Altamont library hosts display on the Stevens family of Knox

To the Editor:

When we moved to Knox a dozen years ago, the village had a curious-looking little gas station run by a diminutive woman. Our neighbors assured us that we could get gas there, and we were pleasantly surprised when the owner, Margaret "Si" Stevens, came out and pumped our gas for us.

Although she eventually gave up the business, townspeople still like to tell about the time Si took on the Mobil Oil company.

In the 1980s, Mobil began to unify its brand image by requiring all vendors to install a lighted sign and a canopy over the gas pumps. Si told the corporation that she couldn't afford these "improvements" and that the village didn't need bright lights. She asserted that a canopy wasn't necessary to keep the customers dry, because she pumped the gas day or night, rain or shine. 

Mobil refused to sell her gasoline or allow her to accept Mobil charge cards. But her brother, Marshall Stevens, filled her tanks with Mobil gasoline, and she continued to run her business, waiting on customers as she had done for many years. So, while Si lost the battle with a mega-corporation, she won the war.

In 2013, the Stevens family donated the large Mobil sign to the Knox Historical Society. Last summer, the society unveiled the sign at a program attended by four generations of Stevenses. Many family photographs, including one of a very young Si standing on the garage's porch railing, were on display at the Saddlemire Homestead.

These photographs are on exhibit at the Altamont Free Library during the month of March. Library director Judith Wines invites visitors to see the display during regular library hours. Readers can learn more about the Stevens family at www.albanyhilltowns.com by clicking on "Knox" and then "Businesses."

While the Saddlemire Homestead is closed during the cold months, visitors are welcome to attend a meeting of the Knox Historical Society on the first Tuesday of the month at 7 p.m. at the Town Hall. Please contact me at 872-2082 or jbmclean@aol.com for more information.

Jane B. McLean, vice president
Knox Historical Society