By Ernie Over
A bit of reminiscing today. While pulling into a filling station to gas up the buggy this past week, I recalled the day when there was actually service at a service station. Someone would come out, usually a young person during the summer, to pump the gas, check the oil, clean the windshield and take payment. I think there is at least one station locally that still provides that service, but a senior citizen must lay on the horn when pulling up to the pump to activate action.
Time was at the grocery store, there were carry outs who would take the groceries to your vehicle, no matter your age or ability. If you needed dry ice, they’d get it for you – and even open the door to your vehicle if necessary.
Remember the car hops at the drive-ins? There would be a drive-up menu and speaker to order your food, then someone would come out and deliver it and take your payment, without dropping it on the ground. I guess there is still one fast food outfit that does that in the county, but they are mostly gone. My favorite from time gone by were the A&W restaurants in both Riverton and Lander. When going in town to shop from the country, or to go on a ride, we’d get a treat with an ice-cold frosty mug of root beer with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I can still taste those. Those restaurants are now a sub sandwich place in Lander and a real estate office in Riverton.
I remember going into Riverton with my younger brother and Dad and we’d stop in at the Teton Hotel for a hamburger. I think the restaurant was in the space now occupied by Gores and Associates Engineering Company. One fun thing was going into the Teton Lobby and seeing the remote radio station inside with a daily show featuring Jim Fitzgerald. Maybe that is where my interest in radio was sparked. (Years later when working as an announcer, I actually engineered that remote show, which was on the air during the Arthur Godfrey Hour from CBS.
At harvest time, I’d ride into town with Dad in our big grain truck and go to the Farmers Exchange Elevator on North Broadway. He’d unhook the small door on the back of the bed and begin hoisting the hydraulic truck bed, and the grain, and the grasshoppers, would flow like a river into a big screen and down into a large area where a spiral elevator would take the grain up to the silos. Of course, we had to weigh the truck first, and then after the grain was all out so we knew how much we brought to market. There was a big store attached to the elevator and I can remember browsing in there while our shipment of grain was recorded. If I remember, that’s where we bought our dog food. That spot is now a vacant lot and an automotive trim business.
Then there was the JC Penny store downtown Riverton, where Jerry’s Flowers and Things is now. The sales floor is much the same as it was, but when checking out at the center counter, the clerk would fill out a bill, collect the payment, then send it upstairs to the rear of the store via a pneumatic tube where the cashier was. The receipt would come back through the tube and you were good to go. Back then my folks did a lot of catalog shopping, so our school clothes came in big bags and boxes and we’d go into town when the store called us. On one occasion, as the story was told to me, when I was but a wee bit of a lad, I was on Dad’s shoulders when leaving the store and on the way out, I grabbed something from a display by the door and out we went. When Dad discovered I had an extra item, he turned around and went back to the store. They didn’t send the cavalry after us because the store folks knew we’d be back.
After moving from the country to Lander when Dad got a job at the Atlantic City Iron Mine, I remember being fascinated by the food delivery system at the NuWay Café. The plates of food came out of the kitchen on a conveyor belt to be scooped up by the server and delivered to the table. I think I mentioned this in an earlier column. Anyway, it was fun to watch and, at the table, there were mini juke boxes where a nickel would buy you three songs.
Ernie Over is an employee owner and staff writer of The Ranger, Lander Journal and Wind River News; he is the news director of the five station WyoToday Radio Network in Fremont and Hot Springs Counties and he is the editor of the award winning Wyotoday.com website.