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BY MIKE AVITT
I must apologize for spelling Rodger Gatton’s name wrong in last week’s article. And I made an omission. Hanoco Oil Co. was a big distributor of welding supplies. People from many miles away came for their large inventory of welding supplies and equipment.
So, last week I highlighted Hanoco Oil Co. of Leon and their importance of being on the highway between Des Moines and Kansas City, and the many services offered at this complex. Let’s see what early motorist found in Ringgold County.
The first filling station in Ringgold County opened in the fall of 1920 on the south side of the Mount Ayr square. The square had two-way traffic then and both Primary No. 3 (Highway 2) and Primary No. 15, later 16 (Highway 169) went through the square. Motor traffic increased with the advent of service stations.
Before motels, motorists could stay over night at “tourist parks.” The one seen here was located where Payne trailer park used to be and the sign was placed on the east end of Center Street between Dunning and Ringgold in Mount Ayr. Primary No. 3 followed Madison Street at this time and therefore the tourist park could be accessed by that highway.
Mount Ayr’s Tourist Park had space for tents, a well, picnic tables and probably an outhouse. Nothing more. The tourist park lasted from the early 1920s to the early 1930s.
During these years, filling stations were erected on the highways in the towns of Kellerton, Mt. Ayr, Benton, and Redding. There were also rural service stations such as the one on Highways 3 and 25 on our border with Taylor County.
Traffic increased again after World War II. E. M. Rosenbaum opened a service station and lunchroom at 300 W. South Street (Highway 3) in Mount Ayr in 1940. This station would change hands many times and would be open 24 hours a day for much of its existence. Rogers’ Oil Co. would build and open a truck stop in 1953 that was also open twenty-four hours a day to accommodate over-the-road truckers in the pre-interstate highway days. Rogers also had a cafe.
Ringgold County’s first motel (the word “motel” comes from “motor” and “hotel”) opened in 1950 on Highway 2 (Highway 3 became Highway 2 in January 1941). All modern conveniences including tile bathrooms, steam heat, telephones, and radio.
Most of us remember the speed limit signs of the 1960s and 1970s. During the day, the speed limit sign might say 65. But, at night, when your car’s headlights hit the sign, it would say 60. Something in the construction of the sign reflected a lower speed limit at night. I never let that slow me down.
Most of us, too, remember the “curbs” on the highways. A driver’s education instructor’s nightmare, for sure!