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TEMPLE CITY, Calif. -- Youmans Chevron was a city fixture for 53 years, where Ray Youmans and then his daughter, RoseMarie Davis, knew customers by name, supported churches, sponsored school car washes, allowed customers to run tabs, kept clean bathrooms with paintings on the walls, ran an honest auto repair shop business and, when Asians began moving to Temple City, welcomed them as customers.
Today, the station has closed for good.
"It's so sad," said Mark Lai of Temple City. "I liked their service. They were very friendly."
Lai said he often risked running out of gas because he didn't want to fill up anywhere except Youmans.
Davis said Chevron officials told her last year she could buy the station for $1.3 million or move when the lease expired. If she purchased, she would have to buy gas from someone else, she said, and Chevron would reclaim signs, lighting, a satellite billing system and other equipment she would have to replace. She declined the offer.
"We did auto repairs and Chevron doesn't want to be in the garage business any more," Davis said. "They just want to sell gas and run convenience stores."
The station had employed 12 mechanics, most of whom have found other jobs. "Our employees were like family," Davis said. "We looked after them."
Youmans, a World War II Army veteran, originally operated two stations. They were so successful Chevron officials said if he closed the two smaller stations they would build him one big one. That station opened in 1971. But times change.
Several customers drove up last Tuesday, filled up one final time at one of 16 pumps, then walked to the office to say goodbye and shake hands or hug Davis. She started hanging around the station when she was seven, went to work there in 1976, and took over after her father had open heart surgery in 1992, retired, and moved to Arizona, where he died in 1998 at age 69.
Davis said she managed the transition by telling inquisitive Chevron officials her father still ran the station, but that he was on vacation. "My dad loved this town and its people," she said. "He was a community provider. He was an orphan and he loved children. He helped a lot of people in town, especially the schools and churches. He'd let students hold car washes here and provide all their supplies."
Davis donated the station's leftover ice cream products, sodas and candy to the Temple City Unified School District, which is scheduled to present her with an award this month. When Youmans went into the gas station business in 1953, gasoline cost 29 cents a gallon. Tuesday's posted prices ranged from $1.94 for unleaded regular to $2.20 for premium.
PICTURED: Top: Youmans Chevron. Bottom: RoseMarie Davis flanked by mechanics Ken Pica (right) and Russ Wood.