Sunday, March 11, 2012

Testa's South Middleborough Sunoco

During the writing and subsequent promotion of South Middleborough: A History I have had the opportunity to encounter a number of wonderful people who have generously shared stories and images of their community as they knew it.  Among them was Bob Testa who grew up in South Middleborough, and whose father Theo Testa over 50 years ago operated the Sunoco filling station just south of the site of the former Alpine Motel.  Unfortunately, due to length restrictions set by the publisher, stories such as Testa's Sunoco could not be included in the published history, so I share it here, along with photographs courteously provided by Mr. Testa.

The South Middleborough Sunoco station operated during the 1940s through the 1960s, and held the distinct advantage of being the first filling station encountered on the north-bound side of Route 28 at South Middleborough which then served as one of the two principal routes linking Boston with the summer resorts of Cape Cod.  Associated with the Sun Oil Company (Sunoco), the station was sold in the summer of 1951 to Theodore J. Testa by then-owner Francis McMahon who went to Buzzards Bay to reside.  Testa operated the station until the early 1960s when he too sold it, yet another victim of the prospective opening of the Route 28 by-pass, today known as Route 495.  Mrs. Testa was long involved with the local Methodist Church, at one time serving as president of the Women's Society of Christian Service (W. S. C. S.).

The image depicts the South Middleborough Sunoco station in late 1951 shortly after it was acquired by Theo Testa.

The small size and wood-frame construction of the station is readily apparent in this wintertime view.  While such structures would be considered unusual today and would fail to meet modern safety codes for fire-proof construction, they were common at the time and allowed individuals to own their own businesses without requiring a heavy investment.  Consequently, numerous filling stations sprung up along Route 28 in Middleborough, catering to the need of the thousands of motorists who passed through during the summer.

This view shows both the well-kept station with shade trees, as well as the adjoining Smith House.  The properties occupied what are now 609 and 611 Wareham Streets, though only the house remains today.  In December, 1964, Testa sold the filling station property to Patrick O'Connor and it was eventually razed.  The attractive cement benches and bird baths seen in front of the station were made by Theo Testa and sold to patrons, passersby and local residents.  Prior to operating the station, Testa had been engaged as a mason, and the lawn ornaments he created sold well.

South Middleborough has always retained a strong sense of community, with neighbors working together and finding occasion to socialize.  Here Veronica L. Hawkins joins Harry and Cathy Smith at the Testa home for an informal summer get together which included bottled Cokes.  Miss Hawkins (1907-96) served as the fourth grade teacher at South Middleborough between 1953 and 1966, and favored a hairstyle which according to Bob Testa was "unmistakable".

Courtesy of Bob Testa.


Anonymous said...

I, too, remember gas stations from when I was young. They were frequently fun, as uncles would buy me "a pop" or a candy bar (generally to assure my silence). Sometimes the stations were a source of a beer or two (for my uncles) on a Saturday or Sunday. Remember the "grease pits"? Remember giving the guy a dime tip?. Remember the smells? Remember how oblivious we were of the "hazzards". Remember the unconventional repairs?

There are the "remains" of what appears to have been a filling station on the Halifax end of Rt #105, close to the intersection of Thompson and Plympton. Any information on that one?

Chuck Shea

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