A Slice of Life in Oklahoma

A bit of personal history…..

Welcome back.  As of today, Wednesday December 2nd, there are twenty-three days left before Christmas and with Woolaroc’s members only party kicking things off last night, let the season begin! This is a busy time of year for food caterers and they are gearing up for big holiday parties. Catering is big business and local cafes offer specials for folks who may not want to cook but still want that home cooked meal that is an important part of the season. One such establishment that is well known to residents of the four state area as well as to truckers around the country, is the Copan Truck Stop and Restaurant.

Owner Donna Chaney and her husband John began running the Truck Stop Restaurant 25 years ago but her experience in the restaurant business goes back much further and overlaps with my own food service experience.  In the late 1960s I was a high school boy washing dishes and just generally helping out at the very successful Denny’s Tuxedo Café located on the northwest corner of Tuxedo and Hwy. 75 in Bartlesville. Although Donna was several years younger than me, she was already working at the front of the restaurant, seating customers, waiting on tables, running the register cooking  and even doing dishes. Every morning when Denny’s opened there was usually a line at the door and the noon hour was about the same. But from Thursday night to Sunday morning from 6pm to 2am Denny’s was a zoo! One of the few late night restaurants in the area during the 60s and with a recipe for broasted chicken that was unique at the time, there was a line out the door until closing time and even then the orders keep coming in at the back door.

To a young boy of fourteen, the owner Denny Forest was a larger than life figure. In addition to the restaurant he had a big ranch with lots of cows and appaloosa horses along with many other business investments. It was Denny’s Tuxedo Café where I would say Donna Chaney got her real schooling and was launched into a successful career. She stayed in the restaurant business running several well-known establishments before eventually settling in at Copan. Many have suggested that her café there surpasses even her grandfather Denny’s well known restaurant. If you haven’t been there before you definitely want to check it out and be sure to ask about their prime rib dinner on Friday and Saturday. Let me warn you, it’s very popular and you’ll probably need reservations for that one.

Following that dinner, a drive over the Copan dam is always worth the time now that the leaves are on the ground. Deer are plentiful and turkeys, coyotes and even eagles have been spotted in the area. If you stay on 10 for another 7 miles, Hulah Lake also offers great opportunities for spotting wildlife and appreciating our beautiful countryside. Back in the 1960s Hulah was the place to go for boating, camping, swimming and fishing. The lake had a dozen boat docks, several swimming areas and numerous camping spots. It wasn’t unusual for the campgrounds to fill up but now it is a forgotten treasure. The tables are still there and swimming is allowed but there are few visitors. The marinas are all gone even the café and bait stands are closed but the views are still there and I’m told the fishing is good. It’s well worth the short drive to visit an area that was once the place to be.

Continuing on Highway 10 a few more miles you will come to Pawhuska and the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve where buffalo roam freely across thousands of acres. Here you can learn about the history of the legendary Chapman-Barnard Ranch where award winning actor Ben Johnson lived as a young boy. They also have picnic tables where you can sit and eat that slice of pie Donna packed for you.

Next week more places to go, more parties and more Christmas. Till then I’ll see ya down the road………………………