“I’ll crank your car,
And hold the baby,
But, I won’t cash checks,
And I don’t mean maybe!”
This sign hung over the door at many small town gas stations in the early days of automobiles, back when some cars still had to be “cranked” to start!
As we have written in this series of articles on old Hartsville gas stations, in the old days a person driving a car could get gas by stopping at a blacksmith shop or even a town pharmacy. Small rural country stores also sold gas.
It wasn’t until more and more Americans began driving that gas stations were built beside another new innovation: paved highways!
Early gas stations, also called “filling stations,” didn’t just sell gas.
From the beginning, gas stations would service cars and do repairs, patch tires or sell you a new one, check and change your oil if needed, wash the windows and check your tire pressure.
It didn’t take long for gas stations to offer something else that travelers everywhere needed: clean restrooms!
In the days before indoor plumbing in many homes and before interstate rest stops, the need for a traveler to stop and “visit Aunt Sally” was as present as it is today.
Gas stations would advertise “clean rest rooms” and as Daddy had the gas station attendant fill the tank, the wife and kids would try out the facilities!
With people stopping and getting out of the car, gas stations were soon selling small packages of peanuts, cheese and crackers and candy bars. Also, the first cola vending machines were found at gas stations!
Today, some gas stations have become like mini-shopping centers and offer gourmet meals, entertainment and even hot showers!
Our history of Hartsville’s first filling stations is full of gaps, so if anyone reading this can offer some history, we would appreciate it. But by searching old newspapers and even old Trousdale County High School annuals for advertising, we have come up with the names of some of those early gas stations.
We have already mentioned Owen Brothers Gas Station on East Main Street in town. Another was a Texaco station owned by Etherage Parker, Sr., which started in 1954. Erwin Presley had a station at the intersection of Highway 25 and Broadway.
We have a sales receipt from Stafford Service Station dated May 8, 1944. Another old sales receipt from 1965 is from Evett’s Service Station, which stood where our Community Center is today. That station was later run by John White.
In 1957, the high school yearbook featured an ad for the Gregory and Day Service Station. The ad says that the station had Firestone Tires and Batteries. The business also offered Brake Lining, Wheel Balancing and Road Service!
Another old sales receipt is from 1938 and is from the Key and Kerr Service Station. The location is not given on the receipt, but it does offer the station’s phone number — “37-J”.
W.T. Rush had a Shell Station on Highway 25, where the Walgreens is today.
Paul Carman ran Carman’s Service Center, also on Highway 25, about where McDonalds is.
Dallas Richmond got into the gas station business after World War II, first on Broadway and later moving up to the “new highway” in the 1950s. The new highway being Highway 25, also known as McMurry Blvd.
Richmond’s AMOCO Station was later owned and run by Ronnie Holder. Greg Holder runs the station today.
There was a Union Station where G&L Garden Center is today and the parking lot across from the Post Office was once an Esso Station.
There was a gas station across from the old Co-op. That building is still standing and is owned by Randy Jackson, who operates a trucking company there.
The photo for last week’s article was left out of the paper, so we are submitting it again. It is the oldest gas station building in Hartsville, showing up on property maps by 1931. There are plans to restore it to its 1950s-era appearance!