Everyone needs a corner station
Today marks the end of an era in my neighborhood, and I am not happy about it. We have lived in this town for a little under seventeen years, and this has been my gas station all through that time. Len’s Southside has been the place where I began to go out of necessity. Who wants to pump gas in the middle of one of the worst winters on record with a precocious toddler on her hip while being 8 months pregnant? I know of no woman who would say yes to that scenario.
Convenience. I admit it. My “relationship” with the father and son dynamic duo began as a mutually beneficial one. I needed gas, and they needed customers. Over the years however that relationship changed. It really had very little to do on my part (or the other beloved customers’ parts either). It was the way these gentle men put service into service station.
When you came to the corner of Greeley and West College Drive, you came home. Everyone was treated that way. The last full service station in our town was the place to come to fill more than just your tank. Over the years, we have swapped fishing and hunting tales. It is Minnesota after all; so, of course, we talked about the weather. We have chatted about school, sports, and pigeons. The elder was so excited to learn that we raise them; because back in the day, he did too.
On more than one occasion, my husband has accused me of frequenting the station because I like to “flirt” with older men. But as he watched our “relationship” evolve, he began to refer to Len and Jeff as my dad and brother. No one chuckled more than my sweetie when I came home after buying a scooter and told of how my “family” at the station had chided me at least seven times “to just be careful on that thing”.
Of course, the brotherly and fatherly “interference” didn’t stop there because I do have a tendency to push ‘er to the limit on remembering to fill up. More than once I coasted in on fumes, guided along by angels’ wings and several prayers – mine. Len would always just smile the knowing smile, and Jeff would slip in a “Well you sure went a little far this time”.
When tragedy struck both families in different ways, our bond was forever solidified. We prayed for each other through the loss of a son and mother battling (and winning) with cancer. Hearing updates on her progress often brought me to tears, as I can only imagine watching my heart break did to theirs.
Gardening was another love we shared. When “Mom” wasn’t able to tend a garden during treatments, I would send my kiddos on a cycling mission to pedal the bounty from our garden down to the station. Today the last day of the shop being open, I couldn’t help myself; I just had to bring them a basket of love.
I filled up my old van yesterday because, honestly, I am not the only one who will miss them, and I was afraid that they might run out of gas before today. There was a beautiful sign up in front thanking the family for 44 years of service. My littlest and I enjoyed cookies and lemonade on a sweltering day. She enjoyed the treats, while I reminisced about all the memories we have shared.
When they showed me the proclamation, from the mayor, which was ceremoniously bestowed earlier that morning, I started to cry. Tears of sadness – for the loss of tradition of serving others that truly made a mom and pop gas station a place of refuge. Tears of joy – for living in a town that took the time to recognize two of the sweetest men you could ever meet. Tears of pride – for two men who just feel like family, knowing in my heart that gentlemen like that are treasures indeed!
Good luck on your next adventure! You will be missed!