Service Stations

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Yep, I remember the sights and smells as well. Much different than today's squeaky clean convenience store with the tattooed freak behind the counter! Guess that's why I just swipe the card at the pump anymore, I don't have to go in to the circus show!
The gas station that I usually go to is a somewhat full service. They pump the gas and if you ask they will check oil and tires air. They also have a 3 bay garage and it is where I take my cars when I don't want to do a project or don't have the time. I have been getting oil changes done there because it is pretty much the same price as me doing it myself and they do a series of checks, like battery and tire wear. I don't need to get rid of he oil. I used to hang around a station my buddy worked at in the 70s that had the run over bell. I loved that thing. No uniforms at that time. The place I go to now the mechanics have Sunoco shirts. I have seen videos of people pulling into get gas and team comes out like a pit crew. I don't remember those days. Jim
First three yrs of working was a pump jockey, "check your water n oll" sir/ mam? When back after the service to get throw college. Minimum wage and $.25 / gal. Yep good old days:p.
I'm old but still hard to imagine!!! o_O

Cedar Creek gas.jpg

The 1st job I ever had was at a 3 bay gas service station. There were 2 lifts and a wash bay, that served as a mechanics bay until Friday, when the car washes started for the weekends. They also had a wheel alignment rack out behind the building. Besides the boss, there were two mechanics on duty Mon - Fri, and one on duty every Sat. The station owner was a certified auto mechanics teacher at the local college. He taught the night auto courses there two nights a week. It was a great place to work and learn, I worked there through my high school years, and 4 years after that.

We had two gas islands with 4 pumps (two premium 92 Octane and two regular 89 octane) on each island. We were one of the highest volume gas stations in town. I started working there in 1972. We were the 1st station in town selling the "unleaded" gas. We had a small 300 gallon tank and a pump where we used to sell the "white gas" for boats up by the building, so that tank was pumped out and cleaned so we could sell the unleaded gas through it. Then the unleaded was swapped over to the premium gas under ground tank and the unleaded replace the premium on the islands. We still offered premium leaded gas from the pump up be the building. Wasn't long before the regular gas pumps were converted to unleaded and we were offering premium unleaded at the islands again. Then they removed the small 3rd tank. I got to work through the oil embargo in 74 (watched the gas price go from 28 cents a gallon to 60 cents a gallon in about a month), worked there when the gas prices went past the 99.9 cents a gallon (we had to post the gas prices as a 1/2 gallon price for 2-3 months, we were the 1st station in town with new pumps). When the self service first started, the pump islands closest to the street were converted to the self serve pumps. At the full service we would wash the windshield, check your oil, and check your tire pressure if we were asked to by the customer. We also had to ask the customer if they wanted us to check their oil, most did not want us to do that. When someone pulled into the self service pumps, we still had to go out to the pumps to be sure they were OK and to collect the money.

We didn't have uniforms as gas pump jockey, but if you made it into a mechanic position, you got a set of uniform shirts (and you got charged $3 to get 5 of them cleaned every week).

Looking back, it was a grand experience! That boss treated me very well, though I didn't think so at the time. I learned a lot, he set me up with side jobs like replacing motors and transmissions on customer vehicles, and taught me a lot of stuff you couldn't get from books.
Thanks Gene, that brought back some memories. My first job around cars was at an old Phillips 66 station named Silvernails, after the family that owned it. By the time I was there in 76 one of the sons owned it, I'd guess he was in his late 40's. He was a crazy drunk that stormed around with a pistol in his belt and a highly trained Doberman attack dog at his kidding! They had a fleet of 5 or 6 tow trucks, you know the old kind with slings not roll backs. We were the last service station on W. Colfax that would repair tires off big trucks. Boy that was an experience, swinging big wedge axes and tire irons around all by hand and then airing them up under a cage so not to send the occasional snap ring into the ceiling some 25 feet above! I mostly did oil, filter and lube jobs, and a lot of setting racks under cars so the old mechanics could lift them up to work on them. There was one old mechanic and all he did was rebuild/refresh engines. I used to watch him torque rods, mains and heads using the dial on a 1/2" impact wrench, again.... no kidding!
I worked at one of our neighbors Esso stations in downtown Houston across from a big hospital! We did the normal stuff during the week but on Friday, all the Doctors would bring their cars in to get washed! One Dr drove a brand new silver '64 327/4-speed Stingray roadster. We weren't supposed to drive the cars after we washed them but one Friday when the boss was away, I drove that Vette around the block... never forget it!!! He was a redneck from Mississippi & would have killed me if he ever found out, luckily... he never did!

