Saturday, October 13, 2018

Now that's service

When he was running out of gas in his two-toned blue and white Edsel station wagon, (seats 9 with 3 in the front, no safety belts) Dad would almost always pull into the APCO station on Broadway in Alexandria to fill ‘er up with Ethyl. Mr. Fahlberg would bounce out of the clean windowed station and cheerfully greet him by name through the driver window. You didn’t have to fill, of course, you could just ask for $5 worth, or ten gallons, or even an embarrassing $1 jolt just to get you home so somebody else could fill it later.

While the gasoline was running into the tank, Mr. Fahlberg was busy squirting light blue fluid on the windows and rubbing them down with worn-out red rags. He’d ask if you’d like the oil checked, and if you did, the hood came up and the dipstick came out, got wiped, re-inserted and checked. He’d bring it around to show you that, upon close examination, you were down a quart and then you’d have to remember what weight of oil you were currently using, and he’d go fetch a can and put it in for you.

He’d check your tire pressure too if you asked, pulling the gauge easily from his chest pocket.

You didn't need to go inside the station to pay; what was the point, there were just wiper blades, tires, oil cans, free maps, a desk and cash register. Everything had to do with servicing autos. Maybe a Ford penny candy dispenser with colorful gumballs.

At 10 below zero with the wind whipping, you just stayed in the car and spoke through a crack in the driver window.

Finished with the fill, Mr. Fahlberg would announce the cost (gas averaged 32 cents a gallon in 1960, sometimes a dime during a gas war) and make your change, running back to the station to get it, or dispensing it from the little change-maker strapped around his waist. Tipping just wasn’t done, restaurants only. We didn't know about credit cards; they would take a local check within limits. Transaction complete, he would thank us for our business and ask us to come again.

I mention all this now, because I realized today that most Americans have no idea what full service is like. And Making America Great Again would just have to include gas stations.

1 comment:

Lorlee Bartos said...

Just curious what kind of a car could take $10 worth of gas back then. At $0.20 a gallon that would be 50 gallons. My recollection is it didn't get into the $0.50 range until the Embargo in the early 70s