Fuel and food for thought

Robert Roe

Gas stations are my friend. From petrol to snacks to all sorts of knick knacks, these repositories of fuel and Americana fill not only one’s gas tank, but also the tummy and soul.

As a child, my Thursdays were spent at Blue Lick Springs. My maternal Grandparents lived across the road from the State Resort Park, and my Uncle Gene, former Robertson County Sheriff, managed the park. Mom and her sisters Louise, May and Alene got together with my Granny and Grandpa Hughes, while we kids ran around the farm, amusing ourselves as children do.

However, that is a tale for another time. This week, I’d like to focus on the paternal side of my family tree, shaking a few branches to see what falls out. No jokes about nuts, please.

When I was but a young’un, I remember going to Paris each Sunday so our family could visit my paternal Grandparents. They lived in a home across from the farm where Secretariat retired. Granny Roe had OCD on steroids, from her plastic covered living room furniture to the freshly ironed wash cloths. After lunch she would bring out our favorite desserts. Dad’s was Nilla Wafers in vanilla pudding. Mine was Rice Krispie Treats.

Each trip to Paris (before US 68 was improved, it was basically a paved cattle trail) was an inexorable 34 miles of car sickness, spent in the fetal position in the floor of the back seat to stave off projectile vomiting.

The queasy-nart carousel would end at a Gulf Oil station on the edge of town. Mom would browse the nearby farmer’s market, while I slavored over the prize that came with a couple of gallons of regular gasoline: a free cardboard Apollo lunar module kit. Instructions guided you through the punch out pieces, folding tabs and slot insertion until you had a replica of the lunar lander.

Remember, this was 1969. A time before people became jaded by the almost daily miraculous achievements of heroic scientists furthering the scope of our knowledge of the universe. I feel sorry for you if you did not experience the wonder of our first exploration into space, if only on a small black and white tv screen.

Still on a space footing, 1971 was a fun year. The thrill of man soaring through the universe had not yet worn off, and everything from toys to toothbrushes to anything else that could be sold had a space theme. I’d go to Jody Sherman’s grocery on Orangeburg Road and rummage through the bottle cap receptacle, looking for Coca Cola lids commemorating NASA’s Apollo missions. I bugged poor Jody daily, emptying the bottle cap box and, when I could afford it, collecting caps from my own bottle of Coke.

Sigh. I never did get the whole set of fifteen.

That’s not to mention the astronaut and rocket postal stamps, toys, model kits, sew-on patches and the multitude of other paraphernalia commemorating the US Space Program. Now that you have an adult’s perspective, don’t you wish you could capture that child-like wonder at least once more in your life…even if only for a short while?


Robert Roe