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.