The End of Full Service
Cornell hangs up the gas nozzle after sixty years
For Clarence Woodrow “Dude” Cornell, March 18, 2011, is a rather significant date. It was when the 83-year-old hung up his gas nozzle and watched his customer drive away for the last time in 60 years as he sold his final tank of gas.
“I finally ran out of insurance for my tanks, and it was time to renew, so I just ran out of gas,” Dude said. “I couldn’t afford it anymore.”
Cornell Service, which first opened in 1951, was the last full service station in Clarendon.
“When I first started, there was no such thing as self service,” Dude said. “It was always full service, and I just stayed with it. We would fill up the vehicles with gas, wash the windshield, then check the oil and tires. The main reason I hated to quit was because a lot of older people can’t pump gas, especially older women.”
Dude began working at a service station in the late 1940s.
“I worked for Dub Scott at a Conoco station,” Dude said. “I was paid $18.75 a week and worked 7 days a week from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. I had 30 minutes for lunch and 30 minutes for supper.”
When he first started, about 15 other service stations were in Clarendon.
“In the 1950s, we would have gas wars, and the prices would sometimes drop to 18¢ a gallon,” he said. “Several customers would come get one dollar worth of gas at a time.”
The station moved from three different locations before finally settling at 201 W. 2nd St.
“When it was Sinclair, it was located behind Herring Bank from 1951-1952 and was called Cornell Brothers because I ran it with my brother Bill Cornell,” Dude said. “From 1952-1979, it was Cornell Texaco, where I partnered up with Bob Kidd after my brother became sheriff. Then we changed it to Cornell Shell from 1979-1987 and moved where Taylor’s and Subway is. I have been at my current location since 1987.”
Many memories come from Dude’s gas stations.
“I remember jumping on the hoses to make the bells ring so Papa would think there was a car needing gas,” Dude’s granddaughter Holly Cornell said. “My sister Jill and I loved doing that.”
Some memories could have turned out not to be humorous.
“Once after receiving gas, I was checking tanks after the truck unloaded, and the truck driver didn’t realize I was on top of the tank so he took off with me down the highway,” Dude said. “I could just see myself riding to Amarillo on that thing. Luckily he finally saw me in the mirror and stopped.”
Throughout the years, Dude has witnessed many changes in the petroleum industry.
“I sold millions of gallons of gas for 21¢ a gallon,” he said. “Gas prices now are ridiculous. We used to sweep out cars with a whisk broom while we filled them up. Back before cars had carpet, we would blow the inside out with an air hose or even wash it out if the car had drain holes.”
He has many customers who have traded with him from the start. One them is Tommie Saye.
“We’re going to miss Dude and his full service station,” Saye said. “A lot of the older generation is going to have to learn how to use their credit card to pump their gas now. But I understand that when the time comes you have to quit. He has been a good friend and helped out so many people.”
Cornell Service will still provide state vehicle inspections and change oil and filters despite the white paper signs on the gas pumps that in Dude’s handwriting read, “No Gas.”
“If you do anything for this long, you’re going to miss it,” Dude said. “Thanks for 60 good years.”