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Vintage Gas: 1950s Filling Stations in Boston

Today’s featured images contain three filling stations photographed in the fifties located in various locations of the City of Boston, MA. The lead image contains a view of the “West End” Esso Station located in the West End neighborhood of the City. Note the “Last Word In Service” banner and the hand-painted “Locksmith” sign on the apartment building in the middle of the photo.

Share with us what you find of interest in these photos courtesy of the MIT-Libraries. View over two-hundred other service stations in our earlier coverage.

  • This Jenny (a local chain) service station offered Jenny “100” fuel in the lot behind the signs, and Sunoco gasoline and service in the foreground. Note the unusual signs next to the fence.

  • And finally and Oldsmobile and a Chrysler at the O’Connor’s Texaco station.

40 responses to “Vintage Gas: 1950s Filling Stations in Boston

  1. In the lead picture, parked to the right of the “West End Station,” is a plain four-door 1952 BUICK Special Tourback Sedan, Model 41.

    • The West End Station appears to have been a quite extensive operation. At the far right of the photo I see another identical building advertising “Lubrication.”

  2. In the bottom picture, I’m curious about Sky Chief gasoline being “100% climate controlled.” Was this something done to prevent condensation in the storage tanks? I know cars used to have a petcock on the bottom of the gas tank so you could drain the accumulated water out before winter. And the glass sediment-bowl filter, to catch water before it hit the carburetor. I’m guessing water in the gas used to be a much bigger problem than it is today.

  3. In Item 1 of 3, I see a 52 Mercury hardtop beside a ‘49 Olds, likely a 76 or 88 Club Sedan… with a ’52 Buick Special Tourback Sedan next to the office, as spotted by AML.

    In Item 2 of 3, I see a ’53 Ford Country Sedan and in Item 3 of 3, a ’56 Old 88 Holiday Sedan and a ’54 Chrysler Windsor Sedan

  4. Also in the lead picture on the far right, behind the late 40’s Plymouth is a `52 Mercury Monterey with optional front bumper guards. (These would also house the optional fog lamps.)

  5. 1st pic, according to the gas pumps, it’s 1956. Looks like a rough part of town, and I get a chuckle out of the laundromat ad, yet people still hanging their clothes on the balcony. Couldn’t even afford a quarter. 2nd, can’t find much on Jenny, except it was an east coast deal, Mass. maybe? The signs are comical, so by that logic, at the speeds today, nobody has a prayer. And a new oil filter will not make your car use less oil. Besides, few cars had them anyway, like, an $8 dollar option. 3rd, I read, O’Connor Texaco was in Boston although the plate on the Chrysler does not match Mass. in the 50’s.

  6. To those of you who live where it doesn’t snow and think it’s romantic, it’s not. I would guess the first picture was taken in late March / early April. That black / white lump in front of the Plymouth is snow. It kept getting pushed into that pile all winter. The white you see is the snow. The black is the cinders used on the streets when it did snow.

    My belief is “If it’s not snow and ice it’s nice.”

    • Anytime I’ve met someone who has never encountered snow and thinks it’s “Pretty” I’ve said, “Go grab a shovel and get back to me.”

      Worked with a guy from India, 1st winter in his home. He had no idea. Took 3 inches of snow to start asking about snowblowers. We explained that snowblowers are called Widow Makers because if you man handle one chances are you will have a heart attack and die and your wife will be a widow. He wanted to get one of those electric shovels. We talked him into spending at least 800 bucks for a gas one. He bought one. Next snow event, “Thanks”.

      Winter is a filthy time of year. Dirt everywhere and you can’t help rubbing against it.

  7. what is the first word, first line: _____ a thank you when a driver lets you out of driveway. he didn’t have to you know? Leave? Heave? Verve? Verye?

  8. I wonder what the special is today at the Camel Cafe?

    As a westerner, I find photos of eastern cities of this period a bit depressing.
    Crowded apartments or row houses , no grass, lots of billboards, and plenty of bars.
    In short, I picture an apartment like Jackie Gleason’s in The Honeymooners, or if they were lucky, a house like Archie Bunker’s.
    I’ve lived in Ohio, New York and Maryland, and driven through a fair bit of urban Pennsylvania and Delaware, so I think I’m entitled to an opinion, which I’m sure plenty will disagree with.

