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Iowa Oil Company Station, Dubuque, Iowa

Going Is Tough, Iowa Jobber Admits, but He's Not Bogged Down.

By Earl Lamm, NPN Staff Writer

National Petroleum News, February 16, 1944, pp 32-35

In checking on what's happening to independent petroleum distributors in the harried tussle with tough problems in these difficult days, we asked George Schumacher of Dubuque, Ia., several questions, but essentially they boiled down to these:

  1. What are you doing in the manpower shortage?
  2. Is there a cure for jobber troubles due to reduced gallonage?
  3. What about the gasoline rationing--is it still wasteful?
  4. Are tires and accessories loosening up?
  5. Are ODT regulations any good now?
  6. How about fuel oil rationing this season compared to last?

Mr. Schumacher is secretary-treasurer and general manager of the Iowa Oil Co. at Dubuque, one of the oldest and largest independent distributors in the tri-state area fanning out from his home town into Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin.

Twenty-one years with the Iowa Oil Co. is plenty of background for a reply to our questions, but the company's organization dates back to 1905, when a group of local boat enthusiasts determined upon getting an ample supply of good gasoline for their own use. They found that Cities Service products met their requirements and have stuck with them ever since, Mr. Schumacher said. After securing what they needed for themselves, he added, they began to get calls for supplies from others outside of their circle of sportsmen, and the Iowa Oil Co. was organized. They began shipping products out of town from their bulk plant at Dubuque. Then bulk plants were opened at Galena, Ill., Dyersville and Manchester, Ia., and Prairie du Chien, Wis.

"We started buying and building until we now have 18 bulk plants--ten in Iowa, two in Illinois, and six in Wisconsin," Mr Schumacher said. "One of the bulk plans, in the Castalia farm community, is closed now, however, and we are taking care of those customers out of nearby Calmar."

F.J. Beiler, president and general manager of Dubuque Casket Co., is also president of Iowa Oil Co. Vice-president is J.H. Bell, who is also vice-president of P.M. Lattner Co., Cedar Rapids. All of the original stockholders of the Iowa Oil Co. passed away some time ago, Mr. Schumacher said, and he has been managing the company for many years.

"Two years ago, before manpower troubles started," he said in answering question No. , "we had 47 employees. There are 52 on the pay roll now." This sounded simple and aggressive--just hiring five new people in two years!

Mr. Schumacher squinted a quizzical eye and glanced out of the office window toward a ripple on the mighty Mississippi about 50 ft. away across the levee road. the levee road. The weather was cloudy and a little windy. He looked back at his interviewer. "Simple, yes," he grinned, "but in the meantime we lost 40 men and had to replace them." Forty men--an 85% turnover--wow!

The number includes 35 dealer station men. At one station he has had four different men--one man died, one went from 4-F to 1-A and was drafted, one couldn't keep his figures straight on the books, and the fourth man is still there. What the draft of fathers will do to him hasn't yet been determined.

"But how did you manage to hire 40 men?" Mr. Schumacher was asked. "Most bulk plant operators can't find any."

Iowa Oil Company Bulk Plant, Dubuque, Iowa

Women in Station Jobs

"As a matter of fact, I can't either now," he shot back. "Two of our newest station operators are women, and we may have to employ more, as it's now next to impossible to find men. The help turnover has quieted down some with us. Reason is most of our service station operators are older men. They are less subject to the wooing of high-wage war plants, but you can never tell. Things are likely to pop loose at anywhere at any time, now that the father draft is here."

The older men and women with physical handicaps, he indicated, are doing all right but lack the energy and enthusiasm of young, able-bodied men.

One station in a small town about 100 miles out of Dubuque is being operated by the agent's wives--"and she's a cracker-jack!", as Mr. Schumacher described her. She is active and attentive to business. The other women operator has been on the job for two months but so far has not proved as capable, he said. "However, some men operators are not so good, either."

No "locally needed" survey of manpower in the Dubuque area has been started by PAW and District 2 manpower sub-committee but one may get under way soon. However, these things are now said to favor the return of war plant workers to their service station jobs--the approaching war climax, closing down of many war plants and a more solid outlook for the industry itself. The cats and dogs and smelly herring service stations have been cleaned out and closed up, and rationing is better understood.

