Left to right in the photo are Jenny Webb, Ola Wherry, Myron Webb and Harry Wherry (mother, grandmother, father and grandfather, respectively, of Larry Webb), owners/operators of the business.
Left to right in the photo are Jenny Webb, Ola Wherry, Myron Webb and Harry Wherry (mother, grandmother, father and grandfather, respectively, of Larry Webb), owners/operators of the business.

Times Bulletin Correspondent


As you travel the old highways in America you can see their remains - motels, restaurants, service stations. These were businesses along main roads that were no longer "main" when four-or-more-lane highways came into vogue in the late 1950's and early 1960's.

You can still see what's left of one of these businesses at the corner of Lincoln Highway and Convoy-Heller Road north of Convoy - which was once the intersection of U.S. 30 and State Route 49. Webb's Hi-Speed Service Station, Restaurant and Tourist Cabins sat there from 1946 until about 1966, recalls Larry Webb, recently retired barber, whose parents and grandparents owned and operated the business. The tourist cabins and gas pumps are gone, but the restaurant (now occupied solely as a residence) and the garage building remain.

Webb says the business was built around 1931 by the Noah Poling family. Webb 's parents, Myron and Jenny Webb, and grandparents, Harry and Ola Wherry, bought it in 1946. That foursome, along with Larry and his sister Becky lived in the restaurant building.

When the new U.S. 30 was built in the mid-60's, the state bought part of the land, including the area where the gas pumps sat, in effect making the business no longer practical.

In its day, though, this one-stop feature was quite an attraction. The Lincoln Highway was one of the most popular east-west routes in the United States, and State Route 49 was frequently traveled, as well, especially by Dayton area residents headed for the lakes of northeastern Indiana and southeastern Michigan.

Pies baked by Ola Wherry and Jenny Webb were the most popular fare at the restaurant. "They'd bake about 13 pies every day," recalls Larry Webb. "We got 15 cents for a huge slice. When we raised the price to 25 cents customers had a fit. People heading north on Route 49 would often call ahead to reserve a whole pie to take with them to the lake."

During his teen years, Larry Webb did odd jobs - cleaning the cabins, pumping gasoline, flipping burgers. He was in school in Convoy, though, when many famous Americans - Roy Rogers, Gabby Hayes, Martha Raye and others - stopped by on their way to or from New York. "Grandpa took an eight-millimeter movie of Martha Raye and her two dogs," says Webb. "I still have it, but you'd never know it was Martha Raye - she had this big hat on."

Truckers were frequent visitors at the restaurant. The Webbs' best restaurant customers, though, were local farmers, who stopped in often for food, company and/or a game of cards. "I talked Dad into buying a TV for the restaurant," says Webb. "A lot of people didn't have TV then, so they'd come to the restaurant - especially on Tuesday nights to watch the George Gobel show."

The restaurant had four tables and five bar stools. Larry Webb still has the bar and the stools at his home. He recalls that Edith Swick, Ruth Ackerman, Percilla Etzler and Mary Gassidy, among others, assisted in the restaurant at one time or another.

In the early days, the service station sold Hi-Speed Gasoline, a product of the Hickok Oil Company (the "Hi" in both names is not a coincidence). Later, Myron Webb switched to Pure, and, later still, to Sohio. Webb recalls the price of gasoline fluctuating from 27 to 30 cents per gallon. In addition to gasoline, the station did all manner of mechanical work and also offered washing and waxing. In addition to Harry Wherry and Myron Webb, Byron Mohr worked in the garage.

The business was open 16 hours per day, seven days per week - except for the seven cabins, which weren't open in the winter. There was also electrical and water hookup for campers. The rental fee was four dollars per night for a single, seven dollars for a double.

There was more than an acre of ground involved, and one of Larry Webb's duties was to mow it with one of the old self-propelled reel-type mowers. "After I moved away, Dad bought a riding mower," he says. "I asked him why he didn't do that sooner. He said 'I didn't need to - I had you.'"

The 1950's were the days when Americans fell in love with travel by car - and the days when travel-related family-operated businesses thrived. "On the Lincoln Highway between our place and the Indiana line, there were seven gas stations," Webb says. By the 1960's, though, interstate highways and new or relocated four-lane roads had been built to accommodate the traffic. With that came the demise of small family-operated businesses like Webb's Hi-Speed Service Station, Restaurant and Tourist Cabins.