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Bubble Bath Car Washes And World War II Gas Rationing

This Atlantic service station located in Philadelphia, PA, was photographed in June of 1942, only a month after gasoline rationing began on the East Coast on May 15, 1942, by the end of the year the program expanded nationwide. The Office of Price Administration (OPA) which administered the program was created by an executive order on August 28, 1941.

The majority of motorists were issued an “A” sticker that entitled them to receive only four gallons of gas a week. Business owners, professional people, and those with with essential jobs, truckers, and those that needed to drive high mileage weekly were given either “B,” “C,” “T,” or “X” stickers that allowed them to purchase enough gas for their important needs.

In this scene, close to twenty automobiles are lined up waiting to receive their allocated supply of gasoline. The cars in the line range from 1941 or possibly 1942 models back to those produced in the mid-thirties. The owner of the eighth car in line drove a 1935-’36 Willys Model 77 and was able to travel close to 200-miles using four gallons of gas with the auto due to its 50-60 m.p.g. fuel economy. The remainder of the vehicles are all full-sized and could perhaps only travel about 80-100 miles with the same amount of fuel at the mandated speed limit of 35-m.p.h.

Share with us what interests you in this photograph. The image is courtesy of PhillyHistory.



19 responses to “Bubble Bath Car Washes And World War II Gas Rationing

  1. The cars are all clean and are in good shape. Must be a nice neighborhood, 75 cents seems expensive for a car wash, bubble bath or not. Three cars with white walls, including a nice older coupe on the street next to the station. The sedan delivery or wagon of some type with a side opening door looks different and unique, the chrome strips on the rear fender should identify it but I have no idea. Tracks in the street, so public transportation was available. A good thing considering only four gallons of gas a week. Why was the OPA created three months before Pearl Harbor?

  2. Some of the cars have their cowl vents open. I always remember the first time I opened the cowl vent in the Spring and got a blast of dusty air.

      • I thought it more likely an ambulance. For starters, it’s not black as most hearses are whereas ambulances came in many colors in those days. Second, the left rear side window is clear glass rather than the solid metal panel or etched/obscure glass usually found there on hearses. Visible through that window is an object that looks like the top of a gurney. Whether hearse or ambulance, body by Henney.

  3. The “No Gas” sign by the building. That would come back to haunt us some 35 years later. My grandfather was an avid stamp collector. Through away thousands, much to my grandmother’s dismay, but he enjoyed it. When he passed away, we sold off his collection( for pennies on the dollar that he spent) and he had several gas rationing stickers from this time. I was surprised they weren’t worth much ( or so the guy said, I could hear him as I left, “WOO-HOO” ka-ching$$$.)

  4. From my understanding, there was no great gasoline shortage; the prime reason for the rationing was because of the actual rubber shortage, so driving was discouraged to cut down the wear of tires. Synthetic rubber was in development but not widely available at the time.

    • Correct! My Dad was in the steel business in Chicago and Detroit during WWII , While he got unlimited gas, he took the trains whenever possible . The tires were the problem, however the dealers would somebow find acceptable ones )when they saw his unlimited sticker. A bigger problem was womens’ rubber girdles which had come into vogue just before the War. My Dad’s solution was to take them to the Tire Store and get them vucanized. As I recall, they lasted into Korea.

  5. YES! I vote for ’41 Packard /Henney Hearse/ Ambulance : All hearses were NOT black , Gray being a good choice for smaller communities where the hearse ALSO did ambulance duty. The BIGGER Straight Eight was common as was common — as was the 3-speed WITH OVERDRIVE as speeds were NOT an issue for ambulances and in some Southern states , the Siren & lights were also used to warn cross traffic — as hearses & motorcycle Escorts of a funeral entourage — had absolute right of way — in THAT time of respect for the deceased. In ambulance service — it was “just a fast ride to the hospital!!! Usually, — speeds of eighty PLUS were available with the Overdrive! IF you slowed down to 55 – 60 mph on the Flat — 15 to 16 MPG was a common figure (!!!) , ( At least it was, for MY ’41 Henny Hearse, anyway! ) A fond memory of long ago 1958, — which I CAN document!

  6. The “C” gas ration sticker is Commercial, unlimited Like on our 1930 Ford AA Stakebed 1-1/2 Ton Truck , but the sticker has a LIST with ballot squares and an OPA penned in notation of ONLY! intent of use.

  7. I remember going to the Mannheim auto auction in the early 1960’s; my job was to drive a car home for the used car dealer whose son had corralled me to help him bring a couple of cars back to Wilmington, Delaware for his father’s lot. There was an early Henney-bodied flower car built on a Packard chassis for sale at the auction. If the owner would have let his pristine example go for under $300.00 I would have owned it, but sadly it is now one of those memories (of which I have many) of cars I almost owned back in the day.

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