"Wally's Root Beer Barrel" - Little Egypt's Oasis in Wesport, Illinois

by Mike Boss
Gouache on Board
16" X 20"
From the Collection of Preston Foster, Metropolis, Illinois

In early 2015, my good friend Preston Foster was relating a story about his family stopping at a root beer stand in Vincennes, Indiana. He didn't know if he could find a photo and it took me a few minutes to find Wally's Root Beer Barrel across the river in Westport, Illinois. Decades of time can play with memories!

Wally's was built by brothers Doug and Glenn Decker in 1948. They constructed a first in Olney, Illinois and the second in Wesport c. 1948-1949. Both were named after Carl Decker's wife Wally!

Preston asked for a 1947 Chevy Woody and a clipped-ear and tail Doberman Pinscer. DONE!

The Foster family in 1949. Vlasta, or Pat, Cory, Preston and Bobbie

Below is Preston Foster's story as he related it to me:

Bobbie and Vlasta met in 1943-1944 at Pensacola Naval Air Station. Married 08-30-1944. Her memories were that he was always looking for "the best local hamburger stand." He returned from WWII occupation of Japan and Okinawa in 1946.

Her parents were in Broadview Heights/Brecksville, Ohio where she grew up. His parents were in Cape Girardeau, Missouri where he grew up. They settled in Cape, bought a house, and then made the trip from Cape to Broadview Heights regularly. The "trip to Ohio" was a significant element of my entire childhood, from earliest to the "first solo drive" in my own vehicle during spring break from Arkansas State around my 21st birthday.

As I remember, our route north and east from Cape was IL 146 East to Vienna, turn left/North on US 45 [at the classic old Standard Oil Station, then just a few miles north on US45 from Vienna to Grayville, then North on IL 1 to Lawrenceville, IL followed by a right turn on Hwy US 50 and East to Vincennes. Then Indiana 67 to Indianoplace to US 40 and East to Ohio.

That drive before Eisenhower Interstate Highways was 14-16 hours. There were several "favorite" stops along the way. Wally's had rich, authentic root beer, hot dogs and hamburgers served from a counter in the side of that giant wooden barrel. Later when Mom was driving those trips from 1953-1964, I remember we would gripe on trips when timing put us past Wally's during non-business hours! It was a safe, familiar landmark!

One time we stopped at Wally's after dark, and my dad sat me up on the counter and I had an ice cream cone while watching him talk to the man in the kitchen. I remember dad was proud to tell people he met that he was a USMC Fighter pilot, and I remember most people showed him positive and sincere respect and gratitude. Wally's Barrel is a golden memory!