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Sunday, July 8, 2012

Golden Age of Clark Gas Stations

Original colors and style of the old Clark Stations
My old station in Milwaukee (Santa Monica & Hampton) in 2008 with the 'new' look.

Nice blog about old gas stations. Link is below.
Always one of my favorites as a kid, the Clark stations maintained a quaint “roadside” look well into the 1970’s. Billboards, small buildings with canted windows and globe-topped gas pumps (long after the competition had scrapped them) were part of the enduring Clark image. To my knowledge, Clark stations never featured auto service, another throwback to the earliest days of gasoline marketing. And until the advent of “lead-free” in the early 70’s, Clark sold only one grade of gas, called “Super 100”.

Despite all of this, their stations never seemed dated. As authors Henderson and Benjamin state, they “were quick to adopt modern marketing techniques and combine them with their traditional image”. This was manifested by prolific, clever TV advertising, and on the stations themselves with eye-catching signage on Clark buildings, and way cool tower signs with orbiting lights (seen in the photo above, circa 1962) that were known within the company as the “Circle of Service”. How can’t you love that?

The company’s beginnings were certainly humble. Starting out, according to Jakle and Sculle, with founder Emory T. Clark’s fourteen dollar investment in “a one-pump service station in Milwaukee”, there were 1,000 Clark stations blanketing the Midwest 30 years later. By this time Clark, had gained its own exploration and refining capabilities. In 1981, Emory Clark sold his interest in the company, the first of several ownership changes that would take place over the next couple of decades. 

See The War between Clark Oil & Refining and it's Dealers

For a while, Clark and the Chicago locations of White Hen Pantry, a former Jewel Companies brand, were under common ownership. The current corporate entity, Naperville, Illinois-based Clark Brands, was formed in 2003. The traditional Clark orange, black and white was long ago replaced with a two-toned blue color scheme with red and white accents.

One mid 70’s memory stands out for me - the price of cigarettes, of all things, at our local Clark station in Mount Prospect, where my Dad regularly stocked up on Trues or Kents, those fine exemplars of “better living through Lorillard research”. 

See Tales of the Milwaukee Mob and Two Cigarette Men!

For the longest time it was 55 cents a pack, as the big orange sign attested. I think cigarettes are now 55 cents apiece in Cook County.

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