Full Service

When I was a child, my grandfather ran a service station in rural Tennessee. He'd retired after a long career: welder, working on the atom bombs at Oak Ridge during WWII, then owning a service station for long-haul trucks in the early days of I-75 near Knoxville. He didn't like retirement very much, so after his retirement he bought a smaller service station within walking distance of his house and ran it mostly to keep himself busy. He did light work, oil changes and tire repair, and sold gasoline.

One of the things he offered was "full service," although even in those days it was an option. If you pulled up to the pump closest to the station, you ran over a pressure device that set off a bell inside. He or one of his employees would come out, pump your gas for you -- as much as you wanted, by dollar or by gallon -- and while they pumped it they'd wash your windows, check your tire pressure, clean your headlights, things like that. Though I was a child, he'd often let me do the parts of it that I could do, which I thought was great fun at the time.

Apparently this kind of thing still exists in Oregon. They're very alarmed that it's becoming optional. I hadn't heard of it in years.


Texan99 said...

I haven't seen one in years, either, though I can remember them as late at the end of the 80s. I opted for full service now and then, if I wanted my oil checked or my wind-shield wipers replaced. Remember when we still had to check our oil? When I was a kid, you knew you'd better do it every few days. If you were driving a hand-me-down car (and who wasn't?), it leaked oil like a sieve and was constantly in danger of over-heating. I go years now without thinking about leaking oil or over-heating my engine. I have the oil changed every few months, and that's about it. I have it done at a garage, in part because it's nearly impossible in a new car to get access to the oil filter without a lift. Also in part because I'm too stinkin' lazy now.

Grim said...

Yes, exactly. That was one of the things. You'd have a rag in your pocket to wipe off the dipstick, and then you'd run it back down and check to see if it the levels were good and if it was clean.

I really liked doing it, being a child, and he liked having me there to do it. It is a pleasant memory for me.

Of course, it was a friendly environment in rural Tennessee. The one they had near Knoxville, during the turbulent 1960s, was almost robbed a couple of times. My grandfather and my uncle carried pistols on their shifts, and repelled the robbery attempts as necessary. My uncle was an Air Force Security Police veteran of the Korean era, and not the least bit afraid of two-bit thugs. My grandfather, well, I wrote about him once.

raven said...

Back in the 1970's, Forks, WA was a booming logging town, a bit rough around the fringes. Being a wet drizzly place, good fruit was hard to come by, so one enterprising old gent would run a box van over the mountains a few hundred miles east to Yakima, and come back loaded with luscious peaches, cherries, etc. He would pull into a turnout off the main road a mile out of town and set up a stand. We all know what no BS old guys look like- not just the eyes, but the weathering folks get from a lifetime of hard work spent outdoors on oil rigs, fishing boats, fence lines etc. He had the look.
So being a young guy, and liking fresh fruit, I asked him once if he felt a bit vulnerable out there, with his financial management system consisting of a paper bag stuffed with cash. He smiled and pulled a large revolver out of the sack and remarked he had no fears. Typical of the time and place

Mike Totten has an interesting article on Oregon in City Journal, regarding the urban/city divide.
It brought to mind a discussion we had recently about the domination of rural states by their main cities, and a case I was unable to pull up from memory- it was the Reynolds-Sims decision, allocating State Senate positions by population, just like State Representatives, thus weighting state politics to the benefit of the cities

douglas said...

Grim, you can still get one of those bells, if you'd like the sound for nostalgia's sake.

Whenever I visit Oregon, I hate the fact that you have to let them pump your gas, even though I remember the old full service stations fondly- as child, the gas station promotional giveaways were always fun. The Oregon thing is purely a make work program on the backs of gas station owners, and by extension, gas consumers.

