When my dad owned his Sunoco service station in the 1950s and ’60s, our prices didn’t change often because it was a major project to adjust them. Each pump had to have its outside covers removed and then several adjustments had to be made. We had to change the flow of the fuel and match the new price with that flow.
We then needed to pump a gallon into a container to ensure that the new price per gallon was correct. Once that checked out, we reassembled the pump and moved on to our second one. We were lucky that we had only two pumps.
Sunoco sold only one grade of gasoline at the time, but that changed a few years later when blend pumps were introduced. Each station had to have new underground fuel tanks installed.
We now had two types of gasoline. The blend pump allowed customers to purchase six blends of gasoline. What was really cool was that the hose from the pump held another hose inside it and the two blends of fuel never mixed until reaching the nozzle.
Changing the prices on these complicated pumps was a challenge. We also had to manually change the large sign that advertised the price. I smile when I drive past a station and there is an employee dealing with a price change on a non-electrical sign.
Back then a service station owner purchased the gas from the distributor when it was delivered. All the fuel in the underground tanks was owned by the service station owner. It was great to have a friend who was employed at the fuel distribution center as he knew when the price of fuel was going up. This allowed us time to order and receive a truckload of fuel at the current price. Then when the price rose we had fuel at the lower price and could sell it for the new price.
The trucks that Sunoco used at that time to deliver fuel were semis with double fuel tank trailers. As I remember they delivered 7,200 gallons at a time. If you have ever attempted to back up a vehicle that is attached to a trailer, you know that it can be difficult. Backing up two attached trailers is nearly impossible. All service stations needed to be designed to accommodate these vehicles.
I once heard a story about one of the semi drivers. It seems that he was challenged to drive a loaded double trailer around Monument Circle. When stopped by the police, he claimed to be lost.