"On Sounder Basis Now"

"Most stations that remain open now," Mr Schumacher pointed out, "are on a sounder basis and are doing a better business, even if the total gallonage of the jobber is down."

There are 112 service stations in Dubuque and 20 of them are now closed, according to one report. No check was available for the entire trade territory of the Iowa Oil co. but the percentage will probably hold.

Gallonage of the city stations operated or served by the company is down, but farm trade and stations in small towns that serve farmers are holding their own, Mr. Schumacher said. Comparing figures for 1943 with the same months of 1942, total gasoline sales by the company for June were off 8.2%; July 2.3%, August, 17% and October, 14.2%; November 35%; but December sales were up 15%. Total sales, including gasoline, fuel oil, lubes and greases, for 1943 were only off 15% compared with 1942.

The figures reflect some of the effects of rationing, especially the December, 1943, increase of 15% in gasoline sales over a year previous, for December, 1942, was the first month of rationing and a slump followed the rush on service stations just before rationing began. But in the cast of Iowa Oil Co. some compensible factors entered. Mr. Schumacher explained: "The figures are somewhat misleading as to the effects of rationing, generally, because we got several good road contracts in 1943, which helped to maintain our gallonage. Opening of zinc mines just across the Mississippi river in Wisconsin shortly after the war started, also helped us," he said.

Iowa Oil Company Station, Dubuque, Iowa

Is Rationing Wasteful?

"Is rationing of gasoline still actually wasteful?"

"In many instances it certainly is," Mr. Schumacher declared. "We hear it from numerous farmers in this Midwest corn belt who complain about needing this or that rationed item, of the still unfamiliar red tape the must go through to get an O.K. to buy it, the time lost in waiting and in making several trips to ration boards and to town before the merchant's supplier fills his order and the items is eventually shipped and delivered to the farmer-buyer.

"This applies to farm equipment repair parts, especially," he said, "for when crops need attention and don't get it, they often ruin and there is less war food produced. "In the wintertime right now," he continued, "dealers run out of feed but tell the farmers a shipment will be in the next day. The farmer drives in, but still no feed. Maybe there's been a transportation delay."

However, to compensate for this, in part, the farmers are learning to shop closer to home for food and other items they can buy in small town stores. This is proved, Mr. Schumacher said, by the fact that gasoline sales at their small town stations are picking up, and some of them are now higher than pre-ware. However, thin tires and the difficulty of getting new ones partly account for it.

Tire and accessory sales were off about 90% in 1943, according to Mr. Schumacher, and what was left was hardly enough to bother with, but during the past six weeks the Iowa Oil Co. tire picture has completely changed.

Tire Outlook Improved

In mid-December, they had partly unfilled tube, patch, tire and battery orders on file with suppliers dating back to June, August and October, supplemented by more recent orders practically none of which had been filled. Mr. Schumacher now states:

"Practically everything we had on back order is taken care of and our stock of tires is in better shape no than it has been for over a year."

ODT regulations on minimum drops, no callbacks and truck routings are saving the Iowa Oil Co. about 20% in mileage, Mr. Schumacher said, but he doubted if they would be maintained after the emergency. Checking his own monthly reports to ODT, he found that in October his company's nine trucks made 248 regular trips, traveled 3514 miles, plus 105 miles made on a few special trips. Products delivered per trip averaged 475 gal., representing 97% load; products delivered per mile, 33 gal. Truck consumption of gasoline was 7.7 miles per gal., and for each gallon so used by the trucks, 258 gal. of products were delivered to customers. December and January percentages were 97% load; gallons per trip 518; products delivered per mile, 51 gal.

Per trip deliveries increased considerably with the arrival of winter and colder weather building up the demand for fuel oil, as the company's fuel oil truck has a capacity of 1000 gal. Their other trucks are 450 gal. to 500 gal. capacity only.

Many consumers of fuel oil in this territory some time ago used up all of their valid fuel oil coupons, including inventory, change and period coupons (prior to period 4, valid Feb. 8), Mr. Schumacher said. He felt that this was due to OPA errors in original allotments issued last season, and not to wasteful consumption. Local ration boards, he added, have now been given permission to issue extra rations in hardship cases, which eases off troubles on that score. Fuel oil rationing, he asserted, is much better understood and followed now that it was a year ago.

George Schumacher Iowa Oil Company General Manager



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