Vancouver Feature: Canada’s First Gas Station Opens for Business

The first gasoline-powered automobile had arrived in Vancouver in 1904, and there were not many more by 1907. But that year someone in the local Imperial Oil office determined that filling cars with a bucket and funnel was not very safe. So the first Canadian filling station — a hot-water tank and a garden hose — was set up at the company’s storage yard at Cambie and Smithe.

The 13-gallon hot-water tank sat atop a concrete pillar. It was gravity fed from the oil company’s storage tank. A glass steam gauge, marked in one-gallon increments, measured the flow, which the attendant controlled with his thumb at the end of the 10-foot length of garden house. It was a primitive set-up, housed beneath a rough corrugated iron roof.

The first attendant was a former Imperial Oil night watchman, J.C. Rollston, who had been in poor health. In spite of the fumes, Rollston flourished in his new position, regaining his health and cheerful spirit in the sunshine and open air. He greeted passers-by from his kitchen chair and announced the day’s commerce. A busy morning might mean all of three cars filled.