Salmonella

Lots of strange things have been brought to space in the name of science—including salmonella. Two shuttle flights to the International Space Station (ISS) contained samples of salmonella to determine how the bacteria would react to low gravity, and the findings were kind of scary. When the salmonella returned to Earth after being in orbit for 12 days on the space shuttle Atlantis, the bacteria became even more virulent. In the first study to examine the effect of space flight on the virulence of a pathogen, the bacteria that had taken a space trip was three times as likely to kill the lab mice as the salmonella that was kept on Earth in as close to similar conditions as possible.

6. Tardigrades

Tardigrades, a.k.a. water bears, became the first animals to survive exposure in outer space. The eight-legged creatures typically spend their days on a moist piece of moss or enjoy feasting on bacteria or plant life at the bottom of a lake, but they survived being frozen at -328°F or heated to more than 300 degrees on their trip to space. The water bears, which typically don’t grow more than 1 millimeter in length, were dehydrated and exposed in space for 10 days by a group of European researchers. Back on Earth and rehydrated, 68 percent of the tardigrades that were shielded from the radiation survived. A handful with no radiation protection not only came back to life, but later produced viable offspring. Excitedly, an “amateur tardigrade enthusiast” theorized the water bears must be extraterrestrial in origin if they can handle such conditions, but that claim has boringly been denied by the Swedish and German scientists, who made up for it by naming their experiment "Tardigrades in space," or TARDIS.

7. Sperm

Without gravity, samples of animal sperm don’t work the way they should. Putting bull sperm in orbit made the tiny cells move faster than usual. Meanwhile, in sea urchin sperm that flew on NASA missions, the process of phosphorylation screeched to a halt when the enzyme known as protein phosphatase didn’t do its job. In 1979, two female rats that went to space became pregnant but didn't carry the fetuses to term, and the males’ testes shrank along with their sperm count. Fortunately (or unfortunately), one creature has been able to reproduce far from our planet: the cockroach.

8. See-through fish (medaka)

Since the medaka’s organs are clearly visible because of its transparent skin, this species of fish was the obvious choice for scientists to test the effects of microgravity on marine life—and to help determine why astronauts suffer from a decrease in bone density while in orbit. Bones naturally break down and rebuild, and osteoclasts help break down bones while they're under construction, as it were. In space, the process gets wonky, which is why astronauts endure two-hour high-intensity exercise routines and take vitamin D supplements. With the medaka’s help, scientists discovered the time-consuming space exercise could be avoided, and by finding the mechanism in bone metabolism, it may lead to the development of an osteoporosis treatment.

9. Soft drinks

Special designed fizzy drinks cans taken aboard Space Shuttle Challenger in 1985
Even astronauts quenched their thirsts with a fizzy treat.
shankar s., Flickr // CC BY 2.0

In 1984, Coca Cola decided it wanted to put the first carbonated beverage on a space shuttle. The company spent $250,000 developing a can that would work without gravity, keep the drink fizzy, and not spill all over the place—even changing some of their formula in the process. After NASA agreed, Pepsi responded by saying it felt left out. NASA then announced that any soft drink manufacturer could participate if they created a viable container. In 1985, four cans of Pepsi and four cans of Coke were on board the Challenger; the day shifters drank Coke, and the night owls consumed the Pepsi. Neither of the sodas were to their liking.

10. Pizza

Pizza Hut wasn’t satisfied with simply being the first company to advertise on a rocket in the year 2000, so one year later it paid the Russian space agency about $1 million to become the first company to deliver a pizza to someone in space. The pizza delivered to cosmonaut Yuri Usachov included a crispy crust, pizza sauce, cheese, and salami (because pepperoni grows moldy over a certain period of time). Extra salt and spices were also added to compensate for the deadening of taste buds from space travel, and it was delivered in a vacuum seal. Usachov gave the pizza a thumbs up.

