Somewhere around the year 1925, there were only two gasoline filling stations in Victoria: a Magnolia Petroleum Company station at the corner of William and Santa Rosa Street and a Gulf Oil Station at the corner of Main and Goodwin.
There were of course other places where gasoline was available. Some rural groceries and many small in-town groceries had a pump outside, topped with a 10-gallon glass bowl. The bowl was filled by working a lever, and gasoline then drained by gravity through a hose into the automobile’s tank.
As time passed, more gasoline stations were built around and in Victoria, with sleek and modern electric gasoline pumps. Attendants at these stations were always eager to provide service and wore billed caps and snazzy uniforms kept freshly ironed and starched. Curbs in the station’s front were whitewashed, and careful attention was given to ligustrum hedges and other landscaping elements. Cold drink boxes were conveniently located along the service drive and kept filled with 5-cent iced-down Coca-Colas, Dr. Peppers, Barq’s Root Beers, and Royal Crown sodas.
When a customer pulled his car into a gasoline station, the keyword became “service”. Attendants sprang into action, tossing questions with a smile: “Regular or ethyl?” “Check your oil and water?” “How about the battery?” “Need air for the tires?” “Change for the cigarette machine?” “Oil’s looking a little dirty. Want to come in tomorrow for an oil change?”
When the customer returned to his car he would discover that his windshield had been cleaned, ashtrays emptied and dirt and debris whisk-broomed off floor mats.
As new service stations were added to Victoria, the ‘Grand Opening’ became an event. Balloons and candy were available for the kids, specials and coupons handed out for oil changes and lube jobs, and sometimes a band played as customers lined up in their cars for blocks around.
By 1950, three of the corners of Victoria’s Main and Goodwin intersection were occupied by service stations. Around downtown Victoria there was a Sinclair Oil Company station at the corner of Santa Rosa and Bridge, another at William and Goodwin, and other locations scattered across Victoria and along highways, all staffed with uniformed attendants eager to serve and dispense not only Sinclair gasoline, but Humble Oil, Texaco, Gulf Oil, and Magnolia Petroleum Company (home of the Flying Red Horse) gasolines.
Today, things are a little different from 1948. We have convenience stores and discount gasoline-dispensing facilities at “big box” retailers. At all of them, one has the privilege of pumping one’s own gasoline and at some, one has the privilege of putting air in one’s own tires from a coin-operated air pump.
Occasionally, one can also find a coin-operated vacuum to clean dirt from car floors.
Following all of this, one has the privilege of going inside and standing in line for a 79-cent sugar-free cola in a Styrofoam cup.
Thanks to Sidney Weisiger and his Vignettes of Old Victoria and Marie Adcock at the UHV/VC Regional History Center.