Former Lehi service station once a refuge for young family

The story of Glen’s Chevron Service stands as a reminder that even gas stations and their locations can have surprising histories, even great family histories.

By Lara M. Bangerter

Lehi Historical Society and Archives

For more than 40 years, there was a service station at the northeast corner of 100 East and Main Street where the Lehi Hometown Carwash now stands. From 1936-1975, it was Glen Wanlass’s business. One of just a handful of Lehi service stations during those times, everyone in town knew the owner, affectionately known as, “Poge.” His customers appreciated and expected the friendly service he offered, which included a complimentary oil and tire pressure check as well as washed windshields and full-service gasoline.

From 1936-1975, Glen Wanlass operated Glen’s Chevron Service at 100 East and Main St., where the Lehi Hometown Carwash now stands. This station was torn down in the early 1950s to make way for a newer building.

Lehi native Rhea Wanlass Lewis remembers the station well. “Everyone knew everyone back then, and my dad was always so kind to everyone.”

The daughter of Wanlass, Lewis enjoyed setting up the displays in the front window while her brother, Stanley, now a world-renowned artist, worked in the shop changing tires and occasionally pin striping vehicles. It was very much a family affair and one that helped Stanley onto his artistic path in life.

She laughed, “I loved working there when they’d let out the men at Camp Williams.” In her teenage years, she couldn’t help but enjoy the visits of those young men.

It was a delightful way to grow up and a great legacy for the family. Where the story gets even more interesting is Glen’s Service Station was not the Wanlass family’s first acquaintance with that piece of property.

Nearly 70 years before Wanlass opened his station, another earlier Wanlass family found refuge at that same location. It all began when Jackson Russell Wanlass joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in England in 1838.

By 1862, the family was in Missouri, but Wanlass had been debilitated by two strokes and the stepmother had died, but not before telling Mary, the 14-year-old daughter, “Don’t give your father any peace until he goes to the Rocky Mountains.” And so, Mary was determined to make the trip. With the help of her 9-year-old brother, Jackson, they loaded up their father and three younger siblings.

When the family finally reached Lehi, their uncle, William Wanlass, helped them build a lean-to on the property where the carwash is today. In time, a dugout was built and the canvas from their wagon was used to protect them from the elements. A year after their arrival, Wanlass died. The children were taken in by family and friends, and William Wanlass and his wife built a beautiful home on the property to enjoy with their six children.

In 1969, the Lehi Free Press wrote the following of Glen Wanlass’ new service station, “Indicative of strides made in Lehi is the attractive convenient service station owned and operated by L. Glen Wanlass.”

A family history document on the family reads that from the 1870s to the 1890s, “The Wanlass home yards and garden occupied all of the south half of this block and was one of the outstanding homes of the community. The house was well kept, as clean as a pin, both outside and inside. … The corrals and out buildings were orderly and well kept.” It was a happy home and “social center” for the young people of Lehi.

Sadly, this perfect picture did not last. The baby, Frank, died, then his 17-year-old sister, Emma in 1887, then 19-year-old James in 1888 and in 1891 both William Wanlass and his wife died just a few months apart. Eleven-year-old Fred went to live with his married sister, Lizzie. “… and thus,” reads the document, “came to an abrupt ending this once happy home.”

Jackson Wanlass, the 9-year-old who crossed the plains with his 14-year-old sister leading the way, was the grandfather of Glen Wanlass, and one of the younger sisters who got to ride in the wagon became the mother of John Hutchings as in the John Hutchings Museum on Center Street.

And so the corner, disguised as a carwash and once former gas station, also silently stands as a monument to the bravery, persistence and entrepreneurial spirit the Wanlass family had and chose to share with their community.

As Lehi gas stations multiply, much stays the same

The landscape of Lehi’s gas stations and service stations has changed quite a bit over the years and yet in other many ways it remains much the same as it did nearly 100 years ago.

First, in 1989, Lehi historian Richard Van Wagoner recorded six gas stations in Lehi with only one, Powell’s Car Care at 11 East Main, offering auto repair services. The other five gas stations were Cash Saver at 290 W. State, The Corner Mart at 208 W. State, Hart’s at 108 E. State, Circle K at 414 E. Main and Maverik Country Store at 500 W. Main.

Today, four of these locations are still in business, “The Maverik” at the Roundabout, Hart’s on State Street, the Chevron, formerly Cash Saver, and Powell’s Automotive, along with some 18 other gas stations and one alternative fuel station, according to Google. What’s interesting is these sites have been offering automotive services for almost a century.

The Maverik Country Store first opened in 1972, but the location has served as a gas station since as early as 1925. Similarly, the Hart’s location at 108 E. State St., has provided fuel since 1927. And the Chevron, formerly known as Bates’ Premoco, has offered fuel since 1937.

Today, Powell’s Automotive, formerly Powell’s Car Care, focuses solely on auto repair. But five generations of Powells, dating back to the 1930s, have served the Lehi community with car care and service. Its location on Main Street opened in 1955, and was the last full-service gas station in Lehi. “I remember that because that was the only place my mother would go because it offered full service,” said Lehi resident Sally Fowler Francom.

The gas station part of the business closed in 1997 when owner Greg Powell, the fourth of the generations, bought out his dad Bill and removed the pumps to focus on full mechanical work.

Although the locations of all of these gas stations, except for Powell’s, has been through multiple owners, it is not by happenstance that they continue to be successful places to sell fuel. Much like today, State Street and Main Street are the most traveled roads in Lehi, especially State Street as it was the roadway that linked southern Utah to northern Utah. Subsequently, these roads make the ideal location for offering fuel and repair services.

Along these same lines, it’s interesting to note that Lehi resident John Devey owned the fourth automobile in Utah, and he had built it himself. But unlike the, “steamers,” in Salt Lake City, his was cutting edge. It was the first two-cylinder internal-combustion engine in the state. Much more practical than the steamers and the future of automotive technology, his engine did not require a fire beneath the seat to create steam to run the engine.

In those days car purchases were announced in the Lehi Banner much like a birth or wedding announcement.

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