Whiting Brothers Gasoline Stations in Postcards

Whiting Brothers Motel in Kingman
The Whiting Brothers gasoline station can be seen in the distance past the motel in Kingman on West Beale Street (US Highway 93) one mile north of Route 66.

The advertising and promotional employees at Whiting Brothers seemed to have consciously avoided showing their gasoline stations in postcards. I have never seen a Whiting Brothers postcard that focused directly upon a gasoline station, which is not unexpected since gasoline stations were never a frequent subject of postcards. But about half of all Whiting Brothers motels shared the site with gasoline stations but curiously I have found only two Whiting Brothers motel postcards that even show the gasoline station. One is for the Kingman, Arizona, motel (right) and the other is for the West Winslow, Arizona, motel (below right).

The purpose of the once-ubiquitous motel postcard was to promote the motel itself. It was common for one, or perhaps even two, postcards to be provided free in each motel room, usually found in a desk or night stand drawer. The motel guest would either mail it to a friend or family member with a short message about their trip or stay in the town, or perhaps would keep the postcard as a souvenir or for a scrapbook. It was the hope of the motel owner that some number of distributed postcards would ultimately result in future stays at the motel.

Most of the Whiting Brothers motel postcards that I have in my collection are from the 1970s. The automobiles in the parking lots appear from that era or earlier and the backsides of most of the postcards refer more frequently to Interstate 40 rather than US Highway 66. I think that by this decade most motel guests preferred peace and quiet and did not particularly value the "convenience" of a gasoline station on the premises. And, as I stated above, about half of the Whiting Brothers motels were adjacent to gasoline stations. Several complexes were actually configured such that the gasoline station was right in the front parking lot of the motel itself! A guest listening to all of the hustle and bustle associated with service station activity well into the evening may have wished they could reconsider their choice in lodging for that night.

The Whiting Brothers employees who supervised the photographing of the motels and the final selection of the images prior to making the postcards seemed to go to great lengths to not show gasoline stations in the image. Hence if you check all of the postcard images on my Whiting Brothers Motels web page you can see that only the Kingman gasoline station appears in a Whiting Brothers motel postcard. And that gasoline station seems safely sequestered behind and beyond the last few rooms of the motel itself.

Whiting Brothers Motel in West Winslow
This 1980s postcard of the West Winslow complex (815 W. 2nd Street) shows both the gasoline station and the motel in close proximity.

I used a postcard that showed just the West Winslow motel for that Whiting Brothers Motels, but there is a different postcard that looks to be from the 1980s. (To my eye the automobiles shown are from the 1980s.) This postcard, displayed at the right, shows the gasoline station to the left and some motel rooms at the center. Other than the Kingman motel postcard this is the only other Whiting Brothers postcard that I know that shows the lodging rooms and gas station in such close proximity.

Let's consider all of the Whiting Brothers motels that were on Route 66 from west to east. The Whiting Brothers motel in Barstow, CA, had a gasoline station front and center on the motel property. The motel rooms actually wrapped around the gasoline station. Hence when you look at the Barstow motel postcard what you see is just one small wing of the motel. The gasoline station would have actually begun at the immediate right edge of the motel postcard image just barely out of the picture view. The gasoline station in Yucca, AZ, was also in front of the motel rooms. But the rooms were set back at some distance and the long single-story building allowed the photographer to capture a normal view of part of the motel without showing the gas station. The Williams, AZ, gasoline station was just to the immediate right edge of the motel postcard image and it is not seen either. The gasoline station for the Flagstaff, AZ, motel was off to the left edge of the postcard image. A gasoline station was just to the left of the wing of motel rooms of the West Winslow, AZ, motel, and the station was tucked quite tightly into the small parking lot it shared with the motel (as seen above). Both the motel and gasoline station still stand in this West Winslow location so the reader can verify this arrangement today. Whiting Brothers gasoline stations did not share the motel sites for the east Winslow, Holbrook, or Gallup locations. The gasoline stations for both the Continental Divide and San Fidel, NM, locations were just to the left of the motels. Both postcard images stop short of showing these gas stations too. A gasoline station shared the site of the Albuquerque motel and it was just to the immediate right of the motel image and unseen. Whiting Brothers gasoline stations and motels in both Santa Rosa and Tucumcari, NM, did not share the same site. So it seems likely that the Whiting Brothers did not want to promote the fact that many of their their motels and gasoline stations shared the same property. Careful cropping of the photographic image ensured that the presence of a gasoline station would not be apparent. My hypothesis is that showing a gasoline station next to a motel in a postcard image would serve as a negative factor and make it less likely that a traveler would plan a future stay in that motel.

