Tuesday, September 05, 2006

My Father Retires After 43 Years In Business

Been meaning to post on this, but was waiting to hear the final word: my father is officially retired from the business he started ten months before my birth. His local paper, the Logansport (Ind.) Pharos-Tribune did a front-page, above-the-fold Sunday story on his retirement on Sunday, 27 August, reprinted here in full:

Forty-three years Young

Station owner selling out Monday.


Pharos-Triibune staff writer

Gas at an east end Sunoco station is marked down 15 cents lower than it would normally be this weekend, and it is not because of a gas war.

It is because a gas station warrior is retiring.

Joe Young, 73, who has operated a service station at 26th and East Market for 43 1/2 years, has sold the station. Monday will be his final day servicing cars, pumping gas and smiling with a grin as white as his hands are often greasy from working on cars.

After suffering a stroke a year ago and losing 50 percent of his vision, Young says, “It’s time to pick up my marbles.”

Young has sold the station to the owner of four convenience stores. Young’s Sunoco will continue to sell gas, but the full-service pumps will be no longer.

That in itself marks the end of an era. Young’s Sunoco has been continuously operated as a full-service station by one operator longer than any other station in the county.

Since he opened the doors Nov. 16, 1962, Joe says he has no idea how many cars have been serviced or gallons have been pumped, but he has had some notable customers.

Former Sen. Birch Bayh stopped at the station one time to ask for directions. After Joe recognized him and gave him directions, he shook his hand. An Indianapolis 500 race car driver had Joe on his real-life pit crew once when he was in the city for an appearance. Joe fixed his water pump. And he still recalls the doctor who couldn’t diagnose the problem with his engine. Joe did diagnose it. It was out of gas.

For a man who graduated from Logansport High School and received a marketing degree from Indiana University, the station became a passion after he worked for Buick in marketing.

“I was passed over for a promotion that I much deserved,” he said.

“I had the best marketing record for Buick in those days. I took a sales district from 69th to 39th in 19 months. I used to work Saturdays when we were only supposed to work five days a week. They caught up with me when I began reporting expenses on Saturday. Then they said, ‘No, you’re not.’”

Joe was asked to stay and offered a raise, but opted for his own business instead after managing sales in the Philadelphia area.

He brought his work ethic back to Logansport with him.

“We were open seven days a week, most holidays excluding Thanksgiving and Christmas, from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m.”

At one point, Joe purchased a former DX station on North Third Street, and he and his brother, Jack, operated a Shell Station at 22nd and Market where the Corner Cupboard now stands.

But the place where Joe’s face is most familiar is at the corner four blocks east where he has often spent 80 to 90 hours a week. Sometimes he has had up to three employees.

The job was not always a fun one to have, particularly during the winters of 1963 and 1964.

“I once had a battery blow up in my face over on High Street,” he recalls.

The car owner allowed him inside to wash the battery acid from his eyes and then suggested that Joe was responsible for the battery exploding. The customer ultimately paid for a new battery.

His advice for preventing engine problems during Indiana winters?

“Before cold weather, have the battery load-tested,” he says.

“Make sure the charging system is charging at the specified or factory specs. Most cars of recent origin are fuel-injected. Don’t pump the accelerator each time you start the car. Each time you do that, you will flood the sparkplugs real quick. If you flood them, you’re not going to get them started until their dried, off, removed or replaced. If you park a car outside, don’t park a car heading west or northwest because that’s where the prevailing winds come from.”

His current personal car is a champagne Lincoln Continental, but a bit of him is still a Buick man at heart. He has driven half a dozen Buicks since leaving the company.

Becky Crain, a customer who has frequented his station for years, says there are three words that sum him up: “Dependable, trustworthy, honest.”

“It was a great place to go get gas where you could just walk up and know who you were talking, to. We would take him something for Christmas every year.”

Joe says admitting you are wrong about a car is not a fault.

“I tried to be good at what I did, and believe me, it was not easy,” he said Saturday. “For the most part, I think my batting average was pretty. If I was wrong, I would admit it. I’ve never been too proud to say, ‘Hey, I can’t fix it, but I’d recommend so-and-so.”

Dave Kitchell may be contacted at 722-5000, Ext. 5150, or via e-mail at david.kitchell@pharostribune.com

I would wish him a "Happy Retirement, Dad" here, but I'll just have to settle for looking forward to more frequent visits with his grandsons.

My father still doesn't own a computer. And I'm pretty sure he's never sent nor received an e-mail.

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