With the new Casey’s General Store being built on North Sumner Avenue, Creston will have a total of eight gas stations.
That’s a drop in the bucket compared to the mid- to late-1960s when Creston had more than three dozen gas stations.
One of the surviving stations is still standing on the corner of New York Avenue and West Adams Street.
“It started out in 1923 as the Sheridan Oil Company,” said Fred Franklin. “Then it was sold to Standard Oil in 1929. That whole set of buildings is completely gone. When Dad leased it from Standard Oil, it was an office and one bay. He added on a bay and then an office where the car wash is now. He bought it in 1976. I started running the gas station in 1981, and ran it until 2006 when I sold it to the Pokornys.”
Franklin said his grandfather started driving a tank wagon out to area farms for Standard Oil in 1934 after he and his wife moved into town, and his father, F.L. “Fritz” Franklin, began working for the company in 1941, and then in 1958, Franklin’s father took over the station and began running it.
“It was Standard Oil and then it was Amoco and then it was BP,” Franklin said. “Dad ran it from 1958 to 1976.”
Franklin said when he took over the station in 1981, there were around 20 gas stations in Creston.
“People find it hard to believe,” he said. “Then, there were three Casey’s, Pester Derby, Kerr-McGee, Shop and Hop, the Fina station and a Tank Up Cafe ...”
Change with the times
As the larger oil companies bought into the small town stations, station owner had to change or risk losing the companies support.
Franklin said he put the 24-hour pumps in two or three years before he sold the business.
“After BP took over, they came out and told us if we wanted to keep our station, we had to have a canopy and 24-hour pay at the pump, otherwise they were going to pull their franchise,” Franklin said. “In order to keep using and taking their credit card and display their sign out front, you had to buy gas from them. A guy working for BP can’t go somewhere else and buy gas because BP expects him to buy his fuel from them.”
Over the years, as self-service gained a foothold and as mileage improved in vehicles, the old stations closed one by one. Drivers didn’t want to pay extra to have an attendant do what they could do for themselves, and, Franklin said they probably weren’t selling as much gas in Creston.
“Cars, when we were growing up, probably didn’t average 10 or 12 miles a gallon,” Franklin said. “Now you have cars that are averaging 40.”
No better place than Creston
Franklin played football and worked on the family farm along with working at the gas station for his father. Then in 1969 he joined the Navy as an aviation electronics technician and he worked on com/nav (communications and navigation) radios and radar.
Franklin has lived in Creston, San Diego and Guam, with his wife Joyce.
“Guam is an interesting place,” said Franklin. “It’s 209 square miles, and we lived there for three years.”
He said during those three years, he spent 40 weeks in Japan and 22 weeks in the Philippines because the Navy had planes stationed in all three locations.
Fred and Joyce have three children — Amy, Jay and Alyssa — each born in a different place in the world.
“Our oldest daughter was born in San Diego, our son was born in Guam and our youngest daughter was born here,” Franklin said.
Franklin had planned on staying in the Navy for 20 years but said he looked at his children and decided he would rather raise them in Creston than anywere else.
“I’ve been around the world and I’ve never found any place I like better [than Creston],” said Franklin.