Octane Alley #10226

Matted, canvas, & super high gloss prints available. Questions?


The Story

A few years ago, I had heard about this rustic old gas station nearby. On a lark, 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. We even made a few stops to question the locals about it. Eventually, we found this little slice of old-time nostalgia.

Being it was the good old film days, I shot a few worthwhile frames of film of this old filling station. Years later, I returned with a modern digital camera on a sunny winter snow day to capture this interesting version. It showed an alternate kind of rustic beauty on this winter trip, a different facet, but the place hadn’t really changed much at all. The winter land around it was frozen, and of course, time was still frozen too.

This is a classic roadside filling station out in the Pennsylvania jingweeds. As you can see, the whole of it is one small building with a single rusty and faded Atlantic gas pump. That’s it. You had your choice of gas as long as it was leaded Atlantic! This kind of small-time family-operated roadside business just isn’t around much anymore in most areas. If they are, they’re in the outback for sure.

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

How Did This Old Gas Station Survive?

What helped this place go untouched for all that time? First, it was a little remote into the outback bushes. Secondly, it was surprisingly hard to spot driving down the road, believe it or not. You really could drive right by it, just as I did. 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 picture 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. Picture and story ©Andrew Dierks

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