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Old days at the gas station are gone
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Growing up in Social Circle, we didn't have a self-service gas station.

On one end of town, Mr. Jim Paul Shepherd had a Gulf station. On the other, Mr. Peters had the Pure Oil station.

Mr. Jim Paul had a big freezer out front filled with all kinds of ice cream. I guess we weren't big enough to have an ice cream truck and it fell to Mr. Jim Paul to fill that role.

He also had a Coke machine where drinks were just a dime.

Another feature of Shepherd's Gulf was a big metal rack where the tickets were kept. Gasoline, tires and oil were sold to known customers on credit. I occasionally would get a gallon of gas for the mower, but Mr. Jim Paul retired before I got to experience the pleasure of charging gasoline to my folks.

When we'd go to Monroe or bigger towns, like Athens or Atlanta, we'd fill up at the discount stations like Hess or Spur. The Spur station used to give away free drinking glasses with a fill-up.

There was only one or two guys on duty, but they'd come out and fill 'er up. They carried around a wad of cash in their uniform pocket. You'd pay the guy and he'd give you change from a roll of what looked like a lot of money. He also had one of those coin gizmos on his belt that would deal out quarters, nickels, dimes and pennies. In his back pocket, he carried a faded red rag that was used to wipe off the dipstick when he checked your oil.

Full service, check your oil and tires, plus a free glass for 29.9 cents a gallon. We didn't know how good we had it.

By the time I was nearing driving age, we started to see the advent of self-service. I thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. My dad taught me to round up the total to the nearest quarter where I wouldn't get all that loose change back.

Move forward 30 years.

The 29.9 cents that used to get you a gallon now only gets you a tenth of a gallon.

If you wanted to go cruise the Dairy Queen and then ride around and see who was at the picture show, you could ride all night on two or three dollars worth of gas. This was after gas crossed over the threshold of 50 or 60 cents, which we thought was just highway robbery.

I haven't paid cash money for gas in years. I pay at the pump, which is an invention that convenience store folks really regret. Every now and then, I'll go in and get a cold drink, which is where convenience stores make their real money.

But I still hear my dad's voice when I'm filling up with that sage advice about rounding it up to the next quarter. It doesn't really matter because I'm paying with a card, but I try anyway.

I don't know if you've tried it, but that dollar counter is moving a whole lot faster than the gallon counter. You've got to be quick. You've got to be Chuck Conners as the Rifleman quick.

My $20 in gas ends up being $20.04, or more.

I'm paying 10 times as much and I don't even get a free glass. I think I still have an old one around the house. I'm going home and raise a toast to the good old days.

Harris Blackwood, a native of Social Circle, is on the editorial board of The Gainesville Times. Send e-mail to This column originally appeared in the June 1, 2006 edition of The Covington News.