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February 26, 2008


Larry Sheldon

I think I still have some if the little 76 balls they gave away to stick on the end of your radio aerial. I have no idea where they are.

When I was a young lad every gas brand had its own credit card, pretty much. Oh some had interchange agreements, and some were honored by co-owned brands. But if you drove very far afield, you needed a wallet-full of credit cards.

And the tradition in our clan was to drive a lot, so when I started driving I applied for credit cards all over--76, Richfield, Standard, Signal, Flying A, Eagle,...

Some I never heard of, some refused outright, some sent me cards--probably on my fathers rep--I am a "Jr.".

Union sent me an offensive form letter that ended with something about "...if in the future you have an interest in Union Oil, please contact us...".

I went to their HQ in downtown Los Angeles (near the beautiful Art Deco Richfield Tower) and inspected the building directory until I found the President's name (I don't think they had "CEO"'s then) and office number.

Went back home and wrote him a letter that said among other things that he would find no record of me defaulting on a debt (and you had to pay each card off each month), no record of me filing bankruptcy (which was a shameful and rare thing then, and so on.

Wrapped up with an estimate of how many miles I planned to drive in a month, what I thought Union's share would be, and that if in some future event he was interested in doing business with me he could feel free to contact me at ...

Week or less later I got a credit card in the mail with a letter saying they had reviewed my application and that there had been no management directive to do so and geetis ona framis...


One of the sad things about the modern world is the consolidation of gas station branding. On our family trips I as a kid, I used to marvel at all the unfamiliar regional gas stations as we traveled along. Sinclair, DX, Esso, Cities Service, Socony. My favorite was El Paso in the Southwest. I remember seeing the 76 antenna balls and not knowing what they meant until we went to California.

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