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Legyard Reynolds - A Local Legend

November 26, 2010

Legyard Reynolds entire name was William Legyard Reynolds, but he was simply called, Legard pronounced (Led-yod).
He was born and grew up in our sister city, Columbus, on September 22, 1894. Legyard Reynolds is a legend, a story, a historical account of a southern gentleman about whom stories are told, and he too was storyteller.
Legyard had a filling station which is a term used in Mississippi State Laws in the 1920’s and 1930’s. He owned and operated an extra special filling station on the corner of our busy University Drive and Glenn Street with the address: 409 University Drive. His landmark filling station was finally torn down, and Quiznos Restaurant is presently located in this very spot.
A clerk would come out, put gasoline in, check oil, clean windshield, and gauge air pressure in tires, take money or make out a charge ticket. The non-automotive sidelines (“pleasure” food) were: Coke-Cola’s —ice- cold in a tiny bottles — and soda water, (strawberry, grape, cream soda, orange and RC’s) in chilled bottles out of a big old red cooler. The candy was peanut bars, chocolate bars, coconut bars, and the chewing gum was always Wrigley’s. Cigarettes were Camels, Lucky Strikes, and Old Gold and they were all the same price. Prince Albert Smoking Tobacco and wooden stick matches were bought by the carton, and he sold them for 5 cents a carton to his customers. Moon Pies and Nabs were popular. Legyard never fooled with cigars because nobody smoked cigars. He did not sell chewing tobacco or snuff either. Legyard Reynolds filled up both your car and your tummy at his filling station.
His customers came first, and he treated them very special. Each customer looked forward to pulling in to his filling station. Legyard was gracious and extended his very own southern hospitality to each and every customer who ever came by his filling station on the busy corner of Starkville which became a real “happy spot” in our city.
He worked and was open seven days a week from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m. never closing on Sunday’s or any holidays. “Chico” and Ozzie Lee Evans were his helpers and attendants. Ozzie did the greasing, washing, changing tires of cars, and he sometimes wore coveralls to try to keep clean. Ozzie was paid $25 a week. Sometimes he was given a tip or two, but not too often. Everyone loved Ozzie as much as they did Legyard. On the bottom of my canvas I put the name, “Chico” — was he a little dog?
Before Legyard got into the petroleum business, he was the Chevrolet dealer from 1920-1938. He also sold higher priced cares every now and then, including Cadillacs, Buicks, Oaklands, Oldsmobiles. He said General Motors products could be sold to Starkville city people, but Oktibbeha County people were sold on Ford’s and usually Ford Trucks.
Legyard went to A & M College in 1914 and graduated in 1918 majoring in mechanical engineering. He said, “I met many nice people from the president of the college, President B. M. Walker, on down to R. C. Carpenter, head of Mechanical Engineering, (Walker and Carpenter buildings are named for these two men on our MSU campus today.)
Legyard’s studies were interrupted in 1917 when he was called into the Army. Fortunately, his talents were utilized during his military duty, and he was assigned to teach mechanics at A & M. Attending classes at night, he completed his degree in 1918. He was a lifetime member of the MSU Alumni Association.
In 1917, Reynolds married Tennie Hogan, a Starkville girl who died in 1973. She was the love of his life. They had two beautiful daughters, Mary Evelyn Reynolds McDowell, now deceased, and Edna Jean Reynolds Gunn who lives with her sweet husband, Bobby Gunn, in Starkville today. He had eight grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren who loved him very much.
Legyard and Tennie and daughters lived in the beautiful home on the hill at the end of Greensboro Street in our Historical Greensboro District which had been in her mother’s family. This home, which is included on the National Historical Homes of America, is on the left hand side of the road on top of a hill at the end of Greensboro Street going towards Highway 182. This home is still one of Starkville’s treasured homes. Legyard was a longtime member of the Chamber of Commerce and Rotary Club. He was a member of the First Baptist Church, and he was a 32rd Degree Mason.
Legyard built his first filling station in 1927 which was this very station on the corner of University Drive and Glenn Street. He got his financing from his own money and part of it from People’s Bank, (now Cadence Bank), President Realey Irving made him the loan. Bob Saul built the very first filling station in 1925 or 1926 which was located within a block from the first filling station built by Legyard Reynolds. This was located on the southwest corner of College Drive, (University Drive) and Fellowship Street. “Before stations came to Starkville, car owners got their gasoline from pump along the curbs in the downtown area at Turner and Piece Hardware, W.W. Scales and Company Dry Goods, and J. H. Smith and Company Feeds,” Legyard said.
