Thank you for including a photo of my father, James Lawson Baber, Sr., in your October Crozet Gazette column “Why Crozet …”. I had never seen that picture. Our family loved it. I have fond childhood memories of hanging out at the gas station, enjoying the attention I received from my parents’ customers. I appreciate that your column hedges that memories might not be completely accurate, but still have merit per Phil James. Nevertheless, there are a few inaccuracies in the photo caption that I would like to point out. My grandparents were generally referred to as “Lawson and Helen Baber” by the Crozet community, though their full names included Harry and Mildred. When the photo was snapped in the mid-1970’s, my father, Uncle Roger, and grandfather (Lawson) owned 25%, 25%, and 50%, respectively, of the property. My parents and Uncle Roger operated their businesses separately. My parents sold gas and provided light mechanical services such as oil changes, tire installation and repair, and brake replacement. They would sell you a battery, too. My Uncle Roger’s business handled more complicated auto repairs, including body repair and painting. It is also important to note that my mother, Delores, was an equal partner in the ‘Baber’s Service’ venture.
My father was employed by the printing department of Acme Visible Records at some point prior to owning Baber’s Service. However, at no time during my parents’ ownership of Baber’s Service was he employed by Acme. One of my parents’ gas station customers, Jesse Puckett, the owner of Crozet Print Shop in the mid-70’s, told my father he planned to retire, “Would you like to purchase the print shop?” It was a kind offer, with Mr. Puckett volunteering to stay on for two years after the sale to train my parents on how to operate the equipment and business. My parents seized the opportunity, ending their adventures in the gas station business. The Gazette photo caption’s claim that my uncle Roger was part owner of the print shop is inaccurate. At no time did my uncle have a stake in Crozet Print Shop. As the caption suggests, Crozet Print Shop did print for Acme, albeit mostly labels. However, Crozet Print Shop had many different customers. Randolph Pugh, a brilliant mechanic, and his wife, Joyce, operated the gas station for about 5 years after my parents departed. After that, my Uncle Roger and his wife Fay purchased my father’s interest in the property and proudly operated the gas station until its closure.
Regarding the legend of the lemon truck: After consulting with a lawyer, my dad had a local sign company paint lemons on the side of the truck using a paint that could be removed with a volatile organic compound. I recall something to the effect of “This Lemon made by Chevrolet” stenciled on the tailgate of the truck as well. Many in Crozet were entertained by this active response to a frustrating situation. After driving it around Crozet for a few weeks, my dad parked it just off 29-North opposite the dealership. Within a day, the dealer agreed to make the necessary repairs.
As an aside, I am happy to see a photo including James Woods and the positive comment from Mr. Washington. Mr. Woods also volunteered with Boy Scouts, chaperoning us on a few camping trips. He taught me a few camping tricks here and there and was a source of enthusiastic positivity for us kids at the time. Mr. Woods did some carpentry work on my bedroom when I was in my early teens. He let me help, showing me how to install sheet rock. I appreciate the patience that he had with young people. My life is for sure better for having known him. He was a real Crozet treasure.
James (Dusty) Lawson Baber, Jr.