My first memories of going to town in Pea Ridge involve going to Floyd Hall's gas station, Luther Martin's Grocery Store, Kelly Armstrong's Grocery Store, Webb's Feed and Seed and Webb's Hatchery.
I'm thinking of the mid-1940s, while World War II was still going on in Europe. When I started this column about service stations, I had started to say that all our service stations back then were full-service stations, not self-service stations such as we predominantly have today. However, I remembered two local gas stations that were not full service. Luther Martin, in his early years with the store at the downtown intersection, had had gas pumps out front of the store. Also, Cline Carden, at his old store at Jacket, Mo., had sold gasoline out front of his store. Those places just sold gasoline, and didn't offer other automotive services. Back at that time, most gas stations still used the old hand-operated pumps which pumped the gasoline up into a glass cylinder at the top, where it was measured for gallons, and then the hose drained the collected purchase into your tank. I say they weren't full service stations, since they didn't do other services on cars and trucks, but even Mr. Martin and Mr. Carden pumped the gasoline for their customers. In those days, I suppose no businessman expected his customers to serve themselves.
As I recall, Pea Ridge always had at least three gas stations. The one we went to most was Floyd Hall's Esso Station, located at the northwest corner of the downtown intersection. Floyd Hall was the first proprietor I remember for the little field rock station, built in 1930 by Pea Ridge Day, the baseball player. Early on, Floyd sold Esso gasoline and oil products. He would later switch to Texaco, about the time that Esso became Exxon. Floyd Hall's station was a very convenient station, accessible from the streets we now call Pickens and Curtis. Floyd or one of his occasional employees, like Lawson Latty, would fill your tank for you, clean your windshield, check your engine oil and add a quart if needed, check your radiator, air up your tires if needed.
You never had to get out of your car for most services, and you paid the attendant at your car window. There weren't any credit cards or debit cards in those days, so you paid with cash or by check. Back then I don't recall ever having a problem reading the screen on the gas pump in the bright sunlight, since there was no screen to read. Maybe sometime in our 21st century they will invent self-service gas pumps with screens that you can read in the bright sunlight.
Just up the street from the main intersection, Johnny Buttry had his garage and station. That was just north of the funeral home. I'm not sure what brand of gasoline Johnny sold early on. When I remember best, in the early 1950s, I think he was selling DX gasoline and oil. Johny Buttry did all kinds of automotive service at his garage. He could overhaul your engine if needed, or do any of the regular maintenance tasks or tune-ups. At one time, he also had the store by his garage, and sold Case tractors, hay balers, and other farm implements. Through the years that store building has been many things. It started out as the Putman General Store, and has been a Western Auto Store, furniture store, a church, a hardware store, and more recently was best known for Randall Crawford's NAPA Auto Parts Store.
Across the street from Johnny Buttry's Garage was Charles Hardy's Garage and Station. Charles sold Lion gasoline. Like Johnny Buttry, Charles Hardy offered just about any automotive service or repair that you might need. Also, down the street from the main intersection, at the corner where today's motel stands, was the Lasater Brother's Phillip 66 Station and Garage.
So, although in those years the residential population within the Pea Ridge city limits was only about 100 people, Pea Ridge was a pretty busy town, with three stores selling groceries and feed, three or more service stations to take care of your car and truck maintenance, at least three garages to repair your vehicles and farm equipment, at least three welding shops to weld back together your broken farm implements or fabricate your new invention. Especially on Saturdays, the town would be full of farm people from all around, with hardly a parking place remaining. In those days, Saturdays were "goin' to town days." The week days were work days on the farm; Sundays were for church and chores, and Saturdays were for going to town for whatever shopping and resupplying was needed.
The filling stations, in the days when the proprietors and employees "waited on the customers," the stations were often places for what you might call social gatherings. A great deal of visiting, story telling, and even business appointment making took place around the filling station or garage. Even farm business transactions might be arranged or completed while the car was being serviced.
Floyd Hall even had a little lawn by his station, outfitted with benches for sitting. We often referred to the bench as the Loafer's Bench, because lots of loafing, fishing tales and lying took place there. It was also known as the Whittler's Bench, because along with the conversations, story-telling and philosophizing, many a piece of wood was whittled there. Once in a while the whittler was making something, possibly even an artistic design. Other times the pocket knives were simply slicing sticks into shavings that collected on the ground. Full-service gas stations could also be called multi-purpose. We always bought our kerosene (coal oil) there for the lamps in the house, for the barn lantern, and other miscellaneous farm purposes. We also had our radio battery recharged on the slow charger there at the filling station. Of course those were the days before electricity began changing almost everything.
Editor's note: Jerry Nichols, a native of Pea Ridge and an award-winning columnist, is vice president of Pea Ridge Historical Society. He can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 621-1621.Editorial on 10/09/2019
Print Headline: Remember those old full service gas stations?