Red's Place

At the start home from a recent jaunt to Amish Country in Lawrence County, Pennsylvania we gassed up at Red's Place. We only discovered after the fact that it was called Red's place, and a whole wonderful story it turned out to be.

Above is Mr. Red Hisself. Mr. Ronald E. "Red" Proudfoot, for the record. He has been the owner/operator of the eponymous full service car care establishment since 1977. The place itself goes back to 1935 when it first opened as Troy Hill's Sterling Super Service Station in 1935. Sterling was a brand of the Quaker State Oil Company. You know; Sterling, as in Jolly Old England Sterling. In the photo above next to Red is an original gas pump light from the era.

If you read the newspaper announcement you will see that a "car service station" back in the day was something new and special. Not the kind of full service gas stop we have currently come to expect . . . with coffee  make that coffees  any kind of donut, sandwiches and the prerequisite Slim Jims. To name just a very small few. Quiche even, if you please.

You can feel the pride of ownership and spirit of service in the newspaper advertisement. Red Proudfoot carries on in that fine tradition. He and his establishment are testament to small businesses and the kind of pride of service you don't see coming much from corporate America. But, then again, Red's didn't feature a cornucopia of tasty delights. Just gas, oil, and grease. Replacement wiper blades, belts, and oil filters. 

We came to discover all this by coincidence. After I got a read on the recent winter weather chatting the man up as he filled the tank — that's right, he filled the tank  I went inside the service station to pay my bill. By the way, the place is the same as in the above picture, except for a modern weather canopy out in front covering the gas pumps. And, of course, the prices have gone up a bit since 1935. If you're a self-service type, there's also a facility for that; but, next door around the corner.

My first sense on entering the front office was a sensory overload of what for me is the quintessential aroma of a proper service station: an exquisite mixture of the heady scents of oil, grease, and rubber; with a faint whiff perhaps of gasoline. And, the mysterious compounding of these elements over the course of many years. I called for Michele to come out from the car and come inside to share the experience of what a "proper service station" smells like. (If you take your shoes in for repair at a small proprietor shop, you also know the wonders of the perfume of leather, glue, and rubber. Or, the intoxicating scent of tire rubber at a fully stocked bicycle shop in the middle of summer, sans air conditioning.)

Looking around inside the service bay opposite the office is a wall of license plates from all over and different years. "There's a story to every one of them" we were told. 

The one from New Mexico on the right was from a lady who was travelling through, on her way to relocating in Maine. Hot and dry to cold and wet, I observed. Well, Red asked for the plate and the thoughtful women mailed it to him from her new home in Maine. If you visit Red's yourself, be sure to examine the collection and pick up another story for yourself.

I didn't ask, but the huge old street signal box is probably quite a story in itself. You know the drill: Red is for stop, green is go. Yellow, go really fast. 

I took liberties with the photo image and added some illumination. 

One last thing to mention, you'll see a collection of metal signs at Red's. Notice the date on the Coca-Cola sign.

Thanks Red. 

See you next time.

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