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frenchyd
frenchyd SuperDork
7/24/18 9:34 a.m.
  • I said I was 14 and a eager beaver of a 12 year old kid. I pestered the owner into hiring me as a gas pump jockey so he could work on cars.  Little did he know that was just the beginning.!

  I got a uniform shirt and hat ( which I rarely wore to the owners constant irritation) and out I raced when the bell rang from the tubes at the Island.  

Yes Ma'am. Fill-er-up?  Ethyl or regular?  A dollar’s worth of ethyl? Yes Ma’am. Check your tires? That left front looks a little soft to me.   Oh it is, down to 18 pounds. Should be 32.  Psssst. The others are all fine.  Check under the hood?  

Your oil is fine, here see on the stick but it’s dirty, do you want me to schedule an oil change?  

Oops almost at a dollar.  I’ll finish in a moment. One cell of your battery is low on water, better keep an eye on that.  First  indicator of a battery going bad. Coolant is right up where it should be.  

Just let me  finish cleaning your windows.  And I’ll be done.  Sorry I’m so slow, I have to use a step stool to reach across.  

There you go. How do they look?  

OK that’ll  be a dollar.  I almost never got a tip.  Thank you for stopping, here are your green stamps and be sure your husband make the oil change appointments Ma’am   Oh and next week we will be giving out free glasses with a fill. 

We sold a lot of oil only rarely was it new fresh oil in a can.  Cheapest was drain oil.  Pumped right out of the oil boozier.  Dirty black stuff the owner explained was money in the bank. Only a nickel a quart but what the heck he got it free and he knew cheapskates who bought it would have him doing the engine overhaul

.  Re-refined which was the same drain oil except it went through a big filter and had a dye added that turned it from black to green, dark Green. 

That was kept in glass guard bottles with a metal spout on top In a wire basket and sold for 10 cents a quart.   New fresh oil was kept in metal  cans and priced at 25 cents a quart and up.  The really good stuff sold for 65 cents a quart

I had to do something between customers to justify the 10 cents an hour I was paid. So I swept the driveway, dusted the shelves, stocked and fronted displays. Washed the windows, mopped and polished the floor with the buffing machine in his back room.  At least once a month I washed the metal on the outside of the building. It was white with the red and blue of the company logo. 

Oh, don’t worry. I pumped plenty of gas, we had 4 pumps . One set on Cedar ave  and one set on 66th. Both were busy roads so I was kept hopping.  .  

Selling gas just paid the bills. The real thing money  came from the service work. It was a well equipped station. The pride and joy of the owner was an Engine Analyzer.   It took up a whole wall of the shop. The center was a big oscilloscope.  Almost 18 Inches across and over 12 inches high. The biggest one made!  On the left side hung all the wires it took to hook everything up.   On the right side was the exhaust gas analyzer.   According to my boss for what he paid for that he could have bought a new Cadillac ElDorado Convertible and still had enough  to have enough to buy a new Chevy. 

A complete diagnostic analyzation  cost $18.95 

( I was supposed to say ONLY $18.95.  Because The owner figured he was giving a great deal and expected to sell a lot of service work once hooked up. Rarely did they leave without spending at least $30.00  Spring and fall it was one car after another.  In the summer most cars went on it before a vacation trip. 

Most dealerships could do the same thing it did but without the impressive looking  Giant oscilloscope or wall of instruments.  

It sold a lot of valve Jobs and engine overhauls. Customers would look at the wiggly lines and compare the look to  the picture of what it was supposed to look like and Thank him for catching the issue before it blew up and left him stranded.  

 

84FSP
84FSP SuperDork
7/24/18 6:54 p.m.

Crazy stuff.  Really neat to hear the stories.  What was the coolest old beast you serviced?

Gary
Gary SuperDork
7/24/18 8:54 p.m.
84FSP said:

What was the coolest old beast you serviced?

