Wednesday, March 19, 2014

When Naperville Had "Service Stations"

Some of us still remember a time before “self-service” gas stations. You would pull up to the pump and roll down your window to tell the uniformed man how much gas you wanted.

He’d ask you to pop the hood and while the tank was filling, he’d squeegee your windows and check your oil.

You would then hand him a few dollars through the window and be on your way, without ever leaving your car.

America has long been in love with their cars and Naperville was no different.

Downtown used to be full of service stations. In the 1940’s, two of them, Ernie’s Phillips 66 and Nelson’s Pure Oil, were situated across the street from each other on the corner of Washington and Van Buren.

Both service stations were long-time fixtures in town. When Ernie retired, he sold his Phillips 66 station to one of his employees. Buzz Nelson took over Lee’s Pure Oil following his father’s death.

In the 1947 telephone directory, Ernie’s and Lee’s have lots of competition in the “Automobile” section. And  check out the phone numbers:  Ernie’s phone number has only four digits and Nelson’s
has only three!

Lee Nelson’s service station is immortalized along with other favorite Naperville transportation memories in the mural painted on the Washington Street side of The Lantern restaurant. The mural is called “A City in Transit” and features trains and planes as well as automobiles. Look carefully the next time you walk by and see if you can find the sign for Lee Nelson’s Service Station.