Service Station

Texaco Station.jpg

1936 Texaco Service Station

Inspired by the first service station in Farmers Branch ran by Arthur Raymond and Ina Millaway, our Texaco Service station embodies the spirit of an industrious Farmers Branch. The building features the traditional oblong box shape substantially bigger than service stations of the 1920’s, as well as a brightly painted exterior and canopied gas pumps to attract local clientele. Our service station harkens back to a time when you could not only get gas, but have your windshield cleaned, oil and tires checked, and grab a quick snack of penny candies and Coca-Cola! 

Big Bertha

Meet Big Bertha! This 1936 Cab-Over-Engine Ford Truck was used here in Farmers Branch at the Glad Acres thoroughbred horse farm, located just off of present day Marsh lane. The unique position of the truck’s cab directly over the engine gives this truck its distinctive “flat front”. After restoration, the truck was donated to the Historical Park in 2001, and is in running condition once again!

Gas stations, also called service stations or filling stations, were originally established as places where people could purchase gas and oil. In the late 1800s, farmers and townspeople alike used petroleum products, mostly kerosene, for heat and light. These products were sold at general stores or delivered by wagon. When Henry Ford began mass producing gasoline powered automobiles at a price almost anyone could afford in 1903, however, the rising number of cars created a need for gas stations. The “first” service station ever constructed was probably the Standard Oil service station built in 1907 in the Seattle, Washington area. It did not look like modern gas stations, but instead had one shed with a 30-gallon gasoline tank and a garden hose to dispense the gas into a car engine. This first service station attracted almost 200 customers each day.
The service station quickly became an important business, growing from one service station in 1906 to 15,000 stations nationwide by 1920, and about 121,000 gas stations today. The earliest service stations were self-service. They sold only gas and oil. Clean public bathrooms were not the standard at service stations until 1940. In the 1920s, however, full service was introduced. This was part of a business strategy: to remove the image of dirty sheds and shacks, and replace it with clean, attractive stations and attendants to attract more customers. Service station attendants would not only pump gas directly into your car for you, but also clean the windshield, and check the oil, tires and water. Tall, glass-domed, visible gasoline pumps, such as the one at the Historical Park, and metal advertising signs appeared at this time.

The first person in Dallas County to own a car was Colonel Ned Green. It took 5 hours to drive the car from the railroad station in Terrell to Dallas in 1899. This distance of approximately 30 miles would take only 30-45 minutes to drive today. By 1907, there were so many automobiles in Dallas that the city had to pass its first automobile ordinances: setting the speed limit at 8 MPH, requiring a driver’s license, and requiring each vehicle to have a horn.

Helms and Flohe tell us that “in the 1930s, the gas station became an integral part of the landscape and our lives. By 1933, there were over 24 million registered automobiles in the United States. Stations became more complicated and sophisticated in design. Stations also began to offer a variety of merchandise other than oil and gas. Items such as tires, batteries, belts, and wiper blades began appearing.” Stations also sold roadmaps and soft drinks to travelers. In concert with the new services provided at stations, the station attendant had to be equal parts gas pump operator, auto mechanic, and salesman. Companies developed uniforms for service station attendants to project an image of cleanliness and respectability. Dark pants, white shirt, with a company logo jacket and hat were the traditional uniforms in the 1930s.

A Texaco Gas Station was the first such business in the Farmers Branch area in the 1930s. Arthur Raymond “Ray” and Ina Millaway owned a Texaco Gas Station and a café right next door to each other in downtown Farmers Branch. Ina ran the café for over ten years. Ray was also one of the city’s first councilmen.

The replica structure at the Historical Park incorporates many of the architectural features of that first gas station. The oblong box shape represented a substantial increase in size over 1920s gas stations, but was still fairly cheap to construct as most were prefabricated and easy to maintain. The exterior is painted in bright company colors to attract customers and establish market recognition. A canopy covers the pump area to provide shade. These features were common at gas stations from the 1930s to the 1970s, until they were replaced by modern gas stations.

The Texas Fuel Co., later know as Texaco, was organized in March 1901 and was able to purchase crude oil from the Spindletop field. By 1928, the company was the first oil company to market in all 48 states. Texaco developed oils and other motor components to sell in addition to gasoline. Today, Texaco has more than 2,000 service stations in the United States and is ranked as the second most powerful brand behind Chevron.

Gas Stations were the first businesses in America to begin the age of mass marketing that we are all familiar with today. We can travel across the country and eat identical hamburgers, drink the same soft drink, count on clean public restrooms, and put the same gas in our vehicles, and that trend was introduced to America through gas stations such as the one that our building represents.