 

That's a loaded question!wink

84FSP
84FSP SuperDork
7/24/18 8:58 p.m.
Gary said:
84FSP said:

What was the coolest old beast you serviced?

 

That's a loaded question!wink

True that.  I'm sure Frenchy had his pick as a strapping young lad of the pumps.

frenchyd
frenchyd SuperDork
7/25/18 11:43 a.m.
84FSP said:

Crazy stuff.  Really neat to hear the stories.  What was the coolest old beast you serviced?

Model J Dusenburg owned by Don Skogmo. Believe it or not the tune up specs were listed.   Don Skogmo was one of my hero’s he always had the interesting cars. By far the coolest car around was that Duesenburg and I think he only let me tune it up because every time he came in, no matter what he drove I asked about it.  

I didn’t know it but he had a great mechanic who worked for him taking care of his cars.  Scotty Beckett who did a fair bit of racing himself. He put a Chevy V8 in. DType Jaguar and later a 289 Ford in a Birdcage Maserati. 

 

ultraclyde
ultraclyde PowerDork
7/25/18 11:48 a.m.

My dad started out the same way but a decade earlier. I love to hear those stories.

frenchyd
frenchyd SuperDork
7/25/18 12:16 p.m.

In reply to ultraclyde :

I wasn’t sure if this would have any interest. I thought maybe a whole generation or two that have never known full service Gas stations would think this boring

I have  more to add if there is any interest

ultraclyde
ultraclyde PowerDork
7/25/18 12:25 p.m.

I'd love to hear them. One of my favorites from Dad was the day they blew the side wall out of the station. There was a large open trough parts cleaner on one side of the garage. One of the older teens that worked at the station liked to be a bad ass and flick his cigarette butts into it.  Under normal circumstances this is no big deal as the coal on the end isn't hot enough to ignite the gas or the fumes. Until one hot day he almost missed and the cig bounced off the rim creating a shower of hot sparks. The fumes lit off and the concussion blew part of the wall out into the street. After that there was a Rule about smokes in the parts washer.

 

I love your description of reselling drain oil. I'll have to ask Dad if they did that too. He was in deep south Georgia at the time, and it would have been early 50s. He graduated high school in '57.

pirate
pirate Reader
7/25/18 12:53 p.m.

I was 14 and started out at 25 cents an hour. Stayed there all through high school until I was 18. Pumped a lot of gas and did a lot of oil changes. By the time I was 16 was doing tune ups, brake jobs and most everything else including driving the wrecker truck. Was an eager learner and learned a lot from what seemed to be the revolving door of head mechanics. Owner was an alcoholic but a great guy when not falling of the wagon. Worked there four to five hours after school each day and usually ten hours on Saturday always closed on Sundays. Sometimes opened before school and closed at 8:00 pm when owner was drinking. Learned a lot about cars, responsibility, life in general. 

Dusterbd13
Dusterbd13 MegaDork
7/25/18 1:06 p.m.

There was still a full service station in my town growing up. It's actually my brother's first job. I've only been to a couple of full services in my life as a driver but would happily do so again at a $0.10 a gallon premium. Please keep the stories coming and if you have pictures of the old service stations share them as well. Love hearing it seeing it.

84FSP
84FSP SuperDork
7/25/18 1:16 p.m.
frenchyd said:
84FSP said:

Crazy stuff.  Really neat to hear the stories.  What was the coolest old beast you serviced?

Model J Dusenburg owned by Don Skogmo. Believe it or not the tune up specs were listed.   

WOW - I've not even see a Duse in person.  Love those beautiful headlights.

frenchyd
frenchyd SuperDork
7/25/18 1:35 p.m.
84FSP said:
frenchyd said:
84FSP said:

Crazy stuff.  Really neat to hear the stories.  What was the coolest old beast you serviced?

Model J Dusenburg owned by Don Skogmo. Believe it or not the tune up specs were listed.   

WOW - I've not even see a Duse in person.  Love those beautiful headlights.

