“One day in October 1972, I was standing with my thumb out in Middlesex and I got a ride from Arthur Williams.” This is a memory from Jim Dodds for the sixth article for this new series. It’s worth mentioning that every single person I’ve interviewed so far has mentioned Arthur Williams. Talk about a legacy. More on Arthur in a future article.
Jim went on, “I’d met Judy Seidenberg at an event at Goddard College. We fell deeply in love and I moved in that Halloween. We were married the next September. So, compared to people like Fred Messer I’m a passing phase.” This is a funny comment because Fred’s family has been here since before Waitsfield was chartered as a town.
“But I’ve been here for a while.” Forty-nine years, in fact, fast approaching the big 5-0.
“Phyl-Den’s was the building right next to Hap’s Service Station; it was named after two of the Gaylord siblings. Best snack bar The Valley ever had. I soon realized Hap gave an equal shake to locals, flatlanders and outright hippies. Allen was approachable and I count him as a friend now, but I didn’t get to know the other siblings well.” Hap, Allen and Walt ran the business during most of the years I’ve been around. Jim said,” We did all our car business with Hap and he and my stepson Brett got to be great friends. When Brett was 18, we got that dreaded 4 o’clock-in-the-morning call.”
Valley Reporter, August 18, 1977
Friday morning, between 2 and 2:30, Brett Seidenberg, 18, of Waitsfield, was critically injured when his car rolled over in a single car accident on Route 100 near the Valley Professional Center. Fortunately, a friend arrived soon after, and the Mad River Valley Ambulance crew gave Seidenberg the care he needed until they reached the Mary Fletcher Hospital in Burlington at 4 a.m.
“Hap was there right away to help pick up the pieces and he called us the next day. “How is Brett doing?” he asked. “It was a shock to see that crushed wreck and how banged up Brett was.
“The news that Hap’s Service Station was closing down recently is definitely the end of an era. Claire and Paige and the boys have done a great job, and they will be sorely missed, just as we all miss the colorful presence of Hap Gaylord.
“We lost Brett to lung cancer in 2011 and I lost Judy at the end of May 2020 to Alzheimer’s. That was a terrible blow I’ll carry for the rest of my life, but the great spirit of the Mad River Valley has been a large help and I hope The Valley will continue to be my home.”
Thanks, Jim, for taking us back to 1972. And thanks too, to the years of service that all at Hap’s Service Station gave to us. I honestly don’t know what I will do without Hap’s. Not knowing anything about cars, I just delivered my vehicle to them twice a year; they switched out the summer or winter tires and told me the repairs that needed to be done. I trusted them completely. They earned it. I guess trust is what it takes for a business to survive for 62 years in a small town.