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Cities Service: 1952

Cities Service: 1952

From around 1952, what looks to be somewhere in the Northeast, comes this faded 120 Ektachrome of a Cities Service gas station. Fillerup with Premium, and we'll be in the coffee shop while the Cadillac is on the lube rack. View full size.


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That there is no awning or carport over the service areas! Imagine what it would be like to service cars during a driving downpour or snowstorm, although most people avoid filling in bad weather unless absolutely necessary.


Premium or Ethyl: many people just called it "high-test" when instructing the pump jockey as to their preference.

Turnpike Services

The NJ Turnpike owns not only the road but all of the land comprising the service areas. Services have always been under contract and exclusively the right of the company contracted to provide them, which at that time was obviously Cities Service. They would have handled the towing of broken down cars as well. The latter has always been a very prickly issue in NJ, for the towing contractors on the turnpike are notorious for charging outrageous fees and are usually not AAA approved.


When did gas stations go to NN 9/10 cents per gallon? These pumps all seem to be selling gas that 25 4/10 or 27 4/10 cents per gallon.

[Different gas stations set whatever fractional price they like. - Dave]

A bygone era of service

I remember back in the 1960s when the gas station attendant would pump the gas, check the tires, check the oil, wash the windshield, and all those other things that we have to do ourselves these days. Man, that was a life of luxury!

RE: Ethyl

All grades of gasoline at the time of this picture were leaded (e.g. contained tetraethyl lead), with "Premium" designating the higher octane grade and not the presence of "ethyl."

Also, "Ethyl" is a trade name owned by the Ethyl Corporation, originally a joint venture between GM and Esso. They had a use patent for the additive and a patent on the manufacturing process, though they left the actual manufacturing to DuPont. When the patents ran out, other manufacturers, like DuPont, could make and sell the additive but could not use the Ethyl trademark.

Remember the jingle

City Service is Citgo now. Don't remember when that happened but, for some reason, the end of the jingle they played in their commercial at the time of re-branding sticks with me.

Probably on a turnpike

With all the cars facing the same way I will guess it is on a turnpike though I would not guess which one.

[We don't have to guess. It's the New Jersey Turnpike, as revealed by the first comment in this thread. - Dave]

Edison Plaza

This looks like the Thomas Edison service area on the NJ Turnpike, Northbound. The building still retains the curved profile.


I don't believe the term "premium" was used yet in the early '50s for the higher octane gasoline. The standard request for high octane fuel when pulling into a "filling station" then was "fillerup with ethyl". That's because in those days, higher octane gasoline was produced by the refineries by use of tetraethyl lead, nowadays, banned of course. Somewhere along the line, the petroleum industry got the "bright idea" to start calling the higher octane gasoline "PREMIUM" instead of "ethyl", which of course persuaded many that don't realize that their car does not need higher octane than "regular" to waste their money and buy the more expensive higher octane gasoline, mistakenly thinking that they are doing something wonderful for their car, of course to the delight of the petroleum industry.

[Funny, I thought it said PREMIUM. - Dave]

They Looked Better Then

Although they've undergone some architecturally-suspect modifications since the 1950s, the New Jersey Turnpike service areas have much the same layout today (the service garage at one end and adjacent double doors leading to the restaurant area are certainly familiar). More frequent or long-time travelers of the Garden State might have a better idea as to which particular area this is.

Northeast alright.

The door of the service truck in the background has the emblem of the New Jersey Turnpike.

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