Oldgas.com Home
I work in East Providence, an inner ring suburb of Providence, RI, and had a chance to look at some City Directories in their local library.

50 years ago, there were 51 gasoline stations listed in the City Directory. Some of them are still in the same location today. Wood's Service station has a marker in front of it that says it was established in 1923. It's definitely in the same location; but it is more of a gas and go c-store. The same goes for Town Gulf Service Station. Their building has two bays and looks like it might be 50 years old. Freeway Esso Station is still there; of course it is an Exxon now.

Over the decade, the number of stations listed went up and peaked at 56 in 1973. After the first oil crisis, the number decreased by a third to 38 in 1977. I'd be interested to see if this number dropped even more after the second oil crisis. I remember neighboring Connecticut had odd-even rationing days circa 1980. Around that time, gas crossed the psychologically important $1/gal price. Another factor may be the proximity to the Massachusetts border. I think Mass. has historically had lower gas taxes than Rhode Island and price became more of a factor as it went up. Heck, I sometimes drive across the border for a fill-up here in 2018.
During the decade, self service arrived; if it hadn't before. I'm not sure when, but the 1977 directory listed a station called R&K Self Servs. Many of the stations were branded by oil company name, but some of them (about 20%) weren't. Also, I know of a garage next door to my office that was open during this period and sold gasoline as a sideline to repair work and they weren't listed.

The decade saw numerous changes in brand names. Esso became Exxon. Freeway Esso was listed in 1973 as Freeway Esso (Humble) before switching to Exxon. Cities Service became Citgo. Atlantic Became Arco. American became Amoco. There sometimes seems to be a lag between when the refiners rebranded their gasoline and the changes came to the directory. IIRC, I read somewhere that Cities Service became Citgo back in 1965.

Some brands no longer exist. I don't recall Flying A. I just learned recently that Texaco is no longer around; at least in New England. A1 showed up for a year. Merit was in town. I'd only recall seeing one station before; in Bristol Conn. 66 was in the area. So were stations called Lehigh and Victoria. There's an Irving station now where an Arco or a Texaco used to be.

I'll close by mentioning a couple of non-traditional retailers. In 1976, Cumberland Farms Discount Gas took over a spot that used to be an American Station. It's still there and they just expanded the station and its store earlier this year. And for the whole decade, there was a listing for someplace called Consumers Wholesale Outlet.

I may look up more years or directories from other towns to get a bigger picture of retailing trends in southern New England, but I figured that some of you may appreciate this.
good history lesson, interesting .. ... cool
I lived in Barrington RI from 1964 to 1975. I remember the Cities Service change to Citgo in 1965, the Atlantic change to Arco in 1970 and the Esso change to Exxon in 1972. Flying A was bought out by Getty, but there weren't a lot of Flying A stations that I recall seeing. Getty expanded by rebranding other stations - I remember a Gulf and an Arco station changing to Getty. In addition to those brands I remember Texaco, Sunoco, Mobil, Gulf, Phillips 66 (not many), American and a couple BP stations in Massachusetts during the time I lived there.

Thanks for giving me a trip down memory lane!
Welcome to OG Jonathan I sent you a Private Message (PM), Just click on the blinking icon (envelop) on the upper right corner of the top dark blue band on this page.
Originally Posted by SandPCollector
I lived in Barrington RI from 1964 to 1975. I remember the Cities Service change to Citgo in 1965, the Atlantic change to Arco in 1970 and the Esso change to Exxon in 1972. Flying A was bought out by Getty, but there weren't a lot of Flying A stations that I recall seeing. Getty expanded by rebranding other stations - I remember a Gulf and an Arco station changing to Getty. In addition to those brands I remember Texaco, Sunoco, Mobil, Gulf, Phillips 66 (not many), American and a couple BP stations in Massachusetts during the time I lived there.

Thanks for giving me a trip down memory lane!


