Your Neighborhood Service Center

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Whatever happened to good service?
Have you wondered what has happened to good old-fashioned service? A recent experience caused me to wonder. My daughter’s car needed service as she was planning to drive from Florida to my house in Maryland. She described the problem to me and it sounded like the front brakes needed service. So I talked to the service writer, authorized a front brake service, asked him to change the oil, check all the fluids, and check the tire pressure. When she arrived in Maryland, I looked at the car and immediately noticed that the tires were low. I opened the hood and found that the windshield washer solvent tank was empty. That’s not the kind of service I grew up with, nor what I expect today.

e Hannon Sr, at Esso servicecenter

My Dad at the ESSO Servicecenter as a young man

I think back to when my dad first took me to his Esso station in the 1970s. The driveway bell would ring twice as a car’s wheels passed over the black hose, and one of the mechanics would yell, “One up!” An attendant would check every fluid under the hood, the tire pressure, and clean the windshield and rear window. Sometimes they would give customers coffee mugs or green stamps.
 Service stations gave out S&H green stampsService stations gave out coffee mugs
I watched the technicians mount snow tires (bias ply) when the weather was calling for snow, back before all-weather radial tires.
We also performed road calls, mostly in the winter after a cold weekend. Later, when I was a tech, on busy Monday mornings we would pack up the truck, grab the road call list and head out. We usually just had the names because we knew where our customers lived.
Most of the cars had flooded carburetors or dead batteries. I think that’s about the time I started to drink hot black coffee to help myself warm up. But most of the time our customers warmed our hearts.
Old guys from the neighborhood used to hang around the shop and have coffee. They wanted to see what was being worked on, or just hang around after their cars were done. Customers would come in around Christmas and bring gifts for the mechanics. By the time we closed the station about a decade ago, we’d been working with families for over three generations. I sure miss the bond we created with the neighborhood, the friends we made and the pride we felt providing much needed service. It seemed like things changed after fuel prices climbed and people sought out stations with a few cents off the price and self-service at the pump. But I guess when I get old I will walk down to the convenience store/gas station, sip an espresso and watch them make a sandwich.
For information on your vehicle, check out Chilton’s online database of repair information for detailed instructions, images, and specific tips from the vehicle manufacturer and our certified expert technicians. Keep your vehicle running smoothly with maintenance schedules, service and repair information, Technical Service Bulletins and Recalls at: and

Gene Hannon, Jr., Chilton Senior Editor

Gene Hannon with his father and brother.

Gene Hannon Jr., ASE Master Technician lives in Maryland with his wife Paula; they have 3 girls, Jocelyn, Sarah and Carly. With his father and brother, Gene opened Avalon Automotive, an 8-bay repair center, where he was a partner for more than 10 years. Gene joined the Chilton Team in 2006.

30 responses to “Your Neighborhood Service Center”

  1. Kent Clark says:

    This was really fun to read. My grandpa worked at a service center while he was in college back in the 1960’s. It’s interesting as these days, he seems to know more about vehicles than the workers. Service just isn’t what it used to be.

    • Gene says:

      Kent, thanks for reading our article! Im glad you liked it.
      Even with all the electronic technology we still have the basic automobile, with the same combustion engine.

  2. Timothy Palumbo says:

    Gene I read this page and I do remember ur station,its been awhile but I do remember it very well good luck in the future with everything ur friend Timothy Palumbo.

  3. Gene says:

    Thanks Timmy, Happy Motoring!!!

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