Catchers construction unveils sign of Rehoboth's past

Gas station doubled as bus stop, community hub
April 4, 2014

Story Location:
rehoboth Beach  Delaware
United States

A project to renovate the Catchers Restaurant building in Rehoboth Beach unveiled a link to an earlier era when there were more gas stations than hotels.

Cathcers façade, at 251 Rehoboth Ave., has been removed in preparation for installing a new porch and covered entryway. What has onlookers most intrigued, though, is the bright, orange Veedol sign that appeared.

Building owner Jeff Wilgus said the sign has been there since Wilgus Associates purchased the building in the 1970s, back when it was still a gas station. The sign was covered as the building took on various commercial purposes, including a dry cleaner and later various restaurants, with Catchers being the most recent.

Catchers used the center part of the building, where the sign is still visible, as storage space, but Wilgus said it is now going back to a previous use as a rental unit.

Served as bus stop

Longtime Rehoboth resident Jay Wingate said the building long served as a bus stop for the Greyhound and Shortline lines, with a gas station, owned by Jim “Doc” Burton and his brother, Percy. The brothers owned the station from 1930 to 1970, selling gas and motor oil. Veedol, he said, was the brand of motor oil they sold. The station also sold Tydol Flying A gasoline, which along with Veedol were products of Tidewater Associated Oil.

The Veedol brand got its start in 1913, and, according to the company website, was the oil used by Henry Ford in his Model T, the first mass-produced automobile. Veedol had a refinery in Delaware City, which produced 140,000 barrels of oil per day. The Veedol brand is still active, but operations have moved primarily overseas, with head offices in Dubai.

Wingate’s wife, Punx, said before the 1960s, filling stations sometimes gave gifts to good customers, and she still has a bread knife given to her by Percy Burton. In those days, she said, station attendants would not only pump gas, but they also checked under the hood and checked tires.

“We really got to know personally the station owners and attendants,” she said.

Wingate said the station was a hangout and snack place for kids and for a group of four or five regulars, who would talk and carry on through the day. He said the Burtons eventually moved their station outside of town to what is the current Rehoboth Beach Motor Cars dealership. Wingate, 93, said through the years there have been 19 gas stations in Rehoboth, although there has not been one in town since the 7-Eleven store on Rehoboth Avenue took out its pumps in 2011.

Mayor Sam Cooper said he remembers his grandfather taking him to the Burtons' station as a boy, allowing Sam to sit in with the guys as they shot the breeze. He said there were many service stations in town in those days, including one across at the street, owned by Ralph "Sonny" Karl, at what is now Jack Lingo Realtor.

“Those were the days when everybody knew one another,” Cooper said. “The whole town was like that.”

Building inspector Terri Sullivan said according to building plans, the sign will remain and will again be covered up. She said at this time, the owners are investigating to see how a new roof will tie into the rest of the building.


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