Demo sparks service station memories


Local News

October 28, 2019 - 10:34 AM

It was a time when a trip to the gas station came with red-carpet treatment. An attendant not only filled the tank, he?d wash the windows, check the oil and tires, and chat like an old family friend. 

Back in the 1960s, full-service gas stations dotted the landscape of cities like Iola. 

The intersection of U.S. 54 and State Street was no exception, with Leslie?s Deep Rock Service Station, later the Kerr McGee station, at the southeast corner, next door to Ray?s and another station to the northwest.

Jonelle Leslie grew up at the Deep Rock/Kerr McGee station. Her father, Harold Leslie, ran the station for years before moving to a Mobile station on West Street, which would later become Amoco.


Harold Leslie is pictured in front of the old Kerr McGee service station, probably in the 1960s. COURTESY PHOTO


Those stations, except for Ray?s, are all gone now. Last week, demolition crews took down the former Bolling?s Meat Market building, briefly uncovering and then removing what had been the original Deep Rock service station. 

In recent years, the building had been remodeled into a meat market and deli.

After Bolling?s moved farther west, the building was sold to the owners of Sonic Drive-In next door. Craig Abbott, owner, said he plans to keep the property as green space for now, leaving it open for a possible expansion of Sonic.

Jonelle Leslie watched the demolition with nostalgia, recalling childhood memories as a bulldozer chewed through the familiar blue concrete that still identified the original footings of the service station. She was able to take a small chunk of the blue concrete as a momento.

Running the station was a family effort.

?We all had a hand in it,? Jonelle said.

Her older half-brother, Richard Harman, worked at the station. So did Jonelle and her younger sister, Lynda Maddox, who worked detailing cars.

A small building out back featured an ice machine. Jonelle was responsible for filling buckets of ice and carrying them into the station.

Running a gas station had its challenges, Jonelle remembered.

Her father complained about the competition from the service station across the street. Most stations in town kept to the same price, he said, but that station would set their prices just a little lower than the others.

Jonelle also recalled a soda bottle vending machine, with bottles on their sides and the caps facing out. Once, someone took a bottle opener, opened each of the bottles and drained all the pop. Harold was pretty upset over it.

Another time, two women trashed the ladies? restroom. Harold kept only one small bar of soap in the restroom after that.


This 1964 photo shows the Deep Rock/Kerr McGee station in its heyday. COURTESY PHOTO