Union’s first gas station opened in 1922

By TERESA BLOUNT,

As automobiles became prevalent in Union, the need for gasoline became greater. Again, adventurous men of Union stepped up to meet the challenge.

In 1922, Union Oil Co. was established by J.L. Mott. He first delivered gasoline in 10-gallon cans. Next, in 1925, Grady Graham became a Texaco agent. Then in 1929, Lauren L. Majure and Grady Graham secured the agency for Shell petroleum products and became distributors. They built an office building at 102 Gum Street and a station at 109 Jackson Road, the location of the former home of Dr. Felix Horne.     

In 1931, they opened Consumer Oil Company that provided gas for the Shell stations. Before the year ended, however, Graham sold the business to Majure. Next, Majure and J.S. Luke Sr., who had moved to Union in 1929, joined a partnership. R.W. (Bob) Carleton, having been trained by Graham, worked with them as a deliveryman driving a truck. 

By 1933, Majure had become a Sinclair distributor. He soon had gas tanks erected beside the Gum Street office building. He located them near the railroad tracks so they would be easily accessible to receive the petroleum that was shipped in by rail. Initially, the storage tanks came in on rail cars and were rolled across the ditch on timbers. The legs, called stansions, were built like cradles so men could use timbers to roll the tanks onto them. In addition, they stood high off the ground so workers could load trucks by gravity. These tanks are still standing but no longer used.

In early 1935, Bob Carleton went into the business with Majure and Luke. Majure soon moved to Meridian, took the name Consumer Oil Co. with him, and left Carleton and Luke as the two remaining partners. Then in Feb. 1935, Carleton became anagent for Sinclair, and the name of the business was Carleton Oil Company.

As the business grew, they added an addition to the Gum St. building in 1938.  However, on Nov. 26, 1946, the building burned when an oil tank truck exploded and set fire to the Sinclair agency. Carleton was standing beside the truck that exploded, and he was severely burned. Immediately following the fire, they temporarily moved the operation of the business to the Sinclair station at 109 Jackson Road until they could rebuild on Gum Street. Carleton was not able to return to work until April 1947. 

In 1954, Bob’s son, Harold, joined him in the business and another son, R. Wayne Jr., joined them in 1962. In 1956, Bob Carleton purchased the interests of Jessie Luke and became sole owner. They became ARCO distributors in 1971 for a short time.  Then on July 1, 1972, they became Texaco distributors. 

In 1993, R. Wayne Jr.’s son, Robert III, joined the company and developed the Spanky’s convenient store business. Then in 1999, R. Wayne Jr. and Robert III purchased Harold’s stock, and he retired.

Next, they constructed a new building in 2003 at 417 Decatur St., formerly the gas station already belonging to the Carletons. It housed the offices of Carleton Oil and Spanky’s. Finally, in 2005 R. Wayne Jr. retired, and Robert III became sole owner.  In 2006, the oil business was sold to Sam Gibson owner of GOC, Ltd. of Butler, Ala., and the convenience store business was sold to Prince Oil Co. of Philadelphia. At that time, the Carleton petroleum distributorship in Union came to an end.

My thanks go to Bitsey, Wayne, and Harold Carleton for their input on this article.

Here are this week’s questions: 

• If you grew up in the 1940s and 1950s, what did you do for entertainment in Union?

• Do you remember grocery store bag boys and the approximate time period they worked?

If you have information, please contact me at teresablount26@yahoo.com or 109 Woodhaven Dr., Union 39365, or 601-774-5564.