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“The World’s Best Service Station” – Fill Up with Billups

Night or day, a passing motorist would be hard pressed to miss the big signs that represented Billups. One of the catchier slogans we’ve come across, it advertised a chain of establishments that began as a single gas station – convenience store in Mississippi, founded by W. L. “Buddy” Billups in the 1950′s. This was a new concept for travelers at the time and was a harbinger of things to come. The idea proved to be very popular, and the franchise grew to include many locations from Florida to Texas, which in turn was bought out by the Signal Oil Company in 1966.

This particular one was in New Orleans, although we haven’t been able to come up with an exact street address. Check out the banner for the “Seat Cover Bar” (with free installation) visible in our first thumbnail (below). You also might be able to make out a sign for “Toyland” when you enlarge the last thumbnail, proving that “Uncle Buddy”, as he was known, didn’t miss a trick when it came to merchandising. You can see many more photos of interesting  gasoline stations here on The Old Motor. Photos courtesy of the Charles L. Franck/Franck-Bertacci Collection at  The Louisiana Library Network.


40 responses to ““The World’s Best Service Station” – Fill Up with Billups

  1. This was actually the location at 9201 Airline Highway (US 61 of musical fame) and is currently occupied by a Shell station/convenience store.
    It is very near where Carlos Marcello used to hang his hat and where The Rev. Jimmy Swaggart got himself some unwanted publicity.

  2. The street where the Fillup with Billups was actualy on what is known as the Airline Highway going toward the airport. I passed by there many times and it was a sight to see with all the chrome hup caps displayed and other chrome accessories. It had lots of character.

  3. Most of the Florida stations were bought by Hess. My dad was southeast fl supervisor for Billups from late 40’s to 62′. Later ran a Spar which was an offshoot of Billups and it also went to Hess.

    • My dad was Mac Matheny he passed in 1984 but worked for Billups from 1950 till Hess bought them. He was college room mate with Charlie Peyton at UVA and went to Florida with my mom. She is still living with us in Jacksonville and dad went to work for mr Peyton at Gate Petroleum after the Hess acquisition until his death.

      • I worked for BILLUPS in Jacksonville, FL in 1961-1964. I knew Mac Matheny and Charlie Payton. Cecil (Skeets) Billingsley was President. I was later transferred to Orlando, FL and worked at the SPAR facility on Orange Blossom Trail (U S 441). Mr. Peyton married a girl named Virginia that worked as a secretary in Jacksonville, FL.

          • Charlie Peyton’s nickname was “Herbie.” Mr. Billingsley worked with Mr. Peyton at GATE PETROLEUM (Swing to Gate) after BILLUPS was sold to HESS OIL.

        • Hi there, It is so suprising seeing this info on Billups gas stations etc. My husbands father was from Florida but unfortunetly he never met his father . He was born in New York State and raised there. Guy Billups could have been a distant relative? But it is so interesting. We did purchase a Billups road map. Would love to get a Billups sign for my husband’s garage. He restores old cars.

    • I grew up in the Hammond, LA area. Billups Petroleum had a large office building and distribution center there. It was probably the headquarters for Billups Western Petroleum. Mr. Buddy, as he was known, was quite a colorful figure. He was probably the richest man in town, but no one could guess it from the way he dressed. As far as I know, he never wore a coat and tie, even though he practically owned one of the local banks and did own the local Ford dealership, among other things. At some point in the 1970s or 80s, Billups Petroleum either changed to, merged with or was bought by Charter Marketing, which was headquartered in Jacksonville, FL. All of the stations were “rebranded” at that time. The old Billups logo was a large hand with a “thumbs up”. The Charter Marketing logo included a large “acorn”. They kept the Hammond office open for several years, but eventually everything was consolidated in Jacksonville. I knew several individuals who worked in the Hammond facilities, and they were really sorry to see this happen.

