In case you just tuned in, I’m doing a little fact-checking as I go through Scotty Bowers’ “Full Service.” This will be fairly tedious except to a research drudge.
Several regular readers have asked whether I have given up on “Full Service.” The answer is no. I’ve been busy with my job at The Times, writing an occasional column (shout out to Ed Fuentes) and working on “Titanic. 100 Years Later,” an e-book that The Times has released.
In addition, the Daily Mirror HQ is undergoing renovations. The painters are here and everything is shrouded in plastic. Anyone who has done home repairs knows what I’m talking about.
But let’s plunge ahead to Page 7 — and according to my calculations, at the present rate, it will take more than 1,000 posts to finish the book. Hm. Should I rethink this?
Fact-Checking “Full Service”: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14 | Part 15 | Part 16 | Part 17 | Part 18 | Part 19 | Part 20 | Part 21 | Part 22 | Part 23 | Part 24
Here we go:
There was no such thing as self-service at gas stations in 1946. My job at the Hollywood Richfield gas station was to welcome each customer with a big smile and a friendly greeting, pump as much fuel as they ordered into the gas tank, wash the windscreen, empty the ash trays, check the oil and water, ensure that tire pressures were correct, and generally see to it that every car and every customer got the red carpet treatment.
Well, not exactly.
It’s true that self-service stations were unknown in 1946.
The first thing that I noticed was “ wash the windscreen.” Are we British now? Should we check under the bonnet and examine the tyre in the boot? Rather strange.
But the pump jockey’s job was more than “Fill ‘er up? Regular or ethyl?” Because running a gas station is a business and the idea is to make sales:
Washing the windshield = “Those wipers are kind of worn. Do you want to replace them?”
Checking the oil = “You’re a quart low” or “The oil’s kind of dirty, do you want to do a quick change?”
Checking the radiator = “Your hoses are leaking” or “You need a new radiator” or “The fan belt’s shot” or “Your water pump is about to go.”
Checking the tires = “The front end is out of alignment” or “You really ought to rotate your tires; we can do that for you in 15 minutes” or “The left front tire is bald, you really should replace it.”
Ideally, the pump jockey got a little commission from each sale.
And you forgot to wash the side mirrors, Scotty. [Update: Oh yes, check the water in the battery!]
Although my earliest memories of filling stations date to the mid-1950s, I can’t recall an attendant cleaning the ash trays. Ever.