Filling up in the ‘60s

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Some of the information in this post comes from The Preservation and Reuse of Historic Gas Stations (National Park Service – US Department of the Interior). This is something that we might have referred to in the past as, “for reals.”

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Unless your tank is empty, gasoline stations rarely attract attention. Yet, for the past hundred years gas stations have occupied prime locations on main streets and suburban corners, on small town roads, and along early highways. They are one of America’s most common commercial building types and are emblematic of the twentieth century. Surviving historic stations are physical reminders of the transportation revolution and the influence of increased mobility on the landscape. They are a reflection of car culture, pop culture, corporate standardization, and an era of customer service that today seems quaint.” The National Park Service is trying to retain this part of America for future generations to experience.

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Remember when you drove up to a gas pump and an attendant would ask how much gas you wanted, either in dollars or gallons, and what kind you wanted? By what kind, he meant octane level. Then, the attendant would switch on the pump, set the dials back to zero, dispense the gas, and collect your money, since credit cards weren’t quite in vogue, except for actual gasoline credit cards. He would make change on the spot from a coin dispenser on his belt, or he’d disappear into the office to return with your change.

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In addition to pumping your gas, the attendant would regularly wash the windshield and check your tire air pressure. He’d also ask whether you’d like the oil checked. He’d do all that and the average price of a gallon of gas was between twenty-five and thirty cents a gallon. And certainly, you can’t forget the “price wars” or extra incentives, like drinking glasses, towels, kid’s toys and other loyalty awards, like trading stamps form S&H or Gold Bell. mZYasujrqAX0KIT7WAnFiGQ

The most sought after incentives were collector coin sets most of which were produced by the Franklin Mint.

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Maps were a very important part of every journey, and the gas stations were the places to go whenever you needed a specific map. Generally, the stations stocked state maps, and perhaps adjacent state maps as well, but if you were traveling a long distance, stopping to get those maps was vital to a successful journey.

Almost every gas station had a service bay and an on-sight mechanic who could fix whatever might be wrong with your car while you waited. There were cans of oil on display along with tires, batteries and windshield wipers. In addition, the stations had a bevy of coin operated vending machines with beverages, candy, sandwiches available along with personal products in the bathrooms.

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After World War II, the “rectangular box” gas station profile using concrete blocks was most prevalent. By the 1960s, that design was being replaced with gently sloping shingled roofs, brick and stone facades and ornaments, including signage, fabricated from aluminum and molded plastic.

I forgot how charming (and inexpensive) filling your gas tank used to be.

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7 thoughts on “Filling up in the ‘60s

  1. This brought back a memory of my dad, he was a sign writer. In the early days our garden was fuller drying painted signs for the local petrol stations. It was priced four and three pence a gallon!! Haha 💛

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  2. Our local gas station was Duffy’s. Duff was the mechanic and Butch and Red’s pumped gas. Talked to them every day in the 50’s and 60’s. Great guys who knew everybody and had all the best gossip.

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  3. Jone’s Gas Station and lunch room was the “go to” place when I was growning up. *It was owned by Donnie and Carol Jones and was across the street from the home My friend Judi lived for several years and my childhood home on Market Street. It was an ideal location for the men and women who worked at the factory behind the station. (Kennedy Van Saun). Donnie and Carol knew everyone, or so it seemed to me when I was young. My younger brother and I were allowed to cross the street on Saturdays to get candy. Carol would generally add a soda for us to have as we sat on the very high counter stools, feeling most important! When Dennis and I got married, Donnie closed the gas station so he and Carol could watch the bridal party leave my mother’s house and they could attend the “after” party in my mother’s back yard. Donnie even forgave my mother for backing into one of his gas pumps—causing quite a bit of commotion, as you can imagine!*

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