By Lindsay Owens
Cecil Meeks fell in love with working on cars and trucks when he was just 16. Decades later, he is still doing what he loves at his service station Oaktown.
“Back then, you could work on cars and didn’t have to have a degree,” said Meeks as he worked on an oil change for one of his regular customers.
After working on cars for others for Bryant Chevrolet, Charlie Cantwell and Jed Walker’s businesses among others, Meeks launched his own shop in 1980 in an already established shop in the heart of Oaktown.
“Alton Garner and Steve Takash had this place in the 1950s,” said Meeks adding the local service station passed through many hands before he purchased the businesses. “I’ve been twisting bolts here ever since. I’ve had a lot of great customers. In fact, the customers are really like family.”
Seldom is Meeks left to himself for too long at the shop that typically does dozens of oil changes and other routine maintenance procedures each weekday.
“This has always been kind of a loafing place. The guys come in and visit,” he said, adding a few years ago when he had some health issues, those ‘family members’ helped Meeks however they could. “They were so good to my family when I was down.”
Meeks said outside of the four months he was off work recovering, the shop has never been closed.
The customer service Meeks provides was likely something his customers wanted to repay him. It’s not unusual for Meeks to come to work and find a lot full of cars, notes left on the seats of the work that needs down – hub assembly, brakes, starters, oil changes, tire rotation, alternators.
“We have some that are in the area to see family and they’ll bring the car by for an oil change or just to have everything checked out,” he said. “And they come from all over.
“There are some things we don’t do anymore as the technology on vehicles has changed so much,” Meeks said. “It’s just like back in the 1980s, you didn’t call in orders for parts. You kept all the parts you needed here to fix things.
At 68, Meeks isn’t looking to retire in the near future. He plans to work at least a couple more years doing what he loves.
“I’ve always told Kim (his wife) that when I dread going to work that’s when I’ll quit. I haven’t gotten there yet,” he said with a laugh. “And when I do decide to retire, there are already some folks who’ve said they’d be interested in keeping it going.”
Preparing for trips
Meeks said 99% of what keeps vehicles in working order is getting regular oil changes.
“When you get your oil changed, I always look other things over too to make sure you don’t have leaks or anything else going on,” he said. “Catching something early can save you a lot of money down the road.”
Keeping tires rotated and bringing vehicles in when service lights come on is also important.
“You don’t want to get stranded somewhere. Sometimes when those lights come on it’s something easy to fix,” he said.