Fort Worth

Restored Sinclair Station Offers Glance at the Past

Not too many remember the gas war here.

The Abilene Reporter-News reports like, maybe two dudes.

"I have a friend who has a restored Sinclair station in Fort Worth," said Lynn Fuller, with a short laugh. He waved at the metal sign swinging in the wind outside his own vintage HC Sinclair service station at 701 Coliseum Drive. The board advertised gasoline for 29 cents a gallon.

"He dropped his price to 19, so we had a gas war, for a while. I had to put mine down to 19.9."

You'd be hard pressed which gets more notoriety at Fuller's station. Is it the unusual triangular-shape of the building, or that maybe - just maybe! - a driver might have found someone selling gasoline at the same rate as when Armstrong walked the moon?

"The joke is everybody pulls in here and says, `I want my 29 cents worth of gas!"' Fuller remarked. "When gas was about $3 a gallon, I went down and got 29 cents worth of gas in a mason jar."

Fuller would produce the jar for whomever asked.

"But several people have pulled in, wanting gas at that price," he chuckled.

How small is this station? Smaller than my dorm room, which made my Navy barracks room feel like South Fork. It's small enough that you'd better have a plan of attack if you're hoping to use its restroom.

"It's so small that the door actually hits the toilet. You kind of have to go in sideways and decide what you're going to do and then close the door," Fuller said.

Inside, it's about maybe 7 feet at its widest point and perhaps 10 feet long, give or take a few inches. The building's shape mirrors the triangular city block it's built upon and is bordered by Coliseum Drive, 25th Street and Avenue G.

When it was built in 1935, the main door opened to 25th Street. Then Coliseum Drive came along, and now the back door is the front.

Bushy Hedges owned the station as Fuller grew up in Snyder. Hedges sold it in 1970 and the building began a slow decline until Fuller heard it was for sale.

"It was in pretty bad decay," Fuller said. "I'd always wanted it; I restore Coke machines, 1950s-types of things, anyway. I just wanted to put a few of my items in just have it for a place to store them."

Fearing that the city would put it on the demolition list decided the issue for Fuller.

"We didn't want to see that happen. So, I bought it, painted it, and started adding a few things here and a few things there," he said.

Fuller and Franklin Bryant brought in restored era gas pumps and began to bring the plucky little building back to its former glory. Seven years later, it seems there's always more to be done.

"It's a lot like restoring an old car, there's nowhere to stop once you get started," Fuller admitted. "Luckily, as small as it is, I run out of places to put things."

Fifteen feet down, a basement conforms to the building footprint. Fuller said it's where the spare tires, extra oil cans and other consumables were kept.

"The real old-timers tell me they bootlegged down there during Prohibition, which I'm sure they did. It would be a great place," Fuller mused. "It would also be a great place during a tornado or storm."

He's added to the outer decor, too. A small green Sinclair dinosaur stands watch at the pointy-end of the block, a coin-operated kiddie ride waits near the station door.

A life-sized cutout of a man waving stands in the window. Fuller said sometimes people will drive by at night, see the figure, then honk and wave back.

Most of the time the door is closed, unless Fuller is there working on something. But the station is lit up at night and always available for a photograph.

"We do a lot of class reunions, car clubs and things like that. Mostly it's just for people to enjoy, and to save a piece of Snyder history," he said.

Light filled the tiny station office as the sun dropped. The West Texas sun tends to fade the pictures and calendars he hangs on the shelf. In the future, he hopes to restore the red neon that once outlined the building before a fire damaged it.

Fuller laughed again, looking at the vintage rotary pay phone, Coca-Cola machine outside and then the ancient pack of Lucky Strikes cigarettes found while renovating the building.

"Yeah, if I could figure out how to get a quarter for everybody who stopped to take a picture of this place, I'd sell my cows," he said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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