Incredulous motorists who pull into U. T. Brown’s filling station might wonder if they hadn’t taken the wrong turn and wandered into an amusement park by mistake.
The landscaping around Cardinal Plaza Shell’s gasoline pumps includes a Japanese rock garden with stone dragons and pagodas, a five-foot fiberglass Ninja Turtle and a miniature putting green surrounded by sand traps.
To help his customers fill ‘er up with the Christmas spirit, Brown has scattered his gardens with nine welded-wire reindeer and a sleigh, all blinking with hundreds of tiny white lights. And, of course, a red-nosed Rudolph stands watch over his herd from a perch above the garage.
A 25-foot illuminated Christmas tree sparkles on the roof of the gas pump bays, 500 red and white lamps border the immaculate lawn and a giant candy cane decorates the tire racks.
A model train whistles as it clickety-clacks around a circular track atop the cashier’s booth throughout the day, to the delight of small children.
A tape of Bing Crosby crooning “White Christmas” is even piped into the restrooms.
“It’s unbelievable. At nighttime it looks like Disneyland,” said Brown, 58, who is proprietor of the station with his son, Scott, 27.
In the spring, the station’s lush green lawn is ablaze with 4,000 tulips, daffodils and crocuses. In the summer, Brown plants marigolds, begonias and cockscombs. This winter, it is filled with nearly 500 decorative white and purple cabbages that cost about $2,000.
An elderly man in the neighborhood carved and painted a wooden pelican for Brown, who placed it atop some pilings overlooking the fountain pond where colorful Japanese carp swim in the summer.
“People are always asking, ‘What are you going to do next?’ and I don’t know,” Brown said. “This afternoon, I guess I’ll put a Santa Claus cap on the turtle.”