Friday, August 23, 2019

Vintage 1935 Esso station on U.S. 1 in Waite, Maine

Exterior of old gasoline station, with old pumps and pickup truck.
Colonial Esso, on U.S. 1 in Maine, doesn't sell gasoline anymore.
We were going at a pretty good clip when I saw it. I got on the brakes, hard, and edged the rental car over to the side of the road. My wife Bonnie looked up from her iPhone, realized what was going on, and said those immortal words:

"Oh, an Instagram moment. I'll wait in the car."

Not that she wasn't happy for me. She knows that the sight of an apparently abandoned gas station straight out of the middle of the 20th Century will always bring this automotive history buff to a standstill.

Old pickup truck waiting alongside gasoline pumps.
Old Chevrolet pick-up truck has "Farm" license plate.
Old, yes, and surrounded by rusting old cars, the Colonial Esso station on U.S. Highway 1 near Waite, Maine is not really abandoned. It has its own Facebook page, and a small sign identifying it as the work of Brad and Heidi Potter, of Waite.

Brad is listed as one of the town Selectmen.

According to its Facebook page, the old Esso station was "built in 1935 for Lloyd S. Williams in Waite, Maine as an American Amoco, then sold to Esso gas. I bought it in about 2000 and is just our little museum."

Old stock car is visible inside station.
A peek through a window into the station interior is a glimpse of the past.
So the station is real and original, but the Brad's Esso Garage Facebook page reveals that he has added antique garage paraphernalia.

Feeling a bit like a trespassing time traveler, I was able to poke around and peek in at objects on display that recalled a time around the year I was born.

The reminder to buy U.S. Defense Bonds for instance.

Be Happy Go Lucky cigarette ad and reminder to buy bonds.
"Be Happy Go Lucky" ad slogan dates to the 1950s.
Waite, Maine, is a town of 101 people (2010 Census) served by just one general store.

Although located on U.S. 1, Waite is far enough away from the touristy Maine coastline to seem lonely. There was no danger I would be run over pausing in the middle of the highway to take a photo of the old gas station. I was more concerned about picking up ticks in some high grass (I didn't).

Some of the rusting old cars brought back memories. Some were past identifying, for me. The whole place was a treat for the imagination.

Vintage station wagon next to old wooden building.
Crosley station wagon parked next to building across the highway.
No guide book had warned me to watch for Waite. What a delightful surprise.

I couldn't help but compare this evocative spot in rural Maine to my own neighborhood, also just off U.S. 1, but in a crowded retail stretch of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. At home, I take my life in my hands using the crosswalk to get to the Whole Foods store across the highway.

We love to shop at Whole Foods. But Colonial Esso in Waite, Maine reminds us that convenience comes at a cost.

Old station wagon up to its axles in ground.
Ford Falcon sinks into the earth.

Old station wagon, in poor condition.
1958 Pontiac Star Chief Safari station wagon slumbers.

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