Downtown Wichita Falls, Texas, in the mid 1940’s was a bustling metropolis for a boy of 7 just away from the farm and ranch community where he was born. My father, a cook and cowboy by trade, had just started as one of the first cooks for the Casa Manana restaurant in 1947. He moved us to an apartment on Ohio Street, right across from the Gem Theater, between 7th and 8th Streets. It’s here that we would stay for the next three years. The Gem Theater became a magic palace for a young mind. But it had to share that distinction with the rest of the magic that was Wichita Falls. I attended San Jacinto and Carrigan elementary schools, as well as Reagan Junior High, and belonged to the Boys Club on 6th Street. Please join, and share your stories and pictures through a Guest Blog, of early Wichita Falls - or your home town. Contact me at or leave a comment. We could use old pictures of movie houses, drive-in theaters, and other nostalgic pictures related to our youths.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Fill 'Er Up: The Great American Gas Station

Fill ‘Er Up: The Great American Gas Station (Americana)
By Tim Russell
Crestine: Reprint Edition
ISBN #978-0785829867
Price $11.68
208 Pages
Rating 5-Stars

“The History of An American Institution”

British author, Tim Russell, fell in love with the American gas stations while attending college in the US. A lifetime of interest in gas stations led him to study and collect everything concerning them, which eventually led to this fascinating book. Filled with many color and black & white photographs, it chronicles the history of the many service stations, their mottos, and advertisements. Remember when men – and women – gave the motorists full service?

As a young boy I remember gas stations on just about every block in Seymour, Texas, and almost the same in Wichita Falls, Texas, where I spent my formative years. In the summer of 1958, before enlisting in the Army, I worked at the Hill Top Truck Stop, several miles outside Seymour, pumping gas in the evenings and on the night shift. How well I remember climbing up on semi-trucks to clean the bugs off windshields! I don’t remember what gasoline we carried, but the Truck Stop had a small café, where my sister worked; that’s how I got the job in the first place. The owner was a mechanic and fixed flats. I did not have to do anything but give full service; although in the evenings and over night I also sold pre-packaged sandwiches that my sister had prepared. I also remember the many gimmicks the gas stations used to get regular customers to come back. In the early days they gave the kids a cartoon strip of an aviation hero (though I don’t remember the hero’s name), a goldfish in a plastic envelope, Green Stamps (?), or special glassware. My wife would send me to the same station every time to be sure to get one of their glasses she was collecting. I also recall the time I drove into a station and asked them to check the oil, water and air, and was told, “We don’t do that any more.” I was shocked. The Texaco man was no more.

People my age will enjoy the memories this book brings back. Maybe even the younger generation that heard their parents and grandparents speak of the “full-service” gas stations will want to see what it was all about. But to everyone who reads this book, I think it will give them a taste of Americana, and a time when service meant something. Well worth the small price.

Tom Johnson
Echoes Magazine

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