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Response line: Back to Merry Christmas, Texas | local news

ANSWER LINE TRACKING: Earlier this month I was responding to a question about Merry Christmas, Texas from someone looking for information on what was really just a gas station.

The owner, OL Kimbrough, called it Merry Christmas, Texas as if it were a real city—really as a marketing tool. A sign there at one point said it had a population of 3.

Kimbrough received a Merry Christmas, Texas stamp, and people came from all over to “stamp” mail and Christmas cards, as if the gas station was officially called “Merry Christmas, Texas.”

I was excited to learn who “Population 3” was this week after reader Gayle Burks saw the article. She called me to tell me about her husband, Vermon Burks, who spent some of his teenage years there with his grandparents, who ran the station for a few years.

I spoke to Vermon Burks (who also happens to be the chief of the West Harrison Volunteer Fire Department) about his time in Merry Christmas, Texas.

He said his grandparents, AV Hillhouse and Ozell Hillhouse, raised him. They lived in Greenville, Mississippi until 1969. It was then that his grandfather was retiring from his job as a town clerk in Greenville. They moved to Texas and operated the Save No. 5, one of several gas stations Kimbrough owned.

It was already saying Merry Christmas, Texas, and Burks said the populace was him and his grandparents, who lived on the property.

The dinosaur at the gas station was a “Sinclair Dinosaur” who was on site because it used Sinclair brand gasoline. The Sinclair logo had a dinosaur. The dinosaur was about the size of a jeep, Burks said, and was made of fiberglass. It was on a pole and turned slowly.

Burks recalled that the dinosaur was stolen once. It was found in a friend’s grandmother’s garden, brought back to the station and welded more securely in place to prevent it from falling victim to another teenage prank. He also recalled that the gas station was featured in the “cornfield” segment of the television show “Hee Haw” in the early 1970s.

He was 15 when the family moved to Texas. His grandfather died in 1974 and he and his grandmother moved to White Oak where she had family. She later returned to Mississippi, but Burks, who graduated from Hallsville High School, had decided by then that he was a Texan.

He recalled that the gas station had two signs on either end of the building that read “Merry Christmas, Texas.” He later found out about a woman who had bought them. He was able to get one, which is now in a shop building in his house.

The station, which was located off Interstate 20 at exit 599 where Tuff Shed is now located, was later demolished. He doesn’t know what happened to the dinosaur.

“I would give anything to get this dinosaur,” Burks said.

So if anyone knows where it is please let Answer Line know. Maybe we can arrange a reunion.

Q: Why isn’t there a 75603 zip code? I saw 75601, 75602, 75604, 75605 and 75606 but not 75603.

A: The 75603 ZIP code exists, but it is associated with an area that includes portions of Gregg and Rusk counties. So think Lakeport.

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