That gas station I worked at was a Mobil.

We had a Hostess bread truck and a US Mail privet carrier (under contract with the US Mail for that specific route) 1 ton truck that both got parked in the garage at the gas station every night. Both trucks left the building early in the morning. The bread truck arrived back at the Station around 3pm was was parked on the side lot until it was driven in every evening by the closing crew. The Mail truck did a 167 mile route to the smaller towns in our area twice a day. The first time was early morning, and the second time he pulled out every afternoon about 3pm for the same evening route, and was usually back at the station by 5 or 6 PM. When ever those two trucks came in, we had to fill them with gas, and park them on the side lot as well as put them in every night. Both trucks were manual transmission trucks. There was always two pump jockeys that worked the closing shift. If at least one of them didn't know how to drive a stick, they learned on one of those trucks.

The Mail truck was always pretty new, because of the miles the truck saw everyday, it didn't take more then a couple years to accumulate a ton of miles on it. When the trucks reached the 200K mile mark, he would just order a new truck, after the new truck was fitted with the required box, it was picked up and driven on the route the next morning. The guy favored Chevy or GMC trucks, over the 7 years I worked there he had a couple of each.

The 1st year that GM offered the HEI system on trucks, the Mail guy bought the 1st 1 ton Chevy truck in the area (and maybe in the country) with the HEI on it. It was a great selling point, can you imagine how many sets of points you put in a car in 200K miles? He was doing more then that every 2 years. Because of the miles it was driven every day, it was also the 1st HEI system in the country that failed! It was out of warranty at that point, but because it was a US Post Office contracted vehicle, it garnered the local Chevy truck dealer involvement, and after a few days being down, GM got involved (remember, this was the first real on the road failure of their "new" ignition system). GM provided a loaner truck so the Mail route was completed every day until that truck was fixed (it took about 2 weeks to get it going again).

Because my boss was a certified mechanics teacher, everything that the local dealership did, and everything GM did was done at our gas station. Because I was wearing a mechanics shirt there, and being the youngest guy at the station (and the most able to climb into and out of the engine compartment of most everyone there), I too was involved hands on, it was a fascinating experience! I bet we walked through their troubleshooting procedure each time a new guy showed up (there were a lot of new guys showing up every day). Those guys (and me) swapped almost everything in that system attempting to find the problem. Everything was done, one piece at a time, they had to find out what the issue was. That meant everything swapped in also had to be replaced with the old part again. After two weeks, it still didn't run, so we made a list of everything we had swapped out. The ONLY thing that was reused through the entire process was the rotor! I have no ides how we missed that, but at my suggestion we put in a new distributor rotor (We all figured we had nothing to loose at that point). The motor fired right up. Everyone was dumbfounded. I had to put the old rotor back in to make sure that was the problem. It wouldn't fire on the old rotor, but would fire on the new rotor. We had to handle that old rotor very carefully, they wanted to use it to test every other part. We had to swap each new piece we had installed back to the old original stuff (one piece at a time) and test it with both the old rotor and the new rotor. Every single time it would fire with the new rotor and not fire with the old rotor. After everything that was on the truck when it came in on the hook with was back on the truck, the rotor was the only thing that made the difference between it running and it not running. lots of guys looked at the defective rotor and we all determined that the spark was blowing through the rotor and grounding on the mechanical advance plate under it.

We were told that about a month later, another vehicle with the HEI system was hauled into a dealership with no spark, and they were told by GM to change the rotor and that vehicle also fired right up. Gm notified all their dealerships about the rotor issue and were advised to start with replacing the rotors first, then proceed with the troubleshooting process if the rotor did not solve the issue.

My only claim to fame was being on that team that discovered that weakness in the GM HEI system.
IIRC, your find Gene caused GM to add a ground strap under the coil on the HEI to prevent it blowing through the rotor.
Great detective work Gene!
IIRC, your find Gene caused GM to add a ground strap under the coil on the HEI to prevent it blowing through the rotor.
Great detective work Gene!
Wasn't much great detective work going on at that point, it was more of the idea of "What should we try now?' I was pretty much the guy operating the screwdriver, and just throwing out thoughts like the other guys there.

I know we replaced a lot of those HEI rotors those first few years. By 78 or 79, I was off to the next adventure of my life. By the time I was back to making a living fixing cars, it was EFI time.

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