I have been dabbling in the world of investigative reporting and visiting local establishments to discover local color and stories. There are any number of interesting things going on in towns like Sulphur and its fun to find out about the local folks and their hangouts. So I plan to share some of the local places for those of you that may be first time visitors to the area sometime in the future. I refer to these establishments and town intel as local “beta.”
One local phenomenon is Donut Palace located directly west and across the street from the Visitor Center site. Their concoctions of flour with goo on top are to die for. It’s a busy place, opens at 5 am and closes at noon. Local color abounds in Sulphur and there is no shortage at the donut shop. It attracts an interesting variety of clientele. There is a steady traffic of locals, construction workers from the Artesian construction site and a continuous flow of vehicles pulling through the drive-in window. I think construction workers can sniff out these shops miles away even though this one is just across the street. Seating is limited with just two tables which are typically occupied by the locals that are regulars.
The owners are a young couple that ended up in Sulphur and decided to grow roots and start a business. I believe that the husband’s name is Rick, but everyone seems to pronounce it as Rack. So I don’t know if that’s his pronunciation or the local twang or maybe it’s really Rack. His wife’s name is Sophera and they have 2 little girls. They are both super friendly and hard workers and get it all started at 3 am each day 7 days a week. I asked Sophera what their secret was to these great treats but just got a big smile. I’ll keep working on her for the secret ingredient. The offerings include every kind of donut and twist you can think of and they have thrown in a breakfast croissant and pigs in a blanket which comes as regular or jalapeno as well as a half size version. You can also get a good cup of Joe to go your eats. It’s worth stopping by for the goodies and having a chat with some locals.
RJ and Margie are two of the regulars. They are a delightful couple and show up sometime before 8:30 am daily. I have run into them twice now but feel like I’ve known them much longer. Margie grew up in McClain County. They lived in Oklahoma City on SW 44th near what was then Southwest Medical Center which at the time was in the boonies. RJ noted “Oklahoma City was just a big cow town back then.” They moved to Sulphur in 1963 and live just west of town on an acreage which is how they both grew up. RJ and Margie just celebrated their 64th wedding anniversary; they were married in 1948. RJ worked for a plumbing supply company and was familiar with the mechanical trade. We talked for a while about the sustainable mechanical and plumbing systems that would be installed in the Visitor Center. I told them they needed to look up the blog when Margie quipped “we don’t do internet.” So I told them I would mail a copy of the post to them when it came out. I imagine that as the projects moves towards construction we would see each other again.
Bob is a salty character and was born in nearby Mill Creek. I was too busy listening to his stories and forgot to snap a photo. He’s a regular, maybe not as regular as RJ and Margie but when he visits he rolls into the shop around 9 am. Bob has been eye witness to many events in Sulphur including the time when and his wife were in town and watched the old Artesian Hotel burn to the ground around midnight back in 1956. Bob said “I used to drink coffee there regularly.” I asked Bob how it caught fire and he replied “we never heard what happened, don’t know if they ever found out.” He worked at the Ford dealer which used to occupy the site across the street where the Visitor Center will be built. It was owned by Paul Reed who sold it to Doc Braden; that’s who Bob worked for. I asked if Mr. Braden was a doctor but Bob said “nope, that was just his nickname, not sure how he got it.” He recalled before going to work there that the whole place blew up in 1955 due to some leaky valves on the space heaters that were fueled by propane. He said “all the workers high tailed it across the street and hid behind large boulders in the park before she blew.” It had been built back by the time he worked there. In the Google earth street views in the post “The Site” you can still see the former Braden Motors on the site and imagine seeing Bob through the windows.
Charlie and Wanda are a quiet couple. I asked them how long they have lived in Sulphur. Charlie said “I’ve been here for 47 years” but added “my wife has been in Sulphur for 73 years.” Wanda jumped in with “been here all my life, born and raised in Sulphur.” Their daughter Michelle works at the nearby Chickasaw Cultural Center and I talked about FSB’s involvement in the project. Charlie lit up when the construction workers showed up at the shop. He enjoyed ribbing some of the more colorful workers and giving them a hard time.
Christine and Charles made a quick showing at the shop. Christine is a member of the Artists of the Arbuckles and was interested in the old department store space that will be renovated across the street from the new Artesian Hotel under construction. I was able to let her know that it was intended to be a gallery for the Arts and Humanities division of the Chickasaw Nation and she was excited.
RJ and Margie actually introduced me to all these folks at one time or another, good people.
You’ll want to step aside when the construction workers arrive en mass when its break time but stick around for the show. The place turns into a feeding frenzy. The welder is a real joker. Didn’t catch his name but he’s the one with the welding rods in his back pocket and wildly customized hard hat. RJ said “his coworkers are pulling stunts on him like that all the time.” Another one of the workers says “this is entertainment right here” as another quips “and at no charge.” Good times at Donut Palace.