Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Kustard Kup Building Renovation Sparks Memories

It's not the oldest building in Sallisaw. It's not the prettiest building in Sallisaw. But nearly everyone in Sallisaw has fond memories of it. It's The Kustard Kup.

Larry Crowe of Lake Tenkiller recently bought the building at 723 W. Cherokee, which was known as The Kustard Kup in the 1950's. It was built and owned by Charles Welch, who actually owned the entire block at one time. Crowe bought and is renovating the building, which has stood empty for decades, for future rental or lease.

Crowe said the outside walls are "...built of textured concrete blocks. It was built by Mr. Welch with his own two hands. It is well engineered and has an unusual structure." He explained the downstairs served as the business, while the upstairs was an apartment.

"It had an open porch upstairs," Crowe reported, "with an awning or canopy. We can tell by the hardware that was left. That was later converted to an enclosed entryway. I would love to see photos of it if anyone has some from that time."

Crowe also knows the building once served as a sort of arcade. He said, "Rick Agent said he can remember racing slot cars there when he was young." Part of that slot car racetrack was found when the building's interior was gutted and rebuilt. The slot car arcade also served snacks and sodas, Crowe said.

Later on, the building also served tacos as Mr. Burrito, and was a Kirby Vacuum Cleaner repair store for a while. But no one is sure of the building's exact history, and sometimes The Kustard Kup is confused with another, nearby ice cream store, The Dairy Dip.

Earl Strebeck, Sallisaw historian, remembers The Kustard Kup, and what is was like being a teenager in the 1950's. He said The Kustard Kup was at the west end of Cherokee Street and The Dairy Dip was at the other end. He and Charles Welch's son, Charles Jr., graduated together from Sallisaw High School in 1958.

"When we were in high school," Strebeck recalled, "we would drive from one to the other, from The Kustard Kup to The Dairy Dip. And The Platters. I remember The Platters."

The Platters, a Rock Hall of Fame Group, had top hits such as "Only You" and "The Great Pretender" in 1955 and 1956, and later "My Prayer," "Twilight Time," and "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes." The Platters were sure to be heard on the radio in every 1950s car racing between The Kustard Kup and The Dairy Dip.

"It was a lot of fun," Strebeck related.

A recent revival of interest in Sallisaw's history, sparked by those who want to save the old Sallisaw High School rotunda, has also sparked an interest in The Kustard Kup as its renovation becomes known to the public. Many of those memories have been related on the Facebook page "You Know You're from Sallisaw If..."

Jeree Phillips is the daughter of the builder and original owner, Charles Welch. She posted, "Originally it was called Twin Kiss but changed to The Kustard Kup in the late 50's. I grew up there."

Joanne Campney remembers The Kustard Kup but not exactly how to spell the name. She posted, "I grew up about one block from The Custard Cup. It was built in the fifties by Charles Welch. It was called The Custard Cup because it was soft serve not hand dipped.  This was something new at the time. The day they opened they gave away cones so everyone could try the 'custard.' It was delicious."

Deborah McKinney Matthews recalls, "A quarter could get a chili dog and slush from Welch's. At one time it was a barbeque with wood shavings on the floor. Can't remember the couple's name that ran it (the Welch's) but they were really fun people."

Brandy Allen who works at the Sequoyah County Clerk's office, is related to the Welchs. She researched the property and found the entire block upon which the old Kustard Kup is located was at one time an Indian allotment, and belonged to W.O. Bruton. It changed owners several times and was eventually bought by Charles Welch, who owned the entire block.

Joe Chandler and Joey Tuck of Muldrow are renovating the building for Crowe, and said many older people have stopped by to inquire about the renovation when they see someone working on the building, which now has a new floor and interior walls. 

"Older people come by to look all the time," Chandler said.

And the building still attracts the attention of the young. County Clerk Julie Haywood jokingly reports her 9-year-old daughter, Avery, and several of her friends want to rent the building where they will set up a business, selling clothes, or as a boutique.

The attraction of The Kustard Kup, to both young and old, shows the building is still in the hearts and memories of long-time and life-long residents, is still attractive to the young, and still deserves a place in Sallisaw history and its future.

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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