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Service Man: 1940

July 1940. "Gas station attendant. Millburg, Michigan." Medium format acetate negative by John Vachon for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.

July 1940. "Gas station attendant. Millburg, Michigan." Medium format acetate negative by John Vachon for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.


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Rough around the edges

This guy will never find himself singing and dancing in the opening sequence of the Ed Wynn or Milton Berle shows.

The Spirit of Communication

That archangel clutching thunderbolts and wrapped in cables was called the "Spirit of Communication" and was used by Bell from the 1930s and well into the late 1950s as seen on this phone directory from Cameron, Texas.

Now THAT's a gas station attendant!

That is the most "at your service" kind of guy you could ever have ask the timeless full-service question, "Check under the hood for you, ma'am?"

Any non-serious motor car need you might have is no challenge for this cat and his immediate surroundings. Just pull up, and let him ask the questions.

Fill 'er up? Check under the hood? Left front looks a wee bit low, let me check the pressure for you.

As one who used to pump Ethyl, at a Mobil station off I-70 mind you, the regular customers knew I would answer all those questions without ever asking them, and I would wash the windshield because that's just what you did at the full service pumps.

Today, I challenge you to find a full service drive at any gas station. It's a true slice of Americana that I feel proud to have been a part of, albeit the last wave of such a service that is all but extinct these days.

I think I'm going to have some T-shirts made that say "I pumped Ethyl," and see if anyone under the age of 60 buys one.

Happy New Year to Dave and band of Shorpy. I love what you guys do!

Be well, everyone!

What is it?

Gentlemen, what is a "telephone directory"? Did it direct you to the nearest telephone? And if it did, what exactly is a "telephone"?

Looks like Elizabeth Bishop had it right

... in her poem 'Filling Station':

Oh, but it is dirty!
--this little filling station,
oil-soaked, oil-permeated
to a disturbing, over-all
black translucency.
Be careful with that match!


My parents were born that year. They'll turn 80 in 2020.

Mirror, mirror on the wall

Strategically placed to ensure that bowtie is straight. Nowadays you would need a gas check and a confined space permit to enter this place if it was in an industrial setting.

Consider this

If you have time to lean, you have time to clean.

That peanut machine!

Back in my (very small) hometown the Chevy dealer had that same peanut machine sitting on a counter by the front door. It cost a penny! And since I used to pick up my newspapers for delivery there (they were dropped off by the Greyhound bus) I would regularly feed that machine.

Occasionally something inside would break and you could get hit that lever for as many times as you wanted and fill your hand with Spanish peanuts.

I’m from Michigan.

Thanks Shorpy for a glimpse of the past. I love this photo!

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