Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Sky Chief

Sky Chief-TTV, originally uploaded by William 74.
Another day, another old gas station. This is a vintage pump from Ambler's Texaco in Dwight, Illinois. It's another Mother Road Survivor, having served gasoline along the old route for 66 years, until 1999. By then it was known as Becker's Marathon, and after closing up was used as a repair shop for another few years. In 2005, the city of Dwight began a program to restore the building to it's Texaco livery, and by 2007 the old station was looking good as new and being used (like Odell's Standard station) as a visitor's center. It's always busy in the summer.

I like old gas stations anyway, but what makes some of these old, small town stops so special is their history. Opened in 1933, the station was owned by Jack Schore, who in 1936 leased it to Vernon Von Qualen, wherein it became known as "Vernon's Texaco". Von Qualen purchased it from Schore, and in 1938 sold it to Basil "Tubby" Ambler, who owned it through 1966. In the fifties a kid named Phil Becker began hanging around Ambler's, and by 1964 he was working there. I bet you can tell what happens next. Ambler sold it-to a guy named Earl Kochler, who in turn sold it to Royce McBeath, who ran it until 1970. By then Phil Becker could afford to buy it, and he did, running it until '99 and switching to Marathon when Texaco stopped supplying him with products. Schore's/Von Qualen's/Ambler's/Kochler's/McBeath's/Becker's holds the record as the longest serving gas station along historic Route 66.

It's beautiful now, with period correct signs and Texaco pumps out front, but the later history is not ignored. Inside the bays are a lift and a vintage Sun diagnostics machine. Plenty of leftover parts line the shelves, old air filters, bulbs, and belts. And, taking pride of place, are a pair of Marathon pumps, from which Phil Becker dispensed the last few gallons of gas to set the record.

For tech geeks, I shot this using the Through The Viewfinder technique, and I used an old Spartus Full-Vue that has a frosted glass viewfinder and a tarnished mirror. I like the way this looks, like a still from a really old cine camera.

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