The filling station where Harry Carson pumped gas and spun tall tales for 56 years will undergo what a convenience store chain calls "renovations."
Done by a bulldozer.Carson, unable or unwilling to spend the money to upgrade the lone gas station in the 10 miles between State College and Port Matilda, called it quits Wednesday. The station will be razed and replaced with a Uni-Mart by July.
"We can't save the building that Harry had," said Dan Wallace, Uni-Marts Inc. real estate director. "Although it's going to be replaced by a modern building, we will still try to keep the country charm that was there for 50 years."
The glass-and-chroming of America's filling stations by convenience store chains is making gas-and-oil places like Carson's as scarce as tailfins.
"The old service station is more than a place to get gas," said Dick Pillsbury, a specialist in popular culture at Georgia State University and a former gas station owner.
"It was the gathering place," he said of his own station. "Old guys come in and drink their Dr Peppers with their peanuts in them, eating moon pies."
In 1935, Carson began operating the Esso station at the intersection of U.S. 322 and Pa. 550. It's tough to say this is a wide spot in the road since the pumps are just six feet off the highway.
The area isn't incorporated, but ask anyone around for directions to Carsons Corners and they'll send you here.
It's the place where Carson once delivered a baby in the back seat of a car and, according to local legend (mostly Harry's), apprehended more than a dozen escapees from the state prison in nearby Rockview.
"Most of them came right in, surrendered" after tiring of walking in the snow, Carson said in a 1979 interview. Carson's count is up to 23 now.
Carson, 77, bills the two-story, red-and-white four-pumper as "the most exciting gas station in P-A" and says the station lives up to the billing because "I can tell them a story anytime they want."
Many might be true, including the one about the shotgun blast in the ceiling.
"I always carried a .410, short-barreled shotgun with me and was setting it behind the cabinet when it happened. Many of the pellets were bouncing off the ceiling all around. A lot hit me in the head, but the doctor said it never hurt anything," he said during Harry Carson Day ceremonies Saturday.
When Carson opened his station, gas was 12.9 cents a gallon. During the 1970s, he remembered, "all you did was climb the ladder, changing prices."
The most recent sign that went up reads, "Carsons Corners service station is undergoing renovations to improve the service to customers. It will be opened soon."
In 1972, there were 226,459 service stations in the United States, according to the National Petroleum News Factbook, which counted stations that did more than 50 percent of their business in gas and oil. By the end of last year, there were half as many - 111,657.