More from my Yellowhammer State retreat. I'd like to introduce you to MFA Oil:
You're looking at a long-abandoned gas station/grocery store barely (as in, less than a mile) inside the Alabama line along US-278 in Lamar County.
A little background: MFA stands for (M)issouri (F)armers (A)ssociation. They're your typical "advocate for farmers and agriculture." Like similar "advocate" organizations as ALFA (Alabama Farmers Federation), MFA went into insurance in a big way. I remember the commercials for MFA Insurance from my days in Missouri and Arkansas ... "MFA is your shield of shelter!" In the early-ish '80s, the slogan became the name, changing to the present-day Shelter Insurance.
But there was also MFA Oil. And it's purely coincidental that MFA's logo is in the same shape as another oil company, Phillips 66. It might've even predated Phillips Petroleum's adaption. I'm not sure.
Today it still exists in pockets of Missouri and elsewhere close to MFA's home turf, but once upon a time MFA stations were found into parts of northwest Alabama, where the rest of MFA didn't conduct business.
This was called Franklin's Grocery, and this puppy has been closed for a long damned time. I have only a faint memory of when this thing was in business. I remember when that Pepsi banner wasn't covered in rust ... like '60s-style Pepsi signs, its legend was yellow. The (now peeling) letters were in basic black.
Now here's the part guaranteed to ruin your day.
Here's a close-up of a rusting and rotting gas pump out front. This should illustrate just how long it's been since these pumps were active. Take a gander at the price: 35.9 cents per gallon!
I'd peg this station's last days as some time late in 1973. This was just as the first Arab embargo hit the U.S., driving prices toward 50 cents a gallon.
And it cost a mere $78.00 to bring over 204 gallons through the pump. I'm guessing this readout was after the underground storage tanks were emptied.
Just sit and chew on that price, friends. Back when a dollar's worth of petrol was enough for your average '60s-era V8 gas-guzzler to cruise around all evening.
The closest I ever came to buying gas this cheap was in 1986, during the big oil bust. In September 1986, I filled my tank in Cape Girardeau, Mo. for the astronomical sum of 46.9 per gallon.
But wait, there's more.
One sight as common to gas stations as the pumps themselves was the ubiquitous "Coke machine" (in the South, it's called "Coke", regardless of what brand it is. "What kind of Coke you want?" "I'll have a Pepsi" is a true exchange of words in these parts).
While this doubled as a grocery, it was far from your garden-variety 7-Eleven style "curb store." Convenience stores and gas stations weren't married until late in the '70s.
But in 1973, you refreshed yourself by going to the Coke machine / soda machine / pop machine while the attendant pumped your gas, checked under the hood, put air in the tires, gave you your free road maps, green stamps, etc. And maybe, if you were lucky, the gas station also had a Lance or Tom's machine next to it. That way you could pair your drink with some 'nab' crackers ... or Tom's Salted Peanuts, which you were supposed to pour into your bottle of Coke. That concoction (which my Dad liked, but I couldn't stand) has a name. Something cocktail. But I'm not sure what it is at this late hour.
The light-blue color of this vending machine clearly indicates it to be of Pepsi parentage. You can see the bottle opener embedded in the front. And each soda choice was denoted by bottle caps above the selector buttons. A couple of them are barely visible in the picture above.
These are the times I miss leaping out of the car, quarter in hand, to feed the machine, make my selection and hear the clinking of glass as the object of my carbonated desire entered the downward maze toward the receptacle at the bottom. Bottles, baby. Soft drinks were in glass bottles.
And I had change back from that quarter, too.
Time stands still at Franklin's Grocery and MFA gas station. BankAmericard and Master-Charge accepted.
Ciao for niao.
--Talmadge "Don't forget to leave a nickel deposit if you plan on driving off with that bottle!" Gleck
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