Ravenna Oil Company was organized in October of 1931. This is a picture of our first service station, which opened in June of 1932 at 107 N Meridian St., Ravenna, at the rear of what is now Picciones Jewelry Store. Picciones building replaces from the north corner, Reed’s Sporting Goods Store, Shorty Ashcraft Shoe Repair, Horace Grey’s Barber Shop, and this curb gas station. The station had been operated previously by M.S. Strait, who went out of business about 1930. We rented the building for $18.000 per month from Helene Walters, who was the owner of all four buildings.
Prohibition went into effect on July 1st, 1919. Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected president in November 1932. Nationwide, the Eighteenth Amendment, it was repealed by Congress in February of 1933. Note the Gold Bond beer sign at the top of the building.
We sold regular gasoline for 13¢ and Ethyl for 15¢ including 1¢ tax. We changed oil and greased cars outside using a creeper and repaired tires with a hammer and tire irons. I ran this station every other Sunday. From Monday to Saturday, I operated the tank truck, a 1933 Ford V-8 with a four compartment tank, total capacity of 735 gals., two buckets and 3 funnels. Our telephone number was 7337. Our supplying company was the Freedom Oil Works Co., Freedom, PA. We changed suppliers in late 1933 to the National Refining Co. Findlay, OH. In addition to Findlay, they also had a refinery in Marietta, Ohio and Coffeyville, Kansas. The gasoline was called “White Rose Gasoline:" EN-AR-CO Motor Oil.
In 1934, the oil companies began canning motor oil in lgt. and lgal. cans. Prior to that, I carried about 10 five-gallon rack cans on the truck. My biggest seller for the few farmers that had tractors was S.A.E. 30 thru 70.
We moved to this location (pictured right) on 268 W. Main St., in the fall of 1935, which is now the State Liquor Store. We rented the showroom to Leon Wise and Fay Lemon, Hudson and Terraplane dealers. We sold Willard batteries and General Tires and began retreading tires, using the Hawkinson system. A top cap, 475 X 19, a popular size, retailed for about $4.25. The present car wash building at the rear was used for storage, car washing, and lubrication. Fred Cawell, Doug’s grandfather did the work.
The first transport of gasoline to arrive in Ravenna was delivered to this location in June of 1936 by Mr. Frank Egner, 3,600 gallons, from Findlay, Ohio. The unloading attracted about 50 or more inquisitive by-standers. Before unloading, I checked the transport to see that all compartments were full to the marker. F.J. Egner and Son later became one of the area’s largest petroleum haulers. Prior to this, all our light products were delivered by rail to 102 E. Lake Ave. About 1954 curb stations were ruled out by city council. Two of them were J.J. Lightcap, now the location of adding an insurance agency and Long & Byers, just west of Wendy’s on Main St. which was called the Morgan Block.
I left the West Main St. location on April 1, 1937, to continue only the wholesale petroleum part of our business. There were no buildings on the Lake St. location, just the three large storage tanks, a concrete pump house, railroad siding, and a field of weeds and brush.
I constructed the building shown in this picture to serve as my headquarters and Vi answered the phone calls from our residence. We began to retail at this location in 1940, after I had established two rural routes.
Then came World War II with gasoline rationing. Regular gas was frozen at 18¢ and Ethyl gas at 20¢. Throughout the war, at the service stations, we sold to dealers for 3¢ under and to farmers for 2¢ under retail.
The office and truck storage buildings, shown at the left, were built in 1946. People began installing fuel oil furnaces in the rural areas, so Ravenna Oil Co. became the first oil company to deliver home heating oil, and have continued to be the leading marketer of home heating oil and burner service for the last 42 years.
- R.J. Wise