Remember the Service Station?

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We have gas stations now.

We used to have service stations.

These were places were you could buy gas and repairs. They had bays and racks and mechanics on hand to fix whatever was wrong with your car.

Today, they have racks of soda and candy bars.

If you can believe it, service stations – when they existed – offered . . . service.  When you rolled up to the pump, a pump jockey – sometimes in uniform – would come out to offer to pump your gas for you and also check the tires and the oil.

For free.

Today, there might be an air pump off in an inconvenient part of the parking lot that will work  . . . if you feed it quarters. You pump your own gas – often while having to listen captively  to some obnoxious infomercial at the pump, which doesn’t give you the option to turn it off.

Back in the day – it was a long time ago but memory lingers – service stations would give away things like drinking glass sets emblazoned with the company logo and other such to reward customers for their patronage. If you were a kid in those days, you looked forward to a fill-up much as today’s kids look forward to whatever they’re going to get in their Happy Meal at McDonalds (along with the juvenile diabetes).

There was also leaded gas – premium and regular – both 100 percent gas, not 90 or 85 percent gas and 10-15 percent ethanol alcohol. Which doesn’t smell good, like the old stuff did.

There was also diesel. Real diesel, with all the sulfur – and the good smells.

Oil came in cans – which were messy when you tried to open them with a punch-funnel, to pour them – but they had a charming look when stacked in pyramids beside the pumps, emblazoned with the logo of their manufacturer.

People collect these, today. No one collects the plastic jugs oil comes in, today.

Service stations were places people often went for a spring and fall tuneup. This regular service consisted of minor adjustments to the choke – a metal flap-door that snapped shut atop the carburetor when the engine was cold, to assist engine start by restricting airflow to richen up the mixture (of air and fuel; more fuel, less air). This had to be done mechanically, with screwdrivers and such. By someone who had mastered the art of turning them, just so.

Other elements of the tune-up included checking and adjusting the ignition timing, cleaning and setting the points and – of course! – the annual spark plug clean/gap/replace. Fan belts were also replaced and coolant flushed. Much of this wasn’t technically beyond the ken of a teenager willing to learn and under the supervision of someone older, who already knew.

Service stations were thus a fine place for a kid looking to learn how to perform such rites to master such arts. Many kids of that long-ago time worked part-time/weekends at service stations, earning and learning.

A good service station could do practically any service a dealership could, often more conveniently and for less money. Some had machine shops in back, where engine blocks could be bored and cylinder heads honed. The best of them had an old pro back there who was a master at his craft and renowned for it.

This was possible because in those days service could be performed on an equal footing with a dealer since the only prerequisites were having the skills and the tools. One of the reasons service stations no longer serve much besides slushees – usually self-service, too – is because no one but the dealer can service the cars because no one other than the dealer has the codes.

Or can interpret them.

Service now is less about turning wrenches than “pulling” these codes – which can only be “pulled” by a diagnostic machine that only the authorized dealer has or which only the authorized dealership can afford.

Dealerships don’t have part-time teenagers on hand to “pull” the codes. They have technicians – and charge, accordingly.

It’s a good thing most modern cars rarely need service, beyond the basics – such as oil and filter changes, brake jobs and tire rotations.

Well, for awhile.

But when they do need it, those services are increasingly available only at the store where you bought the car.

No free glasses included. 

. . .

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  1. “When you rolled up to the pump, a pump jockey – sometimes in uniform – would come out to offer to pump your gas for you and also check the tires and the oil.”

    Well, he had to. We weren’t allowed to pump our own gas back then.

  2. Eric, you triggered me. Upon reading the title of your essay, I immediately thought of the day my mother pulled up to the pumps for her first fill-up in our new ’55 Plymouth, cranked down her window and–to check her position–asked the attendant: “Am I alright for Ethyl?”

  3. Thank you for the article and memory!
    My parents owned a “DX” full service station and small bulk fuel plant in Northeast Iowa.
    Every car had the windshield washed with a “deerskin” chamois and the oil was checked. We had three bay lifts for cars, and an oil pit for full trucks with their trailers. And a complete car/truck car wash too.
    In addition, they helped the local farmers get the crops in the ground by extending credit by providing diesel to the local farms. I heard many a farmer thank them for their generosity during planting time.
    I also remember the late night calls at night, 8 or 9 pm asking if Bob could bring out some heating oil-their heating fuel tank was dry. This was a lifesaver, considering it could be 0-30F below zero in Iowa during the winter!!
    Finally, I remember like it was yesterday helping out while Bob would make a trip to the tank farm to top off a fuel truck. I would sit on the top looking down into the holding tank to watch the gas/diesel fill to the top. I remember feeling very LIGHT-HEADED as I breathed in the fumes!!! Now I know I must be brained damaged from that experience!!!!!!!

  4. Speedway 79, I think that was the name of the gasoline. I wonder if that was the beginning of the current Speedway brand? The idjits have taken all the fun out of driving and owning a vehicle. Now, I have a hard time putting the card in the horizontal flat slot since it was much easier to insert it into the vertical slot. Is the machine gonna lock it in the slot or give you a message to quickly remove the card and if you are not fast enough you have to do it all over again? Cash is still king when paying for anything in a physical store, hands down.

