I noticed some years ago the declining numbers of gas stations in Peoria and for that matter, all over the country. In the ‘50's and ‘60's it seemed that every major intersection had not just a gas station but a service station. Check the oil, tires, clean your windows and they also also did car repairs. Now we have gas stations that thrive on sales of 79 cent jumbo Bigg Swigg drinks, lottery tickets, junk food and cheap smokes to keep the doors open.
Growing up in East Peoria on East Washington street we were literally surrounded by gas stations, a total of seven within a three block stretch. I was fascinated by the gritty atmosphere of these service stations with their seemingly efficiency and comforts of repairing your car. Classic defunct names like Site, Kelly and Star vied for your attention on the roadways.
The hot spot was Boundy's Shell which had a diner and a big East Peoria cop hangout. The area was popular with truckers and price wars were commonplace. The lowest I can recall in the mid-60’s was 17 cents a gallon!
As a kid this was a haven for quick candy and soda fixes but the coolest was the stations that handed out STP stickers!
They were big stickers about four inches in width and they had a beautiful vinyl aroma. The owners got tired of us hitting them up for stickers and plastering them everywhere in the area so they eventually cut us off. Our retaliation was to ride our bikes over the "dinger" near the pumps to annoy the attendant. We ended up getting our stickers. Ha!
Gas competition was so intense across the country that gimmicks were actually used to lure customers including Batman coffee mugs, sport logo tumblers, even the comic strip B.C. had glassware being hawked by Marathon Gas Stations in the ‘70's. Judging by the giveaways I guess drivers were a thirsty lot back then.
Early TV was proudly sponsored by service stations like Texaco, which sold pretty spiffy kids' fire chief helmets, presented Jack Benny and Milton Berle with the slogan of "You can trust your car to the man who wears the star.” Dinah Shore was brought to you by Sinclair which had a great dinosaur for a logo. Get it? Dinah Shore/Dinosaur. Kind of a pre-cursor to the whole Oprah/Uma David Letterman bit that bombed on the Oscars back in 1995.
And who could forget Esso with its classic, "put a tiger in your tank" slogan.
Odd how I see more gas stations pop up on interstates, nearly one at every exit, but inner city stations become less and less. We got our gas one place and car repairs at another. Due to computerized engines shade tree mechanics are almost a thing of the past too.
It's cool to see a lot of the buildings in Peoria still exist and refurbished into functional businesses. When you’re actually looking for an old gas station there is more than you realize. I left at least a dozen out because they were kind of boring locations or there just wasn't a good story to go with them.
Let’s go check some of them out, this should be a gas, gas, gas.
The first three photos are on around the 3100 block of University, crazy to think this many gas stations were clustered this close together. I believe the second one hung in a part station/truck rental shop.
This fourth photo is at University and Forest Hill. Up until about ten years ago this was a Shell station.
Further south on University the current Jimmy's lock shop was once McDaniel's until the ‘90's. The car dealership was a Sinclair in the 60's, the current Midas was right across University as another service station.
From what I can tell and by memory the area of University and Main up to University and Pioneer Park housed at least fifteen gas stations. Now there is only four.
Here’s Terry's Gas Station at the bottom of MacArthur between Jefferson and Adams. One of the last stations between downtown and the south end it closed just a couple years ago. As you can see from the sign, "service" was offered here along with gas and cigarettes.
The next two are on south Knoxville at the I-74 exit. The first is a former Texaco at Knoxville and Armstrong. The other is further north on Knoxville across from McDonald's, same side of the street near the Children's Home.
These three are located in the area of Prospect and Tripp, near Trefzger's bakery. Nice to see Ernie’s Auto has maintained the old school look where Forest Hill and Prospect meet. I imagine this was a hot spot corner when that area was a lot busier back in the day. The Marathon is a recent closure from the past month. The bottom photo shows a photography studio which makes its home in this cool '50's looking station.
The corner of Sheridan and Glen had two small stations. City Bistro demolished an old station three years ago, cat-a-corner from it was another long vacant, rundown spot that is now Family Video store.
University and Glen also had two locations diagonally apart from each other. A Shell station stood in the former K-Mart parking lot for years being torn down with a Starbucks rebuilding. The current Subway was originally a Mobile station near the parking lot of the now extinct Eagle grocery store. When Mobile closed, Riley's Cleaner's and Acme Comics shared the spot. I just remember that the building was hotter than Hades in the summer with direct afternoon sunlight and horrible to heat with it's massive glass front and paper thin garage walls.
Sterling Avenue is a host too many former stations. The first is near War Memorial across from the closed Pizza Hut. The next three are in the Sterling and Forrest Hill area, almost across the street from Sterling Middle School. They have seemed to survive maintaining some sort of an auto business.
These three are far North University. The first has been vacant for over five years and is next door to the strip mall where Le Peep restaurant and Kevin Kelly Jewelers resides. The next is at the corner of Willow Knolls and University. It was vacant for quite a while and now has a water business. The final just recently closed and is at Northmoor and University, right across from Richwoods High School.
I noticed there are none or few former stations on Wisconsin. Most of the stations were located on north/south running streets mainly on University, followed by Knoxville.
If anyone has any names of owners or brand gas these stations had, feel free to add them to the comments section. Or if my memory failed me on history, please file a correction.
I have to conclude this now, as I’m running on empty!