Forgotten Trails

Published 7:14 pm Tuesday, September 27, 2005

By Staff
Station listed 'in peril'
By Lydia Grimes
A few months ago I wrote about a couple of buildings in this area that are in terrible shape and in danger of falling down. One of those was the old home of Manford Blacksher in Alco and the other was the old Pure Oil station that sits in the forks of Hwy. 31 and Persimmon Street in downtown Brewton.
I receive copies of the Alabama Historical Commission Preservation report and had emailed the Commission to tell them about these two sites with the hope they would be included in the "Places in Peril" section of the report. Imagine my surprise to see the familiar gas station site listed in the latest edition. I am so pleased that the powers that be have seen fit to include it in their report. I don't know if my "bug in their ears" had anything at all to do with it, and I don't really care. At least they are recognizing the old gas stations.
The report states that in observance of National Historic Preservation Month, in May, the Alabama Historical Commission (AHC) and the Alabama Preservation Alliance (APA) announced Alabama's most endangered places for 2005.
Not everyone that passes by the old station thinks it should be preserved. It has become something of an eyesore but it doesn't have to be that way. I would appreciate it if anyone who has information about the station would get in touch with me. I would like to have a photograph of when it was operating as a gas station to compare with what it is like now.
There are a number of these stations scattered around the country. Not all of them are savable, but so many of them are. It is a pet peeve of mine that some people think the answer is to tear down everything and rebuild. Many things are worth saving. Did you know that there were once many of these stations pumping gas and servicing vehicles in a manner that is no more? Once upon a time you could drop by a gas station and get a tank of gas, get your windshield washed, your tires aired and maybe even get a glass, a piece of "china" or a coupon. It is a time gone by and will be no more. It is a reminder that probably no other invention in the 20th century brought about more changes in the lifestyle and environment than the automobile.
Not all of them can be saved, but if you have ever seen one that has been restored and used for other purposes, you would appreciate the effort. You don't have to go very far to see just that. There is an old Pure Oil station in Atmore that has been given a rebirth and there is an old Sinclair station in Montgomery that now is a restaurant.
How many historical sites have to be lost before we realize how important they are? At least they are to some of us. Just think how valuable they would be if we still had our old movie theater or the train depot. They could have been used in other ways and saved. Just look at Evergreen and how they restored the depot up there. Although it still looks like a train depot, it is being used for other purposes. There are many buildings right here in our area that could be restored and used, keeping our history intact. Don't forget that we once had a beautiful architectural wonder in our courthouse and it is no more. Wake up, before it is too late.

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