  5. As you’ve already pointed out, Erics, cars don’t require as much in the way of routine “service”, as electronic ignitions and fuel injection schemes have done away with routine tune-ups, carburetor adjustments and/or rebuilds, and gone are the days when some 18 y.o. kid, fresh outta high school auto shop, could take a Ford with that venerable Flathead V8, yank off the heads and manifold/carb, drop the oil pan, pull out each piston and rod combo, clean them, hone the cylinders, and replace with new rings and rod bearings, lap the valves, then put it all together, and the engine was good for another 40K to 50K….which, as much as folks actually drove, the car was ready to be given away to some kid to turn into a hot rod or else junked. Of course there was a lively aftermarket to perform all those services, as cars just weren’t all that complicated. Given also the much lesser degree of Government intervention into the basic employer-employee relationship, and less overall regulations, especially environmental, it was viable to do basic auto maintenance as the “profit center” of the service station, which was doing well to keep the rent and utilities paid off selling gas. Plus, if the operation was good at what they did, and competitively priced, they could be assured of frequent repeat business. So, over time, that business has dried up.

  6. I was the manager of a service station in 1973, beginning just before the oil embargo.
    Gasoline was called a loss leader, something sold to attract customers, not to make a profit.
    Our gas supply didn’t increase or decrease, not did the retail price of it change.
    Where the tanker would arrive during the open hours before the embargo, it came during the night after. The driver didn’t need to stick the tanks during the embargo because the tanks were empty.
    I would arrive at 7am and by the time I’d filled up whatever I’d driven or ridden to work and parked it, there was a line down the block. I would do nothing but pump gas, check fluid levels and tires until I’d run out of regular and premium, the only two grades we sold. Then I’d join the mechanics and wrench turners in the 2 bays with one lift and start making a profit. We’d work on vehicles until they were finished or we’d run out of parts. In addition to being the manager, I was the master diagnostician. It was the second job I’d had since graduating high school and my first in the industry. I was 19.

    • Some if my most vivid memories come from gas stations. Mobile Oil used to gave the pegasus logo with the tag, “Flying-A.” Will never forget seeing the $.25 price tag for a gallon of gas. My dad used to visit the Texaco near his work in downtown Los Angeles near Sunset and Figueroa. Loved the older signs with the red star. Loved their old Coke machine that used to dispense cold soda in shapely bottles and a water cooler that at the press of a button on the fountain dispensed cold, cold water. The gas station office was never made of much–maybe a metal desk with a few drawers, some paperwork on top along with a few receipts. The best smell was that of cigarette smoke. Yes, the collection giveaways were nice but best of all were the personalities of older men, whose lives I got privy to if I stayed quiet and listened. Of course, I loved the smells and imagined how the mechanic got all that grease on him. Was impressed with the grease guns. I never did much work on my first, post-high-school car, a 1979 VW bug. Oil and gas and I was good to go.

      • In real money, US 90% silver coin, gasoline is still less than 25 cents in most of the nation even with today’s higher taxes. looking at the silver melt value of a 90% silver quarter is $4.0509. Today I saw gasoline for $3.399/gal, that’s a 21 cents a gallon.

  7. Ah, you’ve hit a real soft spot memory with this article. I started pumping gas after school back in 1976 in Wilmington, Delaware for $1.95 an hour. The proprietor was the head mechanic and only other daytime employee – he used to drive to a local bar for lunch and come back completely wasted at about 3 PM each weekday, just as I was arriving. Nice guy, always called us gas jockeys “Babe.” One day, after having me clean an absolute disaster left in the men’s room by a lovely patron, he told me he was giving me a raise – up to $2.00 an hour! I told him he needed it more than I did and applied at an Exxon closer to my home, a full-service station with a larger crew that started me at $2.50 because I was experienced!
    I loved the new place, quickly making friends with the guys in the shop, who started teaching me tire work and how to do oil changes and light repairs. I was more of a parts changer than a technician, but it did inspire me to take auto shop in high school and become more proficient in basic auto repair – I loved it, and soon was doing repairs for our multiple family cars and some of the neighbors. The worst part about the service station in those days was the mile-long gas lines during the oil embargo of the ’70s and the best part was Friday nights, when it seemed that every pretty girl from my high school who didn’t have a date would roll into the station to flirt with me and my buddies! Word spread fast, and even guys who didn’t work there would hang out on nights, drinking beer and meeting girls. I would have worked there for free at this point!
    I eventually ended up managing the place for a few years after high school, we provided awesome, personalized service and knew every customer by name – it’s sad to pull into most places today, although some of the people you meet behind the counter are nice – many of them are playing on personal enslavement devices (cell phones) and can’t be bothered to say hello, let alone get to actually know their customers. Thanks for the article, Eric! Brought back fond memories and I enjoyed reading comments from people all over.

    • Interesting thought…what high schools actually have auto shop anymore? Damned few, if any.

