Monday, March 3, 2008

History of Gasoline

Old Gas Station

A gas gauge was an “extra” in a Model T and the gas tank was under the front seats. But where did you get the gasoline to fill the tank?

Of course today there are gas stations everywhere, but when cars were first invented gas stations weren’t around yet. People actually bought their gasoline at the general store. They filled their own buckets with gasoline and used a funnel to pour it into the car’s gas tank.

As more and more companies got into the business of making gasoline, stations began to appear. Some of them were just a single gas pump right alongside the curb with an attendant ready to help when you drove up. Unlike the automated gasoline pumps today, old-fashioned ones took some muscle to hand pump, but at least you didn’t have to slosh a bucket around. Customers pumped their own gas and the station attendant wrote up the bill on a piece of paper.

Starting in 1920 stations got fancier. Some put up neon signs to advertise their name and many added water fountains and vending machines for thirsty customers. New pumps offered two grades of gasoline without hand pumping. The new pumps had glass covered gauges that displayed the amount of gas being dispensed and the cost.

It took a long 8 minutes to fill the small 5-gallon car tanks that were common in those days. While the tank was filling up, the gas station attendant wiped the windshield, checked the oil and water for you, and if necessary, cranked the engine to get it started again.

Sometimes called a “gas jockey,” the station attendant worked 13 days in a row before he got a day off. Customers would often tip a gas jockey 10 or 25 cents for his service.

In the 1950s when Della Deluxe and Hank Hot Rod were the most popular cars, gas jockeys could work part time and it was a fun job for high school boys. They would service the car and pump the gas too. Pumps were more efficient and could fill the larger 14-gallon gas tanks quickly.

When a gas shortage caused prices to go up in the 1970s, customers wanted the best price they could find. To keep prices down, gas stations changed over to self-serve and gas jockeys became a thing of the past.

Today convenience stores are a part of many gas stations. Now, instead of working as gas jockeys, high school students can work part time as store clerks and help ring up your sale. Drivers can make one, quick stop for gas and snacks and be back on the road in no time at all. It kind of reminds you of the days when gasoline was sold at the general store.

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