I've been interested in road maps and gasoline
brands all my life, for reasons I have never fully understood. I
was already long the family navigator on car trips to new places by
the time we moved from Brooklyn to Toledo, Ohio when I was twelve.
During those last few weeks in New York City I remember
poring over a Shell sectional map acquired at the "Reeves of
Bayside" station in Queens to acquaint myself with the
imminent prospect of the living in the Midwest. Once
in Ohio, I found myself quite interested in unfamiliar (at
station signage, such
as for Sohio, Pure, Marathon and Speedway 79.
Gone from my sight were brands such as Esso and Flying
A and Chevron.
And of course we got lots of maps. Just several months after the move,
my road map interest suddenly became a passion. It started in late November, 1959. One crisp evening, likely on the way home from the A&P, I stopped at a Sohio station (now long gone) at Sylvania Ave. and Willys
Pkwy. and asked if I could have one of each of the few maps they had. The
attendant was glad to oblige, and something about
receiving that Ohio map with the colorful image of a cardinal on the cover
gave me huge inner pleasure. And it led me to several years of very intense
collecting, described perhaps as "borderline fixation."
It was a fixation which -- as these things often do --
cooled over time. But by then I had amassed over
4000 oil company-issued road maps from a variety of
sources including some few retained from my New York
days, and from much traipsing to gas stations. And there was
lots of writing to oil companies, and visiting oil company tour
bureaus, particularly in New York City and Chicago.
No two maps were exactly the same, taking into account
different brands, editions, covers and so on.
I wound up long, long ago (perhaps in 1964?) throwing away thousands of these maps. But I did retain my modest collection of older ones,
as well as most
of my foreign ones, and a limited selection
of sample issues from the domestic brands.
Less than a decade later the era of the free service
station road map was ending, the result of changing
economics brought about by the first Oil Crisis.
I consider the hobby now to be "semi-dormant," but I
do from time to time search out older maps as I wander
the countryside. My interest isn't what it once was,
yet nothing gets the juices flowing quite in the same
way as when I happen upon an old map with a cover
I've never seen before in some used bookstores, flea or antique market, or other