Each morning this school year I drove my granddaughter to her bus stop. Our route took us down the "once rural" highway where I lived as a child. Progress has transformed my hometown -- we pass several big box stores where a dairy farm once thrived. A new strip mall has taken the place of the old bar/restaurant that was our teen hangout. A huge new gas station, complete with a Dunkin Donuts Drive-Thru stands at the corner where a quaint old post office/country store/gas station used to sit. Down the road a bit, there is a huge car wash, built on the site of the vegetable farm that once supplied our fresh veggies all summer. What was once a peaceful drive is now a hodge-podge of chain stores, fast-food restaurants, mini-malls and gas stations.
But then, just as you pass a large storage rental facility, at a curve in the road you see a tiny little white building next to a well-kept old Cape Cod style house. This little building, not much larger than many of today's garden sheds, was our local gas station when I was a girl. If I remember correctly, there were two gas pumps. The owner spent his days there, pumping gas, checking oil, washing windshields, and passing on bits of gossip that were shared with him. He had a lovely wife and three beautiful daughters who grew up in the adjacent house.
I lived across the street from this gas station; of course, it seemed much larger to me then, from the perspective of childhood. Obviously, as small as it was, it provided an ample income for their family. The house was one of the prettiest in our neighborhood, and his daughters were always well-dressed. I remember envying them.
I'm thankful that this little building still stands. It reminds me of happier times -- times when a man could earn an honest living running a small business, times when two gas pumps were adequate to serve his customers, times when huge corporations didn't control the world.
This drive each morning down the highway of my childhood has been a sad one for me -- my precious little rural community has been spoiled by the ugliness of progress with poor planning. But, as I reach that curve in the road and gaze on this tiny white building, I remember how beautiful it all used to be -- the houses, the farms, the open fields -- rural America at its best.