Rerun: Service Stations

George W. Eaker Sr. Cape Girardeau Phillips 66 StationService stations played a big part in our young lives. I didn’t rush right out to get my license: I turned 16 on March 24, but didn’t take my test until a hot summer day when, after acing the written test and doing OK on the driving part, I bumped a pylon while parallel parking.

That was usually an automatic failure, but the examiner took one look at the sweat pouring off me, then at the 29-foot-long, 17-foot-wide 1959 Buick LaSabre station wagon with power nothing and said, “Kid, in this car, that’s close enough. You pass.”

Because I was working at The Jackson Pioneer and The Missourian, I was making good money for a high school or college kid, and I didn’t sweat pulling into the pump and saying, “Fill it with high test.”

Pretty amazing in these days of pump-it-yourself that you’d ding the bell pulling into the station and one to three guys would come running out to fill your tank, check your oil, air up your tires and even vacuum the interior, all at no charge.

Click on the links to see more photos and the original stories with a lot more details and comments.

I usually hit the Star Service Station

Star Service Station Opening 12-02-1965 The Southeast Missourian - Google News Archive SearchThe Star station at the corner of Broadway and Frederick got most of my business. It was right across the street from Nowell’s Camera Shop, and in the vicinity of where Wife-to-Be Lila worked at the Rialto, with Tony’s Pizza Parlor across from her and The Missourian down a few blocks. That was pretty much my whole life right there.

Thoni’s had the cheapest gas

Thoni's lot 10-26-2009 6416Thoni’s Oil Company, out on South Kingshighway, almost always had the cheapest gas around – as low as 19.9 cents during one price war – but I bought into the rumors that the gas might be “watered.” It probably wasn’t, but I wasn’t willing to take the chance.

You’d never know there was a station there today.

Back in 1952, the fact that Richard Thoni FLEW into Cape from Nashville for the opening of the gas station and then FLEW back on the same day attracted as much interest in The Missourian as the new business.

Most had mechanics

Snow and Ice around Cape GirardeauMost of the stations had one or two bays where they could do minor and major repair work, including putting on tire chains when the roads were bad.

Reader’s Digest was full of stories about scams motorists had to watch out for on the highways. Unscrupulous mechanics would slice hoses while they were pretending to check fluid levels; others would spray oil on hot engine parts so frightening smoke would billow out from under the hood.

There might have been some bad mechanics in Cape, but I think they were essentially honest.

32¢ Gas; 29¢ Smokes

Bonded Service Station - W Union - 10-22-1968The Bonded Station in Athens was the Ohio equivalent of the Star Station in Cape. It was just down the road from the photo department and the guys who worked there were friendly.

Since we both worked long, late hours, I spent a lot of time in there kibitzing and catching up on local gossip that might turn into a story.

Scott City fire

Scott City service station fireA fire down at the service station is the big news of the day when you live in a small town. Just about everybody in Scott City must have turned out to inspect, analyze and speculate about what happened.

A reader said she thought it might have been the Saveway Gas Station, but the negative sleeves didn’t say.

Pete Koch’s Sinclair

Big tire accident Pete Koch Sinclair 11-20-1965Pete Koch’s Sinclair station showed up in the background of photos taken when a 700-pound tire broke off a city motorgrader and went rolling down Broadway until it bounced off Mrs. Diane Kincaid’s car.

Lynn Latimore with ’55 Ford Fairlane

Shell station man w carLynn Latimore, who was also photographed at the Star station, is leaning on what readers said was a 1955 Ford Fairlane. He was at a Shell station on North Kingshighway.

Readers filled in lots of detail about the neighborhood where it was taken, Lynn, and cars in general.

First car: 1904; first crash: 1910

Ford Groves 10-03-1929 The Southeast Missourian

I did a piece in 2010 about Cape’s early car history. It was filled with all kinds of interesting (to me) factoids. You can read more by following the link.

