A Shell at every entrance
North, south, east, west, which Shell station did we like best? Well, that depended on where you lived and the road you drove.
Most little towns had two arteries feeding the community that ran north-south and east-west. We knew these owners personally, and they oftentimes lived next door or behind where the cars got ‘filled.’
The ‘filling stations’ were a meeting place for everyone to chat about weather, gossip and get full-service window cleaning! Check those tires and air them up a bit? Let’s lean in there and check that oil. Down, the engine hood would slam. All that running back and forth by the attendant to get change for a five or ten. Screen doors would slam each way. Do most girls have a memory of a cute high school boy working those stations? Sure, we do.
Johnny Frederick’s Shell was located at the top of the north hill after crossing the bridge where the Small Business Cooperative of Indiana is now located. Claude Windell was the southern arm, sitting also on top of a hill ‘ Bill Garey’s Hill ‘ as you left town on S.R. 135. Robson’s Shell covered the west from what is now Denny’s Carpet, Vinyl and Tile Floor Covering on the far side of the west bridge.
Going east out of town on S.R. 62 was Art Kopp’s station. Art’s, as it was called, served a whole lot more than gasoline and a tuneup. Art and his wife, Grace, had the good fortune, or not, to be across the street from the Corydon High School and later the junior high. Art’s provided an alternative to the school lunch with its chili and hamburgers. A bell would ring, and a pushing and yelling stampede would descend the stairs, halt at the street for direction from some poor kid who had patrol duty, and try to rush three wide through that skinny screen door. Pandemonium would reign for 45 minutes or so, trying Grace Kopp’s patience, and then the herd would all rush out and head around the corner to ‘The Island,’ or back across the street to dance in the school’s lower hall. If there was a car hoping to be gassed up about noon at Art’s, you can bet they were from out of town.
The mom-and-pop establishments are gone along with the personal touch that these filling stations brought to daily life. But there is one aspect of small-town gas stations that will not be missed. Most of us must admit that improvement has been made in one area without a doubt. With the advent of corporate and feminist influences, the carrying of a key around to the back in order to use a sometimes risky rest room is fortunately only a memory.
Leah Porter is at the Harrison County Public Library in Corydon on the first and third Saturdays of the month from 1 to 3 p.m.