US 20: Businesses of the past (#3)

Written by David Green.


night-hawk-motel-47 Fayette’s John Bacon was just a kid when US 20 was paved, and as soon as the traffic started coming through Fayette, he recalls businesses began popping up in town.

Lodging cabins and service stations were the first businesses to boom in Fayette, thanks to the cross-country highway. Two miles east of Fayette, Denver Ford had cabins; Benny Heckman had cabins a half mile east of town; the Gobles’ cabins were on the west end of town; the Bull Pub had lodging cabins about two and half miles west of town; and the Night Hawk Motel’s cabins sat about three and a half miles west of Fayette.

“They were all up and running at about the same time,” John said.

The lodgings were small, individual buildings, with just enough room for a bed and a dresser—and that was it for modern conveniences.

Running water? Not likely, John said. Travelers staying at the cabins had to use outhouses, unless they were staying at the Night Hawk Motel’s cabins.

Not only did the Night Hawk have double sized cabins for families, but the owner of the Night Hawk put in a water tank so that lodgers could shower and enjoy all the luxuries of running water.

But this doesn’t mean that the other cabins didn’t have their draws for business.

John’s wife, Wanda, remembers the Bull Pub was unique because of its dining room.

On Sunday’s the Bull Pub was packed because everyone wanted a piece of Mrs. Quinn’s famous strawberry pie, Wanda said.

And there was great apple pie at Handy Corners, a store across from Denver Ford’s lodging cabins, which was owned by Wanda’s brother.

However, John remembers candy bars more than pie. A gas station was built across from the Night Hawk Motel, and John liked to stop in there as a kid.

“Us kids thought we had it made because we could grab candy bars,” he said.

But Fayette had more than lodging cabins.

“We had everything here in town,” John said.

Along US 20, John and Wanda remember a movie theatre, grocery stores, four restaurants, two hardware stores, a car dealer, car repair garages, clothing stores, a jewelry store, a harness shop, an ice cream parlor, the Fayette Review office, Dr. Reynold’s office, a creamery, King’s drug store, a dime store, a bank, a radio shop, a tavern, a hatchery, the original Opera House, a funeral home, a furniture store and two barber shops (that charged 35 cents for a haircut).

Fayette had its unique businesses as well. Although most towns had a meat market, the Tool and Heckman market in Fayette was rather reknowned for its bologna, Wanda said.

“It was known from one end of the country to the other,” she said.

Unfortunately, no one can get Fayette bologna today. Leonard Fidler took the recipe that brought in country-wide business with him to his grave. But this could change. Wanda said she’s come close to replicating the famous bologna.

Perhaps more unusual was Henry Henderson’s balloon ascension business. And perhaps more unusual than running a balloon ascension business is Henry Henderson’s technique in launching.

After spending a great deal of time filling up his hot air balloon, Henderson would launch the balloon, hanging upside down until he could pull himself into the basket.

Henderson seemed to do fine while in the air, but the descent seemed to cause him problems.

John said that all of a sudden, the balloon would go limp and black smoke would start barreling out of the balloon as it fell to the ground.

And there were other forms of entertainment in Fayette besides watching Henry Henderson.

Just east of town, right off of US 20, was Power’s Store. The Powers did what they could to get people out to their place to buy drinks and sandwiches. They often showed open-air or drive-in movies for free, with the intent to sell their hot sausages, cheese and beer.

John also remembers the store holding coon hunts on Sunday afternoons as a way of generating business.

After dragging a raccoon in a burlap sack around the woods, the hunters would line up with their hounds. Someone would fire a gun and the dogs were released in a race to follow the scent.

“They would bark like crazy,” John said.

But it wasn’t always fun and games; sometimes the coon hunts would get out of hand. John remembers one time when a dog kept wanting to fight with other dogs, which led to the dog owners fighting with each other.

Other businesses had their ways of getting business, too. The Bacons remember Saturday nights in Fayette, when all the stores would be open, including the bank. People flooded into town, especially to go to the grocery store.

The store had drawings throughout the night and customers could win groceries.

“Even if people had nothing to come for, they’d still come for the drawing,” John said.

But Fayette suffered the same fate as other small towns along US 20 due to the arrival of the new turnpike and the development of department stores. John said the combination of the two really put a damper on Fayette’s businesses.

“All little towns, including Morenci and Fayette lost out at the same time,” he said.

    - Jan. 2004
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