Remembering when “full-service” gas stations were the norm

Gas stations today resemble more convenience stores than the service station persona they once were. Once a one-stop shop for all things automotive, old-school gas stations hold a special place in our hearts. People who grew up back then remember many of the amenities that are not found anymore.

Gas stations were more than just a place to fill up. They were social hubs. People would gather and catch up on some gossip. Gas stations were known for their brands. The large signs atop the buildings distinguished Gulf from Shell & Mobil from Sinclair.

Everyone had their favorite, and the various stations around town would fight for business by dropping prices to lure you in. When people drop by their corner gas station, the first thing they would notice after the large signboard is the mechanic space attached to every gas station.

Gas stations were commonly called service stations, and that’s because many of them had at least one service bay equipped with tools necessary to do everything from oil changes to brake replacements. Some even did complete overhaul service.

Once you decided to pull in, the car’s tires would cross a black rubber hose that snaked across the pavement & led to the bell inside the building. The bell signaled a gas station attendant to dash out to the driver’s window and ask if they needed assistance filling gas.

These attendants were sometimes called pump jockeys & they used to be well-dressed as police officers or firefighters. Their uniform even had a company logo stitched on one pocket and an employee’s name embroidered on the other. These attendants not only filled the gas but automatically checked under the hood. All this was done irrespective of how much gas a customer had purchased.

Speaking of gasoline, the pumps were designed to never reach the unbelievable price of one dollar per gallon. By the mid-1970s, attendants asked for leaded or unleaded instead of regular or Ethyl. Even before self-service and pay-at-the-pump card swipers, customers could still use credit cards to purchase gasoline.

Back then, before gas station employees were simply cashiers tucked away behind bulletproof glass, motorists could pull into any station and get detailed and accurate directions. The gas stations would have a rack full of complementary road maps for drivers to pick up. When inside the station, the customers often found familiar stacks of round cans of automotive oil.

Gas stations during those times were a place that had kids smiling. Not only did they have their favorite snacks like Wrigley’s gum, rolls of peanut butter crackers, or ice-cold sodas, they often offered many collectibles that kids went crazy for. Keychains, bumper stickers, & even automotive-inspired trading cards were handed out.

The gas stations were also popular spots to stop and use the restroom. They were usually on the side of the station. They were always kept clean and well-stocked with toilet paper and hand soap, which was uncommon in other public restrooms at the time. Gas stations were more than just a place to get gas. These places offered personalized services that made stopping by a memorable part of growing up during that time.

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