May 11, 1996
Our previous Northwest Corner dealt primarily with some of the car dealers from an earlier era who made up Perry's own "Auto Row" in the 400 block on Sixth street, between Delaware and Elm. Supporting them and co-dependent with them on Perry motorists were numerous gasoline service stations, auto repair shops, body shops, specialized mechanics and auto parts stores. Many of them also were located on Sixth street and helped Auto Row earn the sub-title of "Gasoline Alley," but others were scattered throughout the city.
In 1940 Gerald Cramer had the Cramer Body & Fender Works on Auto Row. For a time he also operated his business at 415 Seventh street, now the home of Ragsdale Hardware. Myrl McCormick's used car lot was at 107 Seventh street. Ringler Leather Goods, operated by Bill Ringler, made custom seat covers for cars and did upholstery, at his shop on the south side of the square at 606 Cedar.
Auto parts stores included Jack's Auto Supply at 613 Delaware and Western Auto Store at 623 Delaware, both on the north side of the square; and Knox Auto Store on the south side of the square at 616 Cedar. Other car repairs were available at Leo Davis' shop, 113 Seventh; Vern DeVilbiss, 522 Elm; Endres Garage, 521 Delaware; Preston Abbott's Garage, 513 Cedar; Square Deal Garage, 508 Cedar; Bill Faris' radiator shop in the 600 block on Elm; and Wurtz & Douglass, operated by C. J. Wurtz and son, Clarence, and Frank Douglass at 624 Elm.
Gasoline service stations along Sixth street also flourished in those days, and most of them provided at least first echelon maintenance for car owners. Courteous, uniformed attendants pumped the gas, checked the tires and oil level and cleaned windows and windshields for every customer who bought any amount of gasoline, usually costing less than thirty cents a gallon. A five-gallon purchase (about $1.50 worth) Would get you an avalanche of free service.
Most service stations also would wash and grease your car for about $1.50, and a wax job was available for a few dollars more. In the depression era, which also was in the depths of the terrible Dust Bowl Days of the 1930s, some enterprising filling stations offered rain insurance to their car wash customers. If it rained within 24 hours of a wash job, you got another one for free.
Other stations had different ways of attracting customers. The Beckham-Wilson-Cockrum Conoco station was open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The service station doors didn't even have locks since the business was never closed.
Some of the Sixth street gas stations near Auto Row were the Brilliant Bronze Station, 516 Sixth street; Champlin Service Station, 601 Sixth; Joe Foster's Magnolia Station at 527 Sixth; Hartman & Passow's Station at 600 Sixth; Walker Robberson's Phillips 66 Station at 625 Sixth; Joe Weber's Sinclair Station at 507 Sixth; and Bob Wilson's Texaco Station at 1024 Sixth. Other popular stations included the Bill Beckham, Earl Wilson and Alvin Cockrum Conoco Station, an historic triangular building at the southwest corner of the square; Lee Beck's D-X Station at the southeast corner; Syd Wade and Bailey Render's Texaco station on south Seventh street ("Wade In and We Render You Service"); Big Elm Station, 302 Cedar; J. A. Dykes, 800 Ash; Knox Service Station, Highway 77 South; Earl Luthye, 202 Seventh; Pock Service Station, 120 Seventh; Pursley Service Station, 124 Seventh; Frank Schieffer, Highway 77 North; Spradlin Oil & Trucking Co., 509 Cedar; and E. O. Wilkins, Highway 77 South.
Wholesale bulk dealers here in the early 1940s included Merle D. Allen in the First National Bank building; Cities Service Oil Co. at 502 Sixth; Continental Oil Co. at 619 Birch; Illinois Oil Co., 508 Cedar; Magnolia Petroleum Co. (Joe Foster), 527 Sixth; Tydol Gasoline and Shell Oils, O.K. Filling Station (Cleo Stout), Seventh and Elm; Phillips Petroleum Co., 623 Sixth; Salyer Oil Co., Highway 77 North; Sinclair Refining Co. (C. E. Severe), 120 Seventh; Swart Oil Co., Stanolind Oil Products (Ted and Ed Swart), 111 Seventh; Texaco (William A. Box), 508 Birch; and Tide Water Assoc. Oil Co., 428 Seventh.
In 1938, these were the wholesale distributors: W B. Brunson, Champlin, succeeding Merle D. Allen, with Elsworth Choate as manager of the No. 1 station at Seventh and Frisco tracks, and Loren Cockrum and Virgil Burkes as managers of the Four-Way Station at Sixth and Fir; W. F. Redding, Conoco; Marvin Cavnar, Sinclair; Ray Havens, Mid-Continent Diamond Petroleum Corp., with a station at the southeast corner of the square; and William A. Box, Texaco.
Some of the other 1938-vintage gas stations were Pursley's Texaco, northeast corner of the square; Severe's Conoco, southwest corner; Donley's Conoco Super-Service, one block north of the northeast corner; Silverthorne Cabins Conoco in south Perry; and Wurtz & Douglass between Sixth and Seventh on Elm street.
I make no pretense that this is a complete list of gas stations and related businesses, but it includes a large share of them from the late 1930s and early 1940s. Many of you can undoubtedly add more, for there were many of them. Perhaps this will jog your memory in that area and help you recall a few of Perry's Gasoline Alley denizens. They worked hard to provide a real service and earn a living wage in a pretty difficult time. I salute them all.