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Neon Lit Gilmore Gasoline Truck and Casey Ford at the Pacific International Exposition

Next to the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition held at the San Diego Fairgrounds, Casey Ford a local dealer constructed and opened a “Master Service Station.” The Gilmore Oil Company joined the Ford agency as the supplier of gasoline, and motor oil. The Companies 1934 Mack tanker complete with exterior neon lighting powered by an onboard generator is visible in the lead photo and (below) at night.

  • The Gilmore 1934 Mack gasoline tanker posed with the neon lights lit at night.

Casey sold a number of new cars at this location; note the 1935 Ford sedan in the showroom window (above and below). On the far left-and-right of the facility are parking lots where fairgoers could leave their vehicles for service and a gasoline fill-up and return later to pick up their car.

Share with us what you find of interest in the photographs courtesy of the Henry Ford.

  • Gilmore employees on the left are working on gasoline pumps before opening day. A 1935 Ford sedan is visible in the showroom window, and a 1934 Ford three-window coupe is parked on the right.

  • A Gilmore trademark, a “Roar with Gilmore” Lion sign is visible overhead in this image containing officials from both companies on opening day with new 1935 Fords.

16 responses to “Neon Lit Gilmore Gasoline Truck and Casey Ford at the Pacific International Exposition

  1. The large Gilmore sign in picture 4 looked odd until I realized it was a motion sign using synchronized neon. The lion’s legs and tail “move” and it must have been quite a sight at night. It also brings back good memories. When I was 4 or 5, my Dad would take me on night rides in Columbus, Ohio just to see the lighted signs. Long before today’s digital images, there were whirling satellites, moving arrows, simulated waterfalls, people in motion and things that moved thanks to the timed lighting of blazing electric signs. One in particular was for Ajax Brakes which had a car “drive” across the outside wall of the garage in sequence till it crashed into an imaginary wall at the end. Thanks, Dad, for those memorable trips when you could have been home watching TV.

    • We had one such sign in the city in which I grew up. It was above the door to the Firehouse Restaurant. A fireman would slide down a pole. It was so disappointing to us kids when we went by that restaurant at night and the sign was not activated.

  2. PMD, thanks for reminding me of great memories of riding with my dad. Sunday drives were our ticket, a way to get out of the house without spending more than a tank of gas. No IPhone to be buried in, actually looking at the scenery, people, cars, and architecture. Saw a lot of the New England countryside and towns, a lot of which doesn’t exist anymore. I know it’s where my love of history, and fondness for old movies, where it still looks as it did, and of course cars, comes from. Great times.

  3. The 1935-36 Exposition was held in Balboa Park, recycling parts of the grounds used for the 1915 Exposition. For ’35, Ford went all in, constructing a permanent rotunda-style building to show off their vehicles and manufacturing processes. The building was solidly built, and serves as the Aerospace Museum today. Casey’s enterprise may have been an adjunct to the whole thing.

  4. I like the illuminated tanker. I think you just gave some enterprising owner/operator an idea. I’m surprised I never saw that on the road. I’d have to think it was for when the truck wasn’t moving. Neon lights aren’t exactly “rough service bulbs”, and you know that truck, being a Mack, shook like a leaf on a tree.

  5. One of the best animated neon signs ever was the 3-D mock up of a full size semi truck advertising Yale Transport Lines trucking co. in Manhattan at 42nd st. overlooking the West Side Hwy.The neon wheels would rotate and the headlights were lit.When I was a kid I wanted to live inside it.
    It was going to be trashed but preservationists somehow saved it but had to compromise with the new co. that bought it.
    In other words No more neon.Too expensive to repair and replace.

  6. Doesn’t look like any ’34 Macks I’ve seen. Apparently, a firm named Miller made a custom front clip for a Mack BM, but BM’s had the older style cab, and this new ( some sites say for ’35) was called the CH. That split window cab was new around that time. Any Mack expert know the scoop?

