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.
Last edited by Gulf Warrior; Sun Jun 17 2018 05:47 PM.