The Green Lantern: An early attempt to modernize gas stations

November 14, 2012

LIMA — Ford’s automobiles opened up the roads for free-spirited travel, so it only follows that gas stations would try to serve those new customers in the best way they could.

An early attempt at a modern travel center was at Pearl and Jackson streets, a station that opened in 1928. E.E. Bessire incorporated The Major Oil Corp. and began selling its own brands of blended gasolines at a station that also featured car repair and a restaurant, The Green Lantern.

“Come out today to the corner of Pearl and Jackson streets and get an idea of the kind of service you can expect when we open. Today and until grand opening our gasoline pumps will be in operation,” a newspaper ad stated July 29, 1928. Gas went for 17 cents, with the “high test” selling for 19 cents per gallon. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s inflation calculator that equates to $2.30 today. Motor oil was 25 cents per quart, sold in glass bottles.

Local native Bessire wanted to offer a new concept in filling stations.

“It is my purpose to give Lima and its citizens three service stations that will excel anything that has ever been built in this country. All of Lima and Ohio will be proud of these stations,” he said. He planned stations at Pierce and High streets and a third unnamed location.

“The day of the little filing station has passed,” Bessire stated. “It requires years of experience to know what the traveling public wants. For 17 years, it has been my good fortune to serve automobile owners. It has always been my desire to serve them better and to keep pace with the times. The traveling public is exacting super-service, dependable merchandise served from up-to-date stations with modern equipment, including spacious driveways and quick and accurate devices and equipment.”

The station’s car repair section could service a dozen cars at the same time. A 10-room motel offered furnished rooms — with hardwood floors, wallpaper and hot and cold softened water with private bathrooms — to weary travelers. Gasoline was stored in three concrete tanks underground, billed as a benefit to the customer because the gas was kept at a more even temperature which reduced expansion and contraction. There was a wholesale department, with pumps offering fuel to farmers.

And the station itself offered much to travelers.

“In conjunction with the station and restaurant is a beautiful ladies’ parlor just like you have at home, Bessire pointed out, where ladies may visit and rest and comfort. This is something new in filling station service. There is also a men’s smoker, furnished for the comfort of men waiting for service,” an Aug. 30, 1928, story reported. “There is claimed no more beautiful room in Ohio than the attractive Green Lantern. The first floor has a lunch counter, large plate-glass back bar, stools and tables and comfortable chairs for patrons. The finest soda fountain ever installed in any establishment it is claimed. There is plenty of parking space where your automobile is taken care of while you dine splending surroundings of this wonderful service station. Upstairs there are two beautiful rooms, Bessire explained, where you may wander through palms and ferns through a large open stairway to a private room large enough to accommodate eight couples of a large room with tables and booths that are more than comfortable. There is music, splendid service from courteous Green Lantern maids who breathe sunshine while they wait upon you and serve you with the most delicious and refreshing drinks.”

It offered day and night service, catering to the new automobile traveler.

The Green Lantern appears to be mildly successful at first, offering special dinners at holidays and rooms for many wedding showers and the like.

But by the 1930s, the station was owned by the Central Oil and Tire Co. A remodeling was in order, and the focus turned to the new trend of recreation centers — dining, dancing, mini golf — all for the younger set.

By 1932, the Central Oil and Tire Co. was in receivership. Hume Oil Co. owned the station by 1933. The local company handled Pure Oil products and had other filling stations at Main and Eureka and on North Union Street.

By 1942, Klein Shell Service was the owner of the Jackson and Pearl streets station.

“While your car is being gone over, treat yourself to a home-cooked meal at the Green Lantern,” an ad stated Jan. 1, 1942. It was still 24-hour service.

By the war years, the station was struggling. There were at least two mattress fires, caused by long-term residents of the inn smoking in bed. In 1945, the owner was accused of using too much sugar and meat, per the war rationing.

In 1945, a fire broke out and did about $1,500 damage in a storage room.

Managers changed often. Classified ads for waitresses were somewhat frequent.

By 1957, the business was Treadway & Son Sohio Service. Robberies started appearing in the news.

In 1963, another fire broke out and caused damage to the main station. Ownership passed through several parties, and today the location is home to warehouses.

A modern filling station