Sometime last week, I had a dream that I was explaining to someone where my grandfather’s service station was in the Bronx. My grandpa, along with four of his brothers, owned and operated a gas station in the Bronx for somewhere in the neighborhood of 35 years. They finally sold the business in 1985. The last location they were at was along the Grand Concourse, south of the courthouse and just across the street from the park on the other side of the old Yankee stadium. In my dream, I was trying to explain the location of the gas station by explaining the location of the old Yankee stadium in relation to the park and the courthouse. You know, your typical convoluted dream instructions. If it wasn’t a dream, I might have said something like, Grand Concourse, just north of 153rd street. Or I could have pointed them to a Google Map of the place. But the dream got me thinking about that gas station, and about its unique location. And how at one time, my grandfather and uncles were considered “spacemen”. So I went digging for the evidence.
What I found in my papers were two news articles about the construction of that particular service station. It was built on a ledge and in order to have more room for cars and service space, it was actually constructed out over the ledge, something that was pretty unusual at the time:
You can click on the image to read the entire article (it is a high-res image and should be clear enough to read) if you want. This was in a trade paper from July 1967 and contains the story of how my grandpa and his brothers became “spacemen”. My grandpa (Paul) is second from the left in the photo beneath the headline. And as you can see from the article, he is, alas, the only one of the brothers who fancied himself a Mets fan.
There was a second story done on that service station in a different trade journal:
In this case, it is the station built on “stilts.”
I visited that gas station countless times before I turned 7 years old. We lived in Somerset, New Jersey and my mom would pile me and my brother into the car. We’d drive into the city and visit my grandpa and uncles. We’d go out to lunch, always to the same restaurant. I’d order grilled cheese and french fries, and we’d bring back the fries for my Uncle Willie. If it wasn’t busy (a rare thing), we’d get to stand on the car lift and be lifted up toward the ceiling in the service bay. It smelled of oil and gas and sweat, but it was the coolest place in the world to me back then.
They were spacemen, alright, all of them. They were out there, but I loved them for it.