Barrington's right down the road! I have a spreadsheet somewhere with a little more detail, I didn't see any BP stations in the directory. Maybe they weren't in RI. And the spreadsheet lists which stations converted to Getty. Also, I was able to tell by the ads in the City Directory that there was one guy who sold his Esso station and bought a Mobil station. I'm not sure how common that was. This period covers my first 10 years and the impression I have of gas stations when I was that young was that they started out as full serve but self serve was emphasized more and more as prices went up. Also, they were more like garages when I was little, then became more oriented towards selling conveniences like soda & cigarettes. I also remember the stations where there's an attendant in a glass enclosed closet sized room, but that wasn't until later. I think Stop & Shop still does that.
To clarify, the two BP stations I remember seeing were both in Massachusetts. I recall them being close to Worcester, and this was in the early 1970's. The reason they stuck out is because they were the only ones I had ever seen outside of Canada, which is where my family came from and we visited every year. I also recall the first Mobil station I ever saw with the futuristic round pumps was located on the Wampanoug Trail between Barrington and East Providence. where the road forked toward Seekonk. I'm sure many more station rebranded than I recall, but I only remember the two that change to Getty. I was fortunate to have lived when stations still gave out prizes, like Patriots tumblers at Mobil, plastic horseshoes at Gulf, tiger tails at Esso, Red Sox posters at Atlantic, football stickers at Sunoco to name a few. In addition there were always some game going on at Shell, Sunoco or Mobil were you collected playing pieces to win prizes as well as giving out S&H green stamps, pumping your gas, checking the oil, air pressure and cleaning your windshield! Virtually all that ended around the time of the first oil embargo in 1973. Again I have to say thank you for reminding me of all the wonderful memories of my childhood in Barrington!
"I also recall the first Mobil station I ever saw with the futuristic round pumps was located on the Wampanoug Trail between Barrington and East Providence."

That Mobil station is still there; along with a Dunkin' Donuts. If you would like to tie this into the wholesaling side, Socony Road is near there and it leads you from the Wampanoag Trail to a tank farm.
I remember the tank farm being there on the opposite side of the trail from the WPRO radio station. Lots of good memories for me from the time I lived in Barrington.
Glad I could take you on a pleasant trip down Memory Lane. Also. TIL that oil companies use to have SandP shakers. I thought your handle meant Sand P.
PM sent. Click on the flashing envelope icon.
Originally Posted by SandPCollector
I lived in Barrington RI from 1964 to 1975. I remember the Cities Service change to Citgo in 1965, the Atlantic change to Arco in 1970 and the Esso change to Exxon in 1972. Flying A was bought out by Getty, but there weren't a lot of Flying A stations that I recall seeing. Getty expanded by rebranding other stations - I remember a Gulf and an Arco station changing to Getty. In addition to those brands I remember Texaco, Sunoco, Mobil, Gulf, Phillips 66 (not many), American and a couple BP stations in Massachusetts during the time I lived there.

Thanks for giving me a trip down memory lane!


I found my spreadsheet. Sunoco was the most popular service station brand in town from 1968 until 1977 when Arco took over the lead. But the directory didn't list brands for all of the stations. I'm pretty sure Woods was Mobil back then, but the directory didn't say, so l marked it as unknown.
Before work today, I went next door to get an oil change. This garage has been in business since 1955 and the owner collects oil cans. I had a chance to talk to him. Some are Havoline, but he had some Quaker State cans, an Esso, and a really old can which was for a brand I didn't recognize. He also had a bunch of toy Texaco trucks as well as some other goodies.

For the longest time it was Texaco, but that company stopped retailing in the Northeast; except at marinas. Shell took over but they wanted him to convert into a 24 hour convenience store. He said no thanks and went with Citgo. But some folks weren't happy with that company's association with Chavez and the Venezuelan government. He actually got hate mail (And this is in New England where the Citgo sign outside of Fenway is an icon.) So he went on to sell unbranded gasoline until he took out the pumps a couple of years ago. He said that was one of the best business decisions he's made.

This isn't worth another thread, I think, so I'll just add it here.
© Primarily Petroliana Shop Talk