  4. I used to stop here and get gas. Next to the oil rack were glass jars with spouts that were filled with recycled oil, that sold for 10 cents.
    The jars were open so sometimes I had to pick the insects out before pouring.

  5. Although I am delighted to see mention of the Billups stations, I have to tell you that some of your information is incorrect. The stations were founded in Carrollton, Mississippi and moved to Greenwood, Mississippi in 1927. The Founder, Rowell Billups , moved to Greenwood and the main office for Billups Oil Company was located there.
    Rowell had two brothers, Buddie and Guy who were his partners. Buddie, who lived in Hammond, La. was the CEO of Billups Western Petroleum and Rowell was the CEO of Billups Eastern.
    The station chain was from Texas to Virginia at the time of Rowell’s death in 1960. Billups Eastern was sold shortly after his death. Buddie continued to operate Billups Western for several more years.

  6. You probably should do some checking on the year of sell out. I worked for Billups part of 68 til early 70. During most of that time we were still Fill up with Billups.

      • Billups Petroleum Company went public in 1957 so the Employees could profit from the stock options. Buddy Billups ran Billups Western and was the President. Rowell and Guy Billups got Billups Eastern. The Billups Logo was to be used for 15 years. Rowell owned 1/2 of the entire company and had a bad heart. Rowell sold all of his holdings in 1957. He died in 1960. His brothers and his sister sold the other half after his death.
        I still have the original pumps from the early 20s and those open oil jars with the metal pourers.

  7. I was surprised to run across the Fill Up With Billup name on the internet. It brought back memories of the day I was passing through Jacksonville. My wallet was stolen, which left me with a total asset of nineteen dollars and some change. Of course, after the panic diminished I started looking for a job. I went to work the next day with your company as a Manager Trainee. I did so good they let me replace the Jacksonville Beach Mgr while he was on vacation. I had a nineteen percent increase in business during those two weeks.

    After two more weeks passed they decided to send me to a location but then changed their mind. Then they were going to send me someplace else and again changed their mind. Next they decided to send me to Jesup, Ga but again changed their mind because they decided instead they would just tear that station down because in 75th place it was just not worth it.

    It really agrevated me and I told my boss “I’m going to Jesup, Ga. with you or without you”! They decided to send me there “temporarily” until they decided on a “tear down” date. I reported in and the Manager I was replacing left in under 30 minutes. I am proud to say the station was in 2nd place 3 months later and in the 4th month we were so far out front, in first place , that no one ever came close to catching us. I took the station over with it doing (they said) a “big” tire business with an average of about $400 a month. In the 5th month I was there we started doing over $4000 a month in tire business alone.

    Incidentally, I met my wife there the first day I was on the job. I visited a bookkeeper in Jesup looking for someone and she was the office girl. We dated that night and was married 3 months later. We just celebrated our 55th wedding anniversary. We have raised 4 very successful sons, started two new very successful businesses from scratch, seen several grand sons & daughters (and GREAT Grandsons and daughters) born and start their lives. We have been very blessed.

    In addition to the big increase in tire sales there was another item the company took note of and that was my out of the ordinary oil ration. I never told them how I did it but my customers were very happy with my program. They promoted me and gave me the new station in Savannah, Ga. That was a mistake.

    I just kind of give you a few lines here, but in the book telling the story of my life, I included the whole story in great detail. During the year and a half prior to Fill Up With Billup, a tragedy filled my mind with continous nightmares. It is hard to believe I didn’t end up on skidrow, but somehow I could just never consider the word “quitting” as part of my vocabulary.

    Jesup, Ga. and my experience with “Fil Up With Billup” I can truthfully say, “completely saved my life and gave me a future in life that I felt a part of. Meeting my wife along with the success with the station made me feel like I was “back on the road again”!!

    I truly say thank you for that “Jesup, Ga. experience” !!

