SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — “Sharing Stories of the Crossroads” is an Ozarks-based history-themed radio show on KICK 92.3 FM & 1340 AM. The show this week talked about the History Museum on the Square’s current seasonal exhibit, “Service with a Smile: Route 66 Service Stations.”
This week host John Sellars spoke with Ed Mitchem, past owner of Mitchem Tire and Wheel and Route 66 raconteur, David J. Eslick, a past director at the Museum and the host of the local Route 66 Bus Tour and Lynn Sanders, formerly of Sandy’s Standard.
“Service with a Smile” is the second of annual installments in the museum’s five-part series leading up to the Centennial of Route 66 in 2026.
“It’s about the good ol’ days. When you pulled into a station and run across that bell hose, the bell would ring and a man would come out, asked what you needed,” said Sellars. “[He would] wash your windshield and wash your back window, check the water and check the oil of the gas tank… water baths, coke machine and all the usual stuff. We’ve got all that on display at the museum.”
Both Sanders and Mitchem had stations on Route 66.
“My dad had a service station at the corner of St. Louis and Glenstone. He was there for 53 years and I got to work with him for 35,” said Sanders. “It was great. I got to meet a lot of people and a lot of experiences I would have never got.”
Sanders remembers selling gas as low as 17 cents. Mitchem says the lowest gas he sold was 14.
“When you filled the tank up, there was no shut off on it. You did it all by sound. You’d hear it come up that neck and you’d let off of it. If not, you’d get it on your shoes,” said Sellars.
Mitchem Tire & Wheel first opened in 1939.
“That was a pretty good hub back then,” said Ed Mitchem. They had two locations on Route 66 with one on the corner of Sherman and St. Louis, which is now John Q. Hammons. Mitchem said they advertise their tires at around $9.95. “That was a 670-15 and you had to put a tube in it. And if you owned a white wall, it was a dollar extra. If you had black walls and you wanted white walls, we’d put the white walls and beat them in the rim … then if you hit a curb they were gone!”
Mitchem said the station had old train cars you could sit and eat your lunch on. He said he had a lot of the old What-A-Burger.
If you’d like to hear the whole episode and previous ones, click here.