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A Van Fleet and Durkee Shell Gasoline Station – Woodlite Headlamps


Van Fleet, former assistant sales manager for the General Petroleum Corporation in Los Angeles, and W. P. Durkee, Jr., who was the district manager for General, organized their own chain of gasoline stations in 1929 in Southern, California. The Van Fleet and Durkee station  seen here was one of them and it was located at West 7th Street and South Park View Street, in Los Angeles, California.

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  • William G. Wood’s Woodlite headlamp patent drawings

The stations handled Shell Gasoline, and it appears that the subject of this set of photos may have been a line of car care products by the Jay Manufacturing Co., which the gentlemen in the photos are holding. In true California PR fashion, the 1929 images used a Chrysler with a set of Woodlite headlamps for a little bit of extra sparkle. The photos are courtesy of the USC Libraries.

More information covering William G. Woods attractive Woodlite lamps can be found here, along with his patent application that was granted on February 28, 1928. Dim, Yet Brilliant, Too by David LaChance at HMN will also give you more background information on the popular lamps.


9 responses to “A Van Fleet and Durkee Shell Gasoline Station – Woodlite Headlamps

  1. And yet another great service station photo. I just love these styles of stations back then and right up to the 60’s. This one owned by Van Fleet and Durkee has a Victorian look to it with its steel girder construction and its high ceiling, and at the office end is a glass green house which had to look really cool at night.

    The whole image is so So. Cal. Very nice picture. Wonder if it was taken just before the stock market crash? Which makes me wonder how life was like working at a service station during the depression?

    As for the two gentleman posing with products, I don’t know who’s who but in the bottom picture the fellow on the left looks like he’s holding some kind of liquid wax product.

    Now the guy on the right (same picture) David, I enlarged this photo and it’s hard to tell, but it looks to me like he’s holding a can of spray paint. Is that possible? I don’t think there was any company back then that manufactured a spray paint product.

    Something to ponder? Anyway, thanks again for your great blog, and you have a great Easter Sunday.

    • We could assume that the two men were holding some of the automobile ointments made at the time. What I see the man holding on the right in the bottom photo, looks to possibly be a glass jar with a label and a screw on top?

  2. The general shape of the lens is similar to some of today’s headlights. These were vertical while now a days they are horizontal.

  3. jsfury: You ask about working at a service station during the depression. I remember reading of 1931 Memphis, when a large super service station advertised under “Help Wanted” for someone to wash cars at 50 cents an hour. There was a line of applicants which almost circled the block.

  4. As for the contents of their can and bottle, there were hundreds of types of motoring “snake oil” on sale at that time. Things like Marvel Mystery Oil and Shaler Rislone were supposed to work miracles inside you engine. Some were oil additives and some, gasoline additives and others yet went down the carburetor with the engine running. These later type created billows of smoke and took a long time to burn off. It would be interesting to know what they actually were (there was no Pure Food and Drug Act for motors)

  5. There were no spray paints then in cans and the first of those aerosol cans which came in after WWII were heavy steel with a complicated nozzle! Like the first ball-point pens, the first offerings were very expensive and not very good.

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