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Author Topic: Check out "The Service Station" on saac.com  (Read 3760 times)
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Computerworks
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« on: February 20, 2009, 09:18:36 PM »

Be sure to read the latest SAACgacity (the semi-regular column on www.saac.com).

"The Service Station"

Any of us that spent time in our youth working at a service station have fond memories of the good old days. In this edition, Rick Kopec spins a tale about the days of greasy fingernails that is sure to put a smile on your face.

>Click here to read the latest SAACgacity<

Use this thread to discuss the article.

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Dan Case
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« Reply #1 on: February 21, 2009, 04:59:25 AM »

Great story Rick. I never worked at a service station but we sure did make use of them. Today people take cars that don't need tune ups for maybe as much as 100,000 miles at a time, cell phones and 24 hour towing as perfectly normal but in the early 1960s a mechanical failure out on the road could be pretty expensive in time and money if you didn't have a service station close by. There also weren't car dealerships every few miles like there seems to be now. (I pass by two Ford dealers and two Chevorlet dealers that are about six miles apart every work day.)

Also in my experience was that brand loyality topic could work to customer's favor. Our family used the same station all the time. We knew the people that worked there and we knew them. If I had a used car I was interested in I could and did take the car to the service station. The owner let me put cars on lifts and raise them up for thorough inspections and would even help check for play in bearings, ball joints, etc. at no charge. I think the last car I inspected was a 1969 Boss 302. The seller drove the car to my house at night. I wanted to see the car in lights so we drove it to the station. On the short ride I heard a growling noise under the car. We put the car up on a lift and the mechanic loaned me some tools. There was this foamy stuff oozing out of the rear of the floor pan where the axle vent hole went. I removed the differential fill plug and an oil and water froth bubbled out. I found a similar condition in the transmission. I sure was glad the service station was there, had a lift, the operators and I knew each other, I was allowed to use the lift and tools, and I found out the car had been in a flood before I bought it. The price of the car was too good to be true. The seller sure was so eager. The car was a mess, he had been driving for no telling how long with water in the gears. Less than a year later that service station was replaced by somethingh like a 7-11 or something.

Dan

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Dan Case (a.k.a. rr64)
1964 Cobra owner since 1983, Cobra crazy since I saw my first one in the mid 1960s in Huntsville, AL.
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« Reply #2 on: February 21, 2009, 10:43:35 AM »

Sure brings back alot of memories!! And I'm alot older than Rick! My father in law owned a Mobil station on Sunset Blvd. (LA) and often talked how times changed. When someone would come in for gas, a "team" would surround the car and check the tires,water, oil  and clean the windshield. Then they would get the S&H green stamps.....and competing stations would offer 10x to "try" and steal bussiness! Doesn't seem that long ago that I was paying $0.35-.050 gas in my Cobra and spilling it .Can you inagine today with "safety" laws filling a gas tank with the  filler tube (and gas tank) directly behind the driver and passenger!

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« Reply #3 on: February 21, 2009, 11:01:33 AM »

Nice article, Rick. It brought back some fond memories.

My first job was working at a Gulf station in Levittown, PA. I got the job because I had just turned 16 and I put out some feelers. My cousin's wife's brother worked there and he was tired of having to put down the wrenches in the middle of a tune-up, brake job, or vehicle safety inspection to pump gas. Usually, the owner was out, so he wanted help. I think I made $2.00/hr at the time, got a few modest raises, and worked there for about 4-5 years, full-time and part-time.

You're right, Rick. These were service stations. If the client wanted a "fill-up", I was expected to check the oil, check the ATF, clean the windshield, check the battery water level, check the washer fluid level, and if the driver thought the car was running too hot, check the coolant level and top it off if necessary. I remember being asked by some motorists to offer an opinion on belt tensions and looking at brake lights while they stepped on the brake pedal. If people just bought a couple of bucks of gas, I would still clean their windshield and check their oil, if the islands weren't too busy.

There were a few hi-po cars (I don't think we called them muscle cars till later) that would come in for our high test. The Corvette guys usually wanted to pump their own gas, because the tank opening was in the middle of the rear deck. Regardless of how much a hi-po car owner bought, I always offered to check the oil. That gave me a chance to see what they had under the hood.

You forgot to mention the give-aways. Since we were near an entrance for the PA Turnpike, we stocked free road maps for PA, NJ, NY, DE, MD, and OH. Then there were the promotional give-aways. People who got a fill-up, 10 gal minimum, could get a drinking glass or some other such thing, from time to time. When the movie LeMans came out, we gave out posters that featured Steve McQueen and the Gulf Porsche. I think I still have a couple.

When business slowed down at the end of the day, I was permitted to bring my car in and tinker with it. Doing a brake job or an oil change on the lift was way better than doing it at home on a floor jack. I think I balanced and rotated my tires once a month. My friends would also stop by and we'd put their cars on the lift to check things out. The boss didn't care.  Sometimes I would talk my buddies in to buying an oil change. My boss liked that.

