My dad operated the Sunoco service station on Madison Avenue just north of Epler Avenue. We used a simple register that did not tell us the amount of change that should be returned to customers.
We ran out to the customers’ cars and pumped gas for them. We also washed their car windows and checked their oil, water and battery. We ran back into the building and made change if necessary.
Lots of stations at that time offered trading stamps as a reward for customers doing business with them, but my father never got involved with any of those programs. He always believed that providing a good product and exceptional service would attract and keep good customers. I think all of our employees were pleased that we didn’t have to mess with those stamps.
Over the years there were some changes in dealing with the cash when the station closed at 10 p.m. The crew that closed the business also opened it for business at 6 a.m. the next day. A fresh crew took over at noon and worked exactly the same hours until the following noon.
At first the senior crew member was in charge of the cash overnight. That seemed to work nicely for a long time. Then one morning I rode my bicycle to the station to open up with a couple of older guys. Our lead team member arrived from his home in Shelbyville. He started mumbling to himself and informed us that he forgot to bring the money.
I recall that he departed the station for his home at about 5:50 a.m. and returned with the money at about 6:25 a.m. There were no interstate highways at that time. I heard him tell one of the other guys that he used Shelbyville Road. I had no idea how he could drive to Shelbyville and back in 35 minutes.
Shortly after that, Dad changed what happened to the cash overnight: It was dropped off at our house. It was then retrieved by the lead team member the following morning. A few years later a small safe was installed at the station.
I was recently talking with a gentleman who was formerly employed at Indiana National Bank at the corner of South East Street and National Avenue. My dad always did business with that bank. The man told me something that surprised me at first, but as I thought about it I totally understood.
The man explained to me that it was easy for the bank’s employees to tell when we made a deposit because our cash always smelled like gasoline and oil.
We operated the Sunoco station and one at Carson and Hanna avenues for about a total of 15 years. We then moved to Southport for several years, where we ran a service station, repair garage and a small fleet of school buses.
The things I learned and the friends I made are priceless.
And looking back on my papers routes, that’s where I learned how to make change, which came in handy at the station and throughout life.
Shonk is a 1960 graduate of Southport High School, a ’63 grad of Indiana Central College (now the University of Indianapolis) and a retired bus driver from Beech Grove Schools.