Dan Collins worked for Alvin Frye for 23 years. “I started in 1994 at Black Oak Amoco,” he said. “Then we went to Fountain City Exxon.”
When Frye unexpectedly closed the service station at the corner of Broadway and Essary Road some four months ago, Dan and his co-workers were out of work. Frye is now in a nursing home in Oak Ridge.
Collins, who has custody of his two grandchildren, needed a job. With an associate’s degree in landscaping, he had worked in auto mechanics for most of his career. David Lowery, owner, and Ron Bradley of Halls Service Center ran into Collins at the Halls High Band’s car show.
“We knew the quality of Dan’s work and decided to make a place for him,” said David.
Collins had a rocky start. His first day at work was Friday, April 28. The next Monday, a big tree fell on his house. Luckily, no one was hurt. “I really hated to ask off, but they understood,” he said. “I think this will be a good place to work.”
Bradley said customers recognize Collins from the legendary Fountain City Exxon. “One gave him a big hug.”
Collins specializes in basic mechanics: brakes, oil changes, tires, belts and hoses.
Both men talked at length about Alvin Frye, a man who kept his station open for years, even when the distributor (and property owner) wanted to close it. Frye defiantly posted a sign saying he did not sell beer or lottery tickets.
Collins said Frye never knew a stranger and loved Central High School, where he supported the sports programs and helped young drivers.
“We’d have a car up on the rack and see something wrong. The kid might not have the money to pay, but Alvin said to fix it anyway. Most times the kid would come back or his parents would stop by and pay. Frye often held a check until Friday or loaned a regular customer $5 worth of gas.
“I learned a lot from Alvin,” said Collins. “He would let me make decisions (about car repairs) but often said we needed to know what we didn’t know. … When he hired me I said I wanted to work my way up in the company. Alvin said there were a whole lot of Indians, but not many chiefs.”