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The fantastical odyssey of Ocean Beach's fuel

It’s a gas

Gas station at Newport and Cable. "We pumped 11,000 gallons the first month."
Gas station at Newport and Cable. "We pumped 11,000 gallons the first month."

It was a week before Pearl Harbor was bombed in November of 1941. If Bob Myers and Maurice Stuart had known that the U.S. would soon be at war, they might not have plunked down $300 for a lease on a new gas station at the corner of Newport Avenue and Cable Street in Ocean Beach. Although they both had good jobs at a popular service station in Mission Hills where Bob was the manager, the money was hard to scrape together. The tail end of the Great Depression was still whipping.

Myers, who lived in O.B. had seen the new gas station under construction on a walk to the Piggly Wiggly (now Newport Farms Market), and he couldn't get it out of his mind. One day he was eating lunch at the Mission Hills Station when he said to Maurice, better known to his friends as Stu, "I'm going over to Gilmore Oil at Five Points and see if maybe I can lease that station." Stu said, "Well, can I come too?"

"We went down," Bob recalls, "and they said, 'No, we've got one of the tank drivers. I think he wants it.' But then they finally agreed.

Bob and Gwen Myers

"Our boss said, 'I can see one of you going, but both of you? How are you going to make a living?' Well, I figure this way — with two of us, we could both starve, but if you hire help, you've got to pay them. Together we could make it better than if just one did it. I told the boss I figured we'd be pumping 6000 gallons a month by the end of the yard. But we pumped 11,000 the first month."

World War II turned out to be a boost for the economy of San Diego and for Myers' and Stuart's new station. Their former boss, R.W. Caldwell of Mission Hills, had seen the boom coming when he obtained the names and addresses of 140 key men that Reuben Fleet brought from Buffalo, New York, to San Diego with his Consolidated Aircraft (later to become Convair) in the 1930s. Caldwell sent each of them special coupon books, and they and the others who followed became regular customers. Some of these regulars followed Myers and Stuart to their new station in O.B.

About this time, the Standard station on Sunset Cliffs Boulevard closed for renovation. When Standard's customers started drifting into the new Myers & Stuart station, "we gave them service like they'd never seen. That was a big mistake Standard made — they handed it to us on a platter. Our business took off like a kite."

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Like a kite that never came down. The station built a strong following in the community and at times employed as many as 14 workers, who repaired automobiles as well as pumped gas.

All that changed in 1987 when the Mobil Oil Company decided it would stop selling gasoline to Bob Myers because his sales volume was too low. The town of Ocean Beach was incensed that a landmark business, successful for almost 50 years, would be treated so shabbily.

Myers and his wife Gwen took it philosophically. "Mobil could see what was happening," said Bob. "When the self-service stations started coming in, services got to dropping off. The company had no control over the dealers, so the service kept getting worse. We gave good service, but we were too small. They don't want anybody with less than 100,000 gallons a week. You're better off if you're on a busy highway or freeway."

So the gas pumps are gone, but the Myerses are still in business (Stuart died in 1959). With one other employee, they still make repairs, large and small, for their faithful customers who come in regularly, sometimes just to shoot the breeze and reminisce about the old days.


Bob and Gwen moved to O.B. from Normal Heights in 1935, before their first child was born. All three of their children were raised in O.B. and attended local schools. In 1961, after the last child was raised, Gwen joined Bob at the station and has been there ever since, handling the bookkeeping and other administrative tasks.

Gwen's ties to Ocean Beach go back further than 1935. She lived there for a couple of years as a child, starting school at O.B. Elementary. "My dad was a carpenter; he built all kinds of houses around here. I can vividly see Del Monte, the street where we lived, and Sunset Cliffs Boulevard, which was Defoe then [renamed in the '20s after the Sunset Cliffs development]. There was no pavement, just dirt streets. I remember mud." Both Bob and Gwen remember the streetcar that ran into O.B. on Bacon Street, with a little rest stop on Niagara and Bacon, where Pomo's is now. "It went up Santa Cruz and out to Sunset Cliffs. The ties are still there."

