Monday, May 8, 2017

REMINISCING: Memories of Gas Stations

In the very last half of my senior year in high school, I got a job working at the Kwik Fill at the corner of Willow and Transit. It ended up being a job I held for over three years, and I worked at several locations before I finally moved on to another job. In the time I worked there, a lot of changes took place.

The first location was the Willow and Transit location. There was a big building there, but we only used a very small portion of it. The convenience store part of it was tiny. We had three coolers and to shelves of snacks and candies. We had one shelf behind the counter for car related items like oil, bulbs, and additives. There was a small backroom where we kept the overstock.

Meanwhile, there was an office in the garage portion of the building. Back in the 60s and 70s, there was an actual service station, complete with a garage. Larry, the mechanic who worked on my car at the time, his dad used to run it. By the time I started working there, the garage portion had been long defunct. It was a jumbled mess of old signage, old displays, and leftover boxes of promotional gifts. It looked like an old abandoned attic or basement, just waiting for its hidden treasures to be unearthed.

Long after I left there, that old service station was torn down and replaced with the current store. In the time I was there, I never got around to do much exploring in the garage bays. I still regret that to this day. I love to explore, and I know there were definitely treasures lurking beneath all the dust.

For some reason, I decided that I needed a change of venue and transferred to the Medina branch of Kwik Fill. This store was located on Pearl Street and West Avenue, behind the car dealership. This branch was far different that the first one I worked at. There was a full grocery in there, for one. For another, it had a full, operating deli in there, too. This made my clothes stick something terrible when I came home, but I did get some great food out of it.

One of the coolest things about that branch was that there used to be an apartment over the store. Apparently, it was used for the manager of the store. When it was built, it was likely for the owner of the store, but it was still there. After the manager had gone home for the day, a couple of coworkers and I decided that we should do some exploring of this apartment.

There was no staircase to get upstairs. It was just an opening in the ceiling of the storeroom, but I’ll bet it used to have a pull-down stairway like some of our attic steps. We heaved ourselves up through the opening to a world of wonder. There were a couple of rooms, and what looked like what could have been a bathroom. None of it looked like it had been occupied in year -- many years. I’m not sure if anyone actually ever lived up there like originally planned, but the walls were painted purple and green.

My coworkers and I had a lot of fun while working at this store. Whenever they sent footballs in a shipment, we would try to see if we could clear the canopy over the gas pumps. We lost several on top of that thing when we failed to throw hard enough. When the company took down the canopy, I’m sure the workers found a handful of soggy, waterlogged Nerf footballs.

One evening, we had a water war in the store. We were teenagers. We weren’t always making the best choices. At any rate, by the end of the right, the floor safe had several inches of water in it. That made for some interesting explanations when the manager frantically tried to hold the rolled coin together in their rolls.

After working in Medina for awhile, I felt it was time to work closer to home, especially with Wendy moving back from Ohio. The travel to Medina would take precious time away from my time with her. Instead of going back to the Kwik Fill at the corner of Willow and Transit, I went back to the one on Transit across from Sunny’s. This store was a virtual twin of the Medina branch, without the deli.

When I was working there, that section of Transit Road was much different than it is today. Heinrich Chevrolet was on the corner of Shimer and Transit. Then there was an overgrown area where an abandoned house sat slightly behind the gas station, which was next as you headed south. Then there was a series of houses all the way to the corner of Transit and Hamm Road.

It wasn’t very long afterwards that we go the news that our store would be razed to make room for a new Walmart and Tops. The story was that we’d be transferred to the Kwik Fill on the corner of Willow, and that they would expand that store. Piece by piece, our store started to disappear. We tried to explore the upstairs at that site, too, but we could never get up there. Mostly because my coworkers weren’t as adventurous as the ones in Medina.

Even though they were slowly dismantling our store, we had more and more space and less and less customers. In my normal, screw the rules fashion, I invited a friend’s band to come and play in the empty part of the store before we closed. It was a “Go and Say Goodbye” to Kwik Fill. Eventually, the store was demolished and the new Walmart went up.

Once in awhile when I’m driving down Transit, I look over to the empty Walmart building and think of the time I spent there with my coworker friends. They tore down the entire block, with the exception of Heinrich. They even tore down a perfectly fine building at the corner of Hamm Road. It was a cobblestone home that once had been a one-room schoolhouse. I will never forgive them for that. Even though our area has the most cobblestone structures anywhere, there are still very few examples.

I point out to my kids the empty space where I used to work. They can’t quite wrap their heads around it. The first time I told them, they thought I worked at Walmart. Things continually change. In another twenty years, what else will have changed on Transit? In your lifetime, what has changed on our busiest road? Feel free to tell us those story. I’d love to hear them.

Craig Bacon learned to drive on Transit Road. If you could drive there, you could drive anywhere.