Love the stories of older folks and revolvers. Mine is a little different. My maternal grandmother (who my father-in-law, after meeting her but being unable to converse much because of her limited English, observed- "She's clearly a lady", due to her manner and bearing- not haughty, but always dignified) was often left to take care of the family as they moved around staying ahead of the war in China when my grandfather was working for the warlord he was affiliated with- first against the Japanese, then the Communists. One time, they were in a house a bit out in the country, and there had been a couple of small thefts of supplies from the house in past days. Grandma heard some rustling noises outside the next night, and pulled out the revolver grandpa had left her with and pumped a couple shots out the window in the direction of the noises! Someone ran off, and no bodies were found the next morning, but the theft stopped. Dignified, yes, but also not to be trifled with- she would do what was necessary for her family. I miss her.

ColoComment said...

Last fall I took my first driving trip to Oregon (via WY, MT, WA)-- couldn't believe it when people told me that I'd have to allow someone else to fill the motor home tank. ...and all they did was the same thing that I'd have done -- insert the CC, pump gas, return nozzle to rest, take receipt & go.
There was NO added value to having another person do what the rest of us do without a thought. In fact, it slowed down the entire process because one person had to do sequentially what ~4 drivers could have done, simultaneously.
MW jobs program, pure & simple.
What foolishness.

DLSly said...

FWIW, full service doesn't exist in Oregon. As Colo said, all they do is take your card, ask for your zip (to make it work - no identity theft concerns there, nosiree), fill your tank until the pump clicks off once, then give you your receipt. And people couldn't figure out why gas is cheaper in Washington.
And, to top it all off - get this - until this new law change, it was a $10,000 fine FOR THE SERVICE STATION if you pumped your own gas.

jaed said...

I've never seen full service in Oregon. Only what used to be called "Mini-Serve"—they pump the gas and that's it, with no windshield cleaning or oil check.

However, having your gas pumped is becoming optional only in lightly populated counties, not in the cities. Apparently city people are still considered too dumb to pump their own gas.

The thread of the fine causes gas station attendance to react... robustly... if someone starts pumping their own gas. I've done that once or twice crossing from California into Oregon and forgetting what side of the state line I was one. They come running and screaming.

Elise said...

New Jersey is the other (now, I guess, only) State that doesn't allow self-service. No, you don't get the kind of full service we got once upon a time (clean windshield, oil check, etc.) Still, given a choice between the NJ system (can't pump my own) and the rest of the country (pretty much impossible to find a station where someone else will pump it for me), I'll take NJ's system every time - especially when I'm dressed up for work or an event; or it's cold or raining or snowing or sleeting or 95 degrees plus 95% humidity.

I can't speak for the whole country but I can say that gas in NJ was pretty much same price as gas in the surrounding States - a fact I checked out after I heard a gas station guy in NJ try to explain that fact to an out-of-stater who was sure he was getting price-gouged because someone else was doing the work.

For my birthday a couple of years ago, my husband gave me one of my favorite T-shirts. It's pink with a rose design and the logo: Jersey Girls Don't Pump Gas. Of course, I live in Alabama now where we all have to pump our own - unless we head to the ritzy Shell station in Mobile, fondly known as "Society Shell."

Grim said...

Thanks for the heads up, Douglas. I wonder if I wouldn't like one of those old rope-and-bell systems.

He smiled and pulled a large revolver out of the sack and remarked he had no fears.

I had a similar experience at an Army-Navy store in Atlanta about 25 years ago. In that case the owner was carrying the pistol on his hip. I asked him if he was afraid of being robbed. He grinned and said, "Not at all."

raven said...

There may be exceptions in Oregon regarding the "full service" gas. - I have always pumped my own gas there when filling the motorcycle, and no one ever hassled me about it. Bikers absolutely hate to have gas dribbling down the sides of the tank- I think it may be a holdover from exspensive custom paint jobs and paints that were not particularly solvent resistant.

Anonymous said...

As I recall from a conversation with some folks from Pendleton, the real problem with the required full service (aside from cost and irritation) was that in some areas at the eastern end of the state, no self-pump option meant that anyone arriving late at night could not get any fuel at all, leaving people stranded at gas stations or on the road as they tried to get to a larger town with 24/7 "full service." So there was a serious reason for rural areas to be allowed to self-serve.


Texan99 said...

We shouldn't need a good reason to have self-service. That should be a decision that's strictly between the gas stations and their customers, with a trade-off in cost reflecting the extra service.