From approximately 1946 to 1954, my dad managed a Chevron Oil gas station on the southeast corner of Main and 1st North here in Preston, Idaho. As of this composition, the Southfork Hardware store does good business at that location, but prior to that, it was the Anderson Lumbar business.
As a funny sidenote, Anderson Lumber was the source of those wooden yardsticks my mom used to paddle my behind. When she would go into their store to request another freebie, Ace Beckstead, the manager, would smile and ask, “Todd been acting up again??!” Thanks, Ace! JOB WELL DONE!!
Dad’s business had two gas pumps out front, two service bays, (one for a lube rack and one for washing cars) and a small office space. No offerings like today’s gas/convenience stores. Oil changes, tires, batteries, minor replacement repairs like headlights, flasher bulbs, etc., were the only mechanic work performed, nothing major. If you needed something more significant, Dad would refer you to one of the dealerships in town like McCune Motors or Cranney Chevrolet.
According to what he used to tell me, lead gas was no more than 25 cents per gallon with an expected profit to Dad of maybe 3-4 cents a gallon. He wore the starch white uniform supplied by the company that included a hat much like the military style of WW2 era. I have been told Dad’s outfit would be as clean after a day of lube and oil changes as it was when he started the workday, a miracle.
This knowledge comes from a recently departed dear friend named Reed Smith, who used to work for Dad way back in the early 1950s. My Dad and Reed are part of that “greatest generation” who are mostly gone, but I sure wish I had gleaned more information from them about those days. I did not learn enough from them and look forward to the time when I get to see them again and ask more questions.
Any new hire would be told in detail how to perform the tasks that were the crux of Dad’s business, such as oil changes, lube jobs, and even the specifics of cleaning windshields and rear windows. Once that in-service was checked off, it was expected that the new employee could independently and competently do the task for any customer.
This faculty and skill were necessary to allow Dad to be absent from the service station to work on the dry farm. Leaving a young 20-something kid in charge of his cashflow enterprise had to be a bit nerve-stretching. He needed that gas station to be profitable enough to support his young family, while getting his eventual lifetime career of agriculture healthy and established.
This gas station was a means to an end for my dad. His true love was to be out on that dry farm. It was his happy place, and I’ll bet you lunch money ... it still is, as his spirit continues to roam those clay soil hills. I plan to share the proof of my claim in a future column. His work ethic was equally applied to both scenarios. Keeping that wheel in the furrow — that is how he operated.
Therefore, the newly hired hand would first hear the words, “THIS IS THE BEST PLACE IN TOWN TO GET YOUR CAR SERVICED AND THAT FACT ISN’T GOING TO CHANGE, JUST BECAUSE YOU WORK HERE!”
Pride in a job well done, from start to finish, was the lesson being taught. Reward being your reputation and an honest earned living. Thanks, Dad. JOB WELL DONE!!
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