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RVelectricity™ – Just Ask Mike (J.A.M.): My most memorable Thanksgiving meal, in 1971

Welcome to my J.A.M. (Just Ask Mike) Session, a weekly column where I answer your basic electrical questions. If you’re a newbie who’s never plugged in a shore power cord (or ask – what’s a shore power cord?), or wonder why your daughter’s hair dryer keeps tripping the circuit breaker, this column is for you. Send your questions to me at my new RVelectricity forum here. In the meantime, today I travel back in time to my most memorable Thanksgiving meal, 50 years ago.

Dear Readers,
At first blush there doesn’t appear to be a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. But as long as we have family and friends, there is a lot to give thanks for. So…

Let’s set the Wayback Machine to November 1971

I’m going to post a throwback Road Signs column that’s been lost in the Internet bits for at least 3 years. Somehow it was overwritten with a newer file during one of my writing marathons. But thanks to the Wayback Machine (thanks, Wayback Machine), I was able to recover my original 2017 article about a very memorable Thanksgiving when I was 17 years old.

Yes, hard to believe, but that would be 50 years ago this Thanksgiving. So read on about one of my most memorable Thanksgiving feasts I had while working alone in a service station on Thanksgiving 1971 – pumping gas for all the holiday travelers. And please post your own memorable Thanksgivings in the comments below. 

Road Signs – A Very Tasty Thanksgiving

By Mike Sokol

Of course, Thanksgiving is about great food and family time. And I certainly have been blessed with a score of memorable Thanksgivings in my own home. After all, holidays become even more special when you can share them with your own children.

However, one Thanksgiving always comes to mind amid the hustle and bustle of cooking turkey and ham for the 20 guests that typically share that meal with us. It was a rather humble Thanksgiving meal I ate alone at a Gulf gas station when I was 17 years old. Yes, it was my first Thanksgiving spent away from my family, but it wasn’t all bad. In fact, I learned a lot about the spirit of holiday giving and what it means to include others in your celebration.

One is the Loneliest Number (Thanks, Three Dog Night)

Now, I wasn’t eating alone because I was homeless or broke or anything really tragic. No, it was because I was working at Keefer’s Gulf station during my school breaks. I did a few tune-ups and changed tires, but mostly pumped gas. Those were the days of manual pumps and gas station attendants who would pump your gas for you and check your tire pressure.

Since I was the young guy in the shop, I drew the day shift on Thanksgiving so the other mechanics could eat at home with their own families. What a bummer – sitting alone in a gas station pumping gas for everyone else who was driving to their own Thanksgiving dinners. I was in a pretty bad mood and missing my own family’s Thanksgiving dinner.

Turkey Surprise…

But early afternoon I got a call from the station owner, Big Frank, asking me if I was hungry. Seems that he and his family were putting the finishing touches on their own meal, and he was loading up a basket to deliver to me, his lone employee working on Thanksgiving Day.

He made the 10-mile drive from his house to the gas station, delivering a huge meal of turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, green beans, and pumpkin pie. If memory serves, he even included a mason jar of gravy. Covered in foil and insulated by towels in a picnic basket, he had made the drive in record time – delivering it all piping hot. And just as quick as a wink, he was back in his truck heading for home, where his family was waiting for his return.

I didn’t know what to say. Instantly my rather crappy day turned into quite an excellent feast. My bad mood lifted, and I thought that Frank was acting like more than just a boss – he treated me like family. I found out later that he did this for all his employees. Whoever was stuck at the gas station on Thanksgiving or Christmas Day always got a fantastic family meal delivered by him.

Now, there was nothing forcing him to do this, and certainly we all still grumbled about working on a holiday. But Frank knew that giving up time with your family is a hard thing to do. And by taking 30 minutes out of his own family time, he could spread a little cheer to his employees.

Giving the gift of time

Sometimes the greatest gift of all you can give around the holidays is the gift of your own time. My wife and I now try to help other family members not with just the easy buying of a gift card or placing an Amazon order. We supplement our monetary presents with the gift of time. It may mean standing in line for a grandparent to help them get the best price on a flat-screen television, followed up by installing it and training them on its use. It also means volunteering along with our own kids to help with a pancake breakfast for the Lions Club.

And all of these things remind us that sometimes the most important present you can give to others is the gift of your time. So don’t just phone it in – spend some time with your family, both real and extended. Thanks for the turkey, Frank… and for helping to teach me that sometimes what appear to be the smallest gifts mean the most of all.

Copyright 2017 Mike Sokol – former pump jockey. 

OK, everyone. Remember that electricity is a useful and powerful force, so we all need to pay attention to safety precautions while using it, including at Thanksgiving.

Let’s play safe out there….

Mike Sokol is an electrical and professional sound expert with 50+ years in the industry. His excellent book RV Electrical Safety is available at Amazon.com. For more info on Mike’s qualifications as an electrical expert, click here.

You don’t want to miss Mike’s webcasts on his YouTube channel.

For information on how to support RVelectricity and No~Shock~Zone articles, seminars and videos, please click the I Like Mike Campaign

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Gayle V.
12 days ago

Ok Mike, I was expecting to see a pic of the 17 year old Mike!
Good article nonetheless.

Mike Sokol
10 days ago
Reply to  Gayle V.

I was a true geek at 17… 🤓

Glen Cowgill
12 days ago

Went in the military in 1959 and after getting to my first duty station I took a part time job at a gas station to make some extra money. I volunteered to work holidays and other shifts nobody else wanted. Thanksgiving and Christmas always meant extra tips, food delivered by the boss and from customers. It seems Thanksgiving and Christmas brings out the best in people.

Thanks to all those who take the time to cheer up a young kid away from their families.

John Koenig
15 days ago

That’s a great memory. Sounds like “Big Frank” was a considerate boss. 🙂

Mike Sokol
15 days ago
Reply to  John Koenig

Oh the stories I could tell about big Frank during the gas rationing in 1972. He always had my back…

Steve A Mangrum
15 days ago

Boy, did that bring back some great memories. It was my senior year in high school,1966, when I worked at a Gulf station in Nashville, TN. I worked weekends, 12-hour shifts, and on several Sundays the owner’s wife would send a hot meal by way of her husband, or sometimes bring both of us a meal herself. Fran was a great cook and I remember that new Pontiac Bonneville, color blue, she drove. Side note–I slept several times in the storage room(where the air compressor kicked on and off all night) after installing chains and snow tires until midnight or later during snow storms. It wasn’t worth the time to drive home and be back by 6:00 a.m. But, that’s another story. Thanks for the memories.

Bill
15 days ago

A great reminder that the best gift is the gift of time with others!

Kris Campbell
15 days ago

That was a wonderful story. I can very well imagine how surprised and happy you were to receive that meal. And yes, it did require effort on the owner to leave his own gathering and drive 10 miles. He was thinking of others, instead of himself. He could very well have sat in a chair to relax after eating a big meal, instead he thought of someone else and thought of their state mind and happiness. I really liked this story. Thank you.

Drew
15 days ago
Reply to  Kris Campbell

Thanks Mike- I think I read it before but it was nice to see it again. I worked in a gas station too going through school. It was a coveted job at the time when us boomers had to scratch around for whatever we could find.

Mike Sokol
15 days ago
Reply to  Drew

Yup, my twin brother Joe worked in an orchard picking peaches and for a construction company laying asphalt on roadways during the summer. Pumping gas and changing tires was pretty easy by comparison. 😁

Mike Sokol
15 days ago
Reply to  Kris Campbell

I still can remember it like it was yesterday, and it’s been 50 years. For Big Frank family and food was very important. I was lucky to be adopted for the day.