Legyard said, “Mr. Gentry died and his son, Hillman Gentry had one of these small crossroad community pumps, and Hillman Gentry still runs and operates the Gentry Store in the community of Oktoc on Oktoc Road.” Mr. Zeno Yeates kept gasoline and other supplies in big drums.
Once Legyard was ask what he thought about the newest self service pumps. He said, “these self service pumps make most service stations owners, ‘lazy as hell!’... I personally service you and your car with my own personal touch along with my helper and good dear friend, Ozzie Lee Evans. We have a good time working together, and I treasure his friendship as well”
Oh, the stories Legyard Reynolds could tell, and he would begin each one with “back in those days...” You would enter the tiny cramped one room office which had the smells of gasoline and kerosene with a little oscillating fan blowing gently across the room. You would glance over at the red and white cooler which held the Cokes in that familiar returnable 6 1/2 -ounce bottles with cold drops of water on the sides dripping down the bottle. You might add a package of peanuts and pour them into this little cold Coke bottle and tip it up and swallow it all together. This treat went along with Legyard’s filling station as he began to tell one of his famous stories.
Okay, “back in those days, I remember the famous Model T Roadster that I was driving to Memphis, Tenn. around 1920. The tough hills of northeast Mississippi are a strain on automobiles even today, were worse then. With that Model T...I had to low-gear down a lot of hills, let alone getting up ‘em. Driving was more tedious because all the roads were made of dirt. On my return trip from Memphis with the new Ford, I ran into a rainstorm and all the roads turned into mud. I got caught at night in a tiny town, Hickory Flat. A friendly store owner insisted that I sleep on a new mattress in the man’s display room, so I gladly accepted his kind offer. It took me 2 1/2 days to get from Memphis back home to Starkville!”
It was May 17, 1977, one early spring time morning that I pulled into Legyard Reynolds filling station to spend the entire day with Legyard and Ozzie Lee Evans as I popped up my umbrella, and red easel to begin to sketch and paint a memory of those “days gone by” here in my hometown, Starkville... to capture forever on my canvas, a local scene around town on a busy street corner of simply a filling station “filled” with not gasoline for a car or snacks for your tummy...but filled with a lifetime of memories to share with you, “my viewer’ and “my reader” is this extra ordinary painting of a local scene by this local artist.
I was inspired by one thing to paint this entire painting now over 33 years ago, and it was the rounded brick chimney with green moss growing on the tip top of it! Let’s start at the left hand side of my canvas with this beautiful chimney.
Let your eyes go across the old green shingled roof top, and then see the underneath boards painted white with each end of the plank a royal/cobalt blue color.
Find the one dangling light bulb and the two empty light bulb sockets. Follow the long twisted cord as it too hangs on to its dear life.
Go on down the left side of the filling station wall and see all the colors of greys, browns, touches of greens, and that bright yellow/orange splash of color.
Look at the very bottom of the left and spot the long tin container like a bucket with the faucet there too. I bet this is where Ozzie Lee Evans got his water to wash the car windshield.
Then keep your eyes moving to the wonderful Chevron pump. And then go over to the window trimmed in the same royal/cobalt blue color.
See the white stiff wire over the window pane and look at the cute little bright red/orange table holding supplies needed to service a car.
See a tall black container with a spout on the tip top. There stands Legyard Reynolds, dressed neatly in a white dress/sports starched shirt, brown leather belt, and nice dark grey dress slacks.
He is holding the handle of a broom. He always kept his filling station neat and clean both inside and outside.
See the red box with the two letters, “Co...” (part of Coke) and another taller red box where those cold, drippy, delicious soft drinks “hit the spot” for a perfect drink along with a package of nabs or peanut butter candy bar to munch on as Legyard filled up your car with gasoline, or washed your windshield “sparkling clean” again ready to head either to Main Street, Starkville, or on toward the MSU campus on down University Drive.
Back in those good ‘ole days when living everyday seemed so simple and “a true blue” Mississippi Gentleman was definitely a Southern Gentleman, and a well-dressed filling station gentleman filled up your car with gasoline personally pumped your gas. Back in the days when a Southern gentleman, who built and owned not only one filling station but two filling stations, gave each and every customer their money’s worth in service with a smile and a story as they sipped on a ice-cold Coke filled with a package of peanuts. The car and the tummy were filled to the brim at the corner filling station of … LEGYARD REYNOLDS, A LEGEND!

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