When I was a very small kid living in Nacogdoches in the waning months of the 30's and the first few months of the 40's, there was one of the really old-fashioned pumps out in front of Mr. Hasley’s store. It had a hand lever on it, and a few pumps of the lever would raise ten gallons of gasoline from the underground tank up to the glass cylinder at the top of the column, which resembled an old fashioned cast iron light post. From there, the gasoline would flow by gravity into your car. You could see the progress of the fuel from the calibrated cylinder as it flowed into your tank.
In later years, as I was growing up in the metropolis of Bay City, Texas, the gasoline pumps had a glass viewport at eye level just below the counters which said “Glass must be full before and after delivery”, which implied that if the glass was not full, then there was air in the line, and the counter gauge may not be accurate. Since it never happened, I never knew what I should do if the glass wasn’t full. I suppose that I would have had to report it to the service station attendant, and something would happen, like he’d say “get outa here, kid”, or he would call the authorities to come and arrest him, or he might call someone to come fix the pump. I never found out.
Eventually, they did away with the glass, so one was dependent on the accuracy of the counters which clicked off the gallons in tenths until you stopped pumping your gas. You couldn’t actually see it flowing, as once you could.
This afternoon, I stopped off at my favorite Texaco station, and reflected as I pumped, “In this time of utter dependence on electronics, as the liquid crystal display rapidly spins off the gallons in thousandths, how can I really be sure that I am getting all of my twenty-five dollars worth of gasoline?” (In the year 1960, I was driving my first self-purchased new car, a 1960 VW, with a 10.5 gallon fuel tank. I thought I’d NEVER be paying more than $3.00 to fill my tank.)