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Fill Her Up Pal

Do you remember when gas stations only sold gas, oil, and auto repairs? The service person would pump your gas, and check your oil and tire pressure.  You could find gas stations embedded in residential areas of Philadelphia, and there seemed to be a lot of them. They were part of the neighborhood.

My Uncle had a Sinclair station at A and Tioga, and when my brother was just eleven years old, he pumped gas and did odd jobs for the station. That began a lifelong obsession with cars and anything mechanical. The garage in his house has a checkered floor like the old gas stations and cabinets full of tools.

In the 1940s and 50s, the only food you could get at most stations was a soda and a pack of peanuts. A Coke cost a nickel and then later ten cents. Gas stations were also one of the only places to get a map. They were generally free, and learning to read a map was a right of passage. To be honest, I am so happy we have GPS now. I can’t tell you how many times, back in the day, I got lost, especially when I had to work in the suburbs.

My neighborhood gas station was called Naylor Brothers, and they were just around the corner at Howard Street and Allegheny Avenue. Naylors had two repair bays and, I believe, two gas pumps that were on the sidewalk. You didn’t drive into Naylors. You simply pulled up to the curb, and they pumped your gas.

Naylor’s was more than just a gas station for the kids growing up in my neighborhood. They would clean and fill up a pit in the service bay and allowed kids to swim in it in the summer. I said swim, but it was too small for that. You just splashed around and cooled down from the oppressive summer Philly heat. My brother remembers having grease all over him after swimming in the pit.  

The gas station was also the source of the old oil cans we used when we played Tin Can Eddy in the streets in front of the station. Oil cans were a perfect size. I once threw an oil can and forgot my finger was in the rough tin can opening. I still have the scar on my index finger from when the oil can ripped open my skin. No stitches, just bandages.

In 1964 Wawa opened its first store, and it was part of a movement to create convenience stores as part of the gas station. This had been done in rural areas for years. If you were lucky enough to make a road trip to Florida in the 1960s, 70s, or 80s, you might remember Stuckey’s. They sold gas and had a large store full of great candies, food, souvenirs, and especially peanuts and pecans. The founder sold the company to a large organization, and the stores went downhill. Recently the granddaughter of the founder bought the company and is currently restoring its glory days.

Naylor’s was our go-to place for service, gas, and inspections when we were teenagers and driving. Not everyone got an inspection. If your car was not likely to pass, you could find an inspection sticker that someone in the neighborhood had available for a few bucks. No inspection. Just paste the sticker on the car.

I recently found  28 images of Philadelphia neighborhood gas stations from the 1970s or older. I don’t have addresses for all of them. I chose several to go with this post, and you can see others in the Philly Tales photo album at https://mercyrow.com/pages/philly-tales-photos. There are also about 1000 other old photos from Philadelphia from the 1930s to the 1980s. All photos in the album have been colorized.

Do you have any special memories from your gas station’s adventures? If so, share them with us.

From a post first posted on Kensington Neighborhood Alumni  https://www.facebook.com/groups/KensingtonAlumnae

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