Sunday, January 31, 2010

Marine Garage fuels our sense of nostalgia

This must be a pair of the most photographed gas pumps in Richmond, if not the entire North American continent.

They have been caught in the viewfinders of the simplest point-and-shoot cameras and the most sophisticated digital SLRs. They have patiently posed in the shroud of misty rain, under a fine dusting of snow, in the gentle and diffused light of dawn and dusk, and under the most unforgiving glare of mid-day sun. And X-Files movie devotees may recall that Marine Garage lent significant authenticity to a make believe town of Kenwood, Tennessee in the "Miracle Ministry" episode.

So, what's so captivating about these rusty pumps in the corner of Moncton Street and Second Avenue? I was drawn to the faded red Texaco sign and the nearly forgotten idea of choosing between unleaded and leaded gasoline. Unfortunately, the price displays on both pumps had been reset to zero and we are left to ponder how much cheaper they would have been in comparison to the astronomical prices we pay today.

What scant historical facts I could cull from the Internet told me that in 1970's, the garage had been owned by Ed Katai, Roy Okomoto, and Goro Omatani. Working side by side at the time were Ben Yoshita and Rich Jarvis, both in their twenties and both men with their feet firmly rooted in the community.

When the owners retired in 1989, Ben and Rich took over the business as co-owners and inherited the loyal following of regular customers, their children, as well as their children's children. This partnership would last for 32 years, until Rich passed away in 2003. What happened thereafter has remained a mystery to me.

I was curious enough to call the Marine Garage number listed in a local directory but discovered that it was no longer valid. Failing that, I walked up to the front door but found it locked tight.

It's good to know that on June 19, 2009, approximately 200 Stevestonites and property owners attended a public hearing in the City Hall Council Chambers and unanimously decided that at least 17 buildings in Steveston would be saved from potential demolition. Owners of these heritage-protected buildings are required to preserve the exterior of their buildings as a means to retain the Steveston village character. Thanks to this bylaw, the two pumps will remain where they are - waiting for yet another press of the shutter button and another dazzling flash of light.

1 comment:

  1. As you mentioned, the most photographed pumps probably in N. America.
    The Marine Garage, though no longer pumping petrol is alive and well with Seppo Nivala and his brother Jamie running "Seppo's Service" out of there.
    The Marine garage is currently a very important setting for the ABC TV Series "Once Upon A Time", enabling the world to view this amazing site.
    Seppo has re-kindled those memories of good customer service...and I can never say enough about the the nostalgia that I feel everytime I visit