In 1917 Durwood and Mary Rea owned a small plot of land on the outskirts of Pocahontas, Illinois, where they made a meager living as farmers.So when they notified that a main thoroughfare was going to be built to pass right in front of them, they didn't waste any time modifying their property to include a small restaurant and gas station. The National Trail literally brought travelers to their front door and the Reas happily provide dthem with Red Crown Gasoline, penny candy, and bottles of ice cold Coca-Cola and Orange Crush. Travelers were also allowed to camp on the property before resuming their travels and the Rea family also took in boarders. Many would work in exchange for room and board. Some moved on quickly, some stayed for an extended time.
Understand, this was a long time ago and documented history is sometimes hard to find, but as we know, much of history is as it was told from one generation to the next. And as the story of the Rea family goes, Durwood began to suspect that his wife was having an affair with one of the boarders, James Fenton. The thought of this affair consumed Durwood Rea and on May 19, 192, in a jealous rage, he shot Mary in the head and then turned the gun on himself. Durwood died instantly, but Mary lived for three more days before passing, leaving three small children without parents, a homestead and a business without owners.
The Rea children, too young to take care of themselves, were graciously taken in by one of the boarders, Margaret Greathouse. The property was deeded to her as well.
The Greathouse family was a large one and they had large ideas for the growing popularity of the roadway stop to become the Big Shoal Amusement Park.
Margaret's son was a basketball coach at Pocahontas High School and his team needed a place to play. So, in the spring of 1924, a gymnasium was constructed next to the filling station and restaurant to house basketball games. The gymnasium, approximately 40' x 80' cost $3,200 to build. When it wasn't being used for high school basketball games it was used to hold dances. Admission to the dances, which featured popular live bands from the St. Louis area was just 10 cents per person.
The next spring (1925) the Greahouse's dream expanded when the "state-of the art" swimming pool was constructed behind the gymnasium. The pool with a water slide and diving board, held 240,000 gallons of water that was pumped from Shoal Creek to a holding tank, so the dirt and sediment could settle, before being transferred into the swimming pool. Chemical treatments were not available at that time and according to advertisements that ran in the local paper, the water was "changed after every 200 bathers".
Most locals could not afford to pay the price to swim in the pool, but it was a popular attraction for the wealthier residents of Pocahontas, Greenville, and surrounding communities. However, there was a 20 acre picnic grounds adjacent to the pool and that area was free for anyone to use. Many locals remember having a picnic on the grounds, and watching the swimmers. They remember seeing the crystal clear water. Even more remember the annual swimming and diving exhibitions held when prize winning divers from the St Louis area would come to perform from the platform nearly 50' above the pool.
At some point a merry-go-round was also added and the Shoal Creek Amusement Park quickly became known as a place where families could go to enjoy a picnic, and if you had a little extra money, a ride on the merry-go-round or a swim in the pool. According to some who are still around to remember this time in Bond County history, just hearing the music of the merry-go-round was a treat in itself.
By the time a new owner, John Nuby, purchased the property in 1929, the bottom had literally fallen out of the swimming pool. Repairs were too costly for Nuby to justify.
The Pocahontas school was still using the gymnasium for basketball games (until 1935 when it built a new one adjacent to the school) but Nuby also utilized it for a reception hall, dances, a bowling alley, and even a skating rink at one time. Nuby worked at the rink, helping patrons get their skates on, making repairs, and was rumored to be quite the skater himself.
The name of the restaurant business was changed to the Whiteway Tavern, and Nuby began serving beer with teh food, even creating one of the first "beer gardens" in the area.
The bar and restaurant business was fueled by those that attended the dances and other events at the gymnasium. Often the patrons would come early for dinner and a drink, or stop by after events for a beer with friends. John Nuby enjoyed the success of his business until 1947 when it was purchased by his son Gerald.
More changes came during Gerald Nuby's tenure. He built a formal dining room and began serving steaks, salads, other meals more conductive to a real restaurant as opposed to a tavern.To reflect that name was changed to Nuby's Steakhouse. The public loved the changes and often there would be a line of customers waiting for a table at Nuby's Steakhouse, especially on the weekend before events at the gymnasium. Nuby banked on the dinner crowd, but if you came by at lunch he would accommodate you with a cold salami and cheese sandwich on hard bread accompanied by a pickle and a beer.
The music stopped in the 60's and the gymnasium was then used for hockey and horseshoes.
From 1978 to 1991 Nuby's Steakhouse was sold three more times before finally being purchased by Rick and Connie Richardson.
The Richardson's were born and raised in the area and both growing tired of their current employment. Rick has always wanted a tavern and Connie had always wanted to own a restaurant- Nuby's Steakhouse offered both.
"We loved the nostalgia of the place too," Connie said. "And although we did some updating inside, we didn't do a major remodel because we wanted to maintain that part of history."
The menu was expanded as well, but also still includes many items that were on the original Nuby's Steakhouse menu like their famous Caesar Salad and Garlic Salad. I can't divulge too much information about how these incredible salads are made but I will tell you that that Caesar dressing is made in-house and fresh squeezed garlic is used in the Garlic salad.
Shoal Creek Amusement Park was once one of Bond Counties largest attractions. Today the gymnasium, although in a state of deterioration and held up partly by climbing ivy, still stands on the property as a testament to days gone by. If you look closely through the trees behind the gymnasium, you can still see one wall of the pool among the brush and vines. There are no known photos of the merry-go-round, but a concrete pad where it used to sit still remains. Still sitting among these relics from the past is Nuby's Steakhouse. And although changed considerably from it's original state and purpose, Nuby's still serves some of the finest food in Bond and surrounding counties.