I was just eighteen years old at the time and had never been this far away from home, I was still a bit disgusted with a lot of things that had happened back home which seemed like a major thing at the time but as you all know, the major things that went on in the past really turn out to be very minor when we look back on them today. I suppose getting dismissed from jury duty and missing my ride to the jobsite seemed to justify a 1500-mile road trip rather than driving about 100 miles to work, I suppose an eighteen year olds way of thinking is not near as mature as we think it is at the time.
After a brief reunion with my Dad and Grand Dad we settled in for the night only to get up early the next morning to go and open the Shamrock Service station my Dad owned, this station sat on one of the main drags in town right across from the K-Mart store, it boasted both self service and full service islands but the drawing card was, “Full Service at Self Service Prices”, this was back when you could pull up to a station and someone would come out and not only fill your car with gas but also wash the windshield, check the oil, check the tire pressures, add water to the radiator or what ever else you may need at the time, collect your money and bring you your change with a smile, have a good day and come back soon, this was full service and full service was what we did, along with mechanic work, oil and lube service and car washes, I now had a job that I didn’t realize I had applied for, I began a career of serving the public so to say when I thought I was just on vacation.
Meeting the people who came to buy gas from my Dad was rather impressive, local businessmen, politicians, law enforcement personnel all the way from the local City police officers, State troopers, various Sheriffs Deputies to the Sheriff himself, the largest amount of the service business we did was for the Sheriffs Department, heck we washed and did more oil changes on their vehicles it seems than others, I remember several of these Deputies sitting in the back room with my Dad sharing a “Cold Beverage” that was stored locked away and hidden in the bottom of the Coke Machine, I was soon running the station and taking care of the service work while my Dad looked over my shoulder and made sure everything was done right, next thing I knew he had my name added to the sign boasting the owners names, this scared me to death as this little road trip was only supposed to be a visit.
Competition was a serious but funny thing, we had a man who owned the Texaco station which sat next to K-Mart and caddy corner across from our station, and directly across from the Texaco was a Phillips 66, these three stations kept close watch on each others activities and although none were friends they were pretty close when it came to business practices, the man at the Texaco always had his gas prices a penny or so under everyone else’s, you would see him standing at the edge of the street watching you change the prices on the pump, back then we opened the front of each pump to manually change the prices, when every pump was changed we then took a ladder out to the sign to climb up and take the sign down, we would then peel off and change the numbers to match the price on the pumps, each time while changing the sign prices you would see Mr. Texaco adjusting his and end result would be a penny under our prices.
I got a little fed up with this and right after the delivery truck had finished filling our tanks I went out and opened the pump directly in front of the station and adjusted the price to .99 cents a gallon, our prices that day were not to be changed and I knew that the angle on this pump Mr. Texaco could not see clearly because he always got our prices from the one on the side of the station nearest his Texaco station, I took the ladder out to the sign and climbed up and took it down, I went back and opened all the other pumps pretending like I was changing the prices and took way too long to close them back up, Mr. Texaco couldn’t view the change through his binoculars, next thing I knew he came stomping across the street, passing right by me and the pumps I was supposedly working on and looked at the one I had changed to .99 cents, he sprinted back to his station and began going over his place like a single handed Nascar Pit Crew, I closed up all the pumps and changed the first one back to the regular price which was under .70 cents a gallon and sat back to watch him for a while.
|Dad Changing The Gas Price Sign|
(note .68 for a gallon of Regular and $7.00 Car Wash)
Mr. Texaco had made all the changes at his station and was now boasting a sign of “Cheapest Prices In Town” .98 cents a gallon was now his price topping ours by about thirty cents a gallon. It took about an hour of watching him strut back and forth smiling across the street at us before he realized that we were getting a lot of business and he was getting none, it finally dawned on him to pull out the binoculars and when he saw our sign, his sign immediately came down and he looked like the cartoon Tasmanian Devil changing his prices back to a penny below ours, this was followed by him stomping back across the street to yell at my Dad for tricking him into upping his price, my Dad had no idea what Mr. Texaco was talking about and when I was brought in and questioned about .99 cents I suggested that maybe he had mistaken the 6 for a 9 and upped his price rather than lowering it below ours for once, I just smiled as he stomped back across the street and realized then that this was a fun job after all, it was kind of funny to see what a posted price of .99 cents would do.
Thirty some odd years later the Texaco has been sold and remodeled into a convenience store boasting a Shell sign now, the Shamrock was eventually sold also and converted into an ice cream shop then a jewelry store for a number of years and now sits vacant, as is the 66 station on the corner, the local gas war is now a bit further up the road between a local convenience chain which is always the same as Wal-Mart’s price and the Town and Country store who always attempts to be a penny lower, they actually had the Fire Department come in and threaten to shut them both down if they did not adjust their prices to match everyone else’s in town.
This was the result of them lowering their prices underneath each other, over and over, back and forth until one reached .99 cents a gallon and when the other got bold and advertised .49 cents a gallon the Fire Department and local Police could not control the traffic that was backed up for miles in every direction nor the fights any longer, so this gas war was nipped in the bud so to say with a threat from local authorities because this was getting dangerous. This was only a few years back and .99 cents had just as dramatic and opposite effect as it did thirty years earlier, again it is kind of funny to see what a posted price of .99 cents will do.