  • First car theft: Oct. 21, 1905. Vince Chapman left the car in front of the Broadway Mercantile Co. “Manufacturers apparently thought there was about as much temptation for the predatory criminal to steal an automobile as to steal a box car or a steamboat and had not provided locks.” There is no indication that the car was recovered. It is estimated that there were perhaps 20 cars in Cape at this time.
  • Fastest time Cape to Jackson: July 9, 1906, Joe Wilson drove the 10 miles from Cape to Jackson in a record time of 25 minutes, “probably the shortest time in which had ever been transversed up to that time.”
  • First Tin Lizzie: George McBride brought the first “Henry” into Cape in May of 1909.
  • First garage: A.J. Vogel opened the first garage on Jan. 10, 1910. It had a show room big enough to hold six cars, a washing and cleaning shop and a repair shop.
  • First auto license tax: Dec. 6, 1909. $5.
  • First Missourian auto ad: Oct. 15, 1909. A.J. Vogel, a farm machinery salesman and experienced mechanic placed a 4-inch single column ad: “The Vogel Motor Car Co., 419 Broadway, will be ready for business in 10 days. Come and see us.”
  • First auto crash: July 21, 1910. Esaw Hendrickson, a Delta farmer, got off a street car betwen the H&H Building and the Idan-Ha Hotel and stepped in front of a car driven by City Councilman Joe T. Wilson. He was knocked down and run over, but his injuries were not serious.
  • First auto vs bicycle: the day after Mr. Hendrickson’s accident, a car driven by R.B. Oliver, Jr., and a bicycle ridden by Fred Frenzel, a Western Union messenger boy, collided at the corner of Broadway and Spanish. “The boy was not hurt much, but his brand-new wheel was demolished.”
  • First funeral procession: Oct. 30, 1916, when the body of Charles E. Booth, a Frisco fireman, was laid to rest. The Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and the Odd Fellows asked Booth’s friends to bring automobiles for the funeral procession.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Broadway Fender-Bender

Looks like there might have been a minor fender-bender east of Pacific on Broadway on a warm night when the streets were wet. The negative is in poor shape, but there are all kinds of interesting things captured in the frame. Click on the photos to make them larger.

  • I think it’s a fender bender because the car in the foreground (with a Ford Groves license plate) is empty.
  • There’s a small crowd of gawkers gathering on the sidewalk.
  • There’s a guy standing behind the second car exhibiting body language that he’s not particularly happy. You can see that same sort of thing at another crash at Fountain and Broadway where you can also read about Cape’s singing policeman, Fred Kaempfer.

Barely worth two shots

  • It had to have been minor because it was only worth two shots. It wasn’t newsworthy enough to make the paper and it didn’t look like it would turn into an insurance job.
  • The Esquire Theater is showing Walt Disney’s Moon Spinners.
  • The Wayne’s Grill sign is still lit, probably open to catch late-night moviegoers. Wayne’s was the home of the best filet I’ve ever eaten, all for $1.25.
  • Beard’s Sport shop is on the left side of the street just beyond the Esquire and just before the phone company.
  • There’s a guy standing in front of the price sign at the Cities Service gas station, so we don’t know how much you had to pay to fill your tank, but I’m guessing it was going for about .39.9 a gallon. Thoni’s price wars that took it down to 19 cents didn’t usually make it that far into town.
  •  If you look above and to the left of the highway signs, you can see one of the cheesy plastic rose baskets that were supposed to symbolize City of Roses.
  •  Vandeven’s Merchantile is on the right. There’s a sign that looks like it says “Novelty Shop,” that might have been Bodine’s Gift Shop at 823 Broadway. Beyond it is the vertical sign for Radonics Electronics Radio and TV.

Is the Esquire deal off?

When I was home last fall, the big news was that the Esquire Theater, closed for first-run movies since 1984, was going to renovated by its new owner, John Buckner.

Well, it looks like the excitement might have been premature. One of Buckner’s enterprises, a new restaurant named Razing Cain, closed in less than a month. The Missourian is reporting that Buckner is now “rethinking” if he’s going forward with the Esquire project.

 

 

Copyright © Ken Steinhoff. All rights reserved.