Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Sociology and Anthropology

First Advisor

Dr. Wayne Wheeler


A large proportion of the people of the United States depend upon the automobile for the greater share of their transportation. Many of their activities are structured so that they must depend upon the flexibility which auto‐mobile transportation provides. Commuting five to forty or more miles to work is common. Shopping seems to be done at scattered locations and frequent intervals in urban areas. Over the past half century the automobile has created great changes in dating and courtship patterns. There have developed drive-in theaters, fast-food restaurants, and motels as a consequence of the automobile. Many of the activities of contemporary Americans are linked to the automobile either directly as with travel or indirectly as with commuting by automobile to work. In