Opened in 1962, the twin-domed Woodstock Service Centre on Highway 401 is slated for demolition. On Saturday its rich but short history was recalled and celebrated.
Woodstock, ON, Canada - It's a fitting name for a service centre that so celebrates the '60s: the Woodstock Service Centre. And like so much that gave those fabled years their uniqueness, the service centre with its twin domes is fading into the past. Come the end of the month it will be closed, then demolished, and eventually forgotten.
There are almost two dozen service centres in southern Ontario with the majority originally built in the '60s. They offered food, fuel, clean washrooms, plus pay phones as cell phones were yet to be invented. With no bottled water, there were drinking fountains instead.
Four decades later, these service centres are being rebuilt, modernized, improved.
The Ontario taxpayer is off the hook when it comes to the redevelopment costs, the vendors are responsible for the costs of redeveloping, operating and maintaining each service centre. The bidders must meet provincial performance requirements but they are encouraged to be creative.
Note that a dinner could be had for $1.65 and it came with the choice of soup or juice and either vegetables or a buttered roll. Fries, it appears, were not part of the package.
This sounds a lot like the original mandate from the '60s when the government worked with oil companies to develop the service centres along the new 400 series highways. Shell had the 1867 restaurants, Esso the Red Hat Voyageur chain, at Gulf - you do remember Gulf - you found the Wayfare name, while Texaco teamed with Scott's Chicken Villas.
Eunice Moore, 91, left, and Jean Costello, 64, both worked at the soon to be closed service centre when it was 'the' place. Costello holds a menu from the early days.
According to Eunice Moore, 91, of Ingersoll, when the Scott's Chicken Villa opened on 401 on July 23, 1962, the Colonel himself "was here for the opening." It was an event.
Jean Costello, 64, another early staffer said, "I cooked chicken with the colonel . . . He came periodically. He was a very nice man and so was his wife. They were a nice couple." The colonel apparently cared deeply about the quality of the chicken in a 'bucket' adorned with his likeness.
Costello was just 17-years-old when she started at Scott's. She often walked to work with her four sisters, who also worked at the highway restaurant. To get to work they used to walk up a nearby sideroad and then run across a farmer's field. One doesn't think of the staff at a 401 service centre walking to work.
But, it wasn't just carefully pressure-cooked fast food for which the Woodstock restaurant was known; The twin red domes were a landmark --- so modern, so now --- and now so dated. Yet, even today the fans of Buckminster Fuller find the geodesic dome like frame makes a cool ceiling above the large dining room.
The domed roof is still cool after almost four decades.
Many incorrectly believe the restaurant's domes were inspired by the building at Expo '67 but, in fact, they pre-date that structure, also now gone, by five years. Ah the '60s --- bell bottoms, bee hives, muscle cars and geodesic domes, and now all, for the most part, relegated to the history books.
Reportedly the domed Woodstock Scott's Chicken Villa was repeated in Odessa and Port Hope. According to Brenda Powell, general manager of HMS Host, those domes are also doomed. Looking around the still interesting restaurant Powell deadpanned, "It's different."
The new service centre is guaranteed to have food, fuel, washrooms, pay phones for the dinosaurs and even drinking fountains. But one thing it won't have will be a dome.