In 1948, Frank Hickman became a Chevron Dealer. His service station was on the corner of Evergreen and Miller in Homestead Valley. In 1951, Mill Valley annexed the commercial property on Miller between Montford and Reed. The site is now a Whole Foods parking lot. Frank, his wife Mary and their children Jane and Ken lived on Brabo Terrace off Reed St.
From 1956 to 1961, Preston McCoy who lived on Nelson near Sycamore worked part time in the station while attending Tam High and College of Marin. His reminiscences appeared in the Mill Valley Historical Society’s Spring 2014 Review.
“Hickman’s Chevron Service was a real ‘Service’ station. In those days there were plenty of cars from the 1940s and even some that were pre-World War II. All of them required a lot of maintenance, so service was a big part of the gas station experience. When a car pulled up to the pumps, we washed the front and rear glass, checked the oil and water levels, and even the battery fluid, and tire pressure if they looked low, or when we were asked. Those cars typically lost oil, water, and air between fill-ups. All this service was provided for just three or four dollars’ worth of 32 cents-per gallon gas. Sometimes for only a dollar’s worth.
“Saturday was our biggest day. Many customers wanted their cars washed and/or serviced, so there was a wash rack, just a parking space really, with a hose and a drain. I disliked washing cars because we had to clean all the windows inside and out, vacuum the floors, dust the dash, and wipe down the paint. Sometimes we applied wax. Everything was done by hand. I was paid $1.50 and hour, the minimum wage at the time.
“ Hickman’s had a fully equipped lube room. Car suspensions had many grease fittings, sometimes 18 or 20, and they needed an oil change and grease job about every 3000 miles, which involved topping all fluids—gear oil, brake fluid, and so on. Brake linings wore out quickly and with little warning, so they had to be checked too. Because I was young, and inexperienced,, I didn’t get to do everything in the lube room, but I did learn to do brake jobs and lube and oil changes. The mechanics, Lloyd Merritt and Paul Warne, did tune-ups, carburetor adjustment, fuel pump and water pump replacement, valve adjustment, and other fairly minor repairs.”
Frank’s daughter Jane also reminisced. “One summer day my friend Margo Malugani and I set up a lemonade stand on the small patch of grass between the station and Brown’s Hall. We couldn’t have picked a better spot for our little enterprise—Dad’s customers waiting to pick up their cars, station employees on their break, and pedestrians passing by on the sidewalk would all stop for a cool drink and perhaps a brownie.”
Frank’s Chevron service station closed in 1974 and was subsequently demolished. Frank retired. He and Mary continued to live in their home on Brabo Terrace. In 1993, Frank was killed in an automobile accident on Highway 101 in Larkspur.
If you have comments or questions about this article
or other topics pertaining to the history of Homestead Valley,
please feel free to e-mail Chuck Oldenburg.