Three blue and yellow plastic and metal chairs sit empty in front of long glass windows at a gas station.
When Dennis Hudson, 63, bought the station 44 years ago, gasoline sold for only 27.9 cents per gallon. He’s seen the price of a gallon of gas rise to more than $4 per gallon. But those chairs have always sat right out front.
”FINA didn’t want those chairs sitting out there,” Hudson said. “I told them when I came here those chairs were here. And those chairs are going to be out there when I leave.”
Friday was his last day at the station. He sold the business and retired after 44 years.
Hudson started working at the station when he was still in high school. He’d wash and grease trucks and trailers for $1 an hour. After high school, he joined the U.S. Army. When he finished basic training six months later, he came home and bought the station, located at the intersection of Main and Washburn streets in Decatur, from Jasper Allen.
The business has been more than a station. It’s a place where men gather on a daily basis, sitting in the chairs out front, talking about people and things, watching the traffic go by.
“The economy and the elections are the hot topic right now,” Hudson said. “We also talk a lot about people; probably more than we should. It’s been sort of the local hangout for over 50 years.
“I’m gonna miss doing business with all my friends,” Hudson added. “The people I met here are not just customers. They are all friends to me.
“This station has been good to me. It’s helped me raise my girls and take care of my family,” he said. “I’ve always believed there’s no free deals in life. If you want something in life, you go out and get it. Nobody is going to give it to you.”
Hudson’s retirement was sort of the perfect storm. After serving as Precinct 1 constable for 17 years, Hudson lost the 2008 election to Tom Bishop.
Hudson ran as a Democrat, and he blamed the loss on straight-party ticket voters.
When Hudson ran again this year, he ran under the Republican banner and defeated Bishop. In five months, he’ll resume his post as Precinct 1 Constable. His retirement fulfills a campaign promise. He said prior to the election that if he won, he would focus his energy full time as a constable.
Another factor leading up to his retirement is the latest ruling by the Environmental Protection Agency to place Wise County in the non-attainment area for ozone pollution. The new designation requires auto inspectors to test tailpipe emissions.
“I am at an age where I wasn’t going to purchase the equipment and hire the help to run that program,” he said.
Hudson is not the only one leaving the station. For the past three years his pug, Sayde, has kept cool beneath an air conditioner in the garage. And before Sayde, Hudson took care of a pug named Punkin for 16 years.
On Friday, Hudson retired, but the chairs out front won’t stay empty. He sold the station to former Decatur Police Investigator Michael DoByns, who will continue to run the station.
“It will be business as usual on Monday,” Hudson said.
And the chairs will continue to sit out front just like they have for more than 50 years.