That $2.00/hr job, and my propensity to save, provided the wherewithal that I could buy a '66 Shelby and get it painted.

You mentioned the gas crisis. If there was a place to work at that time, it was at a gas station. My family, friends, and I always had a supply.

There was a down side, but in retro-spec, it wasn't as bad as today's worries as a Dad, husband, employee, mortgage payer, bill payer, etc.

Thanks for sparking the trip down memory lane.

Steve

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« Reply #4 on: February 21, 2009, 03:45:40 PM »

First job in high school a friend talked me into bussing tables at a steak place where he worked. 1 week later I was working at a Mobil gas station. I remember we were having a gas war and the price got down to 21 or 23 cents. I asked the boss how he could sell so cheap and he said once it dropped below a quarter the company paid him 5 cents per gallon so he was actualy making more than if he sold at the norm for the time of 28 cents.
Never got any tips so we didn't use the acid idea but if someone would come in for directions we'd tell them how to get there - if they just stopped out front and yelled or worse honked we'd always send them in the wrong direction.

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« Reply #5 on: February 21, 2009, 04:22:10 PM »

Ah, I remember it well, working at an independent service station, that was later bought out by Beacon, near Sacramento (Fair Oaks) in the early 1960's:
 
Truly "servicing" every car that came in, including checking air pressure in the tires; fixing flat tires on an almost daily basis with a manual tire changer; pumping white gas and heating oil for customers; selling packs of cigarettes for .23 cents per pack from the station office; driving a '53 Plymouth 30 miles round trip each day to work 60 hours per week at the station, with no OT pay; keeping my personal pistol close by when "customers" always managed to come by for cigarettes after I closed the station at 11:00 p.m., turned off the island lights, locked the door, and was counting the daily loot in front of large glass windows; looking for the damn gas cap on '56 Chevies, and some other tricky cars; locking a gas nozzle on once, then watching it filling the gutter with gas after it fell out of the car's filler neck as I was up in the office; getting a mug full of boiling water and antifreeze when foolishly opening a radiator cap too soon; filling a Morris Minor's radiator with gasoline once, which the owner wasn't too happy about (I thought it was strange that the fuel filler was that close to the rear engine); and most memorable of all, watching a 289 Cobra come in for a little gas one morning, surely because he must have been nearly empty.

 

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« Reply #6 on: February 22, 2009, 10:34:55 AM »

Speaking of brand loyalty, I still always try to look for a Union 76 station because when I got my first car there was a guy at the local station that had a '68 Mustang GT fastback (white, black "C" stripes, 302, 4-speed)

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« Reply #7 on: February 23, 2009, 06:45:29 PM »

Great story Rick, ahh the memories. I had a couple of "stations" myself once. I knew the end had arrived when one day at a friends station, a customer walked in the door and needed change for a dollar. After receiving his 4 quarters he said to my friend," Mel, you're getting greedy, I just filled my van (Dodge) for $2O and now you have to beat me for another .25 cents for air"? You call this neighborhood service? He had a point, debatable, but a point no less. I thought a lot about what I heard that day. Having been in the business for years, my heart and mind knew he was right. What we had all known as the "Neighborhood Station" was gone forever.

rcode

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« Reply #8 on: February 24, 2009, 06:18:49 AM »

Another Brand Loyalty note...
My dad was career Army and shortly after the end of WWII, Philips 66 sent every officer a gas credit card, figuring they were pretty good risks.  Dad bought Phillips 66 gas for the next 40+ years.  Not a bad business decision!  AND, after dad retired (30 year Col) and goofed around the house for a year, he magically found a job at the local '66 Station where he could hang out and smoke with the guys, earn a legitimate paycheck, and be of further service to people.  He got me a job there for a summer or two during High School and that was one of the best jobs I can recall.  Didn't make a ton of money, but I learned how to get some grease under my nails, how to tell the difference between the radiator cap and the oil filler, and why you don't try to put 50 lbs of air in a 40 lb max tire!  Wish I could find a job like that these days for MY 15 year old son.

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« Reply #9 on: February 24, 2009, 08:33:28 AM »

It was working as a twelve year old in my dad's Texaco station that I told myself that someday I'd save up enough to buy a Mustang with a great big engine...   I always remember that day every November when the first snowflakes hit the ground and customers flocked in in a panic to have their studded snow tires put on.  My dad and his four sons could turn a car around in about fifteen minutes.  We'd work from morning until late into the night to get them all done!  Gas rationing, odd/even fuel days; Customers would call during the middle of the night to top off their tanks...
Dad had a mechanic from the hills of Pennsylvania.  He never talked much about what he did there, but he did have a cut off switch for his brake & taillights...   He had a beat up, rusted out falcon that he refused to wash.  He somehow wedged a big block ( I think it was a Cobra Jet) into it and would spend his nights pulling up next to Corvettes at intersections.  I still feel sorry for the embarrassed Vette guys...

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