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Gas Station Series – A Cities Service Koolmotor Attention Getter

During the mid-1930s in an effort to get more than its market share of sales during the Great Depression, Cities Service decorated the outside of many of its filling stations. The over the top promotion entailed covering its buildings to look like a block of ice to promote its “Koolmotor” high test anti-knock gasoline, and motor oil. To make sure motorists did not miss seeing the stations, a checkerboard patterned tower that looks like one used on a lighthouse was added on top.

It appears this filling station, operated in Knoxville, Tennessee, by Edward Jones concentrated on sales of fuel, oil, greasing and washing and not mechanical repairs. A pair of 1936 Fords are in the station yard and a 1934 Ford sedan (visible in detail below) fitted with an accessory metal trunk. The add-on appears like it may have been produced by the Potter Company that manufactured and sold Ford aftermarket products.

You can view over 200 earlier images that relate to gasoline stations here. Tell us what you find of interest in this photo taken in December of 1936 courtesy of the Knox County Public Library.


18 responses to “Gas Station Series – A Cities Service Koolmotor Attention Getter

  1. Looked like a nice day in Knoxville. ( sorry, I’m getting spoiled by day after day of sunshine and 50 degree temps) I remember Gulf had some some pretty wild designs for their stations in the 60’s as well.

  2. I think the five window coupe is a 1935 Ford, it has four trim strips on the hood not three like the 1936 and it also has wire wheels.

  3. Koolmotor was refined at Crew Levick in Titusville, PA (where the US’s first oil well was). I don’t see it spelled out on any of the signs in this picture, but as of 1934 Cities Service was still using the gasolene spelling rather than gasoline.

  4. Stations like this are what have made the United States GREAT! Where else can one see a specialty small commercial structure that incorporates the elements f a Light house an an Ice Burg !!!!!

  5. I have noticed that a lot of photos from this era all seem to have been taken in the winter as evidenced by the bare trees in the back ground of so many of them like these. I often wonder why.

    • Maybe nice weather, too busy. Dreary day time to find amusement.
      Funny how in this trade one can go from nothing to too much in minutes. An hour or so later, back to nothing. I can testify though, that good weather always meant more work.

  6. Ice burg and a lighthouse…in Knoxville, TN; must have been an attention grabber! Wonder what that snow sculpting was made of: concrete or stucco over chicken wire. Love those clock-faced gas pumps, nice looking Fords parked around.

    Suggestion: before posting the black and white images, especially those high resolution scans, to grayscale the file to reduce its size. It takes nothing away from the quality but makes the download faster for those of us still stuck with dial-up connections. Thanks.

  7. There is a relatively common photo of KOOLMOTOR in the middle of Cleveland, Oh.’s Public Square during the early 30’s. If I could post here I would as I have ton’s of photos of Cleveland through the years. The first city in the U.S. to be completely illuminated by electric light as well as many other firsts.

  8. The 1935 coupe has concave front fenders (ie the top rear of the fender). This was changed to convex in 1936 (see example at left of photo). This is the beginning of bloat in car design in my opinion. The 1934 sedan is a classic. Original photos of 3/4 side/ rear with trunk are not easy to find; this is a good one. When opening the hood on this car extreme care must be taken not to snap off the free standing tail of the grey hound which this car is sporting.

  9. Stations of that era were called “service stations” for good reason. Today they are “convenience stores” with no service except to hold their hand out and take your money.

  10. Perhaps the definition of: “Convenience” needs to be re-defined for today’s: “gasoline pump places”! but perhaps this is not the “venue” for how I really feel about today’s Places for: :Gas pumps being held hostage!” Today’s gas pump prisons “do not hold a candle!” to the authentic automobile services offered by Service Stations of long ago! Note: A few Service Stations Do remain, — but they are like hen’s teeth!!! Can’t you just imagine living next -door to a rotating Lighthouse Beacon ? Our local night sky was illuminated by a rotating Aircraft beacon! I miss it, —and I miss the “Cartoon” gas stations and “Cartoon” signs for them! “Cabazon” had Dinosaurs! The whole town of Sinclair, Wyoming ( with Sinclair Gas Station) was built like: ” An Old Pueblo” (By Sinclair!) with a Town Square, that Highway 30 went through! Circa: 1956. Edwin W.

  11. I read with great interest the about the above mentioned gas station in Knoxville, TN. I am an Architect and worked on the restoration of another iconic gas station here in Knoxville. It is called the Airplane Filling station. I have before and after photos if you are interested. A couple of locals actually formed a non-profit and raised $450,000 .00 for the renovation. It is pretty cool.

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