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May 25, 2010

On The Road To Toledo

By Sablemable aka Jan

Previously, I had shared with you that my relatives lived in Toledo, Ohio and every summer we would motor east for a visit.  We traveled on the turnpikes back in the late Fifties through the Sixties when it was jam-packed with travelers.

At the crack of dawn, and I do mean dawn, Dad would roust us out of bed so that we could be on the road BY 4:30 a.m.  Since we didn’t have air conditioning in the car, it was cooler to drive then.  From Benton Harbor, Michigan, Dad steered the car south on US-31 to South Bend, Indiana where we would pick up the Indiana Toll Road.

Since I was the “baby” in the family, my brother, Gary, always got to hand the change to the ticket taker in the toll booth.  Low man again.

Then, what seemed like years later, Dad would pull into the travel plaza near Middlebury, Indiana and announce, “Let’s have breakfast.”

The restaurants at the travel plazas along the Indiana Toll Road were called the Glass House, operated by the Interstate Company headquartered in Chicago.

In the lobby, the gift shop was to the left, restrooms straight ahead and the dining area to the right.  The ladies restroom had the most beautiful pink mosaic tile floor!  I can’t remember if the walls were tiled in pink, but I do remember the floor quite vividly.

We always sat on the side where the counter was, usually in the very first booth.

And here’s the other side of the dining room.

I don’t remember the menu, but I do remember what we all had for breakfast.  Dad would have eggs, ham, potatoes, pancakes and black coffee.  Mom had the same sans the pancakes.  Me and Gary would always, every single time, have a hamburger and Coca-Cola.  I don’t know what it was about their burgers, whether it was the buttery, golden brown toasted buns that encased the burger or the little sprig of parsley that decorated the plate or the excitement of being able to have what we wanted, but to this day, my brother and I both agree that they were the best hamburgers we’d ever eaten.

After a fill-up by either an attendant of Shell, Sinclair, Pure Oil, Cities Service or Texaco (these companies serviced the Indiana Toll Road), we continued eastbound.

Today the toll road is not so popular and the last time I traveled on it, the road surface was terrible.  The State of Indiana has sold the toll road to investors, the Glass House restaurants were replaced by chain eateries, even the original buildings are being demolished and replaced with something more “modern”, and British Petroleum (BP) has taken over the gas stations, all self-serve.  No more “man who wears the star”, tipping his hat to you as he asks, “Fill ‘er up, Sir?”

Yet, every time I see a toll road sign, I think back on days gone by and of the fun we had traveling together as a family on the Indiana Toll Road.

What travel memories do you hold dear, readers?

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13 Responses to On The Road To Toledo

  1. Uncle Atom Reply

    May 25, 2010 at 8:30 am

    Wow, love the way you weave the story together with the images. I assume those are post cards (?) So much of that roadside look and feel is long gone now. My memories of roadside eateries are not as vivid. My parents would typically pack sandwiches, celery sticks and carrot sticks and we would eat along the road on an ugly wooden picnic table with cars flying by us. Now that I can picture vividly! That, and my parents getting lost all the time because the interstates we were traveling on were not all complete and the signage was often not very good.

  2. sablemable Reply

    May 25, 2010 at 9:16 am

    Uncle Atom! LOL@ getting lost! My Dad was notorious for getting lost on the interstate! But once, when he got us lost and stopped at a tavern for directions, he brought us all back hamburgers to eat, wrapped in aluminum foil! They were good, but not as good as the burgers at the Glass House.

  3. sablemable Reply

    May 25, 2010 at 9:17 am

    Oh, forgot to mention: yes, those are postcards and the brochure at the end I got off of Ebay.

  4. Sara in AZ Reply

    May 25, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    Oh, that is to bad about all the Glass House restaurants being demoed. Everything is so blah and commercial now, wish we could go back to the old days. I remember those funky stops along the freeway where the restaurants/shops were in a building built above the freeway – so you could look down and see all the traffic right below you. I think that was also around the Chicago/Indiana area???

  5. sablemable Reply

    May 25, 2010 at 12:52 pm


    Yep, that was on the Illinois Toll Road, namely, the section of the Chicago Skyline. We’ve stopped there, too.

  6. Lorie Reply

    May 25, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    Awww,Jan. You have taken me back. We would travel the toll road on occasion. We also would ead south down through Indiana to Kentucky to see my mom’s family. And I will never forget the Dunkin’ Donuts we would stop at in Kokomo. It is long gone, now. But man…it was a neat store. Very MCM. Travelling was so much more fun in those days. It wasn’t endless freeways with nothing to see, but roads with stops and unique eateries, shops and sight seeing attractions.

    I have a dream to travel Route 66 with my kids sometime. Maybe not the whole thing, but a good portion.

    Thanks for a great post!

  7. sablemable Reply

    May 25, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    Lorie! Kokomo, the town of a million stoplights, LOL! There’s a neat truck stop in Peru on US-31 that makes the best coffee!

    Yes, I’d love to travel the Mother Road and stay at one of the motels with the teepee shaped motel room!

  8. sablemable Reply

    May 25, 2010 at 10:13 pm

    Duh! Sometimes my hands type faster than my brain!

    It’s the Chicago Skyway Toll Bridge, NOT Skyline!


    And, the rest areas on the Illinois Toll Roads were called Oases (Oasis, singular).


    May 26, 2010 at 12:05 am


  10. Kim Campbell Reply

    May 26, 2010 at 12:54 am

    I worked on the Indiana Toll Road in the 80’s during the summer. I had a table and gave direction, passed out brochures etc. Gas was provided by Marathon and there was still a Cafeteria. Not it’s all fast food. My Grandmother worked in the gift shop at the Fremont Indiana end of the toll road and got my cousin and I both jobs during the summers of our college years.

    I worked at the Exit between Portage Indiana and Ripley St. (or 51). We lived along Lake Michigan. My parents now live at the other end of the Indiana Toll Road in Fremont, Indiana.

    Thanks for the memories!

  11. sablemable Reply

    May 26, 2010 at 8:16 am

    Hi, Kim!

    Thanks for sharing your memories of the ITR! You met a lot of travelers and I’ll bet the job was fun!

  12. Abel Mcneal Reply

    May 27, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    Very interesting article. Truely!

  13. Kim Campbell Reply

    May 28, 2010 at 1:46 am

    OMG! Did I ever! My cousin and grandma both worked at the one in Fremont Indiana. Most of my family is still in the Fremont area. My favorite question was “Isn’t there a lake and a beach around here?”
    Me, “Yes, Lake Michigan”
    People “Is it big?”


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