HIS GAS STATIONS FOLLOWED CITY’S GROWTH
By Ed Dunn, Commercial Appeal – April 1982
When Walter Gholson opened his first service station, gasoline was only 17 cents a gallon.
That was 43 years ago (1939), which obviously qualifies Gholson to be among the most seasoned of the City’s longtime service station operators. Now, as every motorist knows all too well, the price of gas is more than $1 a gallon.
When he retired last week, after operating his well-known Exxon gas station at Poplar and Germantown Road for 25 years, Gholson said his station was pumping nearly 250,00 gallons of gas each month – a sharp contrast with his early days, when he estimates he pumped only about 5,000 gallons a month. “I’ve sold more gas in Germantown than I ever sold in my life”, he said, adding that he doesn’t foresee any major changes in motorists‘ buying habits. “I see (sales) continuing, even though we have smaller cars.”
Gholson, 71, at one time owned three stations in Memphis, but he sold them off at various times as he concentrated more on his Germantown operation. After opening his first on Union – now the location of Lipsey’s Fish Market – Gholson followed the population movement eastward.
I’d see the growth headed this way (toward Germantown),” he said. “Every chance I got (when) I saw a pretty good location, I pursued that course.” His second station was at 5030 Poplar. His third was at 7595 Poplar.
“I’ve had a full life in the service station business,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of people and made a lot of good friends. I felt like it was time for me to quit. I’ve made my mark in the service station business.”
Over the years, Gholson has been active in civic affairs in Germantown, serving as president of the Germantown Civic Club in 1959 and as a director of one of the City’s annual horse shows.
Gholson said many of his customers include sons and daughters of customers who have been trading with him for years.
An institution he began at his station, the morning Coffee Club, will continue to meet each day, he said. “Oldtimers still come every day,” he said. “There are about 25 or 30 of us. About eight or nine meet each day, drink coffee, and then match to see who pays. Exxon (new owner of the station) let me keep the Coffee Club (in a small building behind the regular service station facilities).”
The Original Coffee Club. L. to R. John Wagner, Jimmy Heard, Lewis Hall, Bill Douglas, Walter Gholson, Bobby Lanier, John _____, Chuck Fox, Unknown, Stewart Dean, Frank Posey, Unknown, Unknown, Raymond Chamberlin, Dub Nance, John Bagby