There was a social order at Tom’s Service Station. It wasn’t posted on the wall. The “Welcome Wagon” didn’t slip it into the baskets they gave to the newcomers. It wasn’t revealed as part of an initiation along with the rumored secret handshake. But the old men who held court on the long bench outside of Tom’s knew. And the neophytes who were consigned to the nail keg, the wooden “Coke” case and the old tire knew – or damn well learned.
It was tradition and in Blue Springs, Alabama in 1971, tradition was still a thing to be honored. It was a well deserved nod to the generation who had gone on before and had patented the rules of societal order that now governed the station and regulated the social structure of Tom’s clientele. But being from South Florida where “being the guy who could point out the empty lot where the “Esso” used to stand” was sufficient to validate a claim of town historian, I knew nothing of the sanctity of deep-rooted tradition in a small Southern town where the surnames rarely changed and honors, as well as land, passed from father to son.
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