I found this well-preserved relic on US Hwy 20, in Ainsworth, Nebraska. I’d bet a dollar to a donut this filling station was one “swingin’ place” in its time, before airplane travel was economical and Interstate Highways killed commerce in small rural towns … right on the main drag of Ainsworth. Everyone in town stopped here for gas, as well as the people “just passin’ through”.
Notice how tiny the place is, just an “office” for the attendant, most likely the owner, to keep a cash drawer and a place to keep warm in the winter. Toilet facilities were probably an out-house in the back. Definitely no service bay, the only service performed was filling gas tanks, washing the car’s windshield and adding a quart of oil when needed. Major service, like brakes, muffler, and tune-ups were only provided at the dealership.
A car would pull into the filling station, drive over the little black rubber hose that rang a bell in the “office”, and the attendant would run out to see what was needed. Often times, the driver would just tell the attendant, “Give me a buck’s worth” or “Five dollars worth, please.” The attendant would reset the meter on the gas pump, unscrew the gas cap from the car’s rear fender, pump in the “buck’s worth”, replace the gas cap while wiping off any drops that might have fallen on the fender, and take the driver’s dollar through the window. Some times the driver just wanted directions or a tip on the best cafe in town.
If the driver asked for $5 of gas, the attendant would have time to wash the windshield if he wasn’t filling up another car at the same time. At any rate, the attendant would be mighty friendly and appreciative of the business. If the driver said, “Fill er up!”, the attendant didn’t have to worry about the gas pump running over and would treat him like royalty: wash the windows, the mirrors and headlights, smile, make small talk, definitely check the oil, and possibly even check the air in the tires. That was real service.
Hmmm, back when you got real service from the attendant, they were called filling stations, but today, when you have to your own pump gas, use a credit card at the pump and never see a human being, they’re called service stations. Go figure.
Thought for the Day: If all the cars in the United States were placed end to end, it would probably be Labor Day weekend. Doug Larson