Former Lebanon gas station owner who recalls briefly meeting Pretty Boy Floyd dies at 98

Tommy Speaker, likely the oldest surviving businessman from the peak Route 66 era of Lebanon, Missouri, who as a child encountered outlaw Pretty Boy Floyd, died last Tuesday. He was 98.

Speaker ran the now-vacant Speaker’s Mobil station, an operation that had been owned by his family since Route 66 was built in the 1920s. The Bacon-Speaker Family was inducted into the Laclede County Route 66 Wall of Fame last year.

Tommy Speaker in front of the original Speaker’s Mobil in 1946 in Lebanon, Missouri.

The Lebanon-Laclede County Route 66 Society posted Speaker’s recollection of meeting Floyd:

Tommy Speaker remembers the day a big four-door car pulled around to the back of his grandfather’s gas station on Route 66 in Lebanon. Three or four people, one of them a woman, got out. They placed violin cases on a picnic table and laid down on the grass to rest. Tommy’s grandfather, Tom Bacon, suspected that the violin cases carried Tommy guns, and that the visitors were Pretty Boy Floyd and his gang.

“My grandfather said, ‘Tommy, you go to the house right now. Don’t run, and don’t look back.’”

Speaker, then a youngster, looked back anyway and saw the car’s passengers in the back yard while his grandfather reached for the phone.

“I don’t know the details, but I know he called (Sheriff) Sam Allen and told him Pretty Boy Floyd was here,” Speaker recalled. “Sam told him just to leave them alone. ‘We’re not coming.’” (That Sam Allen, Laclede County sheriff from 1925 to 1928 and again from 1933 to 1936, was grandfather of the Sam Allen who works for the sheriff today.)

Speaker didn’t remember if Pretty Boy Floyd bought gasoline, but his grandparents did make sandwiches for the gang.

Floyd began his crime career in the early 1920s and pulled heists from Ohio to Oklahoma. Local police and FBI agents gunned down Floyd in an Ohio cornfield in 1934.

Speaker’s grandfather opened the first gas station a few feet from the current station around the time U.S. 66 was routed through Lebanon in 1926. The family also sold sandwiches and rented out a few cabins near the property.

The newer station was built in 1952. Business declined when Interstate 44 opened in 1957, though the station remained in business until 2008.

The Speaker’s Mobil gas station is still standing at 801 E. Millcreek Road.

(Image of Tommy Speaker in front of the original Speaker’s Mobil station in 1946 via Lebanon-Laclede County Route 66 Society)

One thought on “Former Lebanon gas station owner who recalls briefly meeting Pretty Boy Floyd dies at 98

  1. Very Sad to hear. I stopped and visited with Tommy and his sister numerous times over times years !!!!!

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