By Sally Voth
Walter McDaniel Sr. has spent two-thirds of his life fueling the cars of New Market and beyond.
His service station, New Market Exxon, has stood at the corner of Congress Street and West Old Cross Road for more than 50 years. A few weeks ago, it was named Outstanding Business of the Year by the New Market Area Chamber of Commerce.
In 1959, McDaniel opened a Texaco station where the Shenvalee Golf Resort is located now.
"In 1962, this [location] came for lease," he said. "I took this because the interstate was coming. I figured I better get down here where the traffic was going to be."
That move was a smart one because 51 years later, McDaniel, 76, still owns the service and filling station. His son, Walter McDaniel Jr. -- who goes by Junior -- runs it now. The building was constructed in 1957.
When the senior McDaniel opened his station at its current location it was an Esso. It became Exxon in 1973.
And, while people's attitudes and cars have changed -- the former are busier, the latter have become computerized -- New Market Exxon remains rooted in the past.
Motorists can pay for their gas with a credit card, but they'll have to go inside the station's office to do so. McDaniel has no plans to install pumps that will accept payment.
"Because they want $29,000 to put them in, and where are you going to get that back?" he reasoned. "A person comes in here, there's a chance you might buy a drink, and you get to talk to them. We meet a lot of nice people. We trust people. They pump the gas and then pay us."
That old-time, small-town service led to New Market Exxon winning the Chamber of Commerce award. Various plaques from AAA, Exxon and Esso hang on the wall.
While McDaniel was talking, Timberville resident David Grimm came in to make an appointment to get his car inspected.
"I stop in now and then," he said. "I've always got good service."
McDaniel joked, "You better had say that, or I will reject your vehicle."
Grimm notices something special about this particular Exxon.
"Most of them now has all went commercial," he said. "There's just not the atmosphere you get with them -- hometown gas station, someone you know will talk to you."
McDaniel originally hails from Rockingham County.
"I worked at a Texaco station in Elkton when I was in high school of evenings," he said.
The gas pumps help get people into the station to buy from the small sampling of cold drinks and snacks, but it's a far cry from a convenience store. The other side of the business consists of vehicle repairs and maintenance, a wrecker and rollback service, and AAA.
While he is a mechanic, McDaniel's eyesight is failing, so he doesn't work as much as he used to. "Long hours and good health" have kept him going thus far.
"I come down and help pump gas some," McDaniel said. "Junior has never done anything else but work right here all his life."
The elder McDaniel has never considered any other job either.
"Wouldn't know how," he explained.
McDaniel said, "This is all Junior's when I'm gone. I'm going to come down here and stay out of the way as long as I can walk because my wife's gone and I wind up sitting there looking at the walls, and it drives me crazy."
Junior McDaniel has been working at the station since he was 13, and he said he plans to keep on doing so "'til I'm 80."
"I enjoy what I do, and I enjoy the people I do it with," he said. "The town of New Market's a great place to live. There's a lot of good people. That's the big reason I like doing what I'm doing."
Both father and son agree they've been very fortunate to have the employees they've had.
Larry Delawder has worked at New Market Exxon since 1974, doing minor car service and driving a wrecker. The Timberville resident has been working there part time for the past 25 or so years.
"They're good people to work for," Delawder said of the McDaniels. "And, I enjoy the work. I've met some good people down there. They've got some people that travel through. They come through once or twice a year and they always stop."
Contact staff writer Sally Voth at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or firstname.lastname@example.org