Just about every time we drive up through town past the former Duffy’s Service Station, I can’t help but think what a waste it is to have that facility sitting there empty and unused.
When I first came to Amherst in 1965, there were a goodly number of service stations in the downtown area.
As one entered town from the marsh, there was O’Neil’s at the open where LaPlanche and Lawrence streets merged. Proceeding up Lawrence St, you’d arrive at Noiles Irving at the corner of Lawrence and Victoria Street, where Lawton’s is now located.
Later on Co-op opened a gas bar, but that one didn’t last too long.
Up the street, across from the Fort Cumberland Hotel, was Chum Duffy’s Esso service station, and out on the edge of town was Steamboat’s.
Proceeding back to Church Street and on down toward Albion, we discovered Chapman’s Texaco, at what is now the small park area and the driveway into the YMCA. Across the street on the corner of Church and Albion was Wesley Crossman’s Fina ( I think, but memory may be failing me). Proceeding down Albion, there was Vince Stewart’s Shell, later to belong to Dave Brown.
There may be others that I am forgetting, but my point in mentioning any of these businesses is to point out just how many gas stations we had to serve the downtown area. And serve they did!
Every one of these stations offered an attendant to fill your vehicle and take your payment and return with your change or credit card receipt. Drivers stayed nice and comfy in the bone-chilling cold of winter.
As time passed, all of these gas stations closed, except for one.
Duffy’s continued as a full-service station, which made it a favourite among seniors and those who hated the cold winds of winter blowing up their backsides when they served themselves. New stations now opened out by the malls and grocery stores, and that contributed to the exodus of people from the downtown area to the mall area of town.
More recently someone took over Chum’s, and I had great hope it was going to resume providing service in the downtown area. But it never opened, and today sits idle, with not another gas bar to be found downtown. I think it has great potential as a full service station, and as such would be patronized quite well by those same folks who are perfectly willing to pay a few cents per litre extra to have someone else freeze their butt to fill your tank.
There are any number of similar businesses that used to exist here, but are now gone. In addition to Mansour’s, for instance, we had CB Chapman’s Men’s Clothing, Margolians men’s department, which was a very complete men’s wear service, Irene’s Ladies Wear, the Sally Shop, Abram’s Ladies Wear, Bata Shoes, and others that I simply forget now, all making a pretty good living selling their wares.
I think it is a great shame that none of these exist today. We have only one men’s clothing store and one ladies clothing store, although I will acknowledge there are attempts to get new one’s started in Dayle’s Grand Market. I wish them well.
There is no question that Amherst needs a considerable shot in the arm to get things moving again. It has been a long time since any new industry has established here, and I think the town council needs to make considerable new effort to get new interest from potential new industry to come here as a ideal place to start a new business.
Happy New Year to our readers. I wish you all a successful 2018.
Jerry Randall is a member of the Amherst News Community Editorial Panel.