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Remembrance of Things Past: Car washes new and old in Groton and Mystic

I took my car to the car wash the other day. It needed it, not so much from the usual winter road salt, but it was just plain dirty.

Drivers in this area have quite a choice of car wash establishments. There is a fully automatic one at the intersection of Jerry Browne Road and Route 27 that does a good job. Another drive-through is located behind the Gulf Station on Route 184.

One that has been around for several years is near the Groton post office. There the car is taken through and toweled off when it exits, much the same way as it is done at the Submarine Car Wash on Route 12.

A “do it yourself” wash is located on Poquonnock Road near the Avery Memorial. Being a retired Navy reservist, I took my car to the self-service wash on the base near the gas station.

Many years ago there was another car wash in downtown Mystic on the site of the current S&P Oyster House restaurant. I believe Cities Service owned it.

Next to it was Santin Chevrolet, which had a car washing booth in the shop.

I washed a lot of cars and even engines during the summer I worked there. One of the things I learned that summer was that engines should be hot when the oil is changed, but cold when washed, so as not to crack the cast iron block.

However, before any of these machine-assisted operations were in town, there was another option for car owners in Mystic. At the intersection of Cow Hill Road and Bindloss Road was a small pond with a gravel bottom, which was generally less than a foot deep. Motorists could drive in, take off their shoes, grab their bucket and sponge and wash the car while it sat in water up to the hubcaps (remember those?).

Of course, the soapy water would flow into Bindloss Pond and from there to the river. While this wasn’t especially environmentally friendly, the soap was a lot less harmful than some of the other things being dumped into the river in those days.

The “car wash,” which was something of a landmark in Mystic, no longer exists. When the town “improved” Cow Hill Road many years ago, turning a narrow country lane into something that is a cross between a runway and a racetrack, Mystic’s do-it-yourself-for-free car wash disappeared.

Robert F. Welt of Mystic is a retired Groton Public Schools teacher.

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