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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Full Service: 1940

Full Service: 1940

May 1940. "Wiping off windshield at service station in Cairo, Illinois." 35mm negative by John Vachon for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5

My first real job

Around 1976,I hired on as a mechanic at a local Mobil gas station. I was taught to check under the hood, check the tires, wash the windshield and notify the customer if the oil was low or dirty, and steer them to an empty bay if we had one. The station did not allow self-serve, and this was about the time that self-serve was the majority. We were one of the last full serve stations for many miles. I made a whole $2.10 an hour doing tuneups, carb repair, engine overhauls, transmission overhauls, clutches, and I also used the old manual tire machine. In trade school, they required you to learn how to use the antique, because some of us would be hired at a shop that still used that as their primary tire changer. The reaosn I got the job was because I was fluent with the antique and impressed the boss that I could change a tire faster than he could (a 70 year old man with arthritis)

Sinclair Service Attendant

Growing up we had a Sinclair service station near us and I was always intrigued with the dinosaur logo they used. I see they are still in business but I haven't seen a service station in our area for years.

1940 Plymouth?

I think the instrument cluster matching what we can see of the posted car gauges is a 1940 Plymouth.

[Wow! -tterrace]

Full Service Gas still exists at no extra cost

There are two states where they still pump the gas for you. Residents of Oregon and New Jersey don't have self serve pumps even now. Of course the people who pump the gas don't have sparkling white uniforms with caps, don't do it from globe top dispensers, never have any leaded gas on hand, let alone HiTest or Ethyl, and don't charge 26 cents a gallon any more.

Memories of Dad and the gas station

The stop for gas was a ritual that fascinated me. Loved ding-ding as the car drove over a sort of hose. Dad got out of the car, conferred with the attendant, and asked for a fill-up. The windows were cleaned, tires and oil checked, etc. Everything in place, we drove off.

Who's Ethyl?!?!?

My kids looked at me like I was crazy (shut UP!) when I said that my FJ Cruiser would only run on Ethyl.

Glad someone else remembers the term!


Me too

Working at a gas station I pumped the gas, cleaned the windshield, checked the tire pressure, opened the hood, checked the oil and fan belt condition/tightness and filled the window washer tank if the auto was so equipped. Changing tires with an old manual bead-breaker was not my favorite job though.

Can I Get 50 cents Worth Please?

I'll bet he has the chrome change dispenser on the front of his belt. Those things were murder on paint jobs back then if the guy wasn't careful. Don't ask me how I know.


I wasn't around in 1940, but I am old enough to remember "full service." It always seemed that the pump jockey was able to clean off my windshield better than I ever could, even to this day. No streaks! Wonder what kind of magic solution they used in that pump spray bottle?

Full service

You don't get that anymore. I worked the full service island at a Mobil station when I was in high school. Check under the hood for you ma'am? Left rear looks a little low. Ah, the days of sell-ups. I even got to pump Ethyl.


Cairo is the southernmost town in Illinois. The folks I was working with there explained that I should pronounce the name the same as "Karo" syrup.

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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