The news that the last full-service gas station in northeast Johnson County, Casey Brothers Sinclair station on Johnson Drive in Mission, is closing evoked a lot of memories and emotions from area residents.
Ali Felman, a rising junior at Wesleyan University and a Mission native who graduated from SM East in 2013, sent in this remembrance:
Seven years old: Leaning into the driver’s side window of our new CR-V, Roger waves to my sister and me as he fills up my mom’s gas tank. My first dose of politics is there, in that car, during the Dubya Days, where idle small talk would morph into friendly banter about the morons in Washington. Always offering something between a piece of candy and a smile, he is a Casey Brothers Sinclair employee characterized by a toothy grin and an endlessly cheerful laugh that shines through knees worn tired by ages of physical labor.
Sixteen years old: It is my third time driving the CR-V but my first time getting gas. Panic immediately sets in as I attempt to edge the car next to the pump. My palms are practically liquid when I stop the car a good ten feet away from the intended destination. I hear a friendly knock on my window by a Sinclair mechanic. He assures me that it will be alright, that I have the skill and power within me to properly operate this vehicle. A callused hand patiently motions me forward and backward until the automobile is aligned with the gas pump.
Eighteen years old: Finally, my parents have agreed to a senior year spring break odyssey to Galveston Island with a couple of friends. As soon as “yes” slipped through their lips, a list of worries was erected. What if the campsite was unsafe, what if it rains, what if…the ground opens up and swallows us whole. Though there were many unknowns that would remain unknowable, the car was not one of them. Before any major trip, the CR-V was to be inspected by Hershel and his employees. Check the brakes, check the tire pressure, check the headlights. A familial level of trust was established; they took care of the car, so off we went. Twelve hours later, this Midwestern car saw the ocean without incident.
My childhood is woven with memories of Sinclair, a thread that extends from my earliest years to the final visit, on May 30, 2015, when Casey Brothers’ Sinclair officially stopped pumping gas. One of the more peculiar sensations of growing up is coming to oft-repeated experiences with full certainty that it will not again occur. I signed my last receipt on that cloudy Saturday and waved knowingly to Roger.
This gas station studs my life experience, but more broadly, it serves as an example of what it means to grow up in the sweet (and sometimes strange) suburb of Mission, Kansas. It’s more than an address: it’s hour-long cow parades, incredible Italian food, incessant road work, running into everyone at Hy-Vee, haunted bookstores, and Sonic “Happy Hour” all rolled into one. It’s seeing my dad beaming from a blown-up cover of the Mission magazine as I walk into Sylvester Powell Community Center. It’s corny events and it’s chain restaurants and it’s exhausting traffic on Johnson Drive — and most importantly, it’s home. As my life moves out east, to college and eventually a career, I am beginning to realize that this dynamic is hard to find. Life anywhere is not without potholes. At least at Sinclair, the flat tires were always fixed.