      I recall how it was way back in ‘the ’70s in Central Florida…Girls took “Home Ec”, period, and often typing and/or stenography. Boys took wood shop as freshmen, metals/ceramics as sophmores, auto shop as juniors, and had ‘electives’, such as an advanced auto shop that did engine and/or transmission rebuilding and auto body repair. It didn’t matter if you were on the “college track”, the thinking was that all young lads benefited from hands-on experience.

  8. Burbank, CA has a Sinclair station that brings you back 60 years, with even a 67 Mustang in the bay recently. I had to stick my head in the door and tell them how nice it was to see the past preserved.

  9. Howdy all you old timers
    I’m so old that I’m not even sure what year it was that I got my first job. It paid a quarter an hour to pump gas at the local Pure Oil station. There were two pumps. Regler and Hightest.
    Nobody ever touched a pump hose but the people who worked there. Notta. The job didn’t last long because I had a couple of local kids that hung around and distracted me and Bob Hessler didn’t like that and fired me.
    But the station was only two blocks from my house so I used it often to air up my bike tires and maybe get a tube patched now and then. I think it was about 1951 or 2. Funny but I remember a few little things about it. One was the guy who came in and always bought 10 gallons. I think he had a Chrysler. Gas was around 15 cents I think. Later I had this guy as a customer on my paper route.
    I remember the cigarette machine that had about 10 different brands of cigs and since those machines didn’t make change, the package acutally had three pennies inside the edge of the pack. That way you could put in your quarter, That’s all the machine would accept, and you’d get 3 cents change cause the cigs were 22 cents a pack. Nobody would pay a whole quarter for 20 cigs. Are you crazy??? No way would they EVER pay 1.5 cents for a single cigarette.
    I remember catching hell one day because someone else forgot to turn on the pumps and I couldn’t get some customer his gas. Nobody ever told me about the switch to turn the pumps on. I didn’t even know there was one.
    If I remember right the coke machine only cost a nickel for one of those little classic GLASS bottles. That machine now, if you had one, would be worth a bundle as an antique.
    There were no diesel pumps. I think there were some kerosene pumps in town.
    I also remember around 1960 there was a Sonoco station that had a pump where you could actually select the amount of octane you wanted. A guy I had gone to school with worked there and one time he told me that the pump wasn’t working right and was pumping wide open. I filled up my Triumph 110 with it and it was so hot it turned the exhaust pipes blue.
    Oh, and back to that Pure station? The air hose worked 24 7’s. Had a crank up pressure gage on the wall that you could adjust for whatever you wanted in your tire. Football, Basketball… but you had to have the needle for those things.
    I won’t even try to go into the steam trains I grew up with because there are no words I can find that will convey what that was like for me. I did witness a train wreck one day when one train was crossing the mainline Pennsylvania line on an overpass and it’s load of mixer tanks hit the side of the bridge and the whole bridge went down onto the main line. Talk about WOW! Me and this other guy had just walked under that bridge a few minutes before that because we were always out there playing on the railroad tracks.
    I guess I could write a book about my growing up with the steam. So so so many memories. They just seem to keep popping up as you start thinking back. First bike. First b b gun. First job. Second job. First ride. A big old bettle-backed ford with a half a turn of play in the steering for 50 bucks. And on and on it goes.
    Eric. Have you ever done anything regarding licenses? Origins etc.?
    Great site and great people here. Hang in there all of you.


  10. I worked at a service station in 1971. Gas was 26.9 for regular and 28.9 for premium. The guys would roll in with the Super Sport, GTO, GTX, Roadrunner, etc., etc., etc. and say “fill it up with regular.” (lol) I’d say, “c’mon man put some hi-test in her” and they’d say “shut up and fill it up with regular.” Such were the times and the gasoline. Good times and good gasoline.

    We had a sigh front and center which said “If we don’t offer to check your oil we’ll pay you a dollar.” And yes I slipped once or twice and forgot. Making $1.60 an hour it really hurt but the boss would go half with so it wouldn’t sting so bad. I had a 66 VW beetle and there was no way I could put $3.00 worth of gas in it even when bone dry. Yes I fondly remember..

    • I worked at a service station in 1971. Gas was 26.9 for regular and 28.9 for premium. The guys would roll in with the Super Sport, GTO, GTX, Roadrunner, etc., etc., etc. and say “fill it up with regular.” (lol) I’d say, “c’mon man put some hi-test in her” and they’d say “shut up and fill it up with regular.” Such were the times and the gasoline. Good times and good gasoline.

      We had a sigh front and center which said “If we don’t offer to check your oil we’ll pay you a dollar.” And yes I slipped once or twice and forgot. Making $1.60 an hour it really hurt but the boss would go half with so it wouldn’t sting so bad. I had a 66 VW beetle and there was no way I could put $3.00 worth of gas in it even when bone dry. Yes I fondly remember..

      P.S. That might be me pumping gas into the VW in that photo.

