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After months of indecision and questioning the thought, Doris Liniger turned off the stove and locked the door for the last time on Wednesday.
As a teenager in the 1950s, Doris Spring started working at the Highway House as a waitress for owners Norman and Margaret Baker.
Then, on Sept. 6, 1962, Doris and then-husband Don French purchased the restaurant located at the corner of Jefferson Street and NW 12th Avenue in north Ava.
For nearly 50 years, it’s been the only life she has known, opening early and staying late, six and sometimes seven days a week.
Many friends and longtime customers stopped by Wednesday for one final meal and to say farewell, not just to Doris but also to the establishment that many remember from their childhood years, as well.
Lavon Carter recalled that previous owners Norman and Margaret Baker purchased the Highway House from Lavon’s mother-in-law Marguerite Carter in the late 1940s or early ’50s. Lavon’s sister, Nelma Lister, who joined her there for the noon meal on Wednesday, worked many years for the Bakers as a waitress.
The Highway House had what is believed to have been Ava’s first drive-up window. It was the teen hangout, Lavon said.
In those days there was no NW 12th Avenue going west from the corner where the Highway House sits. The restaurant was on Highway 5 at the north edge of Ava and the young people would stop by there on their way out Highway 5, headed for Mansfield.
Sometime later the dining room was added to the north side of the restaurant, and for the past half century, it has been the meeting place for clubs, boards, family and class reunions, and romantic dinners.
There is some uncertainty as to what the future holds for the corner where the Highway House has stood for so many years. Apparently there are no immediate plans for the location.
Eventually, we’re certain, the building will be razed and something else will take its place. Then, only the memories will remain.