John Parham had great appreciation for American motorcycles, especially early machines. But as he talked with friends, learned and purchased some of the finest, he knew that motorcycle memorabilia like cast iron toys, signage, leather jackets, photographs and advertising art were also key to a good collection. And considering his likely museum visitors, he knew that the more varied these objects were, the better he would engage all sorts of visitors, assure they had a good time when they visited the National Motorcycle Museum.
Indeed, the gasoline and oil that are necessary to getting a motorcycle down the road offered some amazing display items. But oil cans and gasoline cans were just the beginning for John. He found gasoline pumps, large oil tanks, display racks, pre-Interstate maps, ancient battery chargers, rare porcelain signs, and air compressors, clocks, even station attendant uniforms. Topping it all off, John got word of an actual gasoline station, a steel and glass modular design from the 1920’s, bought it and got it restored and installed in the Museum.
So today we feature some of the great petroleana that John Parham gathered for display. The next time you visit the National Motorcycle Museum you can walk right up to the station and peer inside at dozens of interesting items. You can also walk along a 20 foot timeline tracing 120 years of gasoline station advances. Of course the timeline ends with references to electricity as the “fuel” we are moving toward, but hydrogen is also mentioned as it’s still a possibility as a fuel for personal transportation.
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When I was in grade school and high school I worked at gas stations that were made with bolt together steel and porcelain panels. (What child labor laws). I used many of the same pumps and tools that are on display at the museum. When I visit the museum it’s a real walk down memory lane. Yes, I pumped gas, washed windows and head lights, checked your oil and the air in your tires all for 28 cents a gallon.
Those were great days back then. I can remember going to the gas station and gas was 25 cents a gallon. My brother and I would ride our bicycles down to the local station and get a gallon. We would push that old mower around and make a little money. We thought we were cutting a fat hog. Good times back in 63. We moved from riding those old bikes to our motorcycles. I’ll visit your museum next summer on my road trip on my Harley. Thanks for keeping the past alive.
It was .32 a gallon when I started. Check your oil, brake fluid and tire pressure, wash your windshield (and rear window if you asked), sweep and scrub the drive, paint the curbs, clean the restrooms, restock the oil racks, help the mechanics when they needed a hand, stick the tanks and read the pumps at the end of shift…. and all for minimum wage and the occasional .25 tip. I never finished the ninth grade, and that was a good job for a young man with minimal education: out of doors, physically active, interacting with a lot of different people…. It’s a shame that sort of opportunity isn’t available to young folks anymore.
I’m a longtime supporter of the museum, and made several earlier attempts to get there, but finally got to visit in July of 2021. It was a great experience! I’m glad Mr. Parham’s vision is being kept alive. I look forward to more visits in the future.