  8. I first worked for the Billups on N. Main St, Jacksonville, FL in July, 1956. Worked 12 hours every day, no day off, for $40.00 per week. Found out years later that the manager was stealing $10.00 from every employee. He also would short the night manager about once each month for $100 or so, and fire the man after repaying his theft from the mans final pay. We had twentyfour pumps and provided full service, including sweeping the floorboards with a whisk broom we were required to carry.
    The only time we were allowed to sit down was on our lunch, 30 minutes, break.
    I again worked for the station during my senior year at Andrew Jackson High, almost across the street about a block north of the station. During that year I was the seat cover installer. We had two sets, one sold for $9.95 and the other sold for $12.95 , both installed free.
    We did no oil changes but we did have tire repair at a time when most cars used tubes.
    I discovered the theft in 1964 when I requested a Social Security account status and found out my “official” pay was $50.00 per week. I went to the manager who was at that time a parking lot attendant. He just laughed and dared me to do anything about it.
    I did, I went to the office of the parking company and told them what his history was. They set up a trap, he fell for it, and was ordered by the court to fully reimburse the parking company but I never received a dime.

  9. My memories of the Billups are very different. My father was the pastor of First Baptist in Carrollton. When I was a little girl and we visited the Billups, my littler sister and I would ride on the beautiful carousel in their yard. Mr. Billups always gave us a box of Turtles Chocolates before we left.

  10. In the mid-60’s there were several Billups stations in the Richmond, VA area, I dealt with the one in Hopewell, VA. Billups gave sav-a-stamps for each ten cents worth of gas bought. They also had their own Billups cigarettes, a king sized non-filter. They were really Dominos made by Larus in Richmond.

  11. I father worked for Billups Western Petrolem co. for about 40 years, mostly as a Supervisor and trouble-shooter supervisor. He knew all the Billups Brothers well as well as Frank Johnston and W.W.Wasson and others, who were high executives with the company. In the late 50’s I went to Grand Openings with my Dad and my memories are deep rooted and memorable. My Dad always said “there is always something to do at a service station” and he was certainly right as that applys to anywhere one works. I later operated one of the few Truck Stops Billups owned (Kewanee, Ms) where we would pump sometimes over 200,000 gallons of diesel a month. We refered to the location as “The independent’s choice in Mississippi”. A great company who favored the little man and whose character and values exceeded any competition there was.

  12. I also believe the pictures are of the Billups on Airline Hwy US61 that was inJefferson Parish just outside New Orleans. My father was a passenger train engineer and it was on the way from our home in Metairie to the union station. I rodewith him a lot on weekends and during the summer. When we lived in Alexandria we use to use the station on North Bolton at the North Circle. All our cars had Billups tires on them. When i needed tires and was stationed in the AF in Abilene, TX my dad shipped me a set of Billups tires.

  13. Hello

    My Dad worked at Billup’s in several locations starting in the 50’s and ending up at one of the largest stations they had on the Mobile Causeway from late 50’s to mid 60’s . At that time we moved to Texas as my dad because a Supervisor over 7 to 10 stations in South Texas. We lived in Corpus Christi at the time and my dad would be moved around from South Texas to the hill country of Texas so we would move to Victoria Texas around 1969. From Victoria my dd would over areas from south of Houston and in some cases parts of Houston and this happen thru 1973 when we moved to Lufkin Texas. During the time below I would always help my dad during the summer time when he was hiring new managers for the stations and the times were great. When we moved to Lufkin I started working at the station thru high school and once out of school I became the manger of the station from 1976 to 1982 when Billups/Charter Oil sold out. During our time working for Billups we had all of my sisters, brother, and 3 of my brother inlaws that worked for Billups.
    I can say this was the building blocks for my life and this instill a lot of knowledge and pride into my life. I dad has passed alway now and I remember my good times working at one of the best companies every.


