If you read my story “AVS Honey”, you will remember that in 1950, after I graduated from 8th grade, I had a 3 or 4 week period before I was to spend the summer in Arizona with my Grand-dad. I told you about the AVS Honey job because it was interesting and it was fun. I almost forgot that for 3 or 4 days prior to AVS Honey, I had a job in a filling station. Maybe I’m blocking it out of my memory because I got fired. Here’s how it happened.
In Kansas, you could get a restricted driver’s license when you were 14 years old. As a result, the schools offered a driver’s training course to 13 year old 8th graders. I took the course and learned the rudiments of driving and how to take care of a car.
Bill Nutter and Ray Tarman took over the management of a Socony-Vacuum (later, Mobil) station. This is the station that had been run by a man named “Heavy” Stevens at the south end of Augusta where State Street and Walnut Street come together.
Just before school was out, my Mom happened to see Bill Nutter down town and visited with him a little. After Bill told about his new business, Mom told him about me needing a short term job and asked if he could use me at his new place. Bill said it so happened that he had hired a college kid for the summer but this kid wouldn’t be out of school for another 3 weeks or so. He told Mom that he could use some help until the college kid showed up and that I should come down and talk to him. I hurried down and talked to Bill and he agreed to hire me.
Back in those days, the gas stations or filling stations were more correctly called “service” stations. A customer pulling into a station for any amount of gasoline expected to have their windshield washed, oil checked, and radiator water level checked. And, if requested, the air pressure in their tires would be checked. Beyond that, if requested, the attendant would grab a whisk broom and sweep out the car.
The work stuff didn’t bother me. I could do all the necessary things or sweep the driveway with no problem. My shortcoming proved to be that I didn’t know enough about cars or engines. Bill or Ray would be working on a car and I would have to interrupt them so they could help me locate something. The first day, it was a cab-over truck and I couldn’t find the dipstick to check the oil level. The next day, I couldn’t find the gas cap on a customer’s car. Earlier models were easy to find. They were normally in plain sight, a shiny chrome thing sticking out of a rear fender. The manufacturers were just starting to get tricky and hide them behind little doors in the rear fender wells. However, on my second day at the station, I had no idea where the gas cap was on this guy’s car. Trying to look “cool” (rather than stupid) I walked into the grease rack and asked Bill where the thing was. “It’s behind the license plate”, he says. “No kidding?”, I say. Sure enough, there it was.
The 3rd day, I was really intense. I wasn’t going to miss anything. The morning went well but in the middle of the afternoon, here comes this late model Cadillac. The driver told me to “fill it up” so I got the hose and was ready to start pumping gas. I’m in trouble again…I can’t find the gas cap! I checked the fenders, the license plate, and the trunk with no luck. Finally admitting to myself that I had failed again, I went in and got Bill out from under the hood of a car and asked him to show me where the gas cap was on a Cadillac. Bill doesn’t say anything but walks over to the left side of the car, takes hold of the tail-light and swings it up and out of the way. There’s the gas cap! The tail-light lens is hinged! That was just too damned cute for words. Who puts a gas cap in a tail light? I gassed up the car and got the man on his way.
At quitting time that night, Bill told me that I just didn’t know enough about cars and they wouldn’t be able to use me after all. I understood and there were no hard feelings.
February 12, 2016