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Vintage Gas – Grand Opening at a Mobilgas-Magnolia Station

Gasoline station grand openings must have been quite common in the booming postwar economy – America was on the move and new filling stations were being built to service a growing suburbia nationwide and as replacement for older rundown prewar facilities. This brand new Mobilgas-Magnolia station located in Austin, Texas was celebrating its “Grand Hollywood Opening” on April 30, 1955.

The Magnolia Petroleum Company was formed during 1911 in Texas and after a series of mergers with the Socony-Vacuum Oil Company, a part of Standard Oil, and it was finally fully integrated with the Mobil Oil Corporation in 1959.

Tell us what you find of interest in these images courtesy of the Austin Public Library via Vintage Service Station History. View over 220 other gasoline stations here.

Mobilgas service center opening day 1

28 responses to “Vintage Gas – Grand Opening at a Mobilgas-Magnolia Station

  1. A couple of things strike me. They were advertising rest rooms! Now they put out signs – NO rest rooms! Also I would have thought they would pull the weeds out from the curb for the grand opening photo!

  2. My thoughts turned nostalgic. Well do I remember these: uniformed attendants, nifty give-aways such as banks, thermometers, ice scrapers, gas pump shaped salt and pepper shakers, cereal bowls, drinking glasses, and the like. And of course, full service, which helped the customer and the station: sell more air filters, wiper blades, etc. Gas trucks that boldly carried the company logo and stood out. As a kid, I loved the illuminated Crown gasoline globes, and the cardboard crowns that the stations gave to kids. Sure, you were being “sold” on their product, but it was fun! Remember free air? My buddies and I put many miles on our bicycles, and the free air was a draw. Of course, we bought sodas and snacks.

    • I worked at a Mobilgas Station in the 50’s in Phila. Pa. we wore dark blue shirts and pants that were delivered by a company that had my name and a flying horse on the front. Wish I had it now

  3. I can only imagine, “Hollywood” in the “Grand Opening” is to schmaltz it up a little, doesn’t look too grand to me. The tanker is a White 3000 cabover, difficult to say the year, they looked pretty much the same from 1948 to well into the 60’s. It was one of Whites most popular model for years. I wonder if that’s “old man Johnson” ( with tie) overseeing the Grand Hollywood Opening.

  4. My favorite truck from my childhood was and still is those White’s. They were all over the place here near NYC because the cab over made a short wheelbase truck that was easier to maneuver in the cities.

  5. Apparently it was cool to open a gas station in a residential neighborhood. Or, are those multi-units which made it O.K.? (L: 1952 Ford, 1953 Buick, Studebaker at pump, back end of a Ford behind truck, 1952 Chevy to the far right.)

  6. The “Hollywood” aspect of the opening could be a reference to the use of war-surplus searchlights, to draw attention to the station at night. Those were pretty much standard for any “grand opening” in the 50s and 60s.

  7. As a Mobil station gas pump jockey my job was also to clean those restrooms, a job nobody wanted. Buty free rest rooms were and are a big draw of course.

  8. Can only partially identify the cars at the island. Studebaker Commander and Mercury (what we used to call the moustache cars).

    One of the obsurdities of gas station locations happened in Citrus Heights, Ca when one district joined another. At the corner of Sunrise and Madison Exxon built two stations. On the same side of the road. Folks stayed with the old station and the new station was torn down and replaced with a fast food place. I’ve always wondered when they realized their mistake.

    One of my happiest nights during high school was manning the island for a night or two where my friend worked. He was feeling ill and asked for a favor. All I did was check oil and wash windshields but I got a lot of compliments. All I asked for in return was a ride in his Austin-Healy. Well worth it!

  9. Judging by all the oil stains on the concrete apron, I’d guess this was a “Grand Opening” for a previously built station. If it was truly a “Hollywood” grand opening, they would have a bevy of WWll surplus klieg lights to light up the occasion.

    It looks like the gentleman standing next to the 51 Merc is enjoying a frosty RC. Boy I use to enjoy a Pop from a Venco Chilled Water Dispenser like the one next to the service bay. those Pops were freezing cold!

    I’ll bet that is the owner, Delner Johnson, overseeing his empire.

  10. Second time this week that a ’50 Merc has been front & center in the lead photo.
    Great to see as this was my first car, a hand me down from my dad. I was 16, the car was 15. I was young and full of energy, the car was old and tired. Still a lot of fond memories of that car.

    • The address is 4801 Airport Blvd, and it was, and still is, the M.E. “Gene” Johnson Service Station & Garage. Above the door it looks like it might show the words “Mel Elmer Johnson.” The station’s website says the business was established in 1946. I found evidence going back to 1952-1953 for this location, but it sold Gulf products at that time.

      “Gene”Johnson, 1923-2009, also owned an auto supply store, he had a U-Haul franchise for over 20 years, and he eventually started to sell real estate. He later sold the station and auto parts business to concentrate on his real estate business. Johnson was a Navy veteran of WWII, and he witnessed the signing of the peace treaty with Japan on the Intrepid.

  11. Earl Jamgochian is RIGHT!!! “Hollywood Opening” can mean only ONE thing: D.C. ARC “Searchlight” or “Searchlights” : There is a site on the Internet called: “Bob’s Searchlight Page”. “Dime a dozen” after WW-2 as “War Surplus”, – The Searchlight Trailer AND Searchlight Generator “Trailer Set” & TRUCK were inexpensive publicity GETTERS. NOW , Today, —that “SETUP” goes for about $150,000, IF in good shape !!! These came into use when powerful arc lights came into use in WW-1 & WW-2 in spotting aircraft for anti-aircraft activities. Edison, Tesla, and especially Carl Steinmetz of General Electric and the Sperry Company figured heavily in developing these sources of High Intensity Pencil like ARC beams, 6 to 8 feet wide and thousands of feet long!!! These BEAMS that were very helpful in search and destroy activities — when used in advertising — would draw Automobiles from Miles around, when after each of the Wars, – the Hollywood Movie business, circuses and promotional displays like NEW Car Models took advantage of “Hollywood methods” 1 to -1-1/2 Ton Trucks from Dodge, Ford, GMC Military or Domestic were common to see — moving “HOLLYWOOD style OPENING” Searchlights in tandem with their Generators.

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