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Revisiting US 6 History At The Big 6 Truck Stop

Many Walkerton Page readers recall the dreadful fire on the eve of Mothers Day, May of 1975, that ended the notorious "Big 6 Truckstop?" The Mills family always closed it early on Saturday nights since Sunday trucking was light. That weekend was a Mothers Day their family would never forget. Someone set it on fire. The blaze was a complete loss.

Chaney's Service Station with Snack Shop about 1937 on westside of Walkerton.

It was once a complex of roadhouse buildings about 1/4 mile west of Plas/Steel. Chaney's built it to serve travelers on US Highway 6, known as the longest highway in the USA. Investigators ruled arson as the cause of the intense fire destroying gas tanks and the station.

It was suspected that organized crime caused the inferno since, the last owners refused to be bullied? One longtime Walkerton resident, Myrna Dipert said, "It was rumored that if the management did not want to cooperate with organized crime, that is when it was set on fire." And were told, "no business would ever succeed there!"

Originally, it was built as a gas station with snack shop. The automobile took over as a cheap, reliable source for transport and many oil brands wanted to maintain US 6, the rule for western travel before its more famous southern spurt Route US 66 was paved. In 1937 it was known as Chaney's Service Station. Perhaps the same family that owned the Chaney's Drug Store in downtown Walkerton.

Gene's Truck Stop included a diner, diesel service station, and auto repair picture taken in the 1950's.

They included a diner, service station, auto repair shop, and diesel gas pumps for the trucking industry. Many travelers kept stories after it became known as the Westside Truck Stop. It was a popular spot for eggs, pancakes, burgers, fries, steak,coffee, ice-cream, and hot chocolate. By the 1950's it became Gene's Truck Stop and after that was next run by Clyde Lancaster and Chuck Hostetler.

Finally, when the Mills family owned it they named it "Big 6" Truck Stop. I spoke with Cindy Nichols who practically grew up there with her family when they owned it. She said her family was devoted to the work involved in operating it. They had to deal with the reputation truckers have especially, in the 1970's. Rumors of drugs, and prostitution have always been attached to the trucking industry. In her mind it was an honest, family run business that she seems to need to defend.

Today, only a foundation is left of the "Big 6 Truck Stop" at US 6 on the junction point of Towle Road. Many people kept vegetable sale trucks there, and sold fireworks during the 4th of July while the truck stop and diner were in operation.

She said, "Sadly my parents and sister that had the truck stop have passed away. I was just saddened by comments about its reputation. It was a roadhouse. I'm certain but, it was family run when we had it. My dad worked on CB radio's , my Mom and Sister cooked and we waited tables and enjoyed making friends along the way." Her family was bullied. Back in the mid 20th century the influence of Chicago mafia figures touched the shipping business in many ways. Could the fire have been caused by the mafia?

 

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