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USA Gas Stations in the early 1920’s
When Service Stations were Service Stations and did more then just pump gas And Car Dealers did more then Just Sell Cars.
My very first job was pumping gas as a kid 15 at the time. Dad wouldn’t let me work for him until I worked for someone else. The station was Bolligs Mobil in my town. Very, very old station. I wish I could drum up some pictures of it. It looks very much like the large Amoco station pictured. The buildings where as old as the automobile.
The owner was batshit crazy but he knew it. He always said; “The difference between me and my brother? We are both crazy but at least I know it.” I’d work the late shift Thurs,Fri, Sat and Sunday nights. Then mornings Mon-Wed. Everyone thought I was nuts for working late on thirsty Thursday and Friday. But I was the info man for our small town. I knew where every party was. I knew which one was going to be epic and I knew who needed to know and when they needed to be there. It was a blast. At closing, 10pm, the owner would fill my tank and throw a case of cheap beer in the trunk and thank me for my work. Off I went to party all night. This owner and I had some history. My Dad turned wrenches for him in the early 70′s until a few years after I was born. When I was born the owner gave me a Silver Cup with my name, date of birth, weight and time I was born. I still have it on my shelf at home.
Another funny perk was the nudes driving in. My town has a nude beach along the river. If the nudist where nice and respectful I’d gladly give them directions. If they were assholes I’d send them all over timbuck and get them lost. Man. I saw so much tail just pumping gas. Some very, very hot. Some that made me gag. But always funny.
Sadly. He got old too and retired and sold the station. I was the very last person to pump gas there. The new owner walked in one Sunday night, asked if I worked there and then after my replying yes told me he was going Self-Serve Monday morning. So there I was fired.
The old owners wife stayed on though running the register. She still does run the register to this day.The Station looks nothing like the original. Your typical quick stop Mobil. The owner passed about 7 or so years ago. Billy was his name. Crazy as flippn hell. Many nights I’d bump into him driving around town at 3am. Just checking out the town.
Very rare pictures!! See and enjoy them.
But what is that contraption with the ramps? The mechanism appears to be driven by the cars wheels. Hydraulic lines go to that can with a raised top. What could it be? A pump for lubing a car’s under parts? The little sign does say “Havoline” which was Texaco’s brand name for its oil products. An early engine dynamometer? Maybe it’s a primitive car wash.
Note the wide open layout and the nice row of little trees. This was a Texaco Gasoline Motor Oil Service Station. The concept had become a “service station”, which included more than just filling your tank. They even filled it FOR you, no “self-service” needed.
Looks like an early “mall”. At one location, you could fill up your tank, get a loan so as to look prosperous with a new suit, and have a meal while your spark plugs were changed. Now, you almost needed a loan to fill the tank!
One memory sticks from early childhood. Some older gas pumps in rural stations had a sight glass where you could see the gas moving through. Sometimes there was a spinner or little plastic balls that would bounce around in the glass. I found that fascinating.
There are number of things that are pretty amazing about these photos. First and foremost, obviously, is how different these filling stations are from what we’re so used to today. Dirt lots, single pumps, little shacks.
“THIRTY FIVE CENTS? FOR A TANK OF GAS? ARE YOU INSANE? WHO CAN AFFORD THOSE PRICES!?”
Courtesy of our very own lilwillie comes this awesome photo-set of filling stations from the early days of motoring. It’s worth a long, slow look.
Barney Oldfield tires only $9.99 each. Sounds kind of expensive to me. Note the water can by the side of the road and the barricades around the trees. I guess people just drove up on the sidewalk to get their tires and the trees were in the way.
King Tut was big news in the twenties so why not capitalize on it. This is a really modern looking station with the full roof and multiple islands of pumps. AMOCO Gas (still around today) but what does “filtered” mean. Obviously they consider other gas to be “dirty”.
Even more amazing than that, however, is the fact that there are so many similarities to what we see today. In many ways, the filling stations we see in these photos are remarkably similar to those of the modern world. Sure, there might be flashy lighting, and high-visibility signage, but the basic idea has hardly changed. Have a look through, and see how the world has changed… and how it hasn’t.
This picture was taken just about the time when Gene Halbrooks purchaced the station from Bill Byer. Tom McDonald worked for both Tom and Gene that time.
A quick summary
“Since their unremarkable beginnings as cheap shacks and curbside pumps at the dawn of the automobile age, gas stations have taken many forms and worn many guises — castles, cottages and teepees, Art Deco and Streamline Moderne, clad with wood, stucco, or gleaming porcelain in seemingly infinite variety. But, where hundreds of gas stations once stood in Wisconsin’s largest cities, only a handful remain today, victims of competition, obsolescence, changing transportation needs and housing patterns, as well as stronger environmental regulation…. We may not dwell upon the evolution of gas stations or their historical importance, but in a culture directly shaped by the automobile, stations are an unavoidable and indispensable background in our daily lives.”
By the way, I work with the wife of one of the guys who did that book/documentary. I guess his new project is researching old bars throughout Wisconsin, and he’ll be writing a book about that. I have a feeling that might be of interest to you as well.
Also, the Wisconsin Historical Society has a ton of old photos, including old gas stations. The site is really slow right now, but here is where you can find them: http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/whi/feature/fille…
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