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We don't get service like this very often anymore. An attendant checks under the hood at a Jacksonville Amoco station in 1949.
In this busy Jacksonville photo from 1950, attendants fill the tank of one car, check the tires of another, and look under the hood of yet another. During a time when TV was beginning to skyrocket in popularity, the billboard in the background advertises a boxy set with a small screen. When this picture was taken, Milton Berle, that is, "Uncle Miltie," reigned as "Mr. Television." He starred in something like a vaudeville show, an old-fashion variety program of music & comedy. After "I Love Lucy" debuted a year later, however, Lucille Ball would become number one as "The First Lady of Television."
Local air travelers may've often seen this business as they drove to & from Jacksonville's main airport. This sleek Airport Service Station was operated by the Seaboard Oil Company in 1949. It was located on Main Street in North Jacksonville, across the Trout River. Visible behind it are buildings at the old Imeson Airport, which shut down during the Sixties. Faster, heavier jets required longer, paved runways, so air operations were moved to the then-new Jacksonville International Airport. A large Sears discount outlet was built on part of the old Imeson site, but that too has closed.
These three men pose at a Jacksonville filling station in 1948. Are the jars full of crackers & candy? Leo Wiggins' station stood in LaVilla at 935 West Adams Street, three block north of the Jacksonville Railroad Terminal (Prime Osborn Convention Center).
Here's a look back at Westside of Jacksonville in 1958: A Texaco station sits next to a Dairy Queen on Normandy Boulevard. Today, the Dairy Queen still serves hot & cold treats, while a shoe store now occupies the site of the old Texaco. The remodeled Dairy Queen is located near the West Jacksonville Baptist Church. The small Texaco buildings were built in cookie-cutter fashion all over America. The structures were painted white with forest-green streamline stripes. A free-standing post that bore the red Texaco star logo on a white disk. They were designed by Walter Dorwin Teague, who was also known for designing the Kodak Brownie camera and numerous other streamlined items.
Two men attend to a car at a Seaboard Oil Company station in Jacksonville in 1949.

Full-Service Gas Stations

The golden era for full-service stations came during the Fifties.  Interstate highways were constructed across the US, including I-95 through Jacksonville.  Cars as big as whales set sail on the new roadway system.  These large-finned vehicles, with teams of horses under the hood, guzzled gas.

In theory, a gas station attendant always stood ready to provide first-rate service to his customers. Besides pumping the gas, full service meant washing the windshield, checking the oil & water, inspecting the fan belt, and measuring the pressure in tires. When business was slow, attendants might brush out the car’s carpet too. Other perks included free maps, calendars, balloons, mileage calculators, and sets of drinking glasses, maybe featuring the US presidents. Stations also sold tires & accessories like batteries and seat covers.

Here’s the stereotype for a station attendant during the full-service heyday: A smiling professional in a crisp, white uniform would greet each customer by name and then quickly & efficiently tend to each a car’s needs. He would’ve been sort of like a cleaned-up Gomer or Goober from The Andy Griffith Show. However, reality often didn’t measure up to the ideal. Many disinterested teens frequently worked as attendants, for example.

END OF A SERVICE ERA — The salad days of full service gas stations came to an end after the 1950s. The stations suffered competition from auto parts stores, brake & muffler shops, and transmission services. In addition, car parts were increasingly built to last longer.

Other problems beset full service stations. During the early Seventies, OPEC’s oil crisis led to a rise in the popularity of smaller cars, which guzzled less gas. Stricter environmental regulations, moreover, forced filling stations to invest in double-walled gas tanks and other costly precautions. Further problems resulted from the tight job markets of the late ‘70s & early ‘80s. Economic conditions made it tougher to attract employees to sweaty, low paying jobs service jobs in the outdoors. Finally, full service stations also fell victim to self-service pumps, including those at convenience stores.

Nowadays, gas stations are little more than fueling pumps attached to giant junk food dispensers. (Interestingly, the first places that sold gas were pharmacies, as a side business.)

More on gas stations from Wikipedia: “The increase in automobile ownership after Henry Ford started to sell automobiles that the middle class could afford resulted in a greater demand for filling stations. The world’s first purpose built gas station was constructed in St. Louis, Missouri in 1905 at 420 S. Theresa Avenue. The second gas station was constructed in 1907 by Standard Oil of California (now Chevron) in Seattle, Washington at what is now Pier 32. Reighard’s Gas Station in Altoona, Pennsylvania claims that it dates from 1909 and is the oldest existing gas station in the United States.Early on, they were known to motorists as “filling stations”. The first “drive-in” filling station, Gulf Refining Company, opened to the motoring public in Pittsburgh in 1913. Prior to this, automobile drivers pulled into almost any general or hardware store, or even blacksmith shops in order to fill up their tanks. On its first day, the station sold 30 gallons of gasoline at 27 cents per gallon. This was also the first architect-designed station and the first to distribute free road maps. The first alternative fuel station was opened in San Diego, California by Pearson Fuels in 2003.”

~written by Glenn Emery

 

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