Sharp-eyed collectors find interesting businesses or other elements in some postcards that are not the primary focus of the postcards themselves. There are at least three Route 66 postcard images that actually show evidence of Whiting Brothers gasoline stations, albeit the buildings themselves barely make an appearance. It is the distinctive Whiting Brothers signs that are recognizable.

East Flagstaff
Here is a postcard view looking east on Route 66 in East Flagstaff, Arizona.

On the left is a photo-chrome postcard (Petley S3315 / K521) titled "East Flagstaff". Just below the "Speed Limit 35" sign is a small sign that says "East Flagstaff" as if it was a separate town from Flagstaff itself. Notice the Santa Fe Railway tracks on the right: this is the Santa Fe's Chicago-to-Los Angeles mainline. This stretch of Route 66 is quite urbanized and busy today yet in this old postcard only two automobiles make an appearance in the far distance. The sign shaped like an Indian arrowhead in the left-center with the white letters on a red background is for the Arrowhead Motel. Farther down is a sign for a Whiting Brothers gasoline station. (The sign is nearly-impossible to see on a computer monitor but it is a bit more evident looking at the actual photo-chrome postcard. I added the red arrow to the image on this web page that points to the sign.) The Arrowhead Motel is still operating today at 2010 East Route 66 (old Santa Fe Avenue) so the Whiting Brothers gasoline station is obviously the one that once existed at 2136 East Santa Fe Avenue. The gas station dates back to at least the 1950s and shared the site with a small tourist court at one time called the Cactus Gardens Court but this one-story court was set well back from the highway shoulder and can not be seen in this postcard image. The Whiting Brothers expanded this Flagstaff motel in the late 1960s with a new two-story building that reached out to the highway's edge. Since the two-story motel is not visible in this image we can say that the photograph used for this postcard image was taken sometime in the 1950s or early 1960s.

Welcome to Arizona sign at Lupton
Here is a postcard view looking west along early Route 66 as it enters Arizona from New Mexico.

On the right is a photo-chrome postcard (Petley 6227 / K-384) that is titled "Entering Arizona" and calls attention to the colorful "Welcome to Arizona"   "The Grand Canyon State" billboard along the shoulder of US Highway 66 itself. The hard-to-see mileage sign in shadow just to the left of the billboard indicates that Holbrook is 74 miles away and Flagstaff is 165 miles away. The photographer captured several signs in the distance and back toward the horizon is the distinctive elevated Whiting Brothers gasoline sign with its red letters-on-yellow-background. This is the original Whiting Brothers State Line / Lupton station on Route 66. (The sign is difficult to see on a computer monitor but it is more evident looking at the actual photo-chrome postcard. I added the red arrow to the image on this web page that points to the sign.) If you move your cursor over the postcard image you will see another postcard (Petley #37709) where company employees took the "Entering Arizona" image and paired it with a scenic red rock view in the Lupton area.

Route 66 at Tucumcari Here is a view looking east on Route 66 toward the Interstate 40 overpass at the eastern edge of Tucumcari, New Mexico

On the left is a photo-chrome postcard (Schaaf 994 / 41542) that has a copyright date of 1969. It is titled "Welcome to New Mexico"   "Land of Enchantment" and features the attractive signboard in the middle of the postcard image. No location is actually identified in the text on the back side of this postcard so a little investigative work was required. This is the east interchange at Tucumcari, New Mexico. Interstate 40 has been completed and the overpass is barely visible in the far distance to the right of the signboard and just below the Gulf gasoline sign (the girders of the overpass bridge are painted a reddish color). Signs from five different gasoline stations (from right to left: Union 76 - barely discernible below the red CONOCO triangle - CONOCO, Gulf, ENCO, and Whiting Bros.) were also captured by the photographer. Can you make out the Whiting Brothers gasoline station on the left? That gas station is gone now but the elevated sign is still standing although it is painted white. The Holiday Inn is now the Quality Inn. The wide center island in the foreground where the sign stood has all-but-disappeared in the forty-five years since this postcard was first published.