On The Tube: Fill ‘er Up

March 16, 2012

Back when gas stations were more than just convenience stores, the owners of America’s most popular garage and fuel chains used the television to tell drivers why their products and services were better than the competition’s. If you’re old enough to remember when oil came in a can, then you’ll enjoy some of these great old gas station commercials now preserved on YouTube.

Standard Is Something Else

Standard Oil opened its first gas service station in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1912. Later merging with Amoco and credited with inventing the modern drive-through service station, Standard made friendly service a priority as illustrated in this 1968 classic slot starring Mike Farrell, better known as B.J. Hunnicutt in the 70s-era television series M.A.S.H.

A Smile for Every Mile

On May 15, 1911, the Supreme Court declared the Standard Oil group to be an unreasonable monopoly under the Sherman Antitrust Act. It ordered Standard to break up into 34 independent companies, each with a different board of directors. In states where Standard Oil maintained its rights, the company followed the common advertising formula—using merry jingles and down home sappiness as seen in this 1930s-era cinematic commercial—to market its brand under the crafty phonetic pronunciation “S” and “O.”

The Spirit of 76

76, now known only as 76, was originally Union Oil Company of California, otherwise known as Unocal. In the 1970s and 1980s, the company used the slogan "Go With the Spirit...the Spirit of 76." This television commercial may be one of the first that saw the “spirit” theme used in an advertising campaign. 

The Car Man

Cities Service Company first initiated use of the CITGO brand in 1965. Tracing the brand’s corporate roots back the early 1900s, CITGO is today a United States-incorporated, Venezuela-owned refiner somewhat controversial with many Americans. But before that CITGO was just another friendly, neighborhood chain of service stations where knowledgeable mechanics would happily attend to all your car repair and maintenance needs.       

Keeping Your Car on the Go

The Atlantic Richfield Company (today known as ARCO) traces its roots back to 1886 and was one of the companies that gained independence after the 1911 breakup of Standard Oil. Atlantic’s emphasis was on “quality products and friendly service,” and its service stations were popular stops for drivers, thanks to commercials like this one from 1958.



  1. Skip Wa. State

    Use to work at a Standard Oil Co. station in the 50's. You remember.....check the oil (if the owner wanted you to, had to ask), if you got under the hood, check water in Bat. as well. Check tire pressure. Clean the windows and the head lights, also tail lights. Always be courteous..... clean out your ash tray Sir or Ma'am ? Whisk broom out the floor? The owner of the station had half the kids in town hanging out and taking care of cars that pulled into the island. We would get some surprised customers, as half a dozen kid ascended on the car. Those were great times!

  2. Dan Bruckbauer Michigan

    Was Red Crown the forerunner of Standard Oil?

  3. Ernest Wasserbach New Jersey

    I'm proud to say, in the 80's I was one of the last real poorly paid kids who rather pump gas the old fashiond way. While most kids where happy to push a botton sit wait & take money I perferd to work ! Cleaned windows checked tire pressure & oil freely. Used old pumps my boss got a 30 percent increse in customers in time I was the highist paid in my town everyone knew me. Now I don't even want to talk about how I feel tward gas stations today my blood pressure gose threw the roof ARGGGGG lazy uncareing strangers is all I will say..........HATE is at the pump these days

  4. James Greger, Jr. Virginia

    My Father was owner operator of a Standard Oil dealership in the 50's, 60's and 70's. As a little boy I would catch the headlights while he cleaned the windshield of a car being "filled-up" with 35 cent a gallon premium fuel. Customers used to give me a nickel...I would go get 2 for a penny candy.

  5. Karl Pallastrini Carmel California

    Just retired after nearly 30 years as a school administrator. My first "diploma" came from Standard Oil of California. I went to the company training school in Salinas California. As a college student in the middle to late 60's...I had a job at pretty much any Standard Station I contacted during the summer. We checked it all. I worked at company stations # 1016, and 8345. These were 24 hour stations, and being lowest on the pole, I often had the graveyard shift....12:00 mid-night to 8:00 a.m. It was basically a restocking job in the wee hours of the night. Regular was 29 cents a gallon, custom 31 cents and custom supreme was a whopping 35 cents a gallon. Who remembers the Atlas line of tires....plycrons and grip-safes?