    • I had a ’69 SS 396 Chevelle, it never ever tasted Regular. Her tailpipes were always that soft ash gray. I bought that car new from Davis Child Chevrolet. Would love to have that car back.

  11. Eric you dredged up one of my best memories from 1970 when I was eleven years old. Mom came home one day with a bag full of tune-up parts for her Scout 800A, plugs, points, condenser, cap and rotor. She handed me the bag and told me to go tune up her car, because I was the closest thing to dependable help that she had available, what with Dad taking a powder years earlier never to return, an older brother who was absent almost as much as dad and another older brother who’s only life skill was (and still is) watching TV.

    So I go out into the street where the Scout is parked and proceed to replace the tune-up kit. I properly gapped the plugs. Got the points on the high point of the cam and set their gap. When I was done I got in to start the car to hear it purr, but it didn’t purr. It wouldn’t even start. It would kind of almost try to fire but it just couldn’t. Something was amiss. Mom came out to investigate and decided it was time to call in a pro.

    She called the service station that was a few blocks away and explained the situation. They sent out a tow truck and the driver asked her and I both to ride along with him to the station. The mechanic on duty dropped what he was working on and got right to work on it. He asked me to come help him and then proceeded to give me a lesson on how to set dwell angle and ignition timing, statically and with a timing light. A lesson that served me well for many years and still does. When he finished the car purred like never before and he sent us off charging my mother something like $5 for the tow, the work and some invaluable instruction.

    It’s been a really long time since I thought about that day, but whenever I do, I think about what an awesome dude that mechanic was.

  12. I well remember service stations. When my father was stationed in Oregon the trips cross country to see the relatives were broken by the delight of those stations. They were wonderful places. By the early 70s those places were beginning to disappear. There was only one left in Gallatin, TN when I left in ’92. That has been the only one I have seen since then.

    The mechanics I patronized for years had a former service station. The aura of those old stations was still there, but they sold no fuel.

  13. Great reminiscing & nostalgia!!

    So many great memories including completely affordable cars.

    Today’s gas stations are C-stores that feed the national food addiction of the average obese American, that can’t go without food of some sort for more than an hour or two anymore, which in turn fuels the Disease industry, the biggest profit-producing industry in the world after high-finance/central-banking and it’s usurious predatory lending basis

    Most annoying is pulling into a pump only to be forced to listen to a bunch of commercials made for people that can’t think for themselves. If I can’t find a mute button I’ll turn up the classic rock until I can’t hear the commercials anymore, as a rule.

    I pride myself on trying not to buy anything with a name brand anymore. It’ll be a cold day when I buy insurance from a company that seems to believe that I’m going to sacrifice my dignity and respond to a talking pig or lizard to buy their product, … for example.

    The central banking elites are ruining this world!! If they had failed in 2008 while they used “Too Big to Fail” to save their satanic asses, then we wouldn’t be where we are today.

  14. I have the privilege of working at a Standard Oil Full Serve Station on old Rte 66 in Central Illinois in the mid 60s. That location is now under an over pass for I55. The busiest 8 hour shift all year was overnight Thanksgiving morning. We were located about a tank of gas south of Chicago and far/close enough to St Louis (where nobody wanted to stop) to be an ideal fill-up stop. 2 double and one single islands. As the “kid” of the crew at 17 I always got the single. The local cop (Science teacher at local high school by day) would be around to chase down drive-offs. And we always kept come cash in our pockets to buy stuff from those who were out of gas money, although that usually happened on slow nights. It was relatively safe when I worked there and I actually worked some 11 to 7 am shifts alone at 17. A few years later that all changed when one of my buddies’ younger brother was murdered at the next station up the road. After that it was always two gas jockeys on any shift.
    I fear the “good old days” like that are gone forever in lots of ways.

  15. While they may not be service stations, at least the local Stewart’s Shops in upstate NY still have free air for your tires (and the best milk in town}

      • stewarts competes with cumberland farms in ny and vt. none in neighboring ma. where i live next to the ny border and 15 minutes from vt. in comparison stewarts is so much better than cumberland farms as far as business model and execution of are concerned. the free air may last a long time. now if they only had free nitrogen, but with nitrogen you hardly ever have to fill the tire.

  16. At my local Mobil station, they have the obnoxious infomercial. There are four buttons to the right of the screen, and one of them was marked “Mute”. and it worked. And then, the mute button went away. Well, it didn’t really, it just wasn’t marked. But pressing that button muted the sound anyway.

  17. There are still a couple in my area that do repairs and sell gas. I used to have tires installed at one of them. There were some more that had stopped selling gas but I haven’t seen one of those in awhile.

  18. This summer we lost a wonderful full-service station here in our rural Sierra Nevada foothill town in Commiefornia, situated along a scenic 2-laner east of Grass Valley. It’s probably been here since at least the 50s. For the past decade (as long as I’ve been here), it was always full-service refueling, and the garage did just about everything repair-wise.

    The new owner now only sells gas, and bolted ugly soda vending machines in front of the permanently-shut roll-up doors.

    Another day in Biden’s Amerikka.

