2013 Hall of Fame Inductee, Wilbur Fawns Sr. Family, Service Stations, Williamsville, IL and Sherman, IL
By Josh Friedrich
Wilbur Fawns Sr.’s working relationship with U.S. 66 began in 1937 at the age of 29 when he started working at Charles Sutton’s Garage at 141 W. Main St./Route 66 in Williamsville, Illinois as an auto mechanic. In 1943, when Mr. Sutton auctioned his equipment and enlisted in the Air Force, Wilbur took over the garage. During this time, Wilbur's sons Bill (age 14), Wilbur, Jr.(age 12) and George (age 10), began helping their father by learning to pump gas, change oil, and lube bearings.
Wilbur Fawns, Sr. at Standard Station
In 1954 Wilbur, Sr. bought the Standard Oil Station at 500 S. Oak/Route 66 from Frank Fink. Business was going very well since they were on 66 and between Chicago and St. Louis. Many well-known sports players, newscasters, and musical acts would stop in at the station to fill up. The distintive signage on top of the building featuring individual letters spelling S-T-A-N-D-A-R-D that lit up one letter at a time and then all at once. could be seen for miles around, a beacon on the highway.
Of the three sons, only Wilbur, Jr. and George went on to pursue the service station business full time. Bill pursued a career with the GM&O Railroad, then as a custodian and bus driver for Williamsville and Sherman School district. He even was a Williamsville police officer.
George worked at a Standard Station in Springfield at the corner of 5th Street (Old Route 4) and Sangamon Avenue from 1958-1965. He took over for Wilbur Jr. at the Williamsville Standard Station in 1965, the year Wilbur Sr. had decided to semi-retire. George eventually took full ownership of the station and worked at that location until 1976. In 1976, when I-55 caused the cutoff of 66 George took over a new Amoco station closer to Interstate exit on the 2nd alignment of 66. He continued to operate both stations until 1984.
George and Wilbur Fawns, Jr.
George purchased the Standard Station on Business 55 (Route 66) and Andrew Road in Sherman, which he called, George's Amoco, and ran it for it for 31 years. with his his son, Patrick and his trusted mechanic, Louis Thompson. In 1996, George retired after 38 years. Patrick, a 3rd generation Route 66 service station owner, took over the station, and eventually closed down the pumps. Now he just does repairs at the old station in Sherman.
Wilbur Jr. had worked for Frank Keys at his brand new Standard Station from 1950-1951. In 1952, Wilbur Jr. was drafted and served in the Korean War until 1954. Upon returning stateside he returned to work at the Standard Station from 1954-1965. In 1965, he went across the hard road to the Shell Station and leased it from Patterson Bros. Oil Co. This led to some complications, causing the Standard Company and Shell Company to agree to allow the same family to run opposing businesses in town. Junior ran that Shell station until 1976 when the new Shell Station was built, once again across the road from the Standard station, closer to the I-55 exit ramp. Junior ran this station until his retirement in 1993 after 43 years with Shell and Standard.
In 1960, Wilbur Sr.’s wife, Ruth, ran the Route 66 Café that they built just east of the Standard Station. As this was a family business, Ruth employed four of her granddaughters: Mickey and Jody (George’s daughters) and Sherry and Linda (Bill’s daughters). On February 12, 1984 the Route 66 Café was demolished after 24 years of memories.
For 75 years the Fawns family had been on route 66 in Williamsville and Sherman fixing vehicles, pumping gas, and slinging hash for travelers, truckers, and local families. They've been a well known and trusted family to do business with these many years. Their businesses were some of the longest-running service stations in Williamsville and Sherman. As a bonus all of the buildings except one can be found on today’s Route 66.
*Special thanks to Wilbur, Jr. & Sharon Fawns and the entire Fawns family, Mr. and Mrs. Benner at the Williamsville Historical Museum, and the Illinois State Historical Library and Keith A Sculle.
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