The American road trip is becoming a thing of the past. Many Americans choose instead to fly. Having done both, I prefer the road. No security check points, pack what I want how I want, and most importantly composing this as we travel Kansas I-70; one of my dogs is in the backseat, not the cargo hold.
Flying over the United States at 32,000 feet looks like a mass of squares and bumps. On the road one sees many things that unite us, as well as the individual flavor found in regions of our country.
On the way west traveling I-40, many spots run parallel to Historic Route 66. Some small towns along 66 have preserved structures the traveler in that time needed, same as we do today. Fuel for both vehicle and body, a place to rest weary bones and broken down vehicles, and souvenir shops hocking goods to remind us of our journey.
In north central Texas one sees signs for Shamrock, TX, home of the historical Conoco Gas Station, Garage, and Café. Normally people pass Shamrock speeding by at 75 mph. If one does exit the interstate, you are surrounded by closed stores and businesses, and might think you had missed it as we did. Then, in the middle of the dry Texas countryside, a little jewel comes into sight.
On the right, in the middle of not much else, appears the historic Route 66 Shamrock Conoco gas station built in the early 1930’s. She sits there like a beauty, eclipsing everything around her. Shining, intact, more beautiful than Ms. Texas herself. Inside the old gas station is a gift shop of tee-shirts, water bottles, Route 66 driving information and best of all, Doris. She sprang into action giving me information about the area and its history and asked me to sign the guest book. When I commented on how “new and clean” everything looked, she proudly explained that all paint and tiles were original, and steam cleaned now as they were then.
As I thanked Doris, and promised to stop by again in a few years with friends we are planning a Route 66 trip with; she said she’d be there as she was planning to live and work until she was 100. I have no doubt the Conoco Station will be there, and hope that Doris will be too. As we drove away, a little gem back in Johnson County popped into my mind.
That night in our motel I began to research old gas stations on the web. Some were beauties like seen that day, others just sad little rundown wood structures. But of all those listed on the site, two jumped off the page in their beauty and their familiarity. They were versions of the little jewel back in Johnson County and when comparing them and the one in Vienna, it was obvious that they represented the very best of historic beauty and significance. The day’s events refueled this writer’s previous interest in the Johnson County jewel.
The Standard Oil gas station in Vienna at the intersections of Routes 146 and 45 was not built by a local resident. In 1930, the station was built by the Standard Oil Company itself, one of a series of similar gas stations that were designed to fit the specific location and space available. It currently stands in a decaying state. The beautiful etched window tram glass has been broken by vandals and the peak over the garage is starting to lean backwards. It is only a matter of time before it falls. The structure stands at a crucial time in its history. Right now, without delay, this structure can be saved.
Having talked with several individuals in Vienna, I find interest has been expressed by several citizens. One road block this writer acknowledges as huge, stands in the way. At the same time, having looked into this; ways have been found around this road block. There are monies that could be obtained to purchase the building and restore it to its original luster. And in time, with signs positioned properly on I-24; it could begin to bring business into town that would otherwise pass it by.
If interested individuals would like to discuss possibilities, please contact me in care of The Vienna Times. Naysayers please join with us in this effort. Every time I pass and lovingly look at the “little castle” I am reminded; “you don’t know what you’ve got, until it’s gone”, and readers, it’s going!