Good customer service was uppermost in Charlie Stohlman's mind when he bought the Union Station at the corner of Virginia and Sycamore Streets in 1949. Full service was a way of life for Charlie and his friends who worked for him. The station was open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., thanks to the help of Dick Ray who worked there over 20 years, John Bates, Ken Mathews, Gene Newton and son Dave who worked there after school.
Daughter Bette Palmer remembers her Dad always working. He was gone to work when she got up to go to school and he was still at work when she went to bed. Her son Jeff has owned the station since June 1, 1982, but he got an early start at his grandfather's business by polishing hubcaps at the age of three.
"My Dad would give him money for polishing the hubcaps and he would buy candy next door at Panecaldo's," Bette remembered. His working days officially started at the station at age 16 and his grandfather retired a few years later. Back in the days when S&H Green Stamps were popular, customers were rewarded with these, along with suckers and punchboards, all things of the past.
Once he outgrew polishing hubcaps, Jeff was given a cardboard box and a screwdriver to take carburetors apart, just to keep him busy.
Charlie was born in Pennington, just like his father, near the Sutter Buttes December 19, 1918 and was a life-long resident of the area, working at many of the other service stations before he bought his own. In 1957, a new Union Station was built, the year Dave graduated from high school.
Two Palm trees were located where the tanks currently sit. Charlie and his wife Thelma (Hottle) had three children, Dave, Bette and Joyce.
"I remember the four guys at the station throwing a football around. They were always having a good time," Dave remembered.
Known for pulling a prank or two, Charlie and his employees took great delight in picking on Gridley Herald Publisher Charlie Burleson when his green Ford Coupe was parked on the corner, near the newspaper office, jacking it up on the back end and not getting caught. Many years later it was Burleson's son Bill who accidentally pulled a different sort of escapade which resulted in his name appearing in newspapers besides his own.
The most exciting story coming from this corner was in 1972 when Burleson famously yanked a gas tank out when the nozzle was in with fire spewing as he dragged it down Colusa Highway to get it out of town before it blew up. For the rest of this story, please pick up a 9/28/12 edition of The Gridley Herald.
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