By Dennis Seid
TUPELO – Gene Autry Turner was named after the famous singing cowboy, but he’s more of a fan of a certain Tupelo-born singer.
“That’s Elvis when he and Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins played in 1956 in Amory,” Turner says, pointing to one of the many Elvis photos and collectibles covering the shelves and walls inside the glass-and-brick building where he runs his Pure gas station on West Main Street.
“I saw him in concert twice in Las Vegas,” he said, recalling the many times he saw the King of Rock ’n’ Roll in person.
Along with the Elvis memorabilia are Coca-Cola bottles collected over the years, including ones from South Korea and Pakistan.
There’s nostalgia written all over the walls of the business. Which is appropriate, since Turner is among the last of a bygone era.
“I’m the last full-service gas station in Tupelo,” he said with no small amount of pride.
Indeed, when the Savings gas station on North Gloster Street closed last week, he saw an immediate increase in business.
“We’ll pump people’s gas, check their oil, check their tires, whatever they want – if they want it done,” he said.
“Not everybody wants full-service, though.”
Turner, who has been in the business for 40 years, has been at his spot – a former Texaco – for 13 years.
“We’ve always been a full-service station,” he said. “We were a little farther up the street when they started widening the road, and the owner of that store wasn’t going to keep it open. This place was going to close, and I bought it, so it all worked out.”
The Pure station has only two gas pumps – one for self-service, the other full-service. Turner said business is about evenly split between the two.
“A lot of people are in a hurry these days and don’t have time for (full service),” he said.
But he does command a loyal following.
Among them: Priscilla Watts Eubank of Tupelo, who always stops by when needed.
“I’m 73 so I don’t get out as much as I used to,” she said. “But I’ve been coming here from the beginning and I still do. They always do a good job.”
The Pure station also has a small garage attached to the small building where oil changes, tire patches and other minor mechanical work is performed.
Turner also handles a regular stream of vehicle inspections.
“We try to take care of whoever we can,” he said.
Turner is open 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day except Sunday.
He’s got a clear view of traffic zipping by on West Main Street, and often thinks back to the days when self-serve gas stations were a novelty, not the other way around.
“Used to be when Friday and Saturday were the busiest days and everybody was getting their cars to the service station,” he said. “But now everybody seems to have places to go and other things to do, so it’s not like it used to be at all. And now you have places that just sell tires or just work on one or two parts of a car. It’s a lot more competition now.
“But we’re still here. … going to be here as long as we can.”