Our members-only newsletter, The 66 News is distributed quarterly since its first issue in September, 1989.
From time to time, we’ll share a piece from the magazine here on the website so you can see for yourself the kind of content you can expect in this quality publication. This article is from Fall, 2000. Enjoy!
Tales From the Road
By Dorothy Seratt
While researching the history of the Standard Oil Station in Odell a few years ago, I had the opportunity to interview several people who lived and worked along Route 66 and in adjoining towns along the Route 66 corridor. The following tales were told to me during that research and I will endeavor to remain true to the feelings that were inspired in me upon first hearing these remembrances.
Robert Close was the owner of the gas station when I first put into motion the quest for National Register of Historic Places recognition. In the beginning, Bob was around the station all the time working on cars in the bay area. Even though he had retired several years before, he liked to stay active. He’d go home around one o’clock every day that the Cubs were playing a day game. He couldn’t miss his Cubs. Maybe it was fate that I was wearing a Cubs t-shirt the very first time I approached him about my interest in the gas station. I know we hit it off right away. I explained what I wanted to do and to my surprise he seemed interested.
As time went on, Bob’s health seemed to fail and he wasn’t able to get out to the station any more. At this time, we initiated contact with Bob’s daughter, Lynn Harris. Over time we had some delightful conversations about her childhood and growing up at the gas station. She told me about how she had this “friend” named Oscar, who only she could see. Lynn could remember that Oscar was an old man dressed in a long sleeve shirt, baggy pants with suspenders, and an old slouch hat. She thought then, and still thought that he was a real person because she could actually see him. Her parents thought that Oscar was the product of a little girl’s very vivid imagination. She told me of the various themes she would be sitting on the stairs talking to Occur and she would hear someone coming. She would turn to see who it was and when she turned back, Oscar would be gone. As the years passed, Lynn grew up and moved away from Odell. She said she hadn’t thought about Oscar in a long time, but our discussions were bringing back old memories. Her mother was with us the day we talked about Oscar and said she remembered Lynn’s imaginary friend.
I relegated that story and several others to that part of the brain reserved for interesting, but not pertinent tidbits of information and went about doing the research that was necessary to submit the gas station for the National Register of Historic Places. Through tax records, old newspapers and other sources, I began to put together a history of the property. I discovered that the piece of land could be traced back to the early 1850s. I also remember Bob telling me that he thought he had some type of papers that might help me, so I asked Lynn if she would go through her dad’s things and see if she could find anything that would be of any value to me. Bob was still at home at this time, but not feeling up to looking for anything.
Within a few days I got a small package in the mail from Lynn. It was the papers I needed to complete my research on the history of the station. No one could imagine how thrilled I was to discover how complete the history was and how many hours of work at the county records office it saved me from doing. At the time I did only a cursory examination of the material to satisfy myself that I had struck literary gold with this find. So I was a little surprised to get a call from Lynn a day or two later. She wanted to know if I had a chance to read through the material yet and I told her I had only scanned it. I asked her what was wrong because her voice sounded funny. Remember the story I told you about Oscar, my friend when I was little?” I told her that I recalled it, but wondered what it had to do with the material she sent me. She said that she decided to read her copy of it and was stopped in her tracks when she read the names of the first recorded owner of the property back in 1853. His name was Prosper. She wondered if maybe as a little girl she’d been visited by the spirit of the early owner of the property and when he said his name was Prosper, mistook it for Oscar. To her, it would explain why no one else could see him.
I have to admit that I’m a skeptic, always have been, but that night, hearing the conviction in her voice, I got what is commonly referred to as goose bumps, and I get them every time I think of this and can hear her voice again!