Fuelling Up in Kilbride

In the early days of Kilbride, the most popular mode of transportation other than walking would have been by horse and buggy or wagon. The village boasted of two troughs that were used to water the horses. Residents also came to the troughs for household water. “City” people came especially to the trough just south of the Kilbride Store to bring home containers of what they considered delicious tasting water, unchlorinated and no added fluoride. Eventually, the City of Burlington Health Department ordered the trough to be removed as they deemed that water unsafe to drink.

The first car built in Canada was a novelty vehicle built in 1867. In 1898, single cylinder vehicles were being made in the US, and some fortunate Canadians were able to purchase the imports. It wasn’t until 1904 that the automotive industry really took off thanks to the Ford Motor Company of Canada.

According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, in 1904 there were only 535 registered cars in Ontario. That number increased dramatically to 54,374 by 1916. By 1922, the number of vehicles grew exponentially to 513,821. According to Stats Canada, in 2018 there were just over 25 million road motor vehicle registrations.

An absolute necessity for the vehicles was fuel. In the early days, gasoline was only sold at a few locations. Often, it could be purchased from oil distribution centres found on the outskirts of large communities. The fuel was put into cans that were filled from tanks. There were no pumps so the gasoline was manually funneled into the vehicles. It was a labourious process.

Looking at the growth of vehicle ownership over the years, this method of purchasing fuel was not adequate to meet the growing demands. Gasoline was viewed as a valuable commodity to be sold to a growing customer base, so grocery stores, hardware stores, etc. entered into the business of gasoline sales. Pumps were placed at the curbside of stores or the gasoline was kept in sheds. The latter as you can imagine could potentially contribute to a dangerous situation. Eventually, the oil companies started to build their own gasoline stations. Today, they dot the landscape of both cities and the countryside.

Kilbride, just a village of 200 or so, was fortunate in the early to mid 1900s to have 4 locations of gasoline pumps. One location as you would expect was at the service station on the south east side of the T intersection of Thomas Street (Kilbride Street) and Rebecca Street (Cedar Springs Road). Payment and snacks could be made and purchased at what was known affectionately as ‘the booth’. The booth was also a popular gathering spot. Ice cream, candy, etc. could be purchased. Many a card game was played in the booth. It even boasted of a pool table. Eventually, it was ‘decommissioned’ and the building was moved to the north east corner of Kilbride Street and Jane Street.

The second pump was located almost directly across the road on the north side of Thomas Street. There was also a small convenience store located there.

The third location was on the south west side of the T intersection at the Kilbride Store. This made good business sense for the store to sell gasoline when customers came to purchase their groceries.

The fourth location was on the west side of Rebecca Street at the Harris store. There was also a shed to the south side of the store that most likely was used to store gasoline as well as other supplies for the store.

Today, none of the pumps remain and the service station, which did sell gas at least into the 1990s no longer does so and focuses solely on car repair.

Contributing Author: Helen Callaway