My Thoughts Exactly
Gas station holds memories
By LEIGH ANN WHIDDON
Several weeks ago, News Editor Otis Francis wrote a story on full-service stations, or the lack thereof, in Sweetwater. Full-service stations have a special place in my heart, and in my memories, because my granddad used to own one.
Granddad owned a Shell station on Highway 77 in Victoria, within bicycle riding distance of my grandparents house, where we spent our summers. One of my favorite things to do was to bounce up and down on the bell hose and listen to the bell go off.
Granddad had all the coin machines lined up outside the building —— candy and gum and the little toys that came in the plastic balls nobody could open.
A carload of kids would pull up and while one attendant rushed out to ﬁll up the tank and check the oil and another attendant washed the windows, there was my granddad, shelling out coins to all the kids. I remember my grandmother saying that the reason he got the machines was so he could give the kids money.
My brother and I and our friends were regular customers at the candy machines. We used to put our quarters in the machine andget all of the little spiders, rings, rubber balls, etc. The company that supplied the prizes also put in cigare te lighters. Like most kids under the age of 12, we really had no use for the occasional lighter we got. But, also like most kids under the age of 12, we had a nose for ways to get money without doing any work.
There was one employee that we especially liked. All I really remember about him was that he was Hispanic, and had we girls been a little older, we would probably have thought he was pretty cute. What he was, was generous and he bought all of our lighters for a dollar apiece. Keep in mind, we only paid 25 cents for them. The 200 percent profit we made was nothing to laugh at. This poor man, who probably did not even smoke, must have had the world’s largest collection of cigarette lighters with no lighter ﬂuid.
The station, the swimming pool and Jim’s Big Burger were all on the same block. Very often. we would be at the swimming pool, and when lunch time came, we went down the street to the station, got money from granddad, went across the street for a hamburger, and then went back across the street to swim the rest of the afternoon.
Every night, it was my grandmother’s job to handle the bookkeeping. After I took my bath and got ready for bed. I went into the utility room to help out. It was my job to stamp the name of the station on the front of the check if the “Pay to the order of‘ bit was blank; and to stamp the endorsement on the back of all of the checks.
My granddad sold the station around 1980. The new owners had the nerve to knock it down and build one of those newfangled convenience stores. And —- get this — you have to pump your own gas! I sat down on the curb of a full-service station a few weeks ago waiting for my car to be serviced and remembered all the time I spent sitting on the curb at my granddad’s station watching the people go by.