Octane Alley #10226

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The Story

A few years ago, I had heard about this rustic old gas station nearby and a friend and I went out driving around most of a day to find it. We went up and down little country roads that were lucky to have ever seen asphalt and made a few stops to talk to the locals. Eventually, we found it and I shot off a few frames of film of this old filling station. Yes, those were the good old film days. I returned years later with a modern digital camera on a sunny winter snow day to capture this interesting version. It showed an alternate kind of rustic beauty this trip, a bit of a different facet. The place hadn’t really changed much at all. The winter land around it was frozen, and so was time.

This is a classic roadside filling station sitting out in the Pennsylvania jingweeds, consisting of one small building with a single rusty and faded Atlantic gas pump. You had your choice of gas as long as it was leaded Atlantic! This kind of small-time family operated roadside business just aren’t around much anymore in most areas.

The dials were stopped, ahem, cold at 29.9 cents a gallon on the rusty Atlantic gas pump. My estimate is that’s a price per gallon that was last seen around 1970. A blackened light bulb remained in the lampshade and the hose had fallen off the pump and was laying in the weeds. There was stillness, the woods, a few houses, and a long way to go to town. Once in a while, a car would go by. Amazingly, it sat exactly like this for roughly 45 years, blackened light bulb and all. A few years ago, the pump was finally taken out and the building collapsed from rotted sills. Nothing stands forever.

How could it go untouched for all that time? First, it was a little remote into the way back bushes. Secondly, it was surprisingly hard to spot driving down the road, believe it or not. It sort of blended into the landscape like camouflage. Lastly, it was across the road from two houses where the owners lived. If you pulled in, you were being watched, and I’m sure the shotgun would come out if there was any monkey business going on.

On your way to happy motoring, this place was the kind of old-time filling station you’d buy a small bag of chips and a Nehi soda with your fill up. Nowadays, it serves up only memories through this image.

I love these nearly impossible to find old gas stations and photograph them whenever I can. Go see the original version in dappled fall light taken in the film days, Roadside Sentinel #5520 or another taken in the winter snow as Cheap Gas #10227. Each seasonal view of the place has a distinct character and I certainly enjoy them either way.

Location: near Saxton, Bedford County, Pennsylvania. Image and text ©Andrew N Dierks

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