by Terry Thornton
My first word was probably "Esso" but I said it like my father, Garfus Thornton, who never pronounced it "S.O.", the initials fo Standard Oil. Garfus always spelled out the word "E - S - S - O." He would say when traveling, "I see an E - S - S - O sign up ahead. I'm going to stop and get some gas."
So I'd bet my first words were "E - S - S - O." I think I was in college before I brought myself to saying the simple "S O" for this widely recognized advertising sign.
Thornton Store at Parham sold Standard Oil products. Hal Moore was the distributor for Standard Oil Projects in Amory; his delivery trucks made regular runs to Parham suppling the store with gasoline in two grades, bulk oil, kerosene, and cans of oil. Other products such as aviation fuel were also available.
The only time we bought aviation fuel from Mr. Moore was when the bi-plane that was flying cross country landed in a nearby hayfield when it ran out of gas. The pilot walked to the store and Garfus carried him to town and Mr. Moore supplied the aviation fuel.
But back to the ESSO signs that once were everywhere. Little kids learned to recognize signs and "read" them because there were colorful and, in many cases, the signs were illuminated making them stand out at night. Before the time of sensory overload of billboards and outdoor advertising, the simple gasoline signs such as ESSO were those I learned to read.
My grandchildren, however, learned to "read" McDonalds!
While driving yesterday through Kemper County, Mississippi, on Highway 45, I stopped and photographed the building below because of the service station advertising sign still attached. It is not that old a sign --- but the oil company it advertised is --- Texaco Oil. Of course I remember the jingle to the Texaco songs on radio and early TV --- and was a regular viewer of Milton Berle whose show opened with the singing men of Texaco. The "Star of the American Road" was a slogan of a more recent advertising from the Texaco company --- and about all that is left of this old service station is "Star of the American Road."
Wonder how many children learned to read "Star of the American Road" as their first words?
Do you remember the first sign you learned to "read?"
Esso logo photograph captured from Wikipedia; click to access.
Star of the American Road photograph, Kemper County, Mississippi, by Terry Thornton, Fulton, Mississippi, January 10, 2010.
Texaco and Star of the Open Road, Wikipedia; click to access.