2007-09-12

5 Points gas station -- repost

In the 1960s, there were two gas stations in 5 Points. One was the Standard Oil Station, which is now Jittery Joes. The other station was the Gulf Station, which is where the Golden Pantry is located now. Both were full service stations which was the norm for that era. Both stations had two service bays with lifts and overhead doors that could be closed and locked at night.
The Gulf station stayed open 24 hours a day. There was an older guy that worked the night shift named Loyal. It was pronounced Lowell though. Loyal was a fixture in 5 Points, you could count on seeing him there at night. He worked from about 10 PM until about 6 AM or so. As 12 or 13 year old kid, I'd sneak out of my parent's house in the middle of the night and walk up to 5 Points to visit with Loyal. He'd let me pump gas sometimes. I could not count the times that I saw carloads of Athens High School kids (now Clarke Central) come in there to buy 2 dollars of gas so they could continue cruising Athens. Lots of kids would be at the Varsity drive in, that was a popular gathering spot for AHS kids and for kids from surrounding counties. The drive in area was the lot that is between the Varsity and the Dairy Queen. Most Friday and Saturday nights, you'd have to cruise through there many times to get an empty spot. So kids would cruise between the Varsity and the Pick and Pay shoe store parking lot on Broad, another popular spot. They'd drive into 5 Points to get the gas needed for that cruising. Many times, there'd be beer involved and I would watch as a carload full of high school kids would pull into the Gulf station, raising hell, making noise, generally driving too fast. At these times, I'd pump that gas or Loyal would, but Loyal would get the driver of the car to come into the office to pay. Loyal would make the driver drink a cup of coffee and tell stories about kids getting killed in wrecks driving drunk. Many times, that carload of kids would leave the station in a much quieter and safer manner than the manner that they drove in.
At the time, I didn't think much of that one way or the other, but as I got older, I thought about that and I wonder to this day how many lives Loyal saved over the years? He did that just out of the goodness of his own heart and his caring for the kids of Athens. Loyal would tell me stories of driving a truck for a living, which he had done in a previous job. He told me about driving a wrecker truck, which is where he saw all the carnage and wrecks caused by high spirited and drunk teen drivers. Depending on how much gas I had pumped on a given Friday or Saturday night, Loyal would pay me 2 or 3 dollars, which I would promptly spend over at the Waffle House which was a fairly new business at that time. I'd have some breakfast, then walk back down Millege Circle to my parents house, sneak back in, and sleep until 1 PM or so. I don't think my parents know to this day that I spent the better part of two years of weekend nights pumping gas in 5 Points.
Loyal was killed several years after this time, he was reported to be walking down the train track over near Winterville at night. He had been drinking and didn't hear the train coming or didn't care, no one will ever know. But the train hit him going almost full speed and knocked him 20 yards or so off into the weeds that bordered the tracks. I heard after the fact that his funeral was well attended by a lot of young adults from the area, many of whom no doubt had him to thank for their safe passage through Athens High School and those wild weekend nights.

1 comment:

David Hamilton said...

There has GOT to be a country song in there somewhere. Maybe John Berry or Mike Dekle remember him and could oblige. Death by train = immortal legend.

Seriously, I wonder if kids these days even have experiences like this. We're so isolated, and every kid has their own car now. If the death-toll of teenagers on our roads is an indication, I would say no . . .

Thanks!

David