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75th Anniversary of Gas Pumps
Many of us are happy that we can still buy gas in Westmeath
because small gas stations are disappearing from villages everywhere. However,
few drivers realize that gas pumps have been on that spot since British
American Oil arrived in 1933.
the store was the Westmeath Meat Market, built in 1922 and operated by William
Lingstrum, an immigrant from Sweden who lived in the log house at 1835 Gore
Line. The meat business was a co-operative. Before the era of refrigeration,
families had a fresh supply of meat year round by belonging to the beef
ring. Every couple of days, a cow or pig was slaughtered and the meat was
parceled out and delivered. Each member was required to contribute an animal a
certain number of times per year.
For a while, the gas pumps shared the corner with a
blacksmith shop (one of those times when modes of the future and bygone days
co-existed). Gideon Gervais shod horses in a building where the flagpoles are
now. When Mr. Lingstrums daughter Hazel married Ed Conroy, they took over
the business and expanded the range of merchandise to that of a general store;
bulk items like fence wire and cow salt were kept in the old blacksmith shed.
During the difficult war years 1939-1945, Conroys
General Store was command-central when women of the village packaged up sweets,
cigarettes, knitted items, newspapers, etc. for local boys serving overseas.
Customers used ration books to purchase items of limited supply, including gas.
Conroys were presented with a plaque from British American Oil (which
their daughter Noreen Desjardins still has) for being the longest service
operator for the company in all of Canada. The Conroys retired in 1969,
and Bryan and June Kenny became the new proprietors.
Kennys Store has maintained the original old building
with cedar shingles and shutters but attached it to their own house and added
additions. Many Kenny offspring have pumped gas. Next time as you sit and watch
the dollars add up at the pump, think about what has changed in the world in 75
years and what has stayed the same at the corner of Main Street and Gore Line.