This is the story of David A. Miner, a legendary character of this community. “Dinky” to those who knew him well, was born in 1928 to Grace and William Miner. Richmond Hill was his home. For those who have no memory of the Gulf Station at the Crossroads (the intersection of Highways 17 and 144), the first Miner’s Service Station (now CVS), or Miner’s Service Station and the Pecan Tree Lounge (now Walgreens), it can be likened to today’s social media world—where all information was learned and shared by anyone who knew anyone back then.
Dinky and his wife, Betty, built the Gulf Station in 1958. Most people referred to the service station as “Dinky’s.” It was more than a gas station, it was the corner drug store, bait and tackle shop, and local watering hole. Bar stools lined a counter where locals would belly up each afternoon to share the events of the day while enjoying adult beverages. Believe it or not, there was a time when it was legal for these types of stores to pour liquor and serve beer and the drive home was not very far for locals back then. The garage or “grease-rack,” as it was called, served as repair shop, kitchen, and alternate hangout. A multi-faceted location no doubt, there was even one notable occasion when the icehouse out back served as a dental office. However, I am not sure the pliers used from the garage would be a tool of choice for dental procedures today… I’ll let you fill in the blanks here!
During this time, the city limits extended from Blueberry to The Bottom and from the viaduct on Highway 17 to just past Gill’s Grill, (most recently known as The Upper Crust). There were no traffic lights, and after the construction of I-95, there was little traffic on Highway 17. Places like Dinky’s were home to truck-pulls, bog-ins, and turkey shoots.
Several years after the Gulf station was leased to a convenience store chain, Dinky took over the property on the corner now occupied by Walgreens. This Miner’s Service station, like the other, was the all-encompassing social atmosphere for locals. It became an alternate post office for companies who would leave pay checks for employees and a bank for check cashing. The days of the long counter were gone, but the package (liquor) store, bait and tackle, and stories of the big one that got away, continued. Credit cards were still not in vogue. Charge accounts were common in these days, and boy there were plenty. When things got rowdy, customers were exiled to the Pecan Tree Lounge, an outdoor area under the Pecan tree adjacent to the station. Seating was on the tailgates of pickup trucks. Dinky often served up his famous chicken and rice, catfish stew, and held fish fries. City leaders and first responders were always the first to be invited.
Dinky spent most of his time at the station, but when you didn’t see him there, he could be found fishing, hunting, planting his fields, or hanging out at Charlie’s Rendezvous—another storied favorite of the locals.
Dinky was the one who brought the legendary Grey Ghost shrimp boat to Richmond Hill. While he operated the boat, Betty ran the service station. During these days, the office at the station became the hub for communicating with the boat captains while out in the water. Captains and Captain’s wives would come in to use the radio to check in with their boats or husbands. In the 1970s, Dinky took the Grey Ghost to Fernandina to participate in the shrimp boat races where she won! The Grey Ghost was sold to Bob Massey and fished for many more years. She is a story in and of herself.
Dinky closed the station in 2004 and lived out the remainder of his days with Betty on the banks of Demeries Creek. Dinky passed away on July 14, 2004. Few knew that he served in Korea, was the first Captain of the Richmond Hill Marine Rescue Squadron, and that he loved baseball. He had many fond memories of days playing on the Richmond Hill team. He loved his Labrador Retrievers, Sport 1, 2, 3, and later, Thunder. They were well-trained and another source of entertainment for the locals and their children at the station. His legacy lives on in his three daughters, Sheila Miner Galbreath, Donna Miner Love and Angie Miner Foss.
Dinky, the Crossroads miss you.