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Automotive Traveler Magazine: Vol 3 Iss 1 Page 18

The Automotive Traveler's Bookshelf: Fill 'er Up! The Great American Gas Station

By Tim Russell (Voyager Press, $32)

Reviewed by Richard Truesdell

Remember that quaint institution, the service station? Uniformed attendants rushing to greet you, filling your tank, washing the windshield, checking your tire pressure. A gallon of petrol costing 30 cents a gallon or less. If you asked, the attendants would even pop the hood and check your oil--all for under a 10-spot.

Today we stand in the elements watching the dollar counter spin and drive off with dirty windows and the unpleasant feeling of a wallet $100 lighter after each fill-up. For gearheads and anyone else who wants to reminisce, the good old days are recalled in Fill 'er Up! The Great American Gas Station by Tim Russell.

The inside jacket of Russell's book sums up the content:

"The smiling face of the gas station attendant in a spiffy uniform is a classic example of an image one evokes when reminiscing about the gas stations of old. Back before there were such things as pay-at-the-pump and groceries at the gas station, one didn't need to get out of his or her car when filling up the gas tank. Fill 'er Up! The Great American Gas Station covers the history of the filling station from its very first station built in Pittsburgh in 1913 to today, along with the comparison history of the gas station in Europe."

With more than 200 glossy, photo-filled pages, Fill 'er Up! The Great American Gas Station now stands as the definitive volume on this oft-covered subject.

Over the last 35 years, classic two-bay service stations--like the road maps they once gave away--have almost completely disappeared from the American roadside landscape. A casualty of the OPEC oil embargo of 1973, service stations have been replaced by cookie-cutter, self-serve, canopied pump islands with attached convenience stores. The remaining holdouts are in New Jersey and Oregon--and only because laws in those states mandate that gas stations attendants fill motorists' tanks.

Although numerous books have been published on American gas stations over the years, this volume is a standout. Not only does it cover domestic gas stations, there's a section devoted to gas stations in Great Britain, an interesting look at how BP even used coin-operated gas pumps starting in 1964.

For any self-respecting auto buff or fan of the classic American road trip, this book deserves a treasured place on your automotive bookshelf. Richly illustrated, it provides the complete history, up to 1980, of the gas station and its impact on American culture. Simply a must-read book!

Enter here for your chance to win a copy of Fill 'er Up, The Great American Gas Station.