People, Philosphy, Work, writing

Dogs, Coke and Cleanliness

Jeff at Service Station (1 of 1)

This photo was taken at my father’s Texaco Service Station located at 5600 Rogers Avenue in Fort Smith, Arkansas. The likely date of the photograph is 1953 when I was about 5 years old. This is the same age as my granddaughter, Olive Soucy, today.

In the picture are three Proustian moments:

My cocker spaniel.
Mickey was my trusted companion and the only non-hunting dog we had. Dad did have pointers and retrievers but they were always kept penned. Mickey lived to be about 13 or 14. She died giving birth to her pups under our house—and all the pups were still-born. How she could conceive and give birth at that age was anyone’s guess. I know that I was under the house, in the crawlway, crying and hoping that one of the pups would live. The smell of damp earth and warm fluids is still memorable. Mickey would wander behind me after school on my way to work in the station—which all three sons did until we left for college.  I still love dogs and look forward to our next dog—which we will get after moving to Portland in the spring.

Coke and peanuts
To the left is a coke machine that dispensed 6 ounce bottles of ice cold Coca-Cola™ in the classic shape bottle—based on an elongated cocoa bean. See this link for the interesting history of the bottle. One of my early jobs was to refill the machine—a great early lesson in mechanical engineering. I loved watching the repair man get the gears and turning spindles to synchronize with the dispensing window. You can see me drinking a coke which I usually spiked with a 5¢ bag of Planters salted peanuts—which would float to the top. My mother (Cora Lee Scherer, 07 June 1928 – 10 July 2011) never drank coffee but for her entire life she drank a Coke™ for breakfast. She even joined in the letter writing campaign to demand the return the classic Coke™ after the brouhaha over the “New Coke”™. While I haven’t drunk a coke in literally dozens of years (can’t remember the last time) I still can taste the sweet-salty mixture gliding down my throat on a hot summer day after fixing a flat tire, washing the concrete driveway or helping my dad clean his tools at the end of the long day.

Broom and hose
Propped against the shopfront glass just beside the Coke machine is my trusty broom. My father (Billy Allen Scherer 25 May 1927 – 28 June 2003), believed that his service station should be the cleanest in town. A few of the jobs for us sons were to pick up the trash, “spic-n-span” the bathrooms, sweep the floors and, at the end of the day, wash the entire concrete driveway. We also washed the windshields on all sides of cars that were filled with gas. Cleaning the driveway took at least 30 minutes—longer if oil spots had to be cleaned with leaded gas beforehand (this was before Rachael Carson woke us all up!). I loved this job for three reasons. First, it was at the end of the day and after the station had officially closed; second, it was quiet, and third, I was proud knowing I was good at it and that my dad trusted me and would be pleased.

To this day, I cherish these memories—which are still conjured up in many ways. Sights, smells and taste trigger a quick connection to a past that shaped me through work, family and responsibilites. As I slide into my 8th decade in 2018, I am finding these memories more and more important. I am going to excavate more and write about them in this blog.

About Jeffrey Scherer

artist.father.grandfather.leftist.walker.retired architect


3 thoughts on “Dogs, Coke and Cleanliness

  1. Jeff, I always appreciate your thoughtful musings. Happy New Year to you and Lea. GARY

    Sent from my iPhone


    Posted by Gary Reetz | December 29, 2017, 15:40
  2. I love this. . . Thanks for sharing your memories. I read it to my Jef, who grew up working for his father in the family’s small-town movie theatre (Cloquet, MN). I knew he’d like the value around cleanliness, as that was his father’s value also, and he had a lot of chores to do to keep the theatre spic ‘n span! He said he wishes he had a picture of him taken when he was behind the candy counter, which he began at age 9. He has great stories about little kids buying candy with their grubby mittens and counting out their pennies and nickles on the glass counter. He also made fabulous popcorn, and still does! Jef went on to be a projectionist (while in high school and then later in the Twin Cities). He did that until he finished his accounting degree. Jef has wonderful and funny stories about the theatre and worked in most every theatre in the Twin Cities. I’ve been encouraging him to write about it. . . your blog story is an inspiration!

    Posted by Kathleen O'Keefe | December 29, 2017, 19:32

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