A look back honors parents | Opinions

A review honors the parents

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To honor the memory of our parents, John and Marjorie Gorrell, we, their sons, wish you a Merry Christmas and would also like to share an anniversary of Pleasant Lake history.

When our grandpa and grandma, Dawson and Dolly Gorrell, moved from Hudson to Pleasant Lake in April 1931, Grandpa took over the Standard Oil gas station somewhere on the northeast corner of W. Main Street and Colleen Street. Grandpa operated this station until about 1937, when he moved it to the northwest corner of Main Street and US 27 (now S. Old US Hwy 27) to have the advantage of being on the highway.

About 9 a.m. on Friday morning, December 12, 1947, when Father was a junior at Pleasant Lake School, 75 years ago, when Father was a junior at Pleasant Lake School, he heard a siren and saw a fire engine heading east. He looked out the meeting room window and saw that his father’s station was on fire. He ran to the train station to help carry out whatever he could. One of the last things he carried was a canister of antifreeze, which was now so hot it was beginning to bulge.

That morning Dick Preston was at the station filling up the tanks on his gas truck. Apparently, the basement furnace at the north end of the station attracted the gasoline fumes, causing an explosion. The back of the gas truck caught fire and Mr. Preston drove it north, away from the gas station, with flames trailing behind the truck. He was able to stop and close the valves on the truck, preventing an explosion. Dad said Dick Preston was a hero that day.

The Republican newspaper Steuben reported on page 1 of the fire on Wednesday, December 17, 1947. The newspaper reported that at the time of the fire, there were two other people at the station in addition to Grandpa. At the time, the station also served as a bus stop for people wanting to shop in Fort Wayne or travel to Michigan. Both Pleasant Lake and Angola Fire Departments responded to the fire. Despite this, the station was destroyed, and Dad said his heart sank.

Grandpa got a job at Weatherhead in Angola to continue supporting his family. Around 1952 he tried again and opened his third station on the southeast corner of Bellefontaine Road and Highway 27. His eldest son Dawson Jr. got involved, and father and son sold army surplus and fishing gear, as well as gasoline, candy, and pop, from the building that still stands on that corner today. Grandpa had the best years of his life with his third ward and retired around 1962.

If you happen to be near Pleasant Lake, we hope you have time to reflect on this piece of history and how Grandpa’s perseverance after disaster led to the most successful of his three stints. If you are interested in history, you can see the above locations as they were in 1968 by going to vintageaerial.com and typing “46-WST-4 (1968 Steuben County, IN)” for the location of the second station and “55 -WST-27 (1968 Steuben County, IN)” for the location of the third station.

David, James and Steve Gorrell

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