At 90, Claude Yeager is West Virginia’s oldest gas station attendant

West Virginia's oldest gas station attendant

LOGAN COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ/Gray News) - Like so many small towns in West Virginia, Switzer has seen a lot of change over the years.

A few hundred people live in the town in Logan County, and the world looks a lot different there than it did almost 60 years ago.

But there is one thing that has remained constant and hasn't changed much over time. You can call it a hidden gem.

Claude Yeager has been opening the doors at Yeager's Service Center, located along state Route 44, to customers since 1963.

“Every now and then I’ll think to myself, ‘Why didn’t I quit 25 years ago?’” Yeager told WSAZ.

His service center still looks the same as it did when he opened it so many years ago. It is probably the oldest full service gas station still around, with certainly the oldest station attendant.

"It's exactly the same," said Katrina Lynn Colins, a regular customer. "That's what is so neat about it is you go in there and I relive my childhood.This brings reality back. This is like being a little girl again when I come in here."

What he does is a far thought from what we are used to now where you pull into a gas station and do it all yourself.

He still gives the regular old treatment, doing everything from filling up gas tanks to washing windows and changing inspection stickers.

You would think at 90 years old, he would be thinking about giving it up, but, he isn't. He still comes into work everyday to his job that, to many, is a thing of the past.

"We're just really blessed," said Collins as she watched Yeager wash her windshield. "You don't see somebody that is 90 years old come out and pump your gas, clean your windows. To me, he is the pillar of this community. He's just always been here, and I couldn't imagine it without him."

Yeager still knows all of his customers by name, which is fitting, seeing that so many of them grew up around his station and still go there to get gasoline.

"I love them and they love me and it's just like family," said Yeager. "I was taught that way to be good to everybody."

And his customers will tell you, he is and always has been good to everyone.

"He's just real. He's just a real guy. To me, I wish we had more Claude Yeagers in this world," Collins said.

Yeager never slows down. The second he finishes up with one customer, he's on to help the next.

"I could quit and I know that," Yeager said as he got ready to help another customer. "But I've got to have something to do. Everyone tells me, 'Claude you're one-of-a-kind,' and I say, 'Well, that's good,'" he said with a laugh.

Everything at his station is the way it always has been. The walls inside the place are full of pictures and memorabilia. He added to that memorabilia recently, adding a proclamation he received from West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, thanking him for his years of service to his community.

As Yeager goes to ring up another customer, you hear the sounds of his old cash register as he counts out change.

Everything is still done the old way at his service center: No debit or credit cards. It's simply cash or telling Yeager to put it on the bill.

In the fast-paced world we live in today, his customers will tell you, it's the slow-pace of way back when that they love about Yeager's place.

"I will pass up every gas station to come here," Collins said. "And I don't do it just because of the gas, I do it because I love him."

And Yeager will tell you that love for his customers is mutual.

His daughter will admit that at times, it’s a little hard for him to keep up with the world today, admitting he has cut back on his hours over the years.

"There are people that ask me if dad is going to retire," said Cindy Damron, Yeager's daughter. "I say, 'I don’t know.' It makes me emotional, but a good kind of emotional because he is Yeager Service Center.”

He certainly isn't stopping anytime soon, though. When you have been a staple in a community for more than 56 years, you can't.

"I'll retire when they stop making wheelchairs," joked Yeager.

But, of course, he doesn't sit down long for the interview. After all, he has customers he has to help.

Copyright 2019 WSAZ via Gray Media Group, Inc. All rights reserved.