  7. Gilmore Oil started on a dairy farm when the original Gilmore was drilling for water. Instead, he hit a lot of oil and expanded along with the automobile. His original dairy farm land held a Farmer’s Market (still there!) a midget racing stadium that ended up hosting boxing and a football team, a ball park for the Hollywood Stars (rivals to the Los Angeles Angels who played in Wrigley Field…dad took me there a couple of times), and the Pan Pacific Auditorium. The neon truck is not surprising as Earl Gilmore was a bit of a showman!

    • Farmer’s Market (now a landmark next to CBS Studios) is still there. It has been quite a while, but the last time I visited Farmer’s Market there was a small Gilmore Oil “museum” there with historical pieces behind glass and photos.

      As for the neon-illuminated Gilmore truck, I have a photo of this truck truly taken in the dark, away from city lights as seen here. It is much more brilliant in my photo. There was also a postcard showing the truck which I have in my collection.

      While Las Vegas always seems to get the credit for neon signs, Los Angeles was really the original hotbed for neon–well before Vegas, so it is no surprise to see it on a truck in L.A.. The Wilshire Corridor was once lined with neon almost everywhere–including marvelous animated signs. In fact, the first commercially successful neon sign (with many more to follow) in the USA was erected in downtown Los Angeles at the corner of 7th and Flower… and it was automotive. It said “Packard”….and while internet and book myths claim this sign was installed atop Earle C. Anthony’s Packard dealership, this is truly a wild myth. One that is nearly impossible to defeat due to mob rule, but a myth nonetheless.

      ECA’s Packard dealership (and at one point headquarters for KFI radio which Anthony also founded) was at 1000 South Hope Street– a long distance away. The internet and neon folks will also tell you that Mr. Anthony brought back two neon signs from France… also not true. Mr. Anthony’s papers and personal bio information (which I have today) clearly stated that EC brought three (3) neon signs back to Los Angeles. The first was installed at 7th & Flower in L.A. The second was erected in San Francisco overlooking Union Square. Both of these signs were HUGE. The THIRD much smaller Anthony Packard neon (which photos today claim is the first) was eventually affixed to the side of ECA Building “A” over the sidewalk at 1000 S. Olympic. Of course, this building was not done until 1929–all of which makes the photo listed as “1923” (that people see on the internet and in books and magazines today) a real Jedi Mind Trick.

      The full story of Earle C. Anthony’s Packard neon sign was published in 2013 in “The Packard Cormorant” magazine issue #153 and is still available from The Packard Club.

  8. The first thing that stood out to me was the two sedans in the last photo. Both are the trunkless fast-back style. I always liked that style better than the more popular cars with the trunk.

    The second is whitewall tires on the sedan at the pump as well as the two cars in the showroom. White walls are not seen that often on cars of that era.

    • About the whitewalls …
      As my wife will (sadly) attest, whenever we see a newer film set in that era, I make the comment that 90+ % of the cars are Fords, all are immaculate and most, even trucks have whitewalls. Likewise, 50s -era told have an abnormal number of tri-five Chevys and T-Birds.

      Clint Eastwood directed a depression-era film set in a small Texas town. He (or his staff) went out of their way to get a slightly scruffy (i.e. used looking) Ford pickup for the main character to drive. It looked like a real truck of the period. It was rented from a friend who I believe still has it.

      • You’re right about the scarcity of whitewalls in the mid-1930s. I imagine most people couldn’t afford them, plus they were a nuisance to keep clean.
        To my shame, I’ve put them on my ’34 Hudson…

  9. Looks like a 28 or 29 Model A square cab pickup service truck in the upper left and an interesting bunch of 1 ton stock trucks barely visible up on the hill .

  10. 1950, summer between my junior and senior year in High school. I stated working for a firm named MASTER SERVICE STATIONS in Salem Oregon. with the exception of service time during the Korean war I worked for them until 1961. 7 guys on the pump island, water, oil, tires, checked, attery checked windows inside and out cleaned and floor swept. Firm started in 1933 and operated until the 1970s giving up when self serve took over.

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