  19. I’ve worked at a couple of service stations, both family owned – as recently as 2005. Part of the reason for service was that there was very little profit margin on fuel sales (reliant on middle men). Sometimes our price for bulk fuel was higher than the pump price at a (corporate owned) convenience store down the street. Not all the pumps were full service, and the price reflected that.
    Also sold race fuel and refilled propane bottles/tanks. Lots of room for markup on refilling 20# propane bottles. Made good money fixing cars as well. $60/hr for shop labor (2005) and 50% markup on parts (helps cover warranty labor). Plus every time the street sweepers went by we would see an influx of customers with flat tires. Typically $5 to plug them on the vehicle, more if it had to be taken off the car.
    The Old Man stopped selling fuel in the early ’90s when he couldn’t make a nickel/gallon, my stepbrother stuck it out a bit longer. Recently had a corp. conv. store manager tell me they typically see over $0.40/gallon profit on fuel sales…

    • > Sometimes our price for bulk fuel was higher than the pump price at a (corporate owned)
      Local independent Chevron dealer tells me that exact story, except it is always, not sometimes.

  20. Sure, I remember. Those were the days of cars needing a quart of oil every thousand miles, if not more. Even well maintained, most cars needed an overhaul at 60k miles, and were worn out at 100k.

    Good riddance.

    I’ll happily pump my own gas, and check my own oil (no leaks between 7,500 mile changes), in exchange for the only other routine maintenance being spaced at 60k+ intervals… while on my way to a quarter million miles without a heartache.

    • Hi Kevin,

      It’s pros – and cons. You list some cons – I won’t deny them. On the other hand, cars in those days were more affordable/accessible and interesting than in our days. Today’s cars last longer, certainly. Bu they’re also more disposable as well as riddled with cloying “safety” systems that – for many – have reached a topping point that renders their other advantages almost no longer worth it!

    • Hey Kevin,
      Ah, I think a good part of the reason why a lot of those old cars needed an overhaul at 60K was because people weren’t diligent about oil changes and other maintenance back then. Plus, new cars were relatively cheap, and even just an average blue-collar worker would often get a new car every 2 or 3 years….so there was little incentive to maintain ’em- and then the used car would be sold to a teenager, or used as a station car or an errand-runner for the housewife, and basically ignored till something went wrong with it.

      And even considering all of that, a lot of those cars did rack-up substantial mileage (Remember- they only have 5-digit odometers, so you rarely new if it had 50K, 160K or 260K miles…)- and a lot of those cars were still running around 20 or 30 years later.

      I knew an olkd guy in the 90’s who had a 30 year-old Plymouth with 260K miles on it, and had never been overhauler…and although then getting tired, he was still using it to drive from upstate NY to Long Island several times a year. 50 years later, a lot of those cars are still out there.

      And even if they did need an overhaul….back in the early 70’s it might cost $200 to have your engine overhauled. Today, it can cost thousands just for an electrical issue, or to replace a turbo (You’d be surprised how many vehicles need such, -sometimnes several times- before even 100K miles) or if the head gasket or tranny goes (very common with modern cars) it often isn’t even worth fixing. So you see the shiny newish cars driving around…but one doesn’t often know how much money it has cost the owner to keep them going.

      I’ll take fiddling with points, adjusting the carb, and even the occasional easy overhaul (Which many teens were even capabler of back in the day) to have cheap durable transportation- as opposed to today, where we are at the point where cheap used vehicles are basically becoming unfeasible…and new cars are prohibitively expensive, and are basically disposable once the warranty runs runs out.

  21. When I was a kid riding a bicycle around to get around the town because it was fun to ride a bike, didn’t have to walk, everywhere and every place was accessible, not too many dangers out there in 1959. From time to time you would need air in one of the tires so I would go to the gas station, full service, the old mechanic had things to do, but always made sure you got a helping hand if you needed one. Been gone for probably fifty years now.

    A friend had a job pumping gas at a Sears Auto way back when in 1970. All of the cash being paid for gas purchases was too great a temptation, he managed to pocket a few dollars during the hours he pumped gas. Never miss an opportunity, I guess.

    During that time in 1970, there was a gas war going on around the town between gas stations, plenty of them were service stations, the price of gas was 19.9 cents per gallon. Four dollars bought you 20 gallons of gasoline. Gas wars are a gas, the other wars, not so much.

    Navin R. Johnson worked his first job pumping gas.

  22. They used to give away maps at service stations too!

    My late mother and I took our cars to a service station back in the day. Now, it’s just a typical gas station, the garages and service bays long gone…

  23. I still have some of the steak knives and juice glasses I got from buying Merit gas back in the 60’s. The glasses were great, good looking and I managed to get a full set with three sizes – juice, 8oz., and 12oz. Sadly I only have a few left since glass is fragile and I’m clumsy but those were some of the best glasses I’ve ever owned.

  24. Hi Eric,

    I remember Thanksgiving Day about 1990 when I was about 20, going to my cousin’s for dinner about 2 hours’s drive away. After about an hour and a half drive, the muffler came loose and was dragging the ground; my dad found an actual service station like you describe that put the car up on a rack and reattached the muffler — on Thanksgiving! Nowadays, it seems I’d be lucky to find a place like that any day of the year, let alone a holiday.

