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BY MIKE AVITT
This photo, which seems to have been taken in the 1950s, shows the Hanoco Oil Co. filling station and cottages on the west side of Highway 69, formerly the Jefferson Highway.
The Jefferson Highway was the first transcontinental highway in the U. S. stretching from New Orleans, Louisiana to Winnipeg, Canada. The road was completed about 1916. This highway connected Kansas City, Mo. with Des Moines and was the primary road between those two cities until 1970 when Interstate 35 was completed.
The signs in this week’s picture say, “Hanoco Court – Cottages, Gas – Clean Rest Rooms,” “Hanoco Cafe,” and “Skylark Gasoline.” Skylark products were the creation of the Blockton Oil Co. and were quite popular in northern Missouri and Southern Iowa.
In 1934, Edgar Noble Hansell, of Leon, and owner of Hansell Chevrolet, erected a filling station and tavern one mile north of Leon on Highway 69. Two years later some cottages were built and a dance hall/skating rink was erected in 1937. A cafe was also added.
The opening of Interstate 35 crippled the business; service and hours were reduced. The facility closed in 1990.
With so many services, this enterprise was patronized by locals and travelers alike. Cottages came before motels and were used often. Highway 69 had a great deal of traffic in the pre-Interstate days, and, remember, railroads were reducing passenger service as fast as they were allowed. I believe the railroad line between Osceola and Leon was discontinued in 1937 or 1938.
Prior to 1970, the route most Mount Ayr motorists took to Des Moines was Highway 2 east to Leon and Highway 69 north which turns into East 14th Street in Des Moines. So, many “Snapshots” readers will remember taking this way to Des Moines. I still go that way once in a while just to take photographs.
Next week, we’ll look at other luxuries (and obstacles) motorist had prior to 1970. I got my driver’s license in 1972, although, the State of Iowa would compel me to return it some time later.
Thanks to Roger Gatton of Leon for this week’s picture and most of the information. Roger writes a column for the Leon Journal-Reporter about days gone past. I appreciate the help and I am more than willing to assist anyone who wishes to record and preserve the history of their town, county, business, school, or church.