Unfortunately, very little is known about Virgil K. Bethard but his love of photography has provided Grove City with much insight into the early 1900s. Bethard, a respected local businessman, should also be remembered today as the person who realized the importance of photography and history within his community.
Many of the pictures we view today were taken by him and sometimes by his wife but unfortunately, his photographs cannot be fully identified because many have been copied so frequently over the years without credit.
Bethard once operated a garage in the Emmelhainz Building located at Broadway and Grove City Road. The building today is a beauty salon and pub. In the 1940s, Virgil operated a Sunoco gasoline station and garage just north of Grove City’s downtown.
Louie Eyerman worked at Bethard’s Garage at the early age of 13. The full-service station had many regular customers. Joan Eyerman, Louie’s wife, said her family always trusted Mr. Bethard with their vehicles.
Timothy H. Eyerman of El Paso, TX, also remembered Mr. Bethard.
“My brother, Louie, worked at the Sonoco Station in the 1940s. I remember it being very clean for a gas station. Virgil was very particular about keeping it that way. His attire also reflected his desire to keep things clean and neat,” Eyerman said in an email.
“They did general repairs as well as gas and lube jobs. They had a lube pit outside the garage in addition to the lifts that were inside. It was a full-service gas station like most of the others in that era. They not only pumped your gas but would check the fluids and clean your windshield. All of this for 25 cents per gallon.
“Virgil would talk about Grove City history to anyone who was interested and would sometimes augment his stories with pictures he had taken. He was an accomplished photographer and passed along his passion for photography to my brother, Louie. He and his sister lived in the house that was south of the filling station.
“He built three apartments behind the gas station and my late wife, Bette, and I rented one of them from him in the early 60s. The apartments were quite large and well designed with a storage place in between and because they were behind the filling station, the sound from the 3-C highway was attenuated. There was an open field on the north side of the filling station and the apartments.”