BRYAN COUNTY HISTORY: 'Fill 'er up'
“It is estimated that it will take 7 million gallons of gas to supply motor cars this year in the United States alone.” Durant Weekly News, June 26, 1925
According to ads and articles in local newspapers, Bryan county was well prepared to take care of the needs of area motorists and more than a few tourists. Most small communities had at least one “filling station” or “service station”. In 1925 Caddo boasted seven stations with a new one under construction for Claude Glasscock.
In the early days, when the auto was still a novelty, services for them were limited and repairs were often left to the owner. Gasoline could be purchased from a variety of businesses- drug stores, hardware stores, black smith shops, garages, even grocery stores. Merchants carried it out in a bucket and assisted drivers to pour it into their autos, or sold it in 5-gallon cans. In 1914 a gallon of gasoline cost 18c at Glasscock’s garage. Other locations where gas could be purchased in Bryan County in the teens included Williamson’s Garage in Colbert, Craghead Garage in Caddo, and W. J. Carpenter’s in Durant.
In 1914 Durant passed Ordinance 402, regulating the storage of gasoline. It specified amounts that could be stored in or near a building, or underground. Gasoline had to be sold or stored in metal cans with certain specifications. The fine for non-compliance was $20 for each day of violation. In 1926 a leak from the tank at Philpot Bros. station in Cade caused an explosion that severely burned a young girl.
The first drive-in gas station built specifically for automobiles was opened in Pittsburgh in 1913. Tulsa and Lawton each had one by 1918. By 1919 Muskogee had six drive-in stations. In 1921 Barnett Quick Service Station, the “only drive-in service station in Durant” sold gasoline for 28 cents per gallon. The Highway Service Station, owned by Freeman Beaty, announced that for its opening in 1923 a gallon of gasoline would be given free with each five gallons sold.
Convenience and service were the twin goals of early station managers. Free air, free water, engine checks, parts and repairs were offered. Experienced attendants catered to every requirement of auto maintenance. Stations boasted of ladies’ rooms and attractive buildings. Many stations were landscaped. Calera’s O. T. Taylor set his business apart by combining a “lunch stand” and station.
In 1926 the Caddo Herald announced a new filling station with “a concrete dip…so that cars can easily come into the new filling station”. Access to stations was often a problem and Durant authorities were quick to warn drivers about illegally driving across Main Street. “Driving into filling stations is causing most violations of this ordinance.”
Gas stations continued to evolve and expand as our nation became more dependent on transportation with gas-guzzling motors. Those of us who are older will no doubt recall pulling into a station and watching as two or more attendants quickly filled the tank, checked the oil,
put air in the tires and made sure that both the radiator and the battery had sufficient water. All the windows were washed and wipers were inspected. Some attendants gave suckers to the impatient children watching them work. New pump designs eventually led to self-service, but it was a very long journey because of community fire regulations that took years to change. Most of us are now accustomed to pumping our own gas, but it’s still illegal to do so in Oregon and New Jersey.
Bryan County History is a weekly feature contributed by members of the Bryan County Genealogy Library and Archives in Calera. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Texoma Marketing and Media Group. Is there a historic event or topic you want to read about? Contact the library at P.O. Box 153, Calera, OK 74730.