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There was a time in Lancaster when filling stations were on just about every corner.We were served by Esso, Pure Oil, Gulf, Spur, Shell and Amoco oil companies through local distributors. Gas was about 25 cents a gallon for regular grade and “high-test” cost about three pennies more. When you pulled up to the pump, this fella would rush up to your rolled-down window and ask “how much” or “how many” with most customers hollering back “fill ’er up.” His job didn’t end with the filling up, either.If your car was fancy, you had to release the hood latch for the service station attendant. He could open the hood on most older models, checking your oil level right along with the radiator water and brake fluid. Then he stuck an air gauge on all four tires, and accordingly adjusted the air pressure. Believe it or not, all of this – in addition to cleaning your windshield – was done at no extra charge. Service meant something.Bless Pete, you could even get your floor coverings whisked out if you asked.Now these were the free offerings of your locally-owned and operated filling (service) stations and we were spoiled by it.Travelers on the roads outside of towns depended on country stores, which offered gasoline, free air, free ice water, and of course, a free road map. At most country stores, you had to rinse off your own windshield, but if you had a flat tire, they would at least let you use their tools free of charge.Now all you see is a “I don’t loan my tools” sign.Now, it’s a given that most people didn’t earn as much money in those days, but it seemed to me that a working man got a pretty fair return on what he paid out at a filling station.Service stations kind of ran in my blood; Uncle John had the big white Esso station at the corner of Main and Meeting streets that belonged to Fred Ezzell. Uncle Walter ran the Pure Oil filling station at the corner of Main Street and Chesterfield Avenue some years before Mr. A.W. Kelly arrived.As a little fella, I was always amazed by all that modern technology. I loved to watch those old grease racks slowly creak to life and lift an automobile up high. I kept waiting, but I never saw a car fall off one of those lifts. In those days, you either got a grease job or an oil change. Now, a “lubrication job” covers both.Lucky for us, there was enough surplus oil and grease left around the grease stalls to keep all the neighborhood bicycles and scooters in running order.Filling stations also fixed flats and there was always a stack of them around that needed plugging. An old drum was cut in half and filled with water. The attendant with pump up an old inner tube, dunk it into the tub to see where the air bubbles were coming from. Then, you could choose either a cold patch or a hot patch to repair the hole. A Monkey Grip was usually the choice patch for either kind of repair.Down at the corner of South Main and Brooklyn Avenue was the Gulf station run by Mr. Herman Perry. Perry would later moved up to North Main Street across from Uncle John’s Esso and opposite of Mr. Tom Mangum’s Amoco station. Talk about free enterprise, you had three filling stations with three distinct brands of gas and three different operators within shouting distance of each other. If you didn’t like one, you had two more to choose from. Gasoline wars didn’t seem to happen back then with everybody making a decent living. They usually had three or four folks working for them. I still wonder how they could offer all those customer services, pay folks and make a profit for 25 cents a gallon.Today, the only one that’s left is Perry’s Gulf, which is now Perry’s Texaco. They still offer most old-timey services ours daddies enjoyed, but out of necessity they’ve added a nickel or so to each gallon to break even.However, I don’t think they offer ice water and free road maps for those headed to Myrtle Beach.My, how times have changed and I wonder if it’s really for the better. Things are so mixed up.Nowadays, when you pull into a filling station, you gotta “pay before you pump” and “fill’er up” yourself unless you can coax your wife to do it for you.No one seems to protest $3 gas until it’s time to “fill ’er up” again. Hey Wal-Mart, where’s your gas pumps? Wait, I forgot; China doesn’t export gasoline.