People often ask, “So where did you grow up?” I often reply, “A gas station.” Yep, “fill ‘er up” were some of the first words I ever heard. My parents’ full-service gas station was the kind of small-town garage similar to Wally’s Filling Station on The Andy Griffith Show and Mayberry RFD. Gol-l-l-y! Shazam! There is nothing like hanging out among the smell of brand-new tires and your dad’s Old Spice aftershave. Ahhhhhh …
One of my favorite memories of growing up at the service station, or The Garage, as we called it, was when customers would drive up to the two gas pumps and a “ca-ding, ca-ding” would sound throughout the garage. A special hose on the driveway was hooked to a bell inside the garage, and whenever a vehicle ran over the hose, we were alerted with the ca-ding, ca-ding.
When a farmer or village resident would pull up, my dad or the two mechanic employees would drop everything and head to the gas pumps. Mom was busy working on the daily accounting books and usually left the fill ‘er up work to the boys.
Twirling a Squeegee with the Best of Them
My earliest memories of Elk Oil & Motor Co. were of helping Dad when a customer stopped in. Dad would complete his full-service check on the vehicle while filling the gas tank. He’d look for any low tires and often do a quick check of belts and fluid levels under the hood. And always a complete windshield clean while chatting with each customer.
I loved watching Dad deftly maneuver that handled squeegee to scrub the smeared dirt and bugs off each customer’s windshield. (Maybe that is why I love twirling a squeegee while washing my own vehicle’s windshield today.)
While my father was scrubbing away on the vehicle glass, I would grab one of the station’s special cloth rags and dust off each customer’s back bumper. Back and forth I mopped to remove all the country-roads dust. I’m not sure if anyone every saw me do this, but since I couldn’t reach the windshield, I wanted to do my part in making customers happy. Even if they never noticed their chrome looked sparkly again.
I think there is something to be said about serving others when they may never notice. Maybe it’s the letting another person go ahead of you in a line at the grocery store, post office, or the stop sign. Maybe it’s picking up the dishes left in the family room after TV night or loading the dishwasher when it’s someone else’s turn. Or, what about secretly pulling some of your neighbor’s weeds or picking up a stranger’s dog doo? What if we helped a co-worker and didn’t look for a pat on the back?
Perhaps my bumper-dusting days of old were a precursor to today’s pay-it-forward gestures, but I like to simply think of my car cleaning efforts as simply modeling what I saw my father do. Serve others with a smile, diligence, and excellence. It’s no wonder I enjoy saying I grew up in a full-service gas station. Ca-ding, ca-ding.
So who worked as the mechanics? I just remember your dad.
There were three that I recall. Slick Baucke did before he started his work in Tecumseh. Then Keith Bates and Don Johnson. When they retired, Dan and Doug stepped in.
WORDS and WORKS to LIVE BY! “Serve others with a smile, diligence, and excellence!” – AMEN
It’s interesting how you forget these modeled character traits until you get a “little” older. That one sentence is definitely something I can aspire to in my own life and business today.
Great message! Thanks for countering the entitlement attitudes today. What a contrast! Always have seen you go the extra mile…
Helen, thank you for your kind words. Yes, those days of childhood character-building are often missing today when we see many disgruntled, demanding individuals these days.
Bless you for sharing your thoughts, my friend.
We are “full service filling station” sisters! I fondly remember everything g you wrote about!! My dad ran a Sinclair station in Sinclair WY. Remember the shavings pile after keys were made? Remember the warning to never mess with or play in the metal shavings? Remember the hours spent soaking the affected fingers for hours/days to try to remove the tiny stabbing monsters!?!?
Oh, Cynthia, I love that we are filling station sisters. How fun! I’ve been to Sinclair, WY. My dad and brothers later sold Sinclair for years. Yes, we received many warnings about all the equipment around.
Glad we both survived!
Oh Beth–what great memories you’ve shared here! I can just see a diligent little Bethie girl polishing those dusty, buggy bulky bumpers! When I first began working at Elmbrook Church on 01/02/85 after having driven allll the way from San Beenardino, CA to Hartland, WI just about a week earlier, I had asked around the EC staff to recommend a good mechanic, and the response was unanimous, “Casey O’Gorman!” His was a Shell Station at the time–which he always referred to simply as “the station.”. (Earlier in his career, he had worked alongside two of his brothers at a MOBIL station nearby. As these three O’Gorman brothers were known for sharing their faith in Christ Jesus while pumping gas, one customer quipped that MOBIL actually stood for, “Many O’Gormans Believe In [the] Lord”–ha!) I would never have guessed that 30+ years later, I would marry the later widowed Casey O’Gorman–OY! Anyway, yet another endearing story of yours here, dear Beth! Keep ’em coming, my friend! 😀
Oh, Janie, I love hearing about Casey and those O’Gorman brothers! How incredible that they worked diligently and talked about Jesus with customers. Love the MOBIL acronym. And yes, you married a mighty fine man with solid integrity and a heart for others. Thank you, Casey. Your legacy still lives on beautifully!
Enjoyed your gas station recollections. After college graduation, I pumped gas in Orange County, CA until I got an opportunity for a summer internship at the San Bernardino Sun newspaper.
Greg, how fun that we both have gas station attendant in our career skill set. Do you remember what gas cost back then?
How fun, Beth! Brought back some good memories of when someone actually served us at gas stations! And 29 cent gas.
My how times have changed, huh? I remember gas around 50¢ a gallon. I wish we had a retro gas station around here who still pumped gas or cleaned windshields. I think they’d get a steady business.
It was always a treat to go to the full service station with my dad. I remember the ca-ding, washing them wash the windows and wishing I had a squeegee, they looked like fun!
When we were done he would always buy me some Tootsie Rolls (which I hated and still hate today) I totally wanted some chocolate, but considered that the price to pay for the fun of a trip with dad.
I loved the smell of the gas and the numbers that flipped on the pumps.
How fun to have those memories with your dad. Even if you didn’t enjoy those Tootsie Rolls. 🙂 I forgot about the flipping numbers at the pumps. Definitely the non-digital age.
I wonder what kids today will remember about our world of technology and conveniences.