Growing up in the village of Osterville there was a time when there were several gas stations to service the populous. It is strange because when there were just a few folks in the village there were five or six separate gas stations where today this is only one to service a much larger population.
In addition these were much more than places to go to purchase fuel. These were true service stations where just about any repair or modification would be performed on your vehicle. These ranged from tire repair and muffler replacement to engine rebuilding and some body work.
When you did pull in to purchase some gas you never pumped it yourself. An attendant asked you what grade of fuel you wanted and how much. In the days of gas priced at twenty cents a gallon you could go a long ways on a buck. The attendant would not only pump your gas, but they would check your oil level and tire pressure as well.
In the gas crisis of the early 1970’s the big companies took note that customers would pump their own gas and pay sky high prices.
One of the stations in Osterville was run by a guy named Roy Piggot. Roy was originally from the coast of North Carolina who had been stationed in the Coast Guard on Cape Cod where he met and married a Yankee gal, Elizabeth Rankin, who Roy called ‘Lizbeth.
Roy had a mechanic and a couple of attendants working at various times. His station was an easy going place where people would hang out and talk while their car was being fueled or being work on. In the summer it was one of the places in the village where a young boy on a bicycle would stop to get a cold drink out of the soda machine for a dime.
Roy had a ritual where at the end of the day he would swab out all the garage bays to get them clean for the next day’s business. It was an interesting ritual to watch as a young boy, especially in the heat of August.
Roy would raise all the lifts in the empty bays so the floors were clear and then take a large metal bucket out to the gas pumps. Here he would pump a couple of gallons of gasoline into the bucket and bring it back to the bays.
Then Roy would take a rag mop and swab down all the floors with gasoline the fumes wafting into the hot summer afternoon air.
Meanwhile the mechanic and attendants would all retreat to a somewhat safer place to observe the ritual. It was a miracle that an ignorant customer never approached the area with a lit cigarette or that Roy never caused a spark as he dragged the metal part of his mop across the concrete floors.
As a kid I never appreciated the dark humor of the situation like Roy’s employees did.
Years later Roy retired and sold the station to his mechanic and this dangerous ritual disappeared.