11. A cheese wheel

A canister containing space cheese
Some truly out-of-this-world cheese.
Chris Thompson/SpaceX, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In 2010, SpaceX placed a wheel of Le Brouere cheese on an uncrewed spaceship to honor the classic Monty Python’s Flying Circus cheese shop sketch. To add to the pop culture celebration, SpaceX sealed the cheese wheel in a metal cylinder bearing the image of the film poster from the 1984 Val Kilmer movie Top Secret!. It was claimed to the first cheese to travel to orbit on a commercial spacecraft.

12. A corned beef sandwich

Astronaut John Young smuggled a corned beef sandwich on board the Gemini 3 in 1965. The following exchange was recorded:

Gus Grissom: What is it?
Young: Corn beef sandwich
Grissom: Where did that come from?
Young: I brought it with me. Let’s see how it tastes. Smells, doesn’t it?

The entire incident lasted 30 seconds, with the sandwich only being consumed for 10 of those seconds, before being put back away inside Young’s flight suit.

While legend has it that Yuri Gagarin was accompanied by a homemade salami sandwich in 1961, the Russians had a specialized vacuum kit so they could clean up after eating to prevent any clogging of shuttle equipment. The Americans were just supposed to consume food from tubes, so Young was putting himself somewhat at risk for the five-hour mission. The astronaut got a stern talking to; he later landed on the Moon during the Apollo 16 mission.

13. Guns

Unlike astronauts, Soviet cosmonauts went into space locked and loaded, carrying a triple barrel TP-82 capable of 40 gauge shotgun rounds. The heavy duty weapon was deemed necessary after 1965, when cosmonauts landed on Earth and became stranded in the Ural Mountains. The isolated cosmonauts feared the local wolves and bears would attack them. In 2006, the TP-82s were replaced with a standard semi-automatic.

14. Buzz Lightyear

A Buzz Lightyear toy spent 467 days in space, orbiting the Earth on the ISS before having a ticker-tape parade in Disney World’s Magic Kingdom thrown in his honor. The toy’s namesake, Buzz Aldrin, was a special guest.

15. Amelia Earhart’s watch

Amelia Earhart was the first president of an international organization of licensed women pilots called The Ninety-Nines. One member of that group is astronaut Shannon Walker, who in October 2009 was presented with a watch, owned by current group director Joan Kerwin, that Earhart wore during her two trans-Atlantic flights to bring onboard the ISS. Earhart, of course, was the first female trans-Atlantic passenger in 1928, and flew from Newfoundland to Northern Ireland solo on May 20, 1932. She gave her watch to H. Gordon Selfridge Jr., who passed it along to Ninety-Nines charter member Fay Gillis Wells. Kerwin acquired the watch at an auction.

16. A treadmill named after Stephen Colbert

An astronaut using the COLBERT treadmill
European Space Agency astronaut Andre Kuipers using the COLBERT.

Stephen Colbert, as he is wont to do, managed to crash an online contest. He garnered enough write-in votes and technically won the right to name a room at the space station after himself. Though NASA reserved their right to ignore write-in votes, the agency compromised by naming their second-ever model of treadmills after him, dubbing it the Combined Operational Load-Bearing External Resistance Treadmill, or COLBERT. The treadmill’s manufacturer nickel-plated the parts, and unlike a standard treadmill, there are elastic straps that fit around a runner’s shoulders and waist to keep them from careening across the space station. The announcement was made by astronaut Sunita Williams on an episode of The Colbert Report; Williams ran a marathon on the previous treadmill while living at the space station in 2007, jogging in place with the concurrent Boston Marathon.

17. An issue of Playboy Magazine

Some members of the backup crew of Apollo 12 included some Playboy spreads on the crew’s checklists, which were attached to Pete Conrad and Alan L. Bean’s wrists as they explored the lunar landscape. Astronaut Richard Gordon, who stayed in orbit around the Moon during the mission, also found a topless DeDe Lind calendar hidden in a locker, which was labeled “Map of a Heavenly Body.”