    • Hi John, we have to remember, after the war, things were not so good. There were no suburbs and the cities were overcrowded. After the war, my parents lived in my grandparents apartment for several years. I’m sure that played out well into the 50’s across the country. Plus, these run down areas are usually pretty old sections of the towns. The 1st picture, I bet those buildings go back to the turn of the last century.

    • In spite of rising postwar prosperity for many, there was still considerable poverty and legions stuck in low-pay employment. The ability to afford better housing came with a job with a living wage. It didn’t reach a percentage of the population. In urban areas, the West End Boston was typical of the environment many lived the whole lives, hadn’t changed much in decades.

  9. I remember the Jenny musical radio commercials in Rhode Island.
    “You can save a pretty penny.
    Buy your gasoline at Jenny.
    Jenny is so good to your car.”

  10. John,you should have driven Route 22,the infamous truck route in northern N.J. back in the 1960s when it was famed for its limitless degradation.You would have headed for the nearest psychiatrist.The great radio personality Jean Shepherd mentioned it time and again.As a child I couldn’t help but think that the people who lived near it must have been emotionally and spiritually stunted in some way so great was its grossness.

    • My parents first house was less than 100 yards off Route 22 in Phillipsburg NJ. You could stand in the front yard and watch (and hear) the traffic night and day. My aunt lived a block away but her house fronted it. (It’s now a gas station). We moved when I was six to another, quieter part of town but after I got my license, 22 was the only way to get to Allentown/Bethlehem. I haven’t driven it since the early 70s and it was a mess then. I can’t imagine what it is like now.

  11. The 2nd pic of the Sunoco station was located on Cambridge St at the Boston – Cambridge line, near the Charles River. Across the st is the Green line trolley viaduct, still there.

    • This station was actually at 70 Monsignor O’Brien Highway not on Cambridge Street (but very close to it). Confirming this location are the following businesses in the photo.

      68 O’Brien: Fellsway Wrecking Corporation
      60 O’Brien: The Flag Center

  12. In the first photo the Dubble-Ware sign looks like it is hanging from the lamp post; clever photo. Dubble-Ware and other brands mostly from Fall River made great work clothes. I was wearing my Dubble-Ware chore coat yesterday. The 1946-1948 type Ford sedan in the photo was the last of it’s breed. Gone in the next model year would be the torque tube, radius rods, semi-elliptic transverse springs, wish bone, three piece rear axle housing. I like this photo very much. The clean (filling station, laundry, picket fence, light pole) vs the dirty (cars, snow pile, etc).

  13. Texaco started a system to inspect and register restrooms in 1935 as a way to appeal to drivers and, more importantly, women. They ran full spread ads promoting this after the war and campaigns before the war. They also had roving patrols that visited most sites looking for up to par restrooms among other things. In years past, folks took more care of public facilities, but now we see them used as places to shoot-up, vent rage at Big Oil, targets of random destruction just to feel good, etc. Living in Japan has made me much more aware of the way it used to be as restrooms are generally above and beyond the bar of Registered Restrooms!

  14. “You Can Save a Pretty Penney, Buy Your Gasoline at Jenney” Anybody else old enough to remember that slogan? If so, you probably know how many cookies Andrew ate. You’d have to be from Massachusetts!

    • “Andrew ate eight-thousand” (AN8-8000), of course! I seem to recall that that jingle was related to a carpet cleaning company that advertised on TV in the ’60s and early ’70s. Was it Albany Carpet Cleaners, if I remember correctly? Also, there was at least one Jenney gas station in Worcester, Mass. The one I remember in particular was almost in the path of I-290, that was still under construction at the time (c. 1960). Later, it became a “Shure” station, known for the “NO LIMIT, BUT SKY-HIGH PRICES” signs that they actually displayed during the ’73-’74 gas crisis. They were getting .69 a gallon for regular then!

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