The man who wears the star is still serving “customers” at the Dwight Texaco Ambler gas station on the corner of Old Route 66 and Route 17 (Mazon Avenue) in Dwight. And this is long after Texaco has since become Chevron. The station doesn’t even pump gas any more, but lots of people still visit it from around the world and are greeted by the Texaco Man in uniform in the central Illinois town of Dwight. The man who wears the star even has a patch that says “Trust your car to the man who wears the star” on his custom Texaco outfit.
He is Dwight area native and Gardner-South Wil-mington High School graduate Paul Roeder, who has been the Texaco man since the station opened as a historic site in Dwight in May of 2007, making this May the 10th anniversary for the station. And Roeder has been a part of it since it opened as an attraction. Roeder is the son of the late Herman and Gertrude (Bush) Roeder. For 2.5 years of his young life, he was a resident of Dwight. He then moved to an area farm and attended grade school at nearby Goodfarm in Grundy County north of Dwight before graduating from GSW in 1960. His role as the Texaco Man at the tourist attraction on Route 66 came about because Roeder saw a sign with a photo of the “Texaco Man.” He thought to himself “Why can’t I try to dress up like a Texaco Man in uniform?” He purchased the shirt and pants at Farm and Fleet, and went to Amazon for the patches and old-fashioned change machine. The hat was a different matter. He contacted a man in Princeton to purchase a hat, but found they were sold out. So he ordered one, and bought three because they are so hard to find. This was all done at Roeder’s own expense and he does not have a contract with the village of Dwight or any other officials in town. He does, however, work with the group that manages the volunteers. “I’m just a plain Texaco Man as volunteer and no money is given,” Roeder explained. He greets tour buses and car clubs that stop at the Dwight station, but sometimes, the photo requests can get a little frightening. “On one bus tour group, one woman asked if I was married and looked on my ring finger for a ring,” Roeder explained. “I said ‘no’ and she said ‘Will you propose to me at the Texaco Pumps?’ I was a little terrified on what is happening now. Cameras were snapping and people laughing.” Good thing it was all in jest, Roeder thought. He said he spoke with the officials to make sure he would not interfere with the volunteers, and be an “extra” volunteer when the station is open to tourists. “I did get a request from a visitor if I would sign her book as Texaco Man on a page where the Dwight Texaco Station was,” he said. “I did not hesitate. Glad to do it for her. When in uniform I get joy talking to people from the United States and other countries.” He lets people take his photo all the time. One man raised the hood of his antique car and Roeder pretended he was checking the oil. Sometimes he washes the windows in the photographs. “Maybe I do more than they ask me,” Roeder said. “It’s a joy to do so and so I will continue as long as I’m able.” He said when he retires as the Texaco Man, he will get a manikin and place the uniform on it for display.
Tourists roll along Old Route 66 to see the station and the Texaco Man from such far away places as France, Germany, Czecho-slovakia, Brazil, China, Japan and other nations, he said. And of course, people from all over the United States stop by. The Red Carpet Corridor Route 66 tour each spring brings Roeder in uniform to Dwight for two days. Last year he was also in Dwight for the 90th birthday of the Mother Road, Route 66 which drew large crowds to Dwight, including international motorcycle riders.
Roeder served in the United States Army Reserves from 1964 to 1970 and later graduated from Joliet Junior College in 1973. He is retired from Argonne National Labora-tory in the Lemont area since 2007, the same year he became Dwight’s Texaco Man. He now resides in the Limestone area, western Kankakee County.
Throughout his life he has travelled to other nations, so when he meets a foreign visitor, he chats with them if he has been to their nation. “If you’ve been over to their country, they talk more,” he added, making a mimicking sign with his hand of a person talking as he smiled broadly.
Ambler Texaco/Becker Marathon History
As of 2001, the station has been registered on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. Ambler’s Texaco Station was built in 1933 by Jack Schore on property originally owned by Otto Strufe. When the station closed, it held the record as the longest operating gas station along the historic Route 66. The station last dispensed gasoline in 1999, under the ownership of Phil Becker as a Marathon station. In 1936, the station was leased to Vernon Von Qualen and became known as Vernon’s Texaco Station. Over the next two years, Von Qualen purchased the station from Schore, and sold it in 1938 to Basil “Tubby” Ambler. Ambler owned the station from 1938 to 1966. Roeder said he often went to the station to hang out with Ambler, a story repeated by Phil Becker who became an employee and later owned the station. Roeder said whenever Becker sees Roeder at the station as the Texaco man, he smiles broadly. Other owners of the station included Ambler who sold the station to Earl Koehler. Koehler sold the station to Royce McBeath, who ran it between 1965 to 1970. The station changed hands once again when Becker bought the station from McBeath on March 4, 1970. Soon after Becker took over operation of the station, Texaco stopped supplying the location with gasoline so Becker contracted with Marathon Oil.