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Vintage Gas Stations – A Look Back at Service Stations of the Past

After Saturday’s snowfall had blanketed the entire East Coast, other than here in Vermont, the lead photo seemed to be an appropriate image to start out this post. The location is identified as Columbus, Ohio and the image was taken in 1953. Clean-up operations are underway at this Sonoco service station, and it appears that it is being done the old fashioned way, with shovels. Note the odd color combo on the Buick at the curb.

The Bomber Texaco Sky Chief Gas Station 1960

As a follow up on lasts weeks post: A Five Dollar Bet Results in a Flying Fortress Gasoline Station, this second photo was taken in the late 1950s or early 1960s. The Bomber sign is placed over the cockpit and fuselage, the stairways are gone, and the B-17 is looking quite weathered.

Herb a reader, who lived nearby and played in the airplane when young commented: The ladders and access was cut off because of insurance costs and the risk of injury. Most of the dials, switches and wiring, were ripped out as souvenirs over time. Does anyone know if that is Art Lacy standing in the middle with a youthful-looking crew? This image and the lead photo are via Fill’er Up.

The Pennzoil Motor Oil Can Man

The Pennzoil oil can man was located at the Hobart Motor Service in Los Angeles, California in 1933 and we assume assembled there at the station. While he was well oiled when compared to the Tin Woodman in the Wizard of Oz, he looks quite skinny when compared to one of our other favorites automotive mascots Bibendum, the Michelin Man.

You can also view over 175 other vintage service stations here on The Old Motor. The photo is of courtesy of the USC Libraries.

12 responses to “Vintage Gas Stations – A Look Back at Service Stations of the Past

  1. It is, Karl. Although I have been in many parts of the country in the 50’s & 60’s, I don’t remember seeing stations with this. I put “sunoco caduceus” in my search engine, and found several interesting pics of Sunoco stations with this sign. Perhaps they were more common than I knew. According to one web site, “The Sun Oil Company, later known as Sunoco, used the caduceus in its logo as a reference to its Mercury Refined motor oil.” The winged staff with two intertwined serpents was the object carried by the mythological Greek messenger god Hermes and his Roman counterpart Mercury. In addition to medical logos, it has historically been used as a device to represent commerce, negotiation and communication.

  2. That snow photo brings back memories of trying to start my worn ’46 Mercury with a tired six-volt battery and jumper cables circa-1959. You never forget the sound of a flathead’s starter motor.

    • There’s a fully restored B-17 that flies on a pretty regular basis at the air museum in Madras, Oregon. It’ll be great to have another. I remember “The Bomber” well when I was growing up.

  3. With only about 50 flying hours and probably no combat, this bomber could be a real gem. May even become flyable. Frame issues have grounded a number of old bombers and fixing those issues seems to be inordinately expensive.

  4. A little known fact about the Pennzy the Robot was that it magically came to life when they put that silk hat on it. It roamed the town until he ran afoul of a traffic cop, promising to “return again one day”.

    Great series. I love these old stations, they really ring a bell of childhood memories. Ding Ding!

  5. You can see by the snow buildup behind the rear wheel on the ’50 Buick it had done some spinning. My guess is that it is a Super, although I have no certifiable reason for that feeling. But it was a hardtop, only the second year for that feature, although the DynaSlush had been around a couple of years.

  6. On the ’50 Buick:

    The hardtop design began in ’49, and the Dynaflow in ’48.

    I think the side-trim with a dip ahead of the rear wheel indicates this is a Roadmaster. The Super had shorter hood, and a simple straight piece that ran lower on the car, perfectly horizontal.

    • !t’s a 51 Super Riviera Hrdtp… the Roadmasters had a thicker beltline molding that ended with a forward hook under the end of the rear window. Also, the Roadmaster had a rocker panel molding from the front wheel opening that joined with the gravel shield ahead of the rear wheel opening. Note the red 41 DeSoto convert… that was by then a pretty rare vehicle, I’d think. Wish I had it now.

      With the B 17 foto there behind the Texaco crew in WHITE coveralls ‘cept for chief/owner and almost under the plane’s nose is a turquoise 59 Cadillac convert-top down. Back then who’da thot i’d be worth 6 figures in 50 years,and on the other side of the foto was a little Jeep w/ the side mounted spare, at that time, not too different than the WW2 issue… as cars go a contemporary study in contrasts for that time.

      Love the fotos David, keep ’em coming… how America has changed.!!!

  7. Fantastic pictures !! – Under my Dad’s supervision, I too played in Art Lacey’s Bomber. My aunt lived about a mile southeast, on Hill Road. If you magnify the picture and look directly above the 3rd from left attendant’s head, you can see a ladder with green painted railing going up through the “ball turret”. That’s how it was when I was a kid circa 1964 (+,-) .

    The yokes and throttles were still in it, and you could rotate the “top turret” by hand. I think the stairs through the right waist gun were gone way before my time. And I believe the ladder in the photo was gone a couple years later, for the reasons Herb stated above. But it was sure fun while it lasted !!

    About 1980, the “top turret” assembly was removed, and used in the detailed restoration of CAF B-17 “Sentimental Journey”. – Sure glad to hear “Lady Lacey” is undergoing preservation !!

    Best regards to all,
    Paul
    Klamath Falls, Oregon

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