BLOOMINGTON — There may be a day when Elmo Quinn retires, but he’s not ready to think about that just yet.
When that day comes, though, the owner of Quinn’s Shell at the corner of Main and Chestnut streets in Bloomington will be able to add Route 66 Hall of Famer to his list of accolades.
Quinn and his wife of 48 years, Eula, will be inducted into the Route 66 Association of Illinois Hall of Fame on Saturday in Lincoln. To qualify for election, nominees must have made significant contributions to the character or history of the Illinois portion of Route 66 from 1926 to 1977 while it was an official U.S. highway in Illinois.
“I’m very honored,” he said. “It has taken four generations of customers to put us in this situation and we are very thankful to them.”
Last October, the Quinns celebrated 70 years as a neighborhood service station. The business has been in the family since it opened in 1941 on what was then Route 66.
“It’s a perfect story,” said Dave Sullivan, a member of the association who nominated the Quinns. “They are a lovely couple with a very loyal group of customers that have been going there since the station opened. It’s a great family. They are great people.”
The Quinns will be inducted along with Roger Gray of Gray’s Garage in Pontiac, gas station owner Samuel Reichert Sr. of Plainfield and the Ra66it Ranch Visitor’s Center in Staunton.
When Quinn’s station was opened by brothers Elmo C. and Eldon Quinn in 1941, it operated as a Texaco station. The current Elmo Quinn began working there in the 1950s and purchased the station from his father and uncle in 1978.
In 1985, it became a Shell station, but the Quinns still provide full service, which includes Elmo personally pumping the gas, washing windows and checking engine fluids.
“I’ve got really fond memories of Route 66,” he said. “Back before the interstates came through Bloomington, we had about 19,000 to 20,000 vehicles pass by each day. To be recognized for something that has meant so much to so many people means a lot.”
“I’m very humbled by it,” Gray said. “I’m not one for being in the public much, but I know it’s a great honor.”
On Tuesday, Roger Gray and his wife, Betty, will celebrate their 58th year of marriage.
“I met her at a skating rink in Pontiac,” he said. “She helped me run the business for the first 16 years and then went back to school and became a registered nurse.”
Gray was born just steps away from Route 66 in Pontiac, where he grew up. After serving in the Air Force, he returned to Pontiac and opened Gray’s Garage at the junction of Route 66 and Illinois 116.
He opened his business in 1963 with a 24-hour wrecker service and auto body repair shop, working on anything from a Volkswagen Beetle to an 18-wheel semitrailer.
Gray has retired, but seven of the 12 employees at the business are members of Gray’s family.