Guy Dean's Old Gas Station
Old Conoco Station
Large slices of my childhood were spent in North West Arkansas. The foot hills of the Boston Mountains, a part of the Ozark chain to be more exact. I know it’s not true, but almost everything seemed to be located on or directly off of Highway 71 North.
That’s where Guy Dean’s old Conoco gas station was…stuck atop a high crest between the two small towns of Alma, to the south, and Mountainburg to the north. One would be hard pressed to get more than 4 vehicles parked on the property at one time. I guess you could call it an unofficial land mark.
I don’t know when he set up business in that location, but it had been there since the early 1950’s when I was born. Old timers in the small community would stop at Guy Dean’s place whether they needed gas or not. They just enjoyed passing the time of day with him.
There wasn’t much to the gas station. It was a small, one room cinder block affair with an adjoining rest room…nothing fancy. There were only two pumps and a hydraulic lift for changing tires. If you had women folk with you who had to “tinkle” everybody knew to keep going and coast down to the bottom of the hill where “Meadors’” General store was.There was no mechanic since Guy never hired one. What little mechanical work needing done, he did. He never did more than sell gas and fix an occasional flat anyway. The furnishings consisted of not much more than a small old propane heater, a couple of worn wooden chairs and an aged coke vending machine.
Guy was always called Guy Dean, not just Guy. Folks seemed to think it rolled off the tongue a whole lot easier that way I suppose. He was a slender, tall unassuming sort and never said a whole lot. But, when he did folks paid attention. Guy Dean was a local institution around Lancaster Township in Crawford County and a bit of a character besides. He could spin a yarn with the best of them. I suppose that’s why my grandfather and he were such good friends. Grandfather was a notorious prankster and could also tell a “whopper” or two.
The Dean clan had settled in the area along about the same time as my folks, the Gregory’s, back in the 1840’s. Some of the Deans’ got into the real estate business. Dean Springs was another small town not too far away.
Everybody knew Guy Dean as an honest, upright Christian and a good man to “trade” (do business) with. In those parts your word was still your bond. Break that trust and your entire family could be ostracized.
Most folks couldn’t help but know Guy Dean because of where his gas station was located. It was more convenient and accessible for the locals living out of town. That included the majority of folks. You had to pass it coming and going. Besides he was just the sort you couldn’t help but like. He was always courteous and friendly to people, even if you were just a little kid like me.
He had a pair of scraggly old brownish cats who had adopted the place as their home. They could both usually be found draped over the small counter in his store sleeping. One snored which always amused everybody, no matter how many times they heard it. The cats would curl up next to the candy and snacks crammed up next to the old-timey cash register.
I believe Guy didn't make much off those items, since many was the time youngsters didn't have any money to buy any and Guy would simply give it to them.
The gas stations’ décor was done in what you could probably call “early junk”. Guy Dean had an impressive collection of old car license plates displayed throughout the place. A lot of tourists passing through had offered big money for them but he wouldn’t sell any.
Guy Dean didn’t seem to have any interest in running that business. But his customers were glad he did.