Mully: To rent the gas station I had to go to the bank and get a loan for $5,000 to buy inventory. The bank wouldn’t let me sign for it because I was a woman, so Skip had to. We mortgaged our house for it and they wouldn’t accept my signature! I leased the shop for three years. It was the exact same station where I had left my bus when I first arrived!
It was just this little metal Shell station in a vast asphalt area with two islands and four gas pumps. That was just when self-serve was becoming the vogue in gas pumping. I hired Shanti to paint a rainbow on the front window and it was called the Rainbow Shell. It was the first place people drove into when they got off the ferry.
I was the girl running the gas station.
My first mechanic was really strange and stole money from me, but he knew business. The price of gas then was sixty-two cents a gallon. He said, “Why don’t you drop your price below sixty and that will get people’s attention.” So I did, and it did! It also really pissed off some of those other men gas station owners. A couple of them tried to organize a boycott against me.
But I wasn’t just the girl out front. I did the finances, oil changes and tires etc. I met all the old timers that lived here, who had always traded at that station. That station had been there forever, so the boycott didn’t work!
You could only make 13 cents a gallon on gas. You wrote checks for thousands of dollars but it all went to your distributor. The only money you made was if you did repair work. I had fixed my Volkswagen and my brother was already dissatisfied being a lawyer in the Bay Area so he said he would come up and be my mechanic. He didn’t really have the temperament of a mechanic. He would throw his wrenches and scream and cry. He was my brother! laughs.
At the same point I was also splitting up with Skip. It was like a biochemical disaster everyday at the station! I love my brother, though, and was so happy to have him live and work together with me for a year. I was sad when he moved back to California to become a lawyer again.
Then in walked Matt. He knew that the 73 Volkswagen was different from the 71 and it was different from the 72 only by this minute calibration etc., and so he became my mechanic and we were a great team.
I was single now and I worked seventy hours a week to make ends meet. I hired someone to work at the station in the afternoons during the summer so I could be with Cere and Oliver during the day. I washed dishes at night in a restaurant. My Irish genes made me the worker, and I needed it.
When I first rented it, the station was selling 13,000 gallons of gas per year and when I left it three years later, it was selling 33, 000 gallons. The guy who ran the oil business kinda looked around and noticed I was making some money now and said, “I guess I’ll take it back now.” He paid me for the inventory, which paid off my loan and that was it.
When we left the station I had a party with a rock-n-roll band called the Toutle River Band. They set up in the Bay of the station. It was 1980. I had all these white balloons with rainbows on them. People had them all over the island. I was integrated here.
Everywhere I worked I brought a rainbow with me. When I was hired as the co-director at the Children’s Center, we painted a rainbow above the door and the signs announcing the Center still have rainbows as part of their motif today.