In the eyes of a child, a workplace can seem magical. There’s something about being allowed in where adults work. It’s like that office or factory is a whole other world. That’s how I felt about my dad’s service station.
Yes, I said “service station,” not “gas station.” Slane and Johnson Texaco (and later, Slane and Johnson Gulf) was a full-service service station. Remember the jingle “You can trust your car to the man who wears the star. The big bright Texaco star!”? That was my dad. (And for those of you who do remember that jingle, I’m sorry for it now being stuck in your head!)
If you drove up to the pumps, Dad, his partner George, or one of the guys would actually pump your gas for you. They’d also wash your windows. If you asked, they’d even check your oil. Car running rough? Make an appointment and Dad and the guys would check it out and make it run like new.
Business did well. They added a second service bay and expanded the front area. It was in those bays and that front room that my sisters and I spent a good part of our childhoods. Like my sister Denise said to me not long ago, “It was like our own amusement park!”
What a magical “park” it was. There was that special hose that ran from the pumps, across the driveway, and into the station. Somehow, when cars drove across it, a bell would ring. Ding-ding. Ding-ding. When I was little, I never could quite figure out how that worked. All I knew was that I was disappointed when it didn’t work when I’d ride my bike across it.
Then there were the lifts. They actually scared me a little bit. There I was, this little kid, and this great big car was waaaaaaay up in the air. I was always certain it would fall off.
I loved to watch Dad work on cars. He could somehow make sense of all of the pieces and parts and belts and wires that went every which way.
When I got a bit older, I would help out working the register and pumping gas. Eventually, I got the job of taking the monthly inventory. (Resistor and non-resistor sparkplugs in separate columns, thank you very much.)
Things change. Texaco pulled out of Ohio. Dad and George ended up buying the Gulf station across the street. Years went by and George retired, followed by Dad a few years later. (He’s now enjoying golf courses instead of service bays!) Both stations are gone now. But the smell of gasoline and the ding-ding of a driveway bell can take me right back to that magical place.
What about you? Where did your parents work? Were you ever allowed to visit? Did those “everyday objects” seem magical to you?