A landmark harking back to the glory days of Maryville's downtown retail district was reduced to rubble Tuesday when a crew from Midwest Scrap Management of St. Joseph used a large backhoe to demolish the former Dew Oil Co. building on the southwest corner of Fourth and Buchanan streets.
The old gas station, a relic of the full-service, cents-per-gallon era, closed for the last time in 1992, according to Anita Dew, who worked there as bookkeeper alongside her husband, Jerry Dew.
In the mid 2000's, the Dews sold the property to the nearby First Christian Church, which, according to the Rev. W. Dale Stewart, decided to tear down the small, rectangular structure in order to make room for a parking lot and some landscaping around its fenced-in playground.
Jerry Dew said the Conoco station he and his wife purchased in 1973 was built in 1949, and that the building replaced an even earlier Conoco garage that stood on the same corner.
In the days before the Highway 72/136 bypass and development of the south-end retail corridor, 322 N. Buchanan was prime commercial real estate. How could you miss with a gas station just a couple of blocks away from the truck-laden intersection of highways 46 and 72 — what is now Third and Main — and a thriving courthouse square?
Dew Oil remained a viable enterprise into the early 1990s, even as convenience stores with self-service pumps and an over-the-counter emphasis on snack food, beer, soft drinks, cigarettes and lottery tickets proliferated.
It was a busy place, Jerry Dew recalled.
"Customer service was a big thing," he said. "You had a lot of loyal customers, and we had charge accounts. Now, of course, everyone uses credit cards. In the winter sometimes you'd be out all day starting cars and putting on chains and snow tires, and then in the summer it was air conditioners."
The station also functioned as a garage, and Dew and his employees performed all kinds of mechanical work and maintenance chores: batteries, tires, radiator flushes, oil changes, you name it.
But somehow he never got around to installing a self-service pump, always clinging to the idea that service sells.
Of course concentrating on service means that you have to hire people to serve, and Dew Oil maintained a payroll that seems almost unimaginable in today's world of automated gas-and-go islands.
"We always had three full-time employees and four part-time college boys," Dew said.
Both Dews have moved on to other careers. Jerry is a well-known fixture at the Orscheln Farm & Home store, and Anita works at Schieber & Co., a tax and bookkeeping business downtown.
But Anita admitted to feeling a little sad as the old station was pulled down Tuesday and the remaining pile of twisted metal and broken glass loaded into a large truck.
Page 2 of 2 - "We worked there for about 20 years," she said. "We had a lot of good memories there."