Purple Engine Oil for Cars ??
By Keith Gibson
Never heard of such a weird thing? Well an oil company that was popular in the 50s was Union Oil and they had purple oil, it was called Royal Triton. Tony Fondi and Frank Quilicy, had a Union Oil service station on the corner across from Economy Drug. The one with the grass.
It was a small station and had 2 pumps, regular and ethyl. There was a small office and a lube room with a hoist that could lift the cars off the floor for servicing. The stations were called service stations, because that is what folks got when they came in. The attendant routinely pumped the gas, checked the oil and water, checked the tires and lastly washed the window.
I worked there during my junior and senior year at WPHS along with Leonard Morrow. We did all the servicing and also changed and patched tires, greased vehicles, changed oil and filter and other small repairs. A lube and/or oil change warranted a complete and free wash job. It was a rather hectic job at times. Tires had to be broken down the old fashioned way with tire irons. Cars had a zillion grease zerks, unlike the cars now days. It was a lot of work, but we had a lot of different experiences with people. Some good and some bad.
One evening we heard a woman screaming from across the street. Looking over, we saw a man beating her with his fists. We ran over and grabbed him and told her to get to a phone and call the cops. Instead she started whacking us on the head with her fully loaded purse. Felt like it was loaded with lead weights. It was probably full of cosmetics after getting a good look at her. We learned never to do that again.
One night a man came in for gas, driving a new white convertible with Cal. plates. We filled the tank and then he asked if we could change the oil and grease the car. We put the car up on the hoist and drained the oil and greased it. We lowered the hoist and had just popped open the hood when several cars came in for gas at the same time. Leonard and I were out pumping gas when we heard the hood slam and then the car came flying out of the lube bay and onto the street and headed north. We called the cops. They found the jerk about where Ridley’s store is now. He tried to cheat us out of paying, but the laugh was on him, as we did not had a chance to put any of the purple oil in his engine. Quite a costly oil change.
His bill could not have been much as gas was 18 cent/gallon, a quart of oil was about 15 cents and an oil filter around $1.50. Plus, he would have gotten a free wash job and the insides vacuumed. Doesn’t pay to be a jerk.
Another night a car came in with 4 young boys. One of them was Bing Crosby’s youngest son. They had been in Las Vegas and were going back to Bing’s ranch in Elko and were flat broke. Leonard and I felt sorry for them and filled their tank. They promised to send us the money. I am still waiting. Another lesson learned, the hard way.
One of the perks we had was working on our own cars. Leonard had a 49 Ford 2dr. and I had a 41 Chevy Club Coupe. They got washed almost on a daily basis. Tony used to kid us about wearing the paint off the cars with all that washing. He was a great guy and always looked after us.