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Observations

Dad’s Service Station

Giving credit where credit is due

In 1949, my father left the Odessa oil patch and moved our family to Breckenridge, between Fort Worth and Abilene, where he bought a service station. He started with two customers a day and became one of the busiest stations in town.

The previous owner apparently was known to spend more time drinking whiskey and picking guitars than selling gasoline. We decided the three bullet holes in the ceiling were an indication of his priorities and his station’s environment.

We called the business Red’s Service Station and Garage—not a filling station because in addition to selling gasoline, we offered under-the-hood service and to clean windshields, sweep floorboards with a whisk broom and check tire pressure. From the age of 12 until I went off to the University of Texas at Austin in 1959, I made spending money by greasing cars, changing oil and fixing flats the old way, with tire tools, a rubber hammer and hot patches.

 

Because my father followed politics closely and was a huge football fan who gambled on sports, we were frequently visited by a collection of dignitaries and colorful characters from the worlds of politics, sports and newspaper publishing as well as a few bookies.

Probably the most famous customer we had was a wildcatter named Jack Grimm.

Grimm came into the service station one morning, introduced himself and said to my father, “Red, I graduated from Oklahoma University with a degree in geology. I’m going to produce oil here, but I need some credit.” He suggested that if Dad carried him on the books for gasoline, he would pay his bill when he made a well.

Grimm was good for his word. Many days he was our first customer, and he would fill his Ford with gas before heading out to the oil fields. He usually burned that tank in a day and was our first customer the next morning. He reportedly hit 25 dry holes before making a good one. He always paid his bill. Before long, he graduated from Fords to Lincolns and moved his business to Abilene.

After striking it rich, he financed searches for sasquatch, the Abominable Snowman, Loch Ness monster, Titanic and, most famously, Noah’s Ark.

Grimm was not the only one my father gave credit to. As long as customers paid their bills now and then, Dad would carry them. The only thing that made him mad was when a customer skipped paying a bill and he saw them buying their gas with cash at another station.

In addition to a strong work ethic, I learned at Red’s Service Station and Garage never to judge people. My father would give credit to anyone, rich or poor.

After striking it rich, he financed searches for sasquatch, the Abominable Snowman, Loch Ness monster, Titanic and, most famously, Noah’s Ark.

Grimm was not the only one my father gave credit to. As long as customers paid their bills now and then, Dad would carry them. The only thing that made him mad was when a customer skipped paying a bill and he saw them buying their gas with cash at another station.

In addition to a strong work ethic, I learned at Red’s Service Station and Garage never to judge people. My father would give credit to anyone, rich or poor.