We’d load up in new blue, a 1970’s Plymouth Fury with a sky blue color and a white top and we’d hit the road. The first stop was Sweetman’s. That’s what we called it anyway. It was the gas station on South Main Street owned by the parents of a girl we went to school with. The dad worked hard. You could tell. He ran the garage and fixed the cars and would still help at the pumps. “Filler up?”he’d say. It’s a phrase people don’t even know what to make of nowadays. But back in the day you’d pull up at the pump and someone would fill the tank FOR you. At Sweetman’s he’d ask to check the oil level too. And if it was Friday, he’d offer you a free copy of the Sharon Advocate newspaper. When you were done filling up he’d bring the little plastic credit card holder to your car to sign the slip. It was a small town gas station that fit this small town perfectly. Sweetman’s is where I first learned how to fill the gas container for the lawnmower. The gas cans only held a gallon of gas and a buck would fill it up. A buck! Sweetman’s is also where I first learned how to fill up the tires with air. They were the old air pumps where you dialed in the tire pressure and then the bell would chime chime chime.. first fast and finally very slow when the tires were fully filled. Sweetman’s is where I first grabbed a squeegee brush and tried to clean the windows on new blue. When you’re a kid, clean windows was a big deal and being master of the squeegee was a pretty cool thing. Across the windshield, under the wipers. Across the side windows, scoop the excess water. It was the squeegee brush which made the memories all come rushing back today, so many years later. I took my 6 year old out in the morning to the ARCO station in my town. It was self serve. It was four bucks a gallon. You don’t speak to someone unless you need to pay cash for the gas. You do your thing and leave. But the biggest difference was no Sweetman. He wasn’t there to greet us, or to check the oil, or to offer the Sharon Advocate, or to just catch up on the happenings with your family or what was going on in town. Sweetman was the difference. I think he passed away years ago… but it’s as if he disappeared into history with his small town gas station and all the little gas stations for that matter. Sure, maybe it was a simpler time growing up. Or maybe a self serve society isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It all came back to me when my daughter got out of the car and grabbed the squeegee. Across the side windows. Scoop up the excess water. It was just a glimpse of the time I used to have at Sweetman’s in my hometown.
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