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A Sound From the Past

Posted December 05, 2012 in Community Featured, Perry

The Superior Gas Station on the northwest corner of Second and Pattee streets.

Before the 1920s, gasoline was sold by storekeepers who kept the gas in metal cans, storing them underneath the counters and out back of the stores. At this time there was no brand name gas distribution as there is today.

Following the purchase of gasoline from storekeepers, it became possible to purchase gas from drive-through stations. This new type station was an old steel/tin shanty building that housed barrels of motor oil. Outside there were usually two old water heater tanks set up high on brackets or braces with garden hoses from each tank that gravity fed into the cars. By the 1930s general stores no longer sold gasoline. Gas stations sprung up everywhere mainstream, in small towns and where roads intersected. Gas stations east of the Rockies were called filling stations while west of the Rockies they were called service stations.

A new type of pump became the order of the day — gas was forced up by hand pump into a glass bowl on top of the pump where it could be seen by the customer. The bowl had marks on the glass indicating  the gallons used.

For those of you who remember what service was in the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s, when the customer drove into a service station the bell went off and the attendant hurried out to your car. This friendly service attendant pumped the gas, checked the oil and water, cleaned the windows and even checked the tires on your car when asked.  This attendant would take your payment and return your change, enabling you to never leave your car. On the way out, the attendant would always say thanks to the customer. Now that was service.

Station attendants also changed oil and filters in vehicles, as well as checking the transmission, differential and greased the fittings. The attendants checked the steering and suspension while performing the oil change. They also topped off fluids in the master cylinder and the power steering.  A service that is totally unheard of now when having your oil changed is that the attendant vacuumed the inside of the car, emptied the ashtrays, and checked the electrical system. Again, that was service.

Gas stations back then were not cold impersonal places like they can be today. Back when I was a new driver, guys hung out at the gas stations and chewed the fat. All the guys enjoyed seeing the different cars coming into the station. I know this because my friends and I worked at the many Perry area gas stations.

Next month: a tour down Perry’s gas station pipeline.

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