    Albert Stokley
    July 5, 2015

    • Sounds like we had the same childhood my dad also ran station in Victoria Texas from 1960 through 64, he also moved around troubleshooting stations in Rosenberg Texas to Bay City Texas to Baytown Texas all over South Houston , your last name really rings a bell so I know my dad knew your dad Hubert Cecil SNELGROVE , my dad worked for Billups for 41 years

  14. There was a Billups Station in Minden, LA in the 60’s. I stopped there on my way to the drivein theater as a teenager.

  15. After milking the cows, my dad and I came from under the barn. He suddenly stopped and turned to look back at something under there, so I too peered to see what he was concerned about. His words of , ” Do you want that old car ” , have never left me to this day. Prior to that, a 1954 Chevrolet was the ugliest auto ever made, however on that day my taste in autos drastically changed. After paying him the one hundred dollars he required for it and totally overhauling the motor with parts bought from Lloyd’s Motor Parts and having it repainted by Danny Keebler in Ocean Springs Mississippi, my first gallon of gas for thirty five cents was bought at Fillup with Billups which I frequented until its closing in that little town. I fail to remember the year but do remember the free windshield, rear window and mirror washes, along with the wrist-broom sweeping of my floorboards. After their closing, the only place to get “full service” was at Sammy Zanka’s on the corner of Government and Old Hwy 90, however it was not “full service” because they wouldn’t sweep the floorboards.

  16. I too was pleasantly surprised to find the Fill up with Billups stories on my phone, enjoyed reading the comments and memorable experiences. My Army buddies and I stopped at many stations along our trips between Ft Bliss, Texas and West Vitginia, had good feelings seeing my family name in lights on the big signs.
    Thanks for the memories.

  17. I grew up in [ what is now] River Ridge and there was a Billups station at the corner of Orchard Rd. And Jefferson Hwy. run at the time by Eugene Deere.

  18. When we moved to Starkville, MS, in 1961, my father applied for a Billups credit card. They said they would give him one but he had guarantee at least $30.00 a month. In those days it was hard to spend $30.00 a month on gas so he just paid cash.

  19. My step-dad worked at a Fillup with Billups in Crowley, Louisiana on West Highway 90. This was around the early 1960’s or 1961. I am currently searching for 1950 style filling stations and remembered this name and googled it. It surprised me when I saw information on these vintage places. He later worked for Canal Refining Company and eventually bought the old Canal Station on West Highway 90 just before getting to the old Billups Station. They are long gone by now. Awesome pics and thanks for the memory.

  20. My pot smoking buddy was Rowell Billups Saunders when at MSU in 73-74. He married Becky Sloan from Vicksburg.
    I was a Pike and he was a Sigma Chi. He had an allergic reaction to alcohol. When his father Charles died he hated him guts and drank champagne
    Have no idea where he’s now.

  21. My Dad and Mom were friends with Rowell Billups and although I was young… I remember him well. He was a wonderful kind generous caring person…I called him “Uncle”
    So I know their friendship was a good one.
    I have lost touch with the family after my parents passed away, sadly. Still, my memories remain and are fond.
    My Dad changed careers in midlife
    …and opened 3 Billups stations in South Texas…
    Seeing the signs…the photos…stirred up treasured memories.

  22. I worked for billups service station in the early 1970.s
    In meridian ms . There were two 12 hour shifts , they had a very good business with lots of extras to buy on the
    Inside of the store

  23. Hello! Loved reading all the stories of Billups! My Dad retired from the station on Hwy 11 South in Meridian, Miss. Cannot remember how long he worked for the company. But also found several of his year service pins starting out with 5 and then 10 year and then the last one is the large acorn with looks like three stone to the side two blue stone and then a diamond in the middle. Also remember him working at the 8th street station for years, would walk by there on my way home from elementary school. Like everyone it brought back a lot of sweet memories for me Thank you! But could some one please tell me how many years the last pin stands for would love to know. Thanks again Jan.

  24. I also worked in St.petersburg on us 19 and in clearwater largo road the 60s full service your choice,repaired flat tires,and sold generic cigarettes name Bill Ups,, believe they were less then 20 cents a pack

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