will even display a sign similar to the one that might have been
there 60 years ago: Mahanís Filling Station, Middletown,
Shea of Springfield, a collector of many types of artifacts from
the early days of automobile travel and a dedicated member of the
Route 66 Association of Illinois, bought the building from John
Mahan of Middletown. He recently moved Mahanís to his former
service station, now a private museum of Route 66 memorabilia, at
2075 Peoria Road in Springfield. Peoria Road, which becomes Ninth
Street a few blocks south of Sheaís place, was once
"Americaís Main Street," Old Route 66.
honor the family that formerly owned and ran the old Philips 66
service station, Shea is having the embossed metal sign made using
the family name.
with his son and two grandsons, Shea will restore the 14 by
14-foot building, repaint it in its original colors, and fill the
inside with artifacts from the days when it was operating. "Iíve
bought an old stove and chairs and a khaki uniform like the
attendants used to wear," he said. "Iíve even got a
real old soda sign, a thermometer with an ad for Nesbittís
original Mahan's Filling Station.]
metal station will be in the company of many other historical
items such as gas pumps, including the very old type with the
glass bulb at the top, a dozen old cash registers, oil company
signs, an 80-year-old peanut dispenser, a fifteen-cent-a-pack
cigarette machine, and an oil company pump jack, which pumped oil
directly from the ground. "We donít have a lot of new
things. We just have old things that look new. Thereís nothing
here that you could buy at WalMart," Shea says.
and the many other items he has collected and saved over the years
have brought Route 66 fans from all over the world to his private
museum. Three television stations, Channel 47 of Peoria, Channel 2
of St. Louis and the public television station in Boston, have
filmed his museum. Shea and his wife, Helen, have been featured in
People magazine, the Chicago Motor Club magazine and they
frequently appear in the Route 66 publication. He reports that in
June a busload of people from the Chicago area will be coming to
see his place.
been on Old Route 66 practically all my life," Shea says.
"I was born only a block and a half away from it. I had a gas
station here for forty years. I donít know of anyone whoís
been on Route 66 as long as I have. Everyone in my family is a
lifetime member of the Route 66 Association. Weíre part of it
and it is part of us."
he has traveled around the country buying Route 66 memorabilia,
this is the first building heís ever purchased. "I was
really tickled to death to get it. Iíve never seen a metal
building like that still standing anywhere. Weíll sand it and
clean it and put windows back inówhatever it needs."
[Even as a child, John Mahan (left) helped his father, Harry
(right) at the
family's filling station.]
little service station has been a part of the Mahan familyís
history for as long as they can remember, say Mahan and his
sister, Carolyn Seitzer of Lincoln. The family has a picture dated
1939, of the building in its Middletown location. The picture
shows a pump with a big glass globe at the top, the type commonly
seen before electric pumps came into use in the 1930s. The gas was
pumped by hand up into the globe, then allowed to flow down into
the automobileís gas tank, Seitzer says.
remembers that the building originally stood on Route 136, halfway
between Easton and Havana, at a place called Knuppellís Corner.
bought it and moved to Middletown before World War II. He ran it
as a Philips 66 Station until he went into the Army. When he came
back he ran it for years. He probably closed it in the
mid-1950s," Mahan remembers.
didnít think anybody would ever want it," he added. "I
never used it for anything but storage. Shea approached me about
two months ago. He said it was probably the oldest filling station
heíd ever seen.
surprised anyone would go through what he did to get it out of
here. After he bought it he jacked it up and built a trailer
underneath it to get it to Springfield. He had two guys and worked
two full days doing it. Iím glad it got a good home. Iíll go
down and see it when itís restored."
remembers how hard her father worked when he was running the
service station. "He was there ten or twelve hours a day, and
when he went home people would wake him up at night to pump gas
for them. For a while it was the only gas station in Middletown.
We lived in a house right next to the station and we had a hose
running across the driveway hooked up to a bell in the kitchen. If
the bell rang, my father would put down his coffee cup and go out
to pump gas.
changed oil and tires by hand, and he sold fan belts, plugs and
points, gum and candy bars in the station," she remembers.
Her father finally had to give up the car repair business because
a World War II knee injury became worse and made getting under
said sheís heard people in Middletown say, "Oh, the stationís
gone. That corner just doesnít look right."
[Earlier this week, Bill Shea and his crew, jacked up Mahan's
Filling Station to transport it to its future home in
Shea will welcome all those folks to his place in Springfield.
"We donít sell anything and we donít charge anyone to
come and look around. Weíre open from about 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
weekdays and until noon on Saturday. Weíre not open
the station is restored, Shea, a veteran of World War II who
participated in the invasion of Normandy on D-Day, plans to put up
a second sign. It will say, "Open Soon, Under Old Management.
Hiring June 6, 2000."
[Filling station owner, Harry Mahan (circa 1939), stands next to
an original gas pump.]