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Former gas station remembered as landmark

By Staff
REMINISCING – Ike C. Walker Jr., better known as "Cliff," holds photos of his father's Central Service Station in downtown Meridian. The station opened in 1921 as a Lyon gas
distributor; Cliff's dad switched to Texaco in 1925. Photo by Carisa McCain / The Meridian Star
By Chris Allen Baker / staff writer
May 19, 2002
For 44 years, Ike C. Walker Sr.'s Central Service Station provided motorists with personalized service including attendants who pumped gas and fixed flats.
Today, the service station no longer operates on the corner of Sixth Street and 20th Avenue. Instead, the building houses Mississippi Department of Corrections probation officers.
And the office of Mary Boler sits in what once was a bay for servicing cars. Recently, Ike C. Walker Jr. Ike's son who likes to be called Cliff stopped by to talk with Boler and reminisced about his dad's station.
Cliff's mission: He wanted to talk about placing a full-size carousel horse from the Around Town Carousels Abound program in front of the building to honor his dad's memory.
Cliff, now 84, worked at the station from 1939 to 1944 pumping gas, fixing tires and washing cars.
Full service operation
Operating a gas station happened by chance for Ike Walker, who opened the store on Feb. 21, 1921.
That prompted Ike to purchase land on Sixth Street and 20th Avenue, where he built his service station. The city of Meridian owned the land.
Central Service Station was a focus of activity in Meridian, Cliff said. At first, it was a Lyon gas distributor; Ike switched to a Texaco gas station in 1925.
The price list
Attendants pumped gas from a hand-crank pump, washed windshields, changed tires and swept out cars. A car wash cost $1; workers would drive a truck to fix flats anywhere in town for $1.
During the 1920s, Cliff said, gas sold at about 17 cents to 19 cents a gallon. Revenue generated by the service station provided Cliff a monthly salary of $117.50.
Walker had three sisters but none of them worked at the station. His mother, Myrtle, maintained the family home which for a few years was next to the station.
Walker's father wore a shirt and tie as he greeted customers; occasionally, he would pump a little gas himself.
The personal touch was reflected in the billing process.
Times change the business
Cliff has seen gas pumps change in style, from a hand-crank machine, to one with a globe on top in which customers could see gas as it was pumped to the computerized ones of today.
He left his dad's work in 1944 to work as an independent distributor in Meridian who sold Texaco gas to stations. He stayed there until 1975, when he sold his business to Billy McWilliams.
Ike Walker died in 1965.
Cliff Walker closed the station and sold it to Charlie Shields, who turned it into a loan office.
Tom Goldman owned the property as law offices before Chancery Court Judge Sara Springer purchased the property that the Mississippi Department of Corrections now leases.

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