There were only a few stores near the intersection of Newport and Cable when Myers & Stuart opened. "There was the Morris Grocery Store," says Gwen, "then the Ocean Beach Garage. Pacific Shores [a venerable bar, still there] opened a little later, about the same time as Kraft Drugs and Schneider's Drugs." The drugstores were equipped with soda fountains where you could sit and sip a malt or have lunch. Their favorite food memory, however, is the Cache of Sweets, owned by Milton Berger, who made his own candy. He also served ice cream and hamburgers.

"In those days you couldn't get tomatoes at the stores in winter," Bob recalls, "so Milton raised his own right in back of the store. And then he'd have that sliver of tomato on the hamburger that nobody else had."

Next to the Cache of Sweets, where the Black is now, was Faber's Grocery Store. "Faber used to give us credit," says Bob, "and people didn't always pay him [back]. he finally got down to where he hardly had any groceries on his shelf — he'd push the cans of Dutch Cleanser or whatever to the front of the shelf. Then, we people would give him orders, he'd run across the street to Piggly Wiggly and fill them."

Bob and Gwen Myers can give you a chronology of most of the businesses that have inhabited the commercial center of Ocean Beach. Some of them had long-time proprietors, such as Lownes Department Store, a family-owned enterprise that served the community for over 50 years before going out of business a few years ago. Others, like the Strand Theater, have gone through many changes of ownership. One Strand owner ever tried to show X-rated films a few years ago but was picketed out of town by O.B. residents. Today the Strand is renovated and shows first- and second-run films at a bargain rate of $2.99.

"Harry Masters just died," says Gwen. "He had a grocery store where Sav-All drug is now — very fancy, with a butcher shop in the back. Real nice meat."

"Don't forget Bill Cords," adds Bob. "He invented a special part for piston rings, patented it, and started producing them over on the next street. You can still buy them in auto parts stores. I think that's the only manufacturing industry we've had in O.B."

Although there were no official senior centers in those days, the Myerses remember the house in the back of the Bank of America at Bacon and Newport (now Rumors Cafe) where the "old boys would play cards or sit out in the afternoon sun." The oldsters also played horseshoes in the vacant lot next to the Strand Theater.

There were plenty of vacant lots in the business section of Ocean Beach and in the residential section of Ocean Beach and in the residential section on the hill. The Myerses' children would hike past Venice Avenue, then a dirt road, and cut across the downslope of the hill through sagebrush and acacia trees to reach the riding stable on Catalina Boulevard.

After the war, the vacant lots disappeared in a hurry. "Fifty new stores went in the first year," Bob recalls. O.B. tripled its population as the brush-covered hills were cleared to make way for new housing. It happened so fast that further development has been limited to occasional apartment and condo building, with O.B. residents vigorously resisting high-density development every step of the way.

Many changes occurred in the service station industry also, as Bob Myers and his crew worked through the gasoline rationing of World War II to the high-tech service emerging today. During the war, Bob recalls, "A-card owners got four gallons of gas a week. We had tires ordered when the business opened, but when the war came, they put them all in a government warehouse. It was several years before we could get tires. We just patched tires around here, put patches on patches. And we fixed a lot of parts — you couldn't run out and buy a new one in those days. We fixed starters, alternators, water pumps ... we still fix them, but some of the parts are quite complex now, and we don't go in for the high-tech stuff. If we had the volume, we could buy one of those fancy alignment machines, with the television screen showing the front and back. Or the smog thing — it costs $25,000 I think."

Although beach cottages and stores are occasionally razed to be replaced by newer buildings, the recent trend is to keep the architecture in keeping with the small beach-town atmosphere. The Myerses don't see that situation changing much in the future.

"Looks to me like we're a bedroom community," says Bob. "We don't have space for a shopping center, and we're not big enough to support one, anyway."

Gwen and Bob like Ocean beach just way it is, and they have been acknowledged frequently by the community as examples of the unique character and strength of the town. They were honored by the O.B. Town Council in December of last year by their appointment as grand marshals of the O.B. Tree Parade.

