Written and submitted by Keith A. Sculle
Many are the Route 66 travelers that Herman Goddard served at his garage — an estimated sixty to sixty-five percent of his market before Interstate 55 bypassed The Mother Road. His garage is located two blocks west of Route 66 and has displayed Route 66 shields on its facade above the garage doors for eight to ten years years. I interviewed Herman Goddard about his business in 2015 and 2016.
“Hmm, how long have I been at this garage business?” Herman Goddard puzzled near the end of my 2015 interview. From 1961 to 2015 — fifty-four years we calculated as we sat in his office nestled in the corner of Herman’s Garage, now a body shop, small parts repair, and truck rental. The garage sits a block off the square in small town Divernon, Illinois (population about 1200 in 2010), separated from the railroad and is rich in local lore.
Opened as a building for a Ford dealership in 1917, a special drain for washing Model Ts still scores the concrete floor near the back of the garage. And, it is remembered all too sorrowfully for the death of one of the brothers who owned the garage in 1932; having kissed his wife, started to drive back to work and was killed by an oncoming train at the intersection just outside his garage. Typical of the flexibility in small town commerce, the garage served outside traffic on nearby Route 66, and an early set of owners pumped gasoline outside the garage, ran a repair shop inside, and a trucking business besides. A set of later owners operated there until 1983 when Herman took over. His claim for the 1961 start actually refers to the year he began in the business as an adjunct to his father’s farm outside Divernon, having adapted a building as a garage.