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8 Things You No Longer See At Gas Stations

There are exceptions to every rule, so there are probably some gas stations that still have uniformed mechanics on duty and free maps. But for the most part, gas stations today resemble convenience stores more than a one-stop haven for all things automotive. Some changes are for the better, but there are some amenities that are missed.

1. Mechanic On Duty

Gas stations used to properly be called “service stations,” and that’s because the majority of them had at least one service bay equipped with the tools necessary to do everything from oil changes to brake replacements and complete engine overhauls. Such stations often posted a “Mechanic on Duty” sign out front to alert motorists with car trouble that assistance was available.

2. Cents Per Gallon Pump Prices

When gasoline reached the unfathomable price of $1.00 per gallon, station owners had to retro-fit their pumps with a piece of adhesive tape to reflect the increased cost. Pumps at the time only had space for three digits in the price-per-gallon slot, and one of those digits was reserved for the 9/10.

3. Uniformed Attendants

Pump jockeys used to be as well-dressed as police officers and firefighters, right down to the snappy hat and bow tie. The uniform shirt usually had the company logo stitched on one breast pocket and the employee’s embroidered nameplate on the other. The attendant also had a roll of fives and singles in his shirt pocket so that he could make change. That wad of cash made every kid in the family station wagon aspire to work at a gas station one day, because just look at all the money those guys had!

4. Driveway Bells

Black rubber hoses used to snake across the pavement at every gas station. They were hooked up to a bell inside the building and the “ding-ding” signaled for an attendant to dash over to the driver’s window and ask, “Fill ‘er up?”

5. Routine Maintenance

Attendants not only pumped gas; part of their regular routine was to also automatically check under the hood (water, battery, oil) and wash the windshield. Every attendant had a huge rag hanging out of his back pocket that he used to wipe the oil dipstick. Then, much like a sommelier proffering a sample of a vintage wine, he’d present the dipstick to the driver for his inspection. He would then wield his squeegee with the skill of a surgeon, carefully cleaning those panoramic windshields of the era with just a few expert swipes. All this whether the customer had purchased 50 cents worth or a tank full of gas.

6. Free Road Maps

Back before gas station employees were simply cashiers tucked away behind bullet-proof glass, lost motorists could pull into any service station and get detailed, accurate directions. The attendant would often mark on a road map as a visual aid and then let the driver take it with him, free of charge. In fact, it was expected that gas stations in any given area had a rack full of complimentary road maps.

7. Leaded Gasoline

Prior to 1971, automotive engines were equipped with "soft" valve seats and leaded gasoline acted as a lubricant to prevent excessive wear. Beginning in 1973, however, the Environmental Protection Agency began imposing limits on the lead content in gas and newer model cars were equipped with catalytic converters (which required unleaded fuel) as pollution-control devices. By the mid-1970s, instead of “Regular or Ethyl?,” attendants regularly asked customers, “Leaded or Unleaded?”

8. Credit Card Trays

Even before self-service and “pay at the pump” card swipers, customers could still use credit cards to purchase gasoline. The attendant took your card (and most oil companies had their own cards) inside to process it and brought the slip back to your car on a small tray along with a pen for you to sign it. Eventually stations got high-tech and had portable manual imprinting machines that the attendant would “kerchunk” immediately, no waiting necessary.

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Noriyuki Saitoh
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Art
Japanese Artist Crafts Intricate Insects Using Bamboo
Original image
Noriyuki Saitoh

Not everyone finds insects beautiful. Some people think of them as scary, disturbing, or downright disgusting. But when Japanese artist Noriyuki Saitoh looks at a discarded cicada shell or a feeding praying mantis, he sees inspiration for his next creation.

Saitoh’s sculptures, spotted over at Colossal, are crafted by hand from bamboo. He uses the natural material to make some incredibly lifelike pieces. In one example, three wasps perch on a piece of honeycomb. In another, two mating dragonflies create a heart shape with their abdomens.

The figures he creates aren’t meant to be exact replicas of real insects. Rather, Saitoh starts his process with a list of dimensions and allows room for creativity when fine-tuning the appearances. The sense of movement and level of detail he puts into each sculpture is what makes them look so convincing.

You can browse the artist’s work on his website or follow him on social media for more stunning samples from his portfolio.

Bamboo insect.

Bamboo insect.

Bamboo insect.

Bamboo insect.

Bamboo insect.

Bamboo insect.

[h/t Colossal]

All images courtesy of Noriyuki Saitoh.

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Hulton Archive/Getty Images
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History
P.G. Wodehouse's Exile from England
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Hulton Archive/Getty Images

You don’t get more British than Jeeves and Wooster. The P.G. Wodehouse characters are practically synonymous with elevenses and Pimm’s. But in 1947, their creator left England for the U.S. and never looked back.

Pelham Grenville Wodehouse, better known as P.G., was living in northern France and working on his latest Jeeves and Wooster novel, Joy in the Morning, when the Nazis came knocking. They occupied his estate for a period of time before shipping him off to an internment camp in Germany, which he later said he found pretty pleasant:

“Everybody seems to think a German internment camp must be a sort of torture chamber. It was really perfectly normal and ordinary. The camp had an extraordinarily nice commander, and we did all sorts of things, you know. We played cricket, that sort of thing. Of course, I was writing all the time.”

Wodehouse was there for 11 months before being suddenly released to a hotel in Berlin where a man from the German foreign office named Werner Plack was waiting to meet him. Wodehouse was somewhat acquainted with Plack from a stint in Hollywood, so finding him waiting didn't seem out of the ordinary. Plack advised Wodehouse to use his time in the internment camp to his advantage, and suggested writing a radio series about his experiences to be broadcast in America.

As Plack probably suspected, Wodehouse’s natural writing style meant that his broadcasts were light-hearted affairs about playing cricket and writing novels, This didn’t sit too well with the British, who believed Wodehouse was trying to downplay the horrors of the war. The writer was shocked when MI5 subjected him to questioning about the “propaganda” he wrote for the Germans. "I thought that people, hearing the talks, would admire me for having kept cheerful under difficult conditions," he told them in 1944. "I would like to conclude by saying that I never had any intention of assisting the enemy and that I have suffered a great deal of mental pain as the result of my action."

Wodehouse's contemporary George Orwell came to his aid, penning a 1945 an essay called “In Defense of P.G. Wodehouse." Sadly, it didn’t do much to sway public opinion. Though MI5 ultimately decided not to prosecute, it seemed that British citizens had already made up their minds, with some bookstores and libraries even removing all Wodehouse material from their shelves. Seeing the writing on the wall, the author and his wife packed up all of their belongings and moved to New York in 1947. They never went back to England.

But that’s not to say Wodehouse didn’t want to. In 1973, at the age of 91, he expressed interest in returning. “I’d certainly like to, but at my age it’s awfully difficult to get a move on. But I’d like to go back for a visit in the spring. They all seem to want me to go back. The trouble is that I’ve never flown. I suppose that would solve everything."

Unfortunately, he died of a heart attack before he could make the trip. But the author bore no ill will toward his native country. When The Paris Review interviewed Wodehouse in 1973, they asked if he resented the way he was treated by the English. “Oh, no, no, no. Nothing of that sort. The whole thing seems to have blown over now,” he said.  He was right—the Queen bestowed Wodehouse with a knighthood two months before his death, showing that all was forgiven.

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