    When I’d play cars and trucks as a kid, I’m always say “premium high test” when we were pretending to fill up, because that’s Dad would say when he rolled down the windows at the station and the attendant would actually pump the gas for you.

    As far as the smell of gas…yes, there was that “special something” about the smell of a fresh fill-up, sort of like the “new car smell”. ⛽️

    My dad worked at Anchor Hocking Glass in Ohio and they got a lot of orders for those drinking glasses, so we had a lot of “samples” around our house. Real glass, too, instead of disposable plastic like they use for “giveaways” now.

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane — just another addition to the ever-growing list of memories and experiences that young people today won’t get to have, courtesy of those who claim they’re making our world “better” 😝😡🤦‍♂️

    • I may use this:

      “courtesy of those who claim they’re making our world “better””

      Like, as an answer/reply in a whole host of situations.

  25. We are lucky enough to have an old fashioned ‘full service’ station here in our small town of Randleman NC. They have a full service Island, three bays with full time mechanic’s on duty and they sell nothing but Real Gas. Reg, mid and super. They have been in business for a long time and still seem to do very well. We go there for gas, inspections and sometime’s repairs. Nice folks and old fashioned service!

  26. Service now is less about turning wrenches than “pulling” these codes – which can only be “pulled” by a diagnostic machine that only the authorized dealer has or which only the authorized dealership can afford. –Eric

    Not sure how far I’ll get, but I’m going to be looking into pulling the codes at home. I’ve had a lot of luck with computers over the years and it could be a handy skill for bartering if things come to that.

    • Pulling the codes is easy. Knowing what diagnostic tests to perform so as to make that info useful….that’s the skill. So many computer modules in modern cars, ya really need a pro-level scanner that can toggle individual circuits on and off- and access to wiring diagrams etc.- which, when the system goes down will be MIA. Heck, already many of the electronic parts are becoming unobtainium for relatively new cars.

      A supply of good old analog cars will be where it’s at!

      • Not to mention that so much is encrypted to keep “unauthorized” people from being able to access it. The modules involved are also encrypted, and will only work if they have phoned home to the Mother Server and been blessed.

        • Ah, gotcha. Encryption itself is a challenge, but I’ve had some luck there in other domains. The phone home part can be a deal breaker though. Thanks for the heads up.

      • Thanks for the feedback, Nunzio. My motivation is primarily to “explore the space” but with a computer instead of a cowbell. I’ll have a fair amount of free time starting in a couple days thanks to Joey Needles so I’m just brainstorming ideas for fun-but-potentially-useful projects to work on. It sounds like this project will be a dead end, but I’d still like to see how far I can get with the vehicles I have access to today. I’ll post updates if/when I have any.

        • Hi cjm,

          Anything I can do to help, just holler. If you’d like to look at one of the new cars I get to evaluate, you’d be welcome to. They all still use OBD II ports and I have a scanner if you’d like to play with it!

        • Ah, I hear ya, CJM. THAT is the best way to learn!

          I’ve been watching a lot of this guy’s videos lately- Watching a truly good and conscientious mechanic work really helps me absorb a lot, even with the simpler stuff- like this car that came in with a code for a bad oxygen sensor (Unfortunately, the customer in this video just wanted him to replace the ‘obvious’ part- which is not the solution…)

          Rainman Ray’s Repairs: “Customer Scams Himself”

          Even sans encryption and all…I have a lot of catching up to do! (But I have no plans of getting a dealer-level scan tool.)

          Good case in point: This summer, the A/C on my Excursion stopped blowing cold. Myself and two A/C experts couldn’t figure it out. The one expert came close, in tracing it down to a code for a cylinder head temp sensor, and suggesting that we replace said sensor. I was doubtful that that would solve the problem- so for the first time in my life, I went to the Ford dealer. Long story short…the A/C guy was on the right track..but it wasn’t the sensor- it was just that the wire to it had broken inside the insulation just before the sensor. So a new pigtail…and it was fixed.

          Had the A/C guy just replaced the sensor, it wouldn’t have worked, and I would have been out more than the cost of the repair at the dealer ($128 -it was supposed to just be a diagnosis..but when the guy saw what it was, he just fixed it. Good dealer! And to sweeten the pot, the service writer, whom I would have expected to be a crusty old cigar-chewing surly guy…was a HOT young girl…couldn’t have been over 20…. Me rikey that dealership! (I went back and told the A/C expert that he was basically right…but it was just the wire..not the sensor. I was impressed that he was so close…and he’s an older guy- older than myself!).

          The sad part is: It doesn’t have to be this way- so complex, and so destined to become obsolete. Imagine today’s advances in metallurgy and other technologies being applied to the simple design of older vehicles without all of the electronics and government-mandated hobbling! Imagine a simple car from say the 60’s or 70’s being made with today’s materials and manufacturing techniques- it could be made to last for 100 years!

