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The Gas Station

Many of the early Automobile Service Stations found in Alberta started as either a General Store or a Hardware Store. With the increase in automobile numbers in the 1920's and 30's, the owners of these stores would install a Gasoline Pump to provide a convenient place for motorists to refuel. Motorists also needed regular maintenance and repairs on their vehicles, so these cunning entreprenuers would add a service bay and the Full Service Station was born.

The most popular Gasoline pump of that time in most of rural Alberta was of the Gravity Type. These have a glass cylinder reservoir on top of a base that contained a manual pump that could transfer gasoline from an underground storage tank into a glass Cylinder and then dispense it into an automobile through a flexible hose and a nozzle.

These Gravity Gas Pumps were not sealed very well to the elements and often rain or water from melting snow would leak into the Glass Cylinder and contaminate the fuel. As it is today, the province employed the practice of marking gasoline with dye. Purple gasoline for farm use and red gasoline for domestic automobile use indicated a collection of an additional tax was levied on the red gasoline. As the gasoline stored in the glass cylinder was open to the sun, the red gas would lose some of its colour so the customer was not sure what grade of gasoline was being sold. To rectify that problem, the gas station operator would erect a canopy, similar to one displayed on our service station to keep the rain, snow and sun from permeating the pumps and preventing UV rays from removing the dyes from the fuel.

In the late 1920's,the Gravity stations began being replaced by "new style" electric gasoline pumps that drew petrol directly from underground tanks through a meter in the pump body and through a filler hose/nozzle into the automobile. This transition was observable because often a second "new style" pump was added without removing the older Gravity Pump.

The Service Station that is located at Alberta Heritage Exposition Park is similar to one that stood on the east side of Highway #2 in the Town of Millet.

A Service Station much like this one was once located on the east side of Highway #2 in the Town of Millet.
Service Stations began appearing in small towns all over Alberta in the 30s and 40s as automobile sales and traffic increased across the province.
Did you know that the canopies that are now synomymous with gas stations around the world were not originially intended for the comfort and convenience of customers? Old-style Gravity Gas Pumps were not sealed well against the elements so station owners protected them from rain and sun by installing canopies overhead.