Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Back when service stations provided ... service

This vintage Standard Oil service station in Odell, Illinois used to serve up fuel for motorists on old Route 66. Today it serves up memories of a day long past when the pace was a bit slower, an attendant with his name embroidered on his shirt pumped your gas and chatted about the weather while cleaning your windshield and checking your oil. The good ones could time the pumping with the cleaning and oil check to finish at about the same time, then take your money and provide change without you having to leave your car.

Service stations were still doing that when I started driving. Not too long afterward, large filling centers with multiple pumps began to sprout across the country and self-service became the norm. Self-service keeps the overhead low and allows a larger stream of cars to quickly pass through a filling station (it’s just not correct to call them “service” stations anymore). None of that inefficient human contact to slow down the profit machine.

Wouldn’t you know that the day I photographed this station, a man inside noticed me outside and came out to ask me if he could help me. He was the curator of the historical display and gift shop inside the station building. I explained I was there to photograph the building, if it was all right with him. He told me it was fine and to come in if I needed to know anything about the building or the times in which it served the motorists traveling Route 66.

You just don’t get service like that anymore.

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2007 James Jordan.

4 comments:

Lisa said...

Wow ~ SUCH a cool discovery! Thanks for sharing this wonderful place and experience. :)

Photo Buffet said...

James, I like how you combine interesting stories with your photos. This station looks like many others along that familiar Route 66. I know it'll date me, but our family vacations usually took us along that route, and we'd keep an eye out for those old Burma Shave signs with the rhymes.

Nice website! I'll be back to explore past posts...

James said...

lisa, glad you enjoyed your visit. I found Ladybug's Leaf via Flickr. Great images there as well!

photo buffet - there's a set of Burma Shave signs in another town east of this station - I didn't know it until I had passed them (they were facing the other direction).

My great-grandfather owned a filling station when I was a boy, and I'd hang out there from time to time (the free soda I'd get from him was always welcome on a hot summer day). The sights, sounds and smells were some of my earliest memories.

Bevson said...

Over here in NJ we still have full sevice. Well, I should say we do not have self-serve. Occasionally we even get our windows washed. Your photo and story are wonderful.