          • Hey Nunz!
            “A simple car with today’s technology”…..if only!
            I think the car manufacturers realized they effed up by making cars so durable from the late 90’s until recently. My 2001 and 2003 Corollas both run great with over 100k miles on each, only major big bucks repair was a catalytic converter on the ‘01. The only thing that will end their lives will be the body rust, they really go nutso with the road salt up here. I try to avoid driving after a snowstorm and hose off what I can afterwards but it still adds up over the years.
            No worries now, there’s so much Uncle mandated garbage that’s guaranteed to either be unfixable due to lack of replacement parts or just too expensive to repair anyway.
            Problem solved 😆

            • anon 1

              I like pre 1996 so no air bags (the air bag might kill you, see recalls) , also look for no abs, just more problems, pre 96 also obd 1, but obd 2 convenient for diagnostics. An older car with a carburetor, points, condenser, a manual transmission, even better, these older cars can quite often be kept going with a $400 repair once in a while, a computer, a turbo or an automatic transmission on a new car can cost thousands of dollars.
              A new car also has a huge cost in depreciation (EV’s are the worst), the biggest cost, you pay this to maybe get a more reliable car for a little while and a warranty.

              These older cars may go up in value because of this, there will be a demand for therm.

  27. In some ways they aren’t even gas stations. It’s a “convenience” store that happens to sell gas. And when the powers that be, want gas stations to go away, they will quickly make it so they won’t be selling gas anymore. It won’t be that hard, as gas is the loss leader.

    Convenience store owners may end up actually liking electric chargers as it will make people be stuck in their stores longer………

  28. The downside to the old-time service stations was the occasional “rip-off artist” mechanic who would surreptitiously squirt some oil on to the shock absorbers and then warn the unwary customer that the shocks were “leaking” and would have to be replaced.
    A dollop of oil on other parts could convince a customer that “repairs” were needed.
    I realize that most mechanics were (and still are) honest, but those rural service stations along highways could do “dirty tricks” because, in all likelihood they would never see that customer again.

    • anon 1

      A lot of shops do this, (maybe the franchises are worse) the tech has to find additional problems to fix for more profit, if the tech can’t find problems they are fired. If you don’t know anything about cars it is dangerous…..

    • I had a shop’s “artist” (at Tires Plus) try to sell me new shocks, even though the car had only 6,100 miles on it. Apparently he misread the number as 61,000. I reported him to the owner the next day, who wanted me to bring my car back in for inspection and comp me. I told him he’d never see me again.

      It was still under warranty, so I brought it to my Ford dealer, who said there was nothing wrong with the shocks.

  29. What I remember is the pump jockeys carrying a thick wad of cash and the change dispenser. They were competent and polite. There was four pumps and they could handle all the tasks with the grace of a ballerina.

    I don’t think ahkmed or mohommed could find the gascap even if they gave a shit.

    • I remember being a kid in the front seat being amazed at how the guy could dispense change out of that thing without looking. It was like magic.

      • “the change dispenser”

        Man, I’d forgotten all about those things. Can’t recall the last time I saw one.

        Sometimes, I can’t decide if the flashbacks down memory lane here, are good or bad. In numerous ways. (Overall, I’d say the pros outweigh the cons. Still..)

  30. Back in the 50’s/60’s, my next door neighbor, Andy, was a full time pump jockey at a local Getty station. His wife didn’t work, yet they owned their home (small, modest house on 1/8 acre, but nonetheless), raised 2 boys who went to state college, and bought a new car every 2 or 3 years (cheap ones, usually a Rambler American). Don’t know what Andy was paid, but it was enough to provide a lower middle class life for him and his family. Pumping gas. Imagine that.

    • All kinds of once middle class jobs like that back then. You could make a decent living selling TV’s at Sears for example. Had a neighbor when I was a kid (I’m 48 now) that did just that. They had actual salespeople at retail stores rather than minimum wage clerks. Yeah, you never got rich doing that, but not everybody is looking to do that. It’s just a job to make a living, that they wouldn’t have to think about when not working. Not everyone is looking for a life that revolves around what they do for a “career”.

      But even when I was a kid the writing was on the wall that those jobs were vanishing quickly. It’s no wonder Sears is no more too, it wasn’t the discount stores and the internet that killed it. It was managed into failure by cheap bean counter types that disliked that they had to pay salespeople what they were worth.

      • My brother in law sold vacuum cleaners for Sears in the 70’s and actually made pretty damn decent money. When I was growing up in the late 50’s early 60’s, my father, uncles, neighbors, friends parents etc, just about all the adults I knew, worked in factories or warehouses, electric supply places, those kind of blue collar jobs. I don’t think any of them had a college degree. None of the mothers worked, save for a couple here or there that were nurses or teachers. All had decent homes and cars and lived the “American Dream”. My, how things have changed.

        • I imagine I’m not the only one nodding as I read that, Floriduh man.

          I suspect most younger people these days have No Clue how badly they’ve been robbed.

