End of an era as full service station closes due to construction

Wednesday, April 20, 2005
Bill Anderson, owner of Bill's Southland Station in Lake City, pumped the last tank of gas on Wednesday. (Town Crier photo/Revis Blaylock)

Bill Anderson, owner of Bill's Southland Station, has been serving the area for two decades and will be missed by his many customers. Bill's, the last full service station in Lake City, will be closing due to the construction of the new 4-lane highway coming through Lake City.

Anderson pumped the last tank of gas on Wednesday and will be phasing out his business and has plans to close at the end of May.

Theresa Irwin, longtime customer, purchased the last tank of gas from Bill's on Wednesday afternoon.

"It made me feel sad when I found out that I was the last gas customer," Irwin said. "My car held $41.66 in gas. Bill has been servicing my vehicles for years. He took care of my oil changes, fixed my flats, and sold me my tires. He always reminded me to have my oil changed on time. I am proud that he is going to be able to retire, but he will be missed by all of his customers that he served so well for the last 20 years."

Anderson said when the Highway Department notified him that it was coming through he knew it was only a matter of time.

"It looks like it will be coming through here in the near future," Anderson said.

Anderson said the four lane is something that is needed. He has watched the flow of traffic along Highway increase over his 20 years in business.

Anderson moved his family to Lake City from Keiser in 1968. He worked at Frolic from 1968 to 1976 in Jonesboro. He worked for Penn athletics making tennis balls from 1976 to 1984 when the company closed. He went to work part time at the station then owned by Daly Hawkins. When Mr. Hawkins died, the oil company talked to Anderson about taking over the business.

"It was a good decision," Anderson said. "It was long hours and hard work but I truly have enjoyed serving my customers."

For 19 of the 20 years, Anderson was open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. six days a week. Due to back problems, he cut back to five days a week last November.

Anderson said when he started in business, Lake City had three full service stations.

Anderson has been known as one to take care of his customers, especially the senior citizens. He would go pick up their vehicles to be serviced.

"Many of my elderly customers have passed on," Anderson said. "I tried to help them as much as I could."

Anderson has one customer that lives in St. Louis, Mo. He always waits to have his car's oil changed and serviced when he is visiting relatives in Lake City.

"I've had people here from California to Michigan," Anderson said.

Anderson's work ethics included treating others like he would like to be treated.

Roy Pack, a long time customer that lives across the highway from the station, said Bill will be missed.

"We are really going to miss him," Pack said. "He has helped everyone. Bill has the only place in town to service our cars. He has been especially good to the senior citizens like my mother. She lives across the street from the station and he would always come and get her car to be serviced. He will be missed but we all wish him well in his retirement. He has worked hard, six days a week and deserves a break. He is really committed to his church."

Anderson serves as a deacon at the First Baptist Church in Lake City. He has taught the fifth and sixth grade Sunday School Class and drives the church van on Sunday mornings for over 30 years.

Another longtime customer wishing Anderson well is Trent Fletcher.

"You don't see a full service station anymore," Fletcher said. "We could stop there get our gas pumped, our oil checked our windows washed and tires checked. I've been going there ever since has been in business and he has got me to a lot of Razorback games.

"He has been dedicated to his business and his customers. I never remember him missing work unless he was in the hospital having surgery. He has been very dependable. If we needed him, he would make service calls. We have had on several occasions our car battery down and he would come to the house, give us a boost and we would be on our way. It will be strange not having him in business in Lake City.

"I do a lot of traveling across the state and you don't see many full service stations still in business," Fletcher said. "We will miss him, he is a good guy. We will all miss him, especially the senior citizens. When he did your oil change, you did not have to ask for grease, he did the job and did it right. He has put in a lot of hours in his business and I hope he enjoys his retirement."

Anderson and his wife, Lilly, have one daughter, Debbie Mays. She is married to Terry Mays and they live in Lake City. He has one grandson, Travis, who is 15 years old.

Anderson said he plans to spend time with his grandson fishing and camping.

"I have worked so much I did not get to spend as much time with him (Travis) as I would have liked to," Anderson said. "I am looking forward to spending time with him but I will miss my customers. They have a special place in my heart."

Anderson said he hopes someone will open a full service station in Lake City for the convenience of his customers. He said if he was younger he wouldn't hesitate to relocate.

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