The American Dream

To own your own home, be your own boss, run your own business, to be free. Not to punch a clock for someone else, but to have both the risks and rewards of taking your skills and your wares into the marketplace and offering them to the public.

Opening a service station was one possible expression of that dream, and as the roads were built and cars became common, tens hundreds of thousands of service stations opened up. I don’t know what the details of the agreements were, but it was Esso, Cities Service, Texaco, Sinclair, Phillips 66, Sunoco, and more. It must have exploded after WWII, guys with lots of experience in motor transport, tanks, and airplanes, coming home and wanting to put that to use, highways being built, everyone buying cars.

Dreams die hard. What my friends have gone through is a story repeated over and over. You can’t quite make it. Or you make it for a while, and then things change. Maybe the interstate is built six miles away and the road your shop is on is now deserted. Or you have some health problems and there’s no real safety net for a sole proprietor. Or the rules change, and the oil companies decide to open stores they own directly and sell gas at the pump for less than your wholesale price.

I did a Google image search for abandoned service stations. You get lots of images. Some are interesting photos, but every one of them represents someone’s dream dashed against reality. And it’s not just owner/operators of service stations. It’s independently owned motels, restaurants, hardware stores, pharmacies, and on and on. How many have closed their doors in the face of competition from chains, new regulations, taxes, and changes in the community in the last 50 years?

Where did they go?

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2 thoughts on “The American Dream

  1. Dreams do indeed die hard. You can be right and still have the wrong answer. I lament the fact that any town or city I travel to now, they all look the same. Now you have me trying to push a Blog post out of tow very proud businesses that died. On no fault of their own.

  2. I worked at a “Service Station” while in college in the early 70's. while pumping the gas we checked the oil and tires, and washed the windows. If you didn't for every customer…you were fired. Cost of gas… $0.25/gallon! Now its pump yer own at a 7-11 owned by a… a… never mind.

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