        • That was before the age of globalization. People actually made things and provided services. Most so called “developed” countries these days do little more than paper shuffling. The good paying jobs have been off shored to places like China and other such. Why? Because government (all levels) has made it so damn expensive to employ humans here, that its much cheaper to actually make things in other distant countries, and ship them across the ocean. Not to mention such countries have far fewer pollution regulations. Anyone who studies actual economics could have predicted the out come. You may find this of interest.

          • Hi BJ,


            Remember Ross Perot?

            I was working in DC, at The Washington Times, at the time of his candidacy. At a newspaper that – at the time – employed a staff of full-time copy editors, graphic designers and pressmen. All three of the former got their jobs cancelled by the time I left and went solo. By that time – late ’90s – the columnists/editorial writers/reporters who remained were expected to format/edit their own copy and proof the “paginated” pages. In effect, they were expected to assume the jobs of copy editor/graphic designer/pressman that had all been replaced by software (though someone still had to use the software) without any commensurate increase in pay.

            They felt lucky to still have jobs at all.

            • The same has been done to engineering. During the WW2 era, for instance, machines (planes, cars, etc) were designed by an engineer/designer, or a small team. These supported a whole industry of skilled draftsmen, machinists, tool and die makers, and other specialists. Now, the design engineer is expected to do his work in CAD, test it in simulation, download it to CAM and sometimes set up the machines to run the parts. It keeps you too busy to be creative, while making more money for much less deserving people and supporting their HR empires.

        • Yep, my dad was a self employed plumber. Mom stayed home to look after 6 children, and handled the phone calls for Dad. But, Dad payed off his house before he went in with his brother. Prior to that, he worked 20 years for someone else and left with no pension or anything. Us kids did janitor work in high school for the school, and paid most of our tuition that way, catholic school. The small balance we owed was paid end of school year.

        • anon 1

          There were people that worked at sears for years, paying into the pension plan, the plan was robbed, sears closed down, no pension.

  31. I remember the free *high ball* glasses they use to give away and the president coin game you had to get a row of in order to win. Anyone seen a James K Polk coin for my winning set??

  32. We actually still have a full service gas station in St. Pete, FL. Although I never go there as it is on the other side of town from me, I know its there. Unfortunately, they do not sell real gas either, but they do pump it for you, check tire pressure, fluids etc. like in the good ole days. They have actual mechanics on duty ready to fix your vehicle, and change your tires if need be. Not sure if you can get a slurpee there, but I heard they have a café inside serving breakfast and lunch. Sadly, its the only place resembling a full service gas station that I know of around here.

    I imagine the reliability of new cars had a lot to do with the demise of the full service station. New cars don’t break as often as the old ones, but they all look kinda the same, and the sameness is only accelerating.

  33. I forgot to mention one of the best parts about that full service gas station. Because they sold real gas, & were in the middle of town, every time there was a car show of any kind some of the car owners would stop in for a fill up. Even when there wasn’t a car show, often when I stopped for gas, there’d be a really cool hot rod or simple antique fueling up. I’d get to see it up close, sometimes talk to the owner about it.

    There is a full service gas station in a small small town near me, regretfully & surprisingly; they do not have real gas, so I don’t go there much.

  34. Oh man, Eric! I’m floating on the memories this one brought back! Where I grew up, those kind of service stations pretty much all gone before I was 20- but I still remember the fascination and fondness I had for such places; which were usually staffed by crusty middle-aged men who’d offer to “check your erl”, or cool teens who were smarter and more down-to-earth than most grown men are these days.

    And the smells! It’s been so long that I’ve almost forgotten- but I used to LOVE the small of real gas and diesel!

    Funny, but recently I needed to get a trailer tire mounted, and my soon-to-be 97 year-old mother instinctively said “Why don’t you take it to the gas station?” 😀 -I’m like “What for, to buy it cigarettes, beer and lottery tickets?”. (Damn, I wish they wouldn’t sell lottree tickets! Every time I go in to pay for gas (Cash, ya know) I always get stuck behind some “under-privileged” hood rat buying $50 worth of stupid tax and scratching them off right there, while checking his iPhone, and complaining how her can’t afford $10 worth of gas to fill up his Chevy Prison [Geo Metro] which has $2K rims on it!!!)

  35. My first job as an employee was at a full service station in College Station TX in 1982. Dad had already tutored me and I was well initiated into the mechanical arts, but it was a great intro to customer service and even met a few Texas gals that way. All the mech work was on commission, the counter and pump work was minimum wage. Since I was on a full ride at the adjacent Aggie asylum, it provided lots of beer and steak money. I do miss that simple stage in my life.

  36. My first job, while still in high school, was in one of these very same “service stations”. In which I actually learned a few useful things. Unlike McDees. You meet the best and the worst pumping gas. Those up for a friendly chat while you work for them, and those who pull up at the farthest pump island to get their windshield cleaned, not buying anything.

    • One of the few things I miss about the city I moved away from, they actually had One full service gas station. The people working there were Great & friendly. Seemed like every year they had a new young man working there, the first job gig type thing. It was a joy to watch him obviously learning new things and skills, as you wrote, John Kable.


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