I never thought I would mourn the passing of a gas station, but the Rockridge 76 — at the junction of Claremont and College, and on the border of Berkeley and Oakland — was an integral part of my introduction to America when I moved here five years ago.
Drive past there today and you’ll see the station has closed. It began dismantling on Saturday and its site will be integrated into Safeway’s projected overhaul (on which Berkeleyside will report separately).
I didn’t go to the 76 to get cheap gas — there are plenty of other stations with more competitive prices. I patronized the place for the friendly staff and its old-fashioned service mentality. The guys there knew cars and they knew what they were doing when they repaired them. They solved your problems without fuss and for a reasonable cost — certainly a much less shocking bill total than the dealer would rack up.
The station had been in the same location for decades — since the ’20s at least I think — and, perhaps naively, it made me think of a different, more “Americana” America, one that I would never experience.
When they used to put up the pumpkin cover on their revolving 76 globe (above), it all seemed very neighborly — and what could be more American than Halloween?
Strange to say, I’ll miss the place.
Update: My friend Elaine reminds me that the station was, we think, run by “a woman in a jumpsuit” — another great fact that made the place special. Now where’s Elaine to go to get her flat tires fixed?
Update 2: There’s a sign on the construction fence saying Rockridge 76 is moving. Once we have an update, we’ll post that.
[Photo: Tracey Taylor.]