DANVILLE — Full-service gas stations are a disappearing species. One more is gone with the closing of the Truex Marathon Station in Danville.
Actually, Don Truex, 68, sold his last gallon of gasoline (it was high-test) March 25, but he has been “puttering” around the station this week as he prepares to retire.
“I just thought April Fools’ Day was a good day to quit,” Truex laughed.
The Truex family has been operating the station since 1944, when Don’s father Ralph “Pat” Truex bought what was then a Sunoco station on Main Street in the small community in eastern Knox County. He immediately converted it to a Sohio station, which it remained until 1969.
“He was running the Sohio downtown, and wanted to buy it, but the owner wouldn’t sell so he bought this,” Don said.
Except for a period of time in the early 1950s, and again in the 1960s when the family moved to Arizona for his sister’s health, Don’s father ran the station until 1999, when he suffered a stroke. Don has run it since that time. His father died in 2001.
“It’s actually a family business,” Don said.
During the 1960s, the family still owned the station, but it was operated by Sohio under a series of three-year agreements. Sohio decided there was no need to maintain two stations in a town the size of Danville, so the Truex station was closed.
Don recalled how, when the operating agreements ended, his father went to Sohio about reopening the station, but since they felt Danville wouldn’t support a second Sohio station, he reopened it as a Marathon station.
“Sohio said Danville wouldn’t support two stations and we came in and ran it for 40 years,” Don said.
Don recalled that he and his father worked seven days a week (although they would close on Christmas and July 4). Hours were 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., with the two alternating days they opened and closed. Eventually they closed on Sundays and reduced hours on Saturdays.
Don laughed that his getting married had something to do with that, as his wife, Helen, was not going to put up with working seven days a week.
When you walk into the station, there is an aura of age over the items that have accumulated in the sales area. On one shelf sits a collection of glasses commemorating the flights of Apollo 11, 12 and 13, which were given away by Marathon with qualifying gas purchases. On another shelf was a matching juice container, which Marathon stations sold.
A woman came in one day, spotted the glasses, asked if he would sell her a set. When she offered him $20, he sold her a set.
“I never set a price on anything,” Don said. He lets people make an offer and he’ll consider it.
The Apollo glasses are just an example. Over the years all kinds of items have wound up on a shelf or in a display case. You can just see the stars of “American Pickers” drooling over some of it. The glass Sunoco oil bottles, for example, which match a display seen in a 1934 photograph of the station. Or a piggy bank that promotes “saving for your next Cadillac.” Or maybe the tin toy car, dusty with age, but probably sought by collectors. What about the stack of baseball cards from 1988, or the box of football cards from 1991 (including some from the Canadian Football League), or the figures, probably not toys but what appear to be part of promotional displays?