The thing I love about Magic Gas (if "thing" is the word) is that it's feminine. A feminine gas station. I never thought of gas stations in gender terms -- despite the nozzles, they all seem sexless. But then you have the newfangled Magic Gas with purple paint, olive and yellow, Cocteau-style lady lettering on its signs -- which have been evolving -- and pretty, decorative metalwork. There are flowers, a place to sit and have coffee, a "painted" banner picture of a man and a woman at a bistro table. It's owned by a woman who bought the place from Aramis, who was a neighborhood fixture for many years. Aramis, I believe, oversaw the renovation of Magic Gas, as it has been known for decades. After the renovation in the '90s, if my own observation was correct, business immediately picked up. (When my husband and I first moved to the neighborhood, we were cautioned not even to stop at Magic Gas, never mind buy gas there, though we weren't told exactly why -- guns, drug sales and gangs, but nothing specific. We did buy gas there, occasionally.) Mid-'90s. That was as far back as my knowledge of MG went till the Echo Park Historical Society received an email from John Duck -- whose brother Jeff is a friend of mine -- who remembers the gas station before it was Magic, when it was a Signal station, or Jack's, and not very ladylike. John Duck recalls:
The gas station at Echo Park Ave and Morton Ave . was a Signal Gas Station .. and Jack O'Neil ran it during the 1950's.
I still have a Signal Gas Station plaque on the wall in my office as a remembrance of one of my first jobs there. When I worked there they had already upgraded the equipment and a guy named "Red" ran it. .. this was around 1963 - 1964 shortly before Signal Gasoline and Handcock Gasoline (Handcock with the rooster and Signal with the traffic signal that only had 2 lights instead of three that always said GO were owned by the same people) were absorbed by one of the big guys and their gas stations started disappearing.
In the late 1950's Jacks corner gas station became quite a hangout for a car club called "The Fifths" as well as others that could only be described as juvenile delinquents.There used to be some great fights there .. Jack didn't seem to care - his attitude was "it's just a bunch of kids blowing off steam .." They rarely messed with us kids on our bicycles .. my group were all under the age of 12 at the time and some had big brothers hanging out there as well ...