Sunday, May 4, 2008

Larry (Installment 6)

The Service Station

I was so impressed with the service station. It was a place of wonder and excitement for me. That was the realm of my father and my older brothers. I longed for the opportunity to grow enough to work there with my father, brothers, and uncle.

That Wonderful Old Building

The building was a marvel to me. It was huge. There was no ceiling in the garage portion of the building. The roof was help up by trusses that had a curved top chord.

The Office

The office is where all of the planning and business would take place. The cash register, tires, fluids, candy and pop machines, the oil stove, v-belts, and school desks were the most prominent features visible in the office. The activities that went on in the office drew me to them with great anticipation and hope to not miss any detail.

Going to the garage was a treat (literally). A pop and a candy bar were the usual treat. Stocking the pop machine was the task that brought the reward of a pop and peanuts. The peanuts would promptly go into the pop. Oh yes, there were the days that I had to pull weeds instead of stocking the pop machine for my treat. Well on those days sometimes I would not get a treat. I was not very diligent in pulling weeds.

The old school desks that were in the back of the office acted as the congregation point for the regulars that would come to do business with Conejos County Gas and Oil. The desks were wooden chairs that had a writing surface attached that wrapped around the right side of the chair. Usually there were several farmers that would frequent the gas station to exchange stories and to have a break.

A steel safe sat behind the counter on the floor below the outside window. The tumbler and handle on the front were used to open the safe daily, as it was locked each night with the money and other valuables as closing time would roll around.

The real business took place behind the counter and cash register. The manually driven 9-key cash register did get a lot of use over the years. It is still in the family. Kent now has the old cash register. First the slides designating the type of transaction would need to be set, then the amount of the transaction would be punched in on the 9-key pad, and then to enter the transaction the lever on the right side of the register would be rotated to the front to enter the transaction onto the printed paper that fed out the top of the register.

The Shop

Out in the shop is where the real work was done. Tires were fixed. Chassis grease jobs were done. Oil and filters were changed. Engines were rebuilt. Metal was welded. Batteries were charged. The worst part of the garage was that the only heated place was inside the office. In the winter when the temperatures fell to below zero, the temperature inside the garage was also very cold.

There were some attempts over the years to put heating into the back of the garage. A portable heater that was fueled by kerosene and used a fan to push air through the combustion chamber was used to try and directly heat the area where work was being done.
The Fuel Tanks and The Gas Truck

A big part of the business that went on at the gas station was to make sure the farmers had fuel for working their fields. The five big silver tanks that were about 20 feet in diameter and 20 feet high were all connected to the pumping station with 2-inch diameter pipes. Dad used to drive the gas truck around the back of the garage to the fueling platform where he would fill the truck with the required fuel for the delivery to be made. Fuel deliveries were made to farms around the area for tractors and trucks. The gas truck had a pump of its own that ran on a small gasoline engine. The truck filled much quicker than it emptied. The delivery truck had 2 methods to empty it. It could also be emptied through gravity flow through a 2-inch diameter hose that could empty into an underground tank.

Above And Below

The ceiling in the garage was made with arch trusses and covered with a corrugated steel roof. The span of the garage was about 60 feet.


Gasoline and diesel fuel were delivered to the patrons of the garage through electric pumps that were connected to the underground tanks. The underground tanks were filled with fuel from the delivery truck. To determine how much fuel was in the ground tanks, a long dipstick would be lowered into the fill hole and extracted to read the scale where the wetted section ended.


  1. I loved the old gas station. Donnie worked there until he went on his mission. I was really jealous of his relationship with Dad.

    When I was 17, I finally got my turn. I met wonderful people and was given the opportunity to see a side of Dad that I didn't know existed. He could be demand and critical, but he also could be kind and tender.

    The thing I remember most was the tire changing tool. I've never seen one like it since. It wasn't powered by anything but muscles. I got to where I could fix a tire pretty quickly.

    I think the customer I remember the best was Leonard Neilson, but that's a topic for another time.

  2. I worked with Arlo in the office of the station after you boys were gone. Those were really good times. I pumped gas and did the office things. Arlo and I worked together and enjoyed each other more than at any time before that. We became better
    friends there.

  3. I would like to sometime put more of my memories about the old service station into print. Maybe next week.

  4. Do you remember the day that Uncle Harold was going to discipline you with a tire iron?


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