Written by Patrick Lacombe
I love reminiscing about days gone by. It makes a body feel good to remember how things used to be. You could walk into your local grocery store and charge your items on your tab. You could tank up at the local gas station, which back then pumped the gas for you and checked your oil and water too, and you’d just sign a ticket acknowledging your debt. No credit check was required. No collateral needed, just look the owner in the eyes and say, “You have my word.”
Those words used to mean something a few years ago. They still do to some people. I don’t hear the words coming from the mouths of many people under the age of 50. I’m not saying that the younger generations can’t be trusted, no sir, I would not presume to imply that at all. It’s just that the world has changed drastically in the past 60 years, and you just don’t know who you are dealing with anymore.
For example, when I was a kid growing up in the country in Louisiana, the local service station was owned by one of the finest men I have ever known. Everyone called him “Mr. Bud.” When I was not in school, I would pedal my bike to the gas station, hang out with Mr. Bud, and watch him do business. There were only two pumps at the tiny “Canal Gas” station. This was before un-leaded gas came along, so your choices were regular or supreme.
Mr. Bud would get up out of his rocking chair and go up to the driver’s side window, usually with a cigarette hanging from his lips. The customer was usually a local, so he would address them by name and after exchanging pleasantries, he would pump their gas for them. If a stranger pulled up and asked for a “fill up”, Mr. Bud would do the whole full service menu of checking the oil, water and tire pressure. If you were local, all you had to do was ask and he would gladly check anything you would like. The locals either paid by cash or Mr. Bud would put it on their “charge account” which was actually an old grocery store booklet with lined pages. Most people paid their tabs on Friday afternoon when they were paid. Some of the strangers had gas cards with “Canal Gas” emblazoned on the front. Mr. Bud would go inside and reach into an old box he kept on a shelf and pull out his credit card machine and swipe the card with a carbon receipt. These cards fascinated me because you did not see many of them locally.
Mr. Bud always gave people an extra three cents worth of gas free of charge. He told me it was just in case the pumps were off a little. Gas back then was under twenty-five cents a gallon, so three cents worth was more than it sounds. Mr. Bud liked and trusted his customers, and they in turn liked and trusted him. Mr. Bud closed his business in the eighties shortly after he was robbed at gunpoint by a couple of thugs passing by on the highway. He said times were changing and he was ready to spend the rest of his life working on his home and spending time with his wife. The days of “you have my word” were rapidly coming to an end, and he knew it.
I try to shop with local merchants as much as possible. Belton has an excellent array of locally owned businesses. It reminds me of the old days and the personal service you would get with someone like “Mr. Bud.” God bless y’all and have a great week!