BOOKER'S

Nathan Booker, left, holding a photograph of his grandparents and founders, Louis and Anna Booker, and Kate, fourth generation, and Kim Booker stand inside Booker’s on Wednesday on West Parrish Avenue.

Booker’s Service Station, 2821 W. Parrish Ave., will close its doors on Feb. 28 — almost 70 years after Louis and Anna Booker opened them in March 1950.

“We haven’t been defeated,” Nathan Booker, the third generation of his family to run the station, said Wednesday. “We’re not drowning. It’s just time to hit the reset button. We’re going out on our own terms. But it’s bittersweet. I ran around here in diapers when I was a kid.”

He said his family doesn’t own the property the station sits on.

And times are changing.

“It’s getting harder for the Mom and Pops,” he said. “And the gas business isn’t what it was. These days people buy gas where they buy their groceries and lottery tickets.”

Booker’s is one of a few full-service stations left in town.

It advertises brake service and oil changes in the two-bay garage.

Today, Booker said, cars are so computerized that it’s hard for service station mechanics to work on them without expensive equipment.

“We still pump gas for people,” he said, “but people aren’t looking for that anymore.”

His daughter, Kate, 18, is the fourth — and last — generation of the family to work at the station.

“I always said I’d never work here,” Nathan Booker said. “I worked at Kroger.”

But in 2013, when his uncle Ronnie Booker died, Nathan Booker decided to join his father, Randy Booker, at the station.

“I’ve been here seven years now,” he said.

Randy Booker died in October 2017.

And Nathan Booker and his stepmother, Kim Booker, took over.

The station was busy Wednesday after the family posted the notice of closing on the station’s Facebook page.

Cars kept coming in, so people could pay their respects and fill up again.

Booker isn’t sure when he’ll pump his last gallon of gas.

“I’ll be here as long as people keep coming” on Feb. 28, he said.

In 1950, when his grandparents, Louis and Anna Booker, opened the station, the city limits sign was back at Bosley Road — nearly a mile away.

• Owensboro was a city of 33,000 then.

• Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn, across Parrish Avenue, was a tiny joint and the Big Dipper wasn’t there.

In 2005, Anna Booker was 81 and still working at the station.

In an interview, she recalled, “We sold a bologna sandwich with cheese for a dime, and the mustard was free. We sold ice cream (a double-dip for 10 cents), bread (16 cents a loaf) and milk (13 cents a quart). Gas was 24 cents a gallon. We had the first convenience store in Owensboro.”

In the early years, she said, the station was open 18 hours a day — until 1 a..m. — seven days a week.

The family lived above the station in what was really a two-story house with gas pumps and a garage.

That station was replaced by the one that’s there today in 1960.

Louis Booker died in 1989. His wife died in 2009. Their service station will join them on Feb. 28.

And another iconic Owensboro business will become a memory.

Keith Lawrence, 270-691-7301 klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com

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