Re: gas stations of the richmond

02/11/06 - posted by PJ

I remember that King Regal that you worked at, and I recall there being at least two service stations at California and Arguello, one on the NW and another at the SW?? corners. They were gone by the mid-late 70’s.

Reading my entries on this thread one might get the sense that I'm some kind of 'motorhead' which is my last/least calling in the material world. I wasn't motivated to get driver’s license until I was 26! I didn’t want to be encumbered by the cost and responsibility of maintaining a vehicle. In the City, home of the endangered parking space, walking, bicycling, hitch hiking, and Muni did the trick. The stories that folks contribute to this site serves as WD-40 to loosen old memories and impressions of times past.

As a kid gas stations were just one of many curious places.

The (one and only) family vehicle, was a plain gray 1950 four door Plymouth. A Sunday outing heading in one of three directions (Think about it, who’d drive to the Farallones!?) often required ‘filling up’ at a gas station .

In the hunt for the best gas prices a typical discussion had by my parents and older sisters went something as follows, “Art’s was 19 and 9 last time, let’s go there.” “Yeah, but Bill’s is 21 and 9, he’s givin’ out S & H Green Stamps (or was it Blue Chip or Orange Stamps?)!” Well, Zeke’s is on our way, I think he’s selling at 20 and 9, we’ll go there.”

Gas stations were festooned with strings of flags or spinning propellors in eye catching primary colors on the overhang above the pumping islands. We’d drift over the hose on the pad and hear the ‘Ding-Ding’ of the service bell. If they weren’t already at the pumps a couple of guys in company uniforms would hop-to offering service. One would ask whether we were getting ethyl, regular, or premium and the other was at the hood to check the oil and water and perhaps the air pressure in the tires. While the gas was pumping they’d clean the windows check the wiper blades. There were familiar smells - a whiff of gasoline and lubricants and auto exhaust. I get transfixed watching the numbers whizzing by on the dials of the gas pump. Older pumps had a round yellow or orange rotor ball that spun as the gas went into the tank.

Money was exchanged and my younger sister and I would anticipate the handful of suckers and balloons or a cheap toy that would be presented to us with the change brought by the attendant.

If the station provided savings stamps then out of the glove box came the savings book and the stamps were licked and placed on the vacant page. Sometimes as the auto glided out of the station and into the flow of traffic the conversation shifted to what items might be selected when enough books of stamps had been filled. A new laundry iron or toaster might be discussed. But it seemed to me that the items that we purchased were folding chairs and card tables, furnishing always needed for large family gatherings.

The Western Neighborhoods Project is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.