In the 1950's, Smock had more than just a bar when you counted up all of the retail establishments. There was Nick The Barber, Ohrin's Market, Charlie Peskie's Market, Ed Spooner (another barber) and even a store on Smock Hill called "Florek's" which occupied the living room of the family home. There was the post office and the Union Supply Company store.
And then, there was Ed Sparrow, who owned the Smock Central Garage. He was about 6 foot tall and had blonde hair which was usually covered up by this skull cap with the bill turned upward. The cap read "Pennzoil" and had black and white stripes. His work uniform was just that. A grey and black striped pair of coveralls, white shirt and a black bow tie. Ed was not merely a gas station attendant/owner but the single executive of the Smock Central Garage. And, you knew it.
Ed had a matter-of-fact way of telling you something whether it was about a machine or about how to drive to Grindstone. And if you pulled into Ed's garage, your oil and water (coolant) were checked along with tire pressure. And windows were cleaned, front and back.
Ed never had any air powered tools or anything with the words "Snap On" or "MAC" stamped on the sides. Some of his old pipe wrenches had wooden handles. He also had the old brass oil cans that had that long, skinny spout which dripped oil when you pressed the bottom of the can with your thumb.
You would think that Ed would have cars lined up for gasoline or for oil changes, etc., but you would be wrong. I'm not sure if anyone will ever know why people drove to other towns for gas or routine auto service. Maybe it was because he was not Roman Catholic in a town that had only a couple of families drive to Pleasant View Presbyterian Church on Sundays to consort with devils, according to Mom & Dad? Or maybe he was just too friendly? Or maybe people just didn't like Pennzoil gas? Or was it the sign near the cash register that had the picture of this older woman behind what looked like an antique desk with a manual calculator that read "Our credit manager is Helen Waite, so if you want credit, go to Helen Waite"? But Ed was one of the finest men that I knew in Smock.
A modern day Ed Sparrow is Mel Bagley, owner of Mel Bagley's Auto Service in West View, PA. Mel will change your oil and oil filter and lubricate your car for under 30 bucks. And you can wait the 15 minutes it takes seated on an old Chevrolet Bel Air station wagon back seat, which does not have arm rests, cup holders or a hole where you can stick your skis.
Yesterday, I had the misfortune to allow a 1/2 x 2 inch bolt impale into my right rear tire sidewall. (For those who don't know, a sidewall puncture cannot be repaired). Mel said that there was a nearby tire store that would sell me a new tire and install it on my wheel. Mel said that if he installed a new tire on his tire machine, it would really destroy the wheel. But then he said "wait a minute". A few minutes later, Mel came out with a very not so used tire that was the exact size of the tire on my car. "How much?" "Nothing...I save these for my friends who have this kind of problem." Mounting the tire cost $15.00.
Ed Sparrow's garage is still standing and locked up but through the windows, you can still see a bunch of old tools and gas station "accessories". If I ever get in there, I know of a nice brass oil can that has Mel Bagley's name on it.