Come to think of it, other than that one, I’ve never seen another in person.   The dashboard mesmerized me.  Nothing I’ve seen sense approached it’s quality.  Including a fair number of cars like Rolls Royce and Bentley.  This was a 1920’s  era car when most instruments were pretty basic. 

Maybe it’s just my age at the time but I remember the transmission stick as being really long. But the precision it slid through the gears is smoother than a hot knife through butter.  

The closest anything since has shifted is a Cad LaSalle gearbox from a 1953 hearse.  But really not the same.  

frenchyd
frenchyd SuperDork
7/25/18 1:43 p.m.
Dusterbd13 said:

There was still a full service station in my town growing up. It's actually my brother's first job. I've only been to a couple of full services in my life as a driver but would happily do so again at a $0.10 a gallon premium. Please keep the stories coming and if you have pictures of the old service stations share them as well. Love hearing it seeing it.

I don’t have pictures.  Back in those days every dime was saved towards my car fund.  My first car was a MGTD . I saved $300  worth of those dimes and bought it at age 14.  A camera and film would have delayed that.  

Should  I ever wonder what it looks like I merely have to walk down into the shop to see.   

pirate
pirate Reader
7/25/18 2:02 p.m.
pirate said:

I was 14 and started out at 25 cents an hour. Stayed there all through high school until I was 18. Pumped a lot of gas and did a lot of oil changes. By the time I was 16 was doing tune ups, brake jobs and most everything else including driving the wrecker truck. Was an eager learner and learned a lot from what seemed to be the revolving door of head mechanics. Owner was an alcoholic but a great guy when not falling of the wagon. Worked there four to five hours after school each day and usually ten hours on Saturday always closed on Sundays. Sometimes opened before school and closed at 8:00 pm when owner was drinking. Learned a lot about cars, responsibility, life in general. 

Owner was very particular about how the station looked. Gas pump islands curbs and others always had a fresh coat of white paint and building inside and out was always clean. Service bay walls always had a fresh coat of light gray pain below a red stripe with white paint above. Service bay floors were swept daily and washed down with soap and water at least once a week. All tools were put away after every job. There were no excuses for not having something to do. In addition everyone who worked there had clean uniforms everyday which owner paid for through a uniform service. Light blues shirts with Standard Oil logo and your name and blue and white pinstripe pants for warm weather and blue and white pinstripe overalls for winter and dirty work. To this day cannot stand having a cluttered or dirty shop.

frenchyd
frenchyd SuperDork
7/25/18 3:07 p.m.
pirate said:
pirate said:

I was 14 and started out at 25 cents an hour. Stayed there all through high school until I was 18. Pumped a lot of gas and did a lot of oil changes. By the time I was 16 was doing tune ups, brake jobs and most everything else including driving the wrecker truck. Was an eager learner and learned a lot from what seemed to be the revolving door of head mechanics. Owner was an alcoholic but a great guy when not falling of the wagon. Worked there four to five hours after school each day and usually ten hours on Saturday always closed on Sundays. Sometimes opened before school and closed at 8:00 pm when owner was drinking. Learned a lot about cars, responsibility, life in general. 

Owner was very particular about how the station looked. Gas pump islands curbs and others always had a fresh coat of white paint and building inside and out was always clean. Service bay walls always had a fresh coat of light gray pain below a red stripe with white paint above. Service bay floors were swept daily and washed down with soap and water at least once a week. All tools were put away after every job. There were no excuses for not having something to do. In addition everyone who worked there had clean uniforms everyday which owner paid for through a uniform service. Light blues shirts with Standard Oil logo and your name and blue and white pinstripe pants for warm weather and blue and white pinstripe overalls for winter and dirty work. To this day cannot stand having a cluttered or dirty shop.

Clean, neat looking shop was part of the reason a lot of racers and hot rodders bought gas at our station. That and the highest octane ethyl available.  103-104 octane  with Lead!  

preach
preach New Reader
7/25/18 10:44 p.m.

