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Old-time gas stations beloved landmarks of Marion County's past

Staff writer

From Tampa to Florence, old gas stations throughout Marion County stand as a reminder of American days gone by.

David Mueller owns a renovated gas station in Tampa that has been around since the 1950s.

“It had always been kind of a landmark,” he said. “The problem was it was in such disrepair. It was a matter of visualizing what it used to look like and what it could look like again.”

Renovating the gas station, which was called Klein and Son Oil Station during ’50s and ’60s, was important to preserving the town’s past, Mueller said.

“It’s about history and reminiscing,” he said. “It seems many other small towns just deteriorate. It gives people hope.

“It brings back hope that things can still move forward in our small communities.”

Seeing Tampa’s gas station restored inspires feelings of nostalgia, said Donna Backhus, whose family owned the station when it was in operation.

“It brings back many memories,” she said.

While she enjoyed helping customers, Backhus said she was less fond of how many events she missed.

“It was something I didn’t like when I first started,” she said. “Every night after school I’d have to go to the station and work. If there was a ball game out of town or something, I didn’t get to go because I had work.”

Bev Baldwin said a former gas station in Florence she and her family own reminds of the days her grandfather operated a business there.

“There are still people who write about when they used to go down to my grandfather’s station and get candy on their lunch hour,” she said. “Even if you didn’t have any money, he taught people how to have a charge account when they were just school kids.”

Some family members have discussed restoring the building, but the lingering scent would have to be removed, Baldwin said.

“It still smells like oil and gas,” she said. “It would be hard to get rid of all that smell.”

Other former filling stations are scattered throughout the county, including Marion, Hillsboro, and Durham, but the Baldwins’ building stands out because of its unique architecture.

Old gas stations may or may not have their old pumps, but most have a stucco finish.

The Baldwins’ is built out of rough-hewn limestone and red rock bricks.

Tampa’s restored gas station doesn’t house a permanent business either, but people use the building to sell fireworks out of, plants, or for other seasonal ventures.

Not having the building open year-round is helpful because it minimizes expenses, Mueller said.

Last modified March 26, 2020

 

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