In their own words:
Norm Clark and the Clark’s Service Station years
Norm Clark grew up in the gas station business. Born in 1933, he was the son of Les Clark, who had joined with his brother, Goodhand Clark, to start Clark’s Service Station in the 2700
block of West Colorado Avenue in 1931. The station was a prominent business on the Westside for over half a century – eventually encompassing a chain of stations in Colorado – before
being bought out by Diamond Shamrock in 1986.
Now retired, but keeping busy with household projects and fine carpentry, Norm Clark was recently interviewed on tape at his home in Manitou Springs.
Q. Your dad had worked at a gas station before?
A. His brother, who was older than him, Guy Clark, had a station in New York. Dad worked with him for at least five years before he moved out here in 1930. I imagine that's the only reason he went into the gas business, because he knew it from working at his brother's place.
Q. How did the Clark's station get started?
A. My dad and my uncle came here in '30 because my uncle had asthma and needed a drier climate. They built Clark's Service Station in 1931 on the site of an old dump. They had to fill in the dump and everything.
Q. The same spot as the Diamond Shamrock station now?
A. Yes. 2715 W. Colorado Ave. The spot's the same. They [Diamond Shamrock] just tore our old building down.
Q. What sort of business operation was Clark's?
A. We were jobbers [independent gas station owners affiliated] with Standard Oil from about '33 to '72, and from '72 till we closed in '86 we were Diamond Shamrock.
Q. How long did Les and Goodhand stay partners?
A. Dad bought him out in 1947.
Q. How was the gas station business in those early days?
A. My dad and uncle would get their gas from Tenneco in Kansas and truck it out here. They'd sell it for 15 cents a gallon. If they made one or two cents a gallon, they were doing good.
Q. Where did you live when you were little?
A. Dad had a house on the southeast corner of 28th and Colorado, where the propane place is now. I was raised there. My uncle lived on the southeast corner [of that block, at the northwest corner of Cucharras and 27th].
Q. What are your memories of being a kid here in the '30s and '40s? Did you help out at the station?
A. My cousin [Fred] and I always helped out. We'd climb up on little stools and wash the windshields. And of course back in those days we checked the tires once a week for air pressure - because the old tires and tubes, they'd lose air pressure. And we'd always check the motor out.
Q. You knew some of the Pikes Peak Hill Climb race drivers?
A. Yeah. As a kid, I can remember sitting out on Colorado Avenue and during the Peak race those racers would always drive up Colorado Avenue on their way to it. They wouldn't trailer them up there. We knew quite a few of the drivers - Chuck Myers, Glen Scholtz, and of course you had Bill Grover that had Grover's Garage down there in the 2400 block. They'd always wave to us kids as they went by. That was quite a thrill to have those guys come by. Louis Unser always waved.
Q. What kinds of things would you do when you weren't working?
A. Played softball. Pack 9. Dad was one of the leaders. And we had a pretty good softball team. We'd go to Memorial Park and play. Seemed like every Saturday afternoon it would rain. You could set your clock by it. So many times we'd get out there and have to wait for the rain. And we'd have the soapbox derby, I remember. We did a lot of bike-riding. Had regular old bikes and we'd go up the Gold Camp Road and then come down the Cheyenne Road and over in there and near Helen Hunt Falls and go down in there. Of course we rode our bikes everywhere.
Q. More places for kids to play then?
A. Yeah. As a kid, the police would close off Pikes Peak Avenue hill for sledding. And then I used to have to walk up to the dairy on Armstrong, about the 1800 block, to get our milk - did that three times a week. Had a few cows up there. I think it was called Newton's.
Q. What schools did you go to?
A. Whittier School, then I went to West Junior and there was only one high school. It's Palmer now. I graduated in '51. We're having our 55th reunion this year. My wife [Luana] is a native. She lived down there and went to West and Colorado Springs High School - same class as me.
Q. When did you start going together?
A. Probably in junior high. We've been married 53 years, going on 54. Her dad worked on the Midland Railroad and the Cog Railroad up Pikes Peak. He was the head machinist.
Q. How old were you when you started working regularly at the station?
A. I was in grade school when I used to go over there every night and help Dad close up. I'd count the money and if I found any rare Indian heads or anything like that I could keep them. I had quite a collection of them over the years. Before I was 16, I used to drive all the cars around and put them on a hoist. It was quite a treat, you know, to do that. And I worked every night after school in high school, summers too.
Q. The station also did mechanical work?
A. Grease, oil, minor things like plugs, points. We fixed a lot of tires, sold a lot of tires. The worst time of year was the first cold snap. Everybody would come in and want antifreeze right away.
Q. And your dad was always there?
A. Dad just thought it was better to work. That's all the man did was to work at the station. He never had a holiday or anything. He always worked 6 ˝ days a week all his life. The only thing I can remember dad doing was, back in those days, they used to have fishing season, and he'd always take off, I don't know, middle of May, we'd get a boat and we'd go up to Grand Lake on the first day of the season. Now it's year-round, I guess. Back then it wasn't.
Q. When you got out of high school, did you go right into the business?
A. I went to college for one year, then I got out of there, and in 1953 I went to the Marine Corps. I was in for two years, getting stationed in Korea, and then I came back in '55. We bought our first house in Pleasant Valley in 1953.
Westside Pioneer interview and transcription
Editor’s note: The conclusion of the interview with Norm Clark is scheduled to appear in the next issue of the Westside Pioneer Sept. 21.“In their own words” question/answer interviews are an occasional feature in the Westside Pioneer.