Your stories are great and remind me of The Last Open Road by BS Levy Series.

SVreX
SVreX MegaDork
7/25/18 10:55 p.m.

“Standard Oil”

The young guys will probably miss that Standard Oil starts with the letters “S” and “O”- pronounced “Ess-O”, of course.

“Standard Oil” became “Esso”, and is known today as “Exxon”

:-)

CJ
CJ Reader
7/25/18 11:14 p.m.

Great stories!  and happy birthday frenchyd. yes

Sine_Qua_Non
Sine_Qua_Non SuperDork
7/25/18 11:15 p.m.
SVreX said:

“Standard Oil”

The young guys will probably miss that Standard Oil starts with the letters “S” and “O”- pronounced “Ess-O”, of course.

“Standard Oil” became “Esso”, and is known today as “Exxon”

:-)

My grandfather who passed 3 years ago has a never used Standard oil pail in the 1 car garage. I know since I was there to help Dad and his brother clean it out. It got tossed but I put it back in the garage. Treasure trove of old stuff going back to the 40’s. A lot of it got thrown away. :( There is a ton of stuff still in the basement that they are not looking forward to dealing with the day Grandma passes. 

bearmtnmartin
bearmtnmartin SuperDork
7/26/18 12:51 a.m.

Great stories.

pirate
pirate Reader
7/26/18 9:37 a.m.

Gas stations back then were a part of the neighborhood. Most of the business was loyal regular customers most of which you knew by name and also commercial accounts that had their truck filled with gas and serviced on a regular basis. This was before credit cards so people paid with cash or had a tab that they would come in and “settle up” at the end of the month. People made their decision on gas stations based on service, honesty of the owner and quality work in the back room and rarely switched to another station without a good reason. 

Closing each day required “sticking the tanks” when you took a long wooden stick graduated in inches opened the fill port on the tank and measured how many inches of gas was left. Also you had to record the counter on each pump to see how many gallons had been pumped that day.  Also had to count how many cans were missing from the oil can racks and then replenish for next day as well as account for work done in the service bays. I’m sure all that kind of stuff is automated today. When the gas distributor called to notify of a price change ( usually a penny or two) if it was a increase the price at pumps was changed immediately if a decrease we waited until closing. The cans from oil sold at the pumps or oil changes were always turned upside down on the clean bulk oil tank to catch those few drops of oil that drained out during the day. 

frenchyd
frenchyd SuperDork
7/26/18 10:02 a.m.

In reply to pirate :

Well written.  Did you use the little red stuff  on your stick that detected how much water was in the bottom of the tank? 

The funny part was when the tanker dumped a load of fresh gas all that water would get swirled up and for a day, sometimes two no water would show up.  

 

My boss always drained the last drops of oil from an opened can  into a tank  that he filled up the oil squirt cans we used. Always a squirt of oil on each hinge. Each latch. And back then a lot of generators had little flaps to put a few drops of oil for the bearings.   Some cars even had that flap on the distributor to oil the distributors advance mechanism. 

 

Remember the Blue laws that kept gas stations closed on Sundays? 

frenchyd
frenchyd SuperDork
7/26/18 10:21 a.m.
CJ said:

Great stories!  and happy birthday frenchyd. yes

Thank you!  Unless I live to 140 I’m past middle age I guess

frenchyd
frenchyd SuperDork
7/26/18 10:24 a.m.
preach said:

Your stories are great and remind me of The Last Open Road by BS Levy Series.

What a great thing to say.  However I know I’m no where near as gifted a Levy is.  His books really gave me a sense that he was there and lived through all of that.  

914Driver
914Driver MegaDork
7/26/18 11:08 a.m.

I used to ride my bike to Claude LeGrand's shop, all foreign stuff; first time I'd seen a Fiat 500 Abarth.  Clause always strutted around in a racing suit and driving shoes.

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