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Fill It With Ethyl: 1943

Fill It With Ethyl: 1943

June 1943. Louisville, Kentucky. "Virginia Lively used to be a beauty operator. Today she works at a filling station." Sears gasoline -- who knew? Photo by Howard Hollem for the Office of War Information. View full size.


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Gas cap

In the days before the invention of the plastic cord gadget, attendants almost universally placed the cap on the flat area atop the pump on the side over the rest for the nozzle. That put the cap right in front of the attendant's eyes when he racked the nozzle.
Given the angle of the shot, it could well be there just out of sight to the camera.

Gas cap

There was a shelf between the rear of the car the bumper. Great place to place the gas cap while pumping! As for Ethyl (Tetraethyllead) or TEL was phased out starting in the US in the mid-1970s because of its neurotoxicity and its damaging effect on catalytic converters. It is still used as an additive in some grades of aviation gasoline and automotive racing fuels.

Something's missing

Where's the gas cap? In 1942 gas caps were not attached to the car. When an attendant filled the tank he or she either put it on top of the car, on top of the pump or held in his or her hand. I don't see it. Surely she didn't put it in her pocket. Maybe on the raised part of the pump island behind her?

[Or, even though this is her actual job, she could be just posing for the photo, not actually pumping gas. -tterrace]

A little OT

...but a handy mnemonic for remembering which kind of alcohol is drinkable is "Ethel can't drink Methyl."

Her sweetheart may have been in the Army

Virginia May (or Mary) Lively was born on 20 September 1921 in Hardin County, Kentucky. Her parents were Sylvester Squire Lively (1901-1969) and Lillie May Triplett (1899-1983).

Virginia married Hugh Vernon Mills (1911-1973). I was not able to find a wedding date. They had one daughter, who may still be living. Hugh enlisted in the US Army in October 1943 and remained in the service until January 1949. He died in Los Angeles County, California in 1973. He was born in California.

Virginia died in Venice, Florida on 18 November 2001.

In the 1940 US census she is enumerated with her parents in Louisville. Her occupation was beauty shop operator.

"Virginia Lively"

Now that's a perfect name for an Alt Country band!

'42 Ford convertible

Nice, and pretty rare then (and today). Believe it or not, lenses (and LED inserts) are still made for this car, due to Ford's use of these same taillights into 1948, and their popularity today as hotrods.

I Believe ...

... this is the Sears store that used to be at Ninth and Broadway.

Sears Gas

Sears has fooled with gasoline sales for decades, usually in metropolitan areas only. As a low-margin/high-turn item, it served to get vehicles into their auto service departments.....The change-maker on her belt brings back lots of teenage memories.

More Photog Reflections!

Howard Hollem seems to be using a twin-lens reflex, looking down like that. Sears gets a plug because Hollem posed the car diagonally for a better composition than an actual fill-er-up.


The detail in this are great - love the change maker around her waist. You probably didn't need paper money to fill up then. In the mid-60s my friends and I would each contribute a quarter to add gas to Mom's car and that would last us MORE than an evening of driving around. I am trying to remember when Ethyl stopped being used. I remember it, but my timing is a little fuzzy.

Sweetheart Jewelry

Looks like either USAAF, or Naval Aviator wings on her bracelet.

Gas Price Wars- Sears Won

When I was going to Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton in 1970, there was a gasoline price war going on with some stations on U.S. 1 south of the campus. I was astonished to find gas at 19¢ a gallon at the Sears Automotive Center for a couple of weeks.

I don't know what brand of gas it actually was, or if the pumps were branded as Sears, but my Corvair ran fine on whatever it was. At that time, I remember regular going for 35¢ a gallon as a normal price, because my Corvair held 14 gallons of gas and $5 would fill it up from the fumes level.

I remember a couple of guys in the dorm and I discussing whether we could store gas in drums; we were poor college students and knew we'd never see gas that cheap again-- though we never dreamed what we'd one day be paying!!!

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