‘Full Service’: Fun With Fact-Checking, Part 25 [Updated]

"Full Service" cover

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.

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1946, Another Good Story Ruined, Books and Authors, Film, Hollywood, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to ‘Full Service’: Fun With Fact-Checking, Part 25 [Updated]

  1. Dick Morris says:

    Admitidly, the owner of the gas station where I worked in 1968 wasn’t much of a businessman, but all I was instructed to do was check all of the above, less the ash tray. I always thought it caused the customers to have a sense of loyalty to the particular station so that when service, tires, or light repairs were needed the customer didn’t feel a need to go elsewhere.

    One old guy used to come in and ask that we “check the hydraulics. He burned/lost so much oil that we sometimes added a quart between fill ups.


    • lmharnisch says:

      @Dick: I remember stopping at one gas station in Oklahoma en route from Arizona to Chicago in the mid-1970s and I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. They tried to sell me just about everything they had.


  2. Kerrie says:

    Does anybody thinks that it strange that Scottys supervisor or whoever owned the petrol station didn’t notice all of these goings on . I mean if it happened once or twice then OK but surely at some point somebody would have wondered where he was – who was manning the petrol pumps while he was out the back . I don’t have any problems with believing that Scotty was a prostitute – I think there may be a reference to him in Arthur Laurents autobiography but it stretches credibility to believe most of what he was saying.


  3. Lysandra Yaxley says:

    There is no mention of Bowers in Arthur Laurent’s autobiography per a research in Google Books. Neither is there a mention in Noel Coward’s diaries as has been claimed elsewhere.


  4. Kerrie says:

    Actually there is a story in the Arthur Laurents book which may or may not be about Scotty . Arthur Laurents claimed that when he went and visited Cukor there was often a hustler there . Cukor allegedly was offended that Laurents was’t interested . The thing is you are not going to find out about Scotty by looking up S in the index pages . I think he has made most of his stories up and the claims about Spencer and Katharine was completely false and ridiculous but I do believe that he probably was a prositute/pimp


  5. Lysandra Yaxley says:

    I’m sure there were many gay hustlers in Old Hollywood. It’s doubtful that Laurent’s comment was about Bowers. Bowers presents himself as the premier gay hustler present at every important gathering. This seems unbelievable in the extreme.

    Various people have been claiming that Bowers appears in this or that book. The only genuine reference I’ve found is in the book Glen Ford’s son wrote about his father. In the book, Ford’s son describes Bowers as his father’s favorite bartender.

    And what about Bowers’ bartending and other jobs during and after the gas station days? If he was so successful being a prostitute, why all those jobs? And if he was really doing all that pimping does anyone seriously think he wouldn’t be getting his cut? I fear Mr. Bowers is grossly exaggerating his important to the prostitution business in Old Hollywood.


    • maybe scotty figured out quickly that the very rich get very bored, very fast. he also may have been a highly motivated guy? i’m just playing devil’s advocate, i have issues with his book too.


  6. Charles Seims says:

    Not sure exactly when it opened, but by 1948 the Gilmore Oil Company was operating the largest self service gas station in the known universe on its property at the southeast corner of Bevery and Genessee, right near the Pan Pacific Auditorium. It was huge, having 24 pumps on 8 pump islands, and was written up in a picture article in Life Magazine. A huge neon sign proclaimed savings of 5 cents (about 20 per cent of the cost of a gallon due to self service). This property, owned by the Gilmore family since the 1880’s was one of the pioneer LA oil fields. In those days, self service was prohibited within the LA city limits. Because of this, Gilmore fought annexation for years. The Gilmore property, on which sits the Rancho La Brea adobe and Farmers Market, was known as “Gilmore Island” because it was the largest unincorporated area surrounded by the City of Los Angeles.


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