This is another chapter in the series about Modesto's streets, especially how they differed and changed through the years.
The last episode was about vintage Ninth Street, particularly its businesses, unsavory reputation and a local man who opened a service station at Ninth and I streets in the 1930s.
Today's column will expand this theme, but in a somewhat diverse setting and with a different cast of characters.
Samuel "Sam" Draper operated a Ninth Street service station from 1929 until he retired in 1959. His son, Brice Draper, describes its exact location as "on Ninth where the street curved to the west, at the intersection of Needham."
The station was open from 6 a.m to 9 p.m. seven days a week, and Sam Draper and his employees wore traditional uniforms of white shirts, black bow ties, white pants and black shoes.
It was said that his wife considered it a real challenge to keep those uniforms clean.
The station sold three grades of Flying A gasoline: white gas, regular gas and ethyl "high test" gas. Its customers were described as "divided between locals and Highway 99 travelers," it being a convenient stop for those who lived northwest of town.
When a customer drove into the station and pulled up to one of the pumps, the attendants were instructed to follow a specific procedure. Almost immediately, the customer's order was taken, which often was either "a gallon of gas" or "fill up the tank."
The attendant's next move was to wash the windshield and check the oil and tires. The station also had a grease rack for oil changes and lubrication.
The Flying A brand of gas was provided by the Tidewater Southern Oil Co., which had three gas stations in Modesto.
Brice Draper and his two brothers, Sam and Don, worked at their father's station through their teen years. Brice especially became interested in cars, learning to identify the different makes and models that came into the station and to know where each was sold.
During that period of the 1940s, among the town's automobile dealerships were Griswold & Wight Ford, at Ninth and L streets, and Frank Paradis' DeSoto agency, which was next door. Bill Silva had the Studebaker dealership and James Singleton sold Buicks, both on H Street. For years, Frank Helm was the Chevrolet dealer at 11th and K streets.
What other businesses were in the same area as the Draper station?
Across the street on Kansas Avenue was Borden's Milk Condensery near the town's only outdoor public swimming pool. The pool, called Playland, owned by Al and Clyda Basmajian, was large (150 feet by 50 feet) and had three diving boards and a slide.
On Ninth Street were Jim Smith's peach-packing shed, Harvey Highiet's Modesto Junk Co. and two businesses that provided boxes for the shipping of fresh fruit and produce. It also had a restaurant called the Old Mill Cafe, fronted by a small Dutch windmill; the American Lumber Co.; and the famous Burge's Drive-In at the northwest corner of Ninth and O streets.
"Burge's had a huge impact on Modesto's younger generation," said Brice Draper, noting that it was the "in place for kids to meet."
One of their favorite preoccupations was to "drag" 10th Street, driving slowly from Burge's to F or G streets, then turning around and returning to Burge's.
"That whole scene was immortalized by George Lucas in his film 'American Graffiti,' " Draper said.
Was there crime on Ninth Street in the old days? "Not that I was aware of," Draper said.
So times have changed, which was confirmed by reader comments after the printing of the last Ninth Street story, such as, "What about the hookers and drug dealers on Ninth?"
A previous Bee article dealt with these problems. Headlined "Modesto sting operation nets 26 suspected 'Johns,' " it described the arrest of seven women for suspected prostitution at a Ninth Street motel.
Will today's period in our history be described as the "good old days" or the "bad old days?" Only time will tell.
Bare is the author of several books about area history and is the official historian of the McHenry Mansion. E-mail her at email@example.com.