How to get your money’s worth at the car wash

In the mid-1960s, I was a teen-aged pump jockey,  pumping gas and putting oil in cars for  Service Distributing Co. in Rockingham. The station was located on Highway 74 where the present Hess station and Arby’s is located.

By Jay Hudson On Rockingham

By Jay Hudson
On Rockingham

We had the busiest gas station in the entire county.

Sunday was my favorite day at the station because many of my school classmates would come by to get gas for their Sunday afternoon dates.  I liked to think that a few of the females came by just to see me pump gas.  It was not egotistical of me,  just wishful thinking on my part.

Some of the people were real cantankerous too.  One would say,  “Wash my windshield son.” The next person might say,  “Don’t touch my windshield,  boy.  You might streak it up.” Still another might say,  “check my oil son, and if it needs any, see that you don’t spill any on the motor.”

One fellow engaged me in a long conversation after I pumped his gas,  and then he drove off without paying for it.  He tried the same thing a few days later.  I am not the sharpest tack in the box,  but I learn real quick when someone cheats me.

Sunday was also race day, I could get paid while listening to NASCAR  races.  I listened to the races with several buddies that were always hanging around the station.

One of them had a red ’63  Ford Fastback  with a four-speed transmission. Fred Lorenzen was driving a Fastback with great success on the race track. It was a lot of fun listening to the duels between Lorenzen and Junior Johnson.

We were the only gas station to my knowledge,  that sold 100-octane gasoline.  I don’t know if it made my car run faster,  but I liked to think that it did.  Other people thought the same way evidently,  because we sold a lot of it.

We also had what the other gas stations didn’t have back then,  a drive-thru  car wash.  I know they are very common now,  but in the ’60s they were quite rare.  People would drive from miles around to wash their cars without having to do any of the work .

You just put 50 cents in the coin box at the entrance to the washer,  and the water started squirting, and the brushes started swirling around.  Rubber side rails on each side guided the car through the wash.  It cleaned  a car pretty good,  and you couldn’t beat the price.

Saturdays and Sundays were our busiest times for the car wash.  Sometimes people would line up to wait their turn to go through the wash. Laws were also different back then.  We couldn’t open for business until 1 p.m. on Sundays.

One Sunday,  just as soon as I opened for business ,  a local business man named Mr. Seawell  pulled up to the car wash.  He was a regular customer, and we usually chatted a few minutes before he washed his car.
I wasn’t busy at the moment,  so after chatting a minute  I naturally watched him put his 50 cents in and start through the washer.  I was shocked at what he did.  He had forgotten to roll up his car windows, and he was dressed in his church clothes, suit and hat.  I waved and hollered  frantically, but I couldn’t get his attention, so  I watched him enter the car wash with the windows down.  When he came out the other side his windows were still down.

He drove around to where I was standing,  and started laughing .  He got out of his car to show me how wet he was. He was soaked with soap suds and water. 
Soapy water was puddling at his feet.

“That’s the only  damn time I have ever got my money’s worth of any thing in Rockingham,” he said  with a wide grin and a hearty laugh. Water was pouring out of his car like a boat that was full of holes. At least the car was clean.

By this time,  I was almost bent double with laughter.  He was a good-natured fellow.  I was surprised to see him laughing about it. I would love to have seen how he acted when he told his wife what happened. He was spared a lot of embarrassment because I had just opened the station when he pulled up,  and he was the only customer there.

He bought gas from us for many years, and I assume he still washed his car there in the years after I left and got a real job.

Jay Hudson is a native of Richmond County. He has been a NASCAR fan since the Daytona 500 in 1959 and considers Fred Lorenzen NASCAR’s first superstar and the best driver of all time. He lives in Rockingham.

Filed in: Latest Headlines, Opinion

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  • Desiree Louvierre

    Cute story! He got to wash his car and get a bath!

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