Every day, we use cars to get to all the places that we need to go. Be it work, the store, home, or somewhere else, we all generally rely on cars to get us from point A to point B. With these vehicles comes the need to have somewhere to refuel them: gas stations! Nowadays, gas stations are everywhere, and most towns generally have more than one (unless you are Bouton, then you don’t even have one at all). This does raise a question, however. What were gas stations like when they were first appearing around the country?
One of the earliest pictures of a gas station that I can find in our collection is on a postcard that dates back to about 1915. It shows the Rude Auto Station in Perry, with the old Fire Hall in the background. Although you cannot see any gas pumps in this picture, the description does talk about them. Rude Auto featured a new style of pump: the measuring machine and hose style. According to our system, this style replaced the old bucket and funnel style which I can only imagine worked in a similar way to how we fill up lawn mowers and other small machines today. Imagine how long it would take to fill a whole car tank (of today’s size) with that system! That’s probably why gas stations of the early 1900s had attendants who did that for you.
Speaking of attendants, we have another photo in our collection that shows on such person! Dated to 1918, it is a picture of a man standing next to a pump at the Manhattan Oil Co. (at least, I think he is an attendant). Of course, his job here would be to fill up your car with gas from what I believe is an example of the measuring machine and hose style pump mentioned earlier in addition to possibly washing your windscreen and other minor things. Considering how inexpensive gasoline used to be (at least compared to today), I can’t imagine that he was paid very well for all the work he did!
It makes me wonder when attendants stop being employed at gas stations and why the switch to self-serving was made. Perhaps it was due to gas stations wanting to earn more, or perhaps, newer pump systems were easier to use? Readers, do any of you know? Let us know in the comments, and join us next week for another Hometown Heritage Blog!