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Gas station at Newport and Cable. "We pumped 11,000 gallons the first month."
Gas station at Newport and Cable. "We pumped 11,000 gallons the first month."

It was a week before Pearl Harbor was bombed in November of 1941. If Bob Myers and Maurice Stuart had known that the U.S. would soon be at war, they might not have plunked down $300 for a lease on a new gas station at the corner of Newport Avenue and Cable Street in Ocean Beach. Although they both had good jobs at a popular service station in Mission Hills where Bob was the manager, the money was hard to scrape together. The tail end of the Great Depression was still whipping.

Myers, who lived in O.B. had seen the new gas station under construction on a walk to the Piggly Wiggly (now Newport Farms Market), and he couldn't get it out of his mind. One day he was eating lunch at the Mission Hills Station when he said to Maurice, better known to his friends as Stu, "I'm going over to Gilmore Oil at Five Points and see if maybe I can lease that station." Stu said, "Well, can I come too?"

"We went down," Bob recalls, "and they said, 'No, we've got one of the tank drivers. I think he wants it.' But then they finally agreed.

Bob and Gwen Myers

"Our boss said, 'I can see one of you going, but both of you? How are you going to make a living?' Well, I figure this way — with two of us, we could both starve, but if you hire help, you've got to pay them. Together we could make it better than if just one did it. I told the boss I figured we'd be pumping 6000 gallons a month by the end of the yard. But we pumped 11,000 the first month."

World War II turned out to be a boost for the economy of San Diego and for Myers' and Stuart's new station. Their former boss, R.W. Caldwell of Mission Hills, had seen the boom coming when he obtained the names and addresses of 140 key men that Reuben Fleet brought from Buffalo, New York, to San Diego with his Consolidated Aircraft (later to become Convair) in the 1930s. Caldwell sent each of them special coupon books, and they and the others who followed became regular customers. Some of these regulars followed Myers and Stuart to their new station in O.B.

About this time, the Standard station on Sunset Cliffs Boulevard closed for renovation. When Standard's customers started drifting into the new Myers & Stuart station, "we gave them service like they'd never seen. That was a big mistake Standard made — they handed it to us on a platter. Our business took off like a kite."

Sponsored
Sponsored

Like a kite that never came down. The station built a strong following in the community and at times employed as many as 14 workers, who repaired automobiles as well as pumped gas.

All that changed in 1987 when the Mobil Oil Company decided it would stop selling gasoline to Bob Myers because his sales volume was too low. The town of Ocean Beach was incensed that a landmark business, successful for almost 50 years, would be treated so shabbily.

Myers and his wife Gwen took it philosophically. "Mobil could see what was happening," said Bob. "When the self-service stations started coming in, services got to dropping off. The company had no control over the dealers, so the service kept getting worse. We gave good service, but we were too small. They don't want anybody with less than 100,000 gallons a week. You're better off if you're on a busy highway or freeway."

So the gas pumps are gone, but the Myerses are still in business (Stuart died in 1959). With one other employee, they still make repairs, large and small, for their faithful customers who come in regularly, sometimes just to shoot the breeze and reminisce about the old days.


Bob and Gwen moved to O.B. from Normal Heights in 1935, before their first child was born. All three of their children were raised in O.B. and attended local schools. In 1961, after the last child was raised, Gwen joined Bob at the station and has been there ever since, handling the bookkeeping and other administrative tasks.

Gwen's ties to Ocean Beach go back further than 1935. She lived there for a couple of years as a child, starting school at O.B. Elementary. "My dad was a carpenter; he built all kinds of houses around here. I can vividly see Del Monte, the street where we lived, and Sunset Cliffs Boulevard, which was Defoe then [renamed in the '20s after the Sunset Cliffs development]. There was no pavement, just dirt streets. I remember mud." Both Bob and Gwen remember the streetcar that ran into O.B. on Bacon Street, with a little rest stop on Niagara and Bacon, where Pomo's is now. "It went up Santa Cruz and out to Sunset Cliffs. The ties are still there."

There were only a few stores near the intersection of Newport and Cable when Myers & Stuart opened. "There was the Morris Grocery Store," says Gwen, "then the Ocean Beach Garage. Pacific Shores [a venerable bar, still there] opened a little later, about the same time as Kraft Drugs and Schneider's Drugs." The drugstores were equipped with soda fountains where you could sit and sip a malt or have lunch. Their favorite food memory, however, is the Cache of Sweets, owned by Milton Berger, who made his own candy. He also served ice cream and hamburgers.

"In those days you couldn't get tomatoes at the stores in winter," Bob recalls, "so Milton raised his own right in back of the store. And then he'd have that sliver of tomato on the hamburger that nobody else had."

Next to the Cache of Sweets, where the Black is now, was Faber's Grocery Store. "Faber used to give us credit," says Bob, "and people didn't always pay him [back]. he finally got down to where he hardly had any groceries on his shelf — he'd push the cans of Dutch Cleanser or whatever to the front of the shelf. Then, we people would give him orders, he'd run across the street to Piggly Wiggly and fill them."

Bob and Gwen Myers can give you a chronology of most of the businesses that have inhabited the commercial center of Ocean Beach. Some of them had long-time proprietors, such as Lownes Department Store, a family-owned enterprise that served the community for over 50 years before going out of business a few years ago. Others, like the Strand Theater, have gone through many changes of ownership. One Strand owner ever tried to show X-rated films a few years ago but was picketed out of town by O.B. residents. Today the Strand is renovated and shows first- and second-run films at a bargain rate of $2.99.

"Harry Masters just died," says Gwen. "He had a grocery store where Sav-All drug is now — very fancy, with a butcher shop in the back. Real nice meat."

"Don't forget Bill Cords," adds Bob. "He invented a special part for piston rings, patented it, and started producing them over on the next street. You can still buy them in auto parts stores. I think that's the only manufacturing industry we've had in O.B."

Although there were no official senior centers in those days, the Myerses remember the house in the back of the Bank of America at Bacon and Newport (now Rumors Cafe) where the "old boys would play cards or sit out in the afternoon sun." The oldsters also played horseshoes in the vacant lot next to the Strand Theater.

There were plenty of vacant lots in the business section of Ocean Beach and in the residential section of Ocean Beach and in the residential section on the hill. The Myerses' children would hike past Venice Avenue, then a dirt road, and cut across the downslope of the hill through sagebrush and acacia trees to reach the riding stable on Catalina Boulevard.

After the war, the vacant lots disappeared in a hurry. "Fifty new stores went in the first year," Bob recalls. O.B. tripled its population as the brush-covered hills were cleared to make way for new housing. It happened so fast that further development has been limited to occasional apartment and condo building, with O.B. residents vigorously resisting high-density development every step of the way.

Many changes occurred in the service station industry also, as Bob Myers and his crew worked through the gasoline rationing of World War II to the high-tech service emerging today. During the war, Bob recalls, "A-card owners got four gallons of gas a week. We had tires ordered when the business opened, but when the war came, they put them all in a government warehouse. It was several years before we could get tires. We just patched tires around here, put patches on patches. And we fixed a lot of parts — you couldn't run out and buy a new one in those days. We fixed starters, alternators, water pumps ... we still fix them, but some of the parts are quite complex now, and we don't go in for the high-tech stuff. If we had the volume, we could buy one of those fancy alignment machines, with the television screen showing the front and back. Or the smog thing — it costs $25,000 I think."

Although beach cottages and stores are occasionally razed to be replaced by newer buildings, the recent trend is to keep the architecture in keeping with the small beach-town atmosphere. The Myerses don't see that situation changing much in the future.

"Looks to me like we're a bedroom community," says Bob. "We don't have space for a shopping center, and we're not big enough to support one, anyway."

Gwen and Bob like Ocean beach just way it is, and they have been acknowledged frequently by the community as examples of the unique character and strength of the town. They were honored by the O.B. Town Council in December of last year by their appointment as grand marshals of the O.B. Tree Parade.

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