“Twin” Service Stations

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Joe Reale, age 23, on 1941 Indian motorcycle, Fenton Park Service, 1951 (Courtesy Joe and Alma Reale)
Joe Reale, age 23, on 1941 Indian motorcycle, Fenton Park Service, 1951 (Courtesy Joe and Alma Reale)

Of the several gas stations, which were known at one time as service stations in Brooklyn Square, the “twin” stations that I remember well stood like sentinels at the northwest and southwest corners of South Main and Derby Streets just opposite Fenton Park.

Bill Morse was the owner of the Sunoco station that was located at the northwest corner of these two streets and a short walk from my home at 17 Derby. My father, who had worked for his cousin Sam Cusimano and was the one-time manager of Sam’s Kendall service station at the corner of Foote and Camp Streets where he learned the ropes of “serving the public” as he put it, would occasionally work on weekends if Bill needed an extra pair of hands to pump gas or, in those days, wash and wax a customer’s car. As I recall, when one pulled into a gas station in the years I was growing up in the 1940s and 1950s, the station attendant not only pumped gas but also washed the front and back windshield of each car and checked the oil without consulting the customer. It was part of his job. No wonder they were called service stations!

I always loved the smell of the bay where oil was changed and the garage where Bill’s mechanic, Charlie, worked on cars overhead on a lift. Mostly, if I stuck around on a hot summer’s day long enough without getting in the way, my dad would treat me to a drink of cool water, “acqua fresca” as he put it, in a white, cone-shaped paper cup that, for some reason to a kid, was a really novel way of quenching her thirst!

The 1945 tornado damage on Derby Street looking east from S. Main Street
The 1945 tornado damage on Derby Street looking east from S. Main Street

When the tornado struck the south side of Jamestown on June 10, 1945, the Sunoco station sustained heavy damage. The large telephone pole at that corner fell, crushing a portion of the garage roof and pulling down wires as well as the station’s Sunoco sign.
The gas station that was on the opposite corner from Bill Morse’s Sunoco station was Fenton Park Service that was run for years by Joe Reale. Just as a point of history, that service station was originally owned by a man named Truesdell and known as the Truesdell Filling Station from 1940-1945, and then a man named Mata who owned it in 1946. Jim Agnello then bought and operated the station until he sold it to Joe Reale who owned and operated his Fenton Park Service from 1952-1957. My father also worked part time at Joe’s station, and true to his “upbringing” in that service industry, he wore his station cap, a maroon leather bow tie, and as Joe said in an interview with Jim Auria, “a big smile on his face!” Later on, Lou Ciancio took over Joe’s station, and then Busty Conti bought it.

Birmingham Car Company Historical Marker
Birmingham Car Company Historical Marker

Joe Reale was always interested in cars, and in 2000 the Joe Reale family dedicated a historical marker commemorating the Birmingham Car Company that manufactured the Birmingham in the Jamestown area from 1921-1923. The factory itself was located in Falconer, NY; however, the offices were located in Brooklyn Square, where the marker is placed. The Joseph Reale family sponsored and donated the marker because Joe and his son David had been in the car business locally for a long time, and they wanted to give something back to the community that addressed a part of Jamestown’s rich manufacturing history