Licoln Hwy. turns 100
June 28, 2013 · Dave Morris
Mount Vernon resident Treva Moore Heiser remembers the old Lincoln Highway well from when she was growing up here.
In 1941, her father, Thomas Moore, bought the Mobil Oil station on the west edge of town (just west of the site of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). She recalled out of town visitors stopping for gas at the old gas-topped pumps.
"He'd been a CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) instructor. When war was imminent he moved us here and purchased that service station," Heiser said. "Many tourists stopped for gas. I saw many license plates from different states."
Born in 1932, Treva was nine when her father bought the station. It had a small A&W-style restaurant next to it, she recalled. Her family, which included her parents, Thomas and Kathryn, and six children, lived on-site after her father added three bedrooms.
World War II, however, was changing everything. In January of 1942, not long after acquiring the station, gas rationing was implemented by the government and business fell off, resulting in Heiser's father taking a job in Cedar Rapids.
"My mother and two older sisters kept the station open," Heiser said.
After the war, the family sold the gas station and bought a farm across Hwy. 1 from the present-day Blooming Acres.
The Lincoln Highway was a part of everyday life for Heiser. She recalled working as a server at an uptown cafe.
"When I was in high school, where the Lincoln Cafe is now, was the Sugar Bowl Cafe. Lots of tourists would stop in," she said. "I remember the first people I met from Boston. They wanted Boston coffee."
Heiser had to ask them what that was, and it turned out to require double cream.
"It was my first experience with anyone from east of the Mississippi," Heiser said.
A few months ago, Heiser returned to Mount Vernon to live after many decades of working as an educator in Colorado and later as mayor of the City of Loveland.
But her memories of the Lincoln Highway are as clear as ever.
"It was a very picturesque way to travel. There were wonderful pull-off areas with trees," she said, recalling a long trip she made to Colorado Springs, where she first began teaching in 1959. Much of that trip - taken before modern, four-lane interstates were built - was on the Lincoln Highway.
Treva's sister, Betty Moore Stoneking of Lisbon, recalls vividly when the Greyhound buses would make a stop at the station.
"It was a fun place," she said. "We had a huge back yard. When the bus would stop, kids would sometimes get off and play with us."
Stoneking also enjoyed meeting people from all over the country and recalled cars towing small campers stopping at the station.
"It was the main highway from Chicago to California. We'd sit and count license plates," she said.
Stoneking told her story to the Lisbon History Center about living on the Lincoln Highway in the 1940s notes:
"One time, a bus came to load men who were going to the Army on it from this area.
"December 7th, 1941, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and sugar, coffee and gasoline were rationed as the war broke out and my Dad's income fell drastically. Although he could have returned to teaching, there were higher paying jobs in Cedar Rapids. He took a job in Cedar Rapids at Collins Radio as a time-keeper and put his math skills to work and had a really good-paying job to support his family of six children. I remember my Dad trading gasoline stamps for sugar and shoes. I still have stamps and coins from that time. I know that there were hardships then and we did not have a lot but we never went hungry and always had clothes (mostly second-handed).
"I started kindergarten, which was all day, and remember it was a long way to my building. It was on Third Street and was so cold in the winter time walking across that big viaduct on the shoulder as not to be hit by a car. Sometimes I would walk with the neighbor boy and take the old bridge home and stop to watch the freight trains go below us bellowing coal smoke all over us. My mother always knew if I stopped to watch the trains by the way I smelled. ...
"It was at this station that I learned work ethics. If I would clean the station floors, wash the windows and empty the trash, I could have an Orange Crush pop. That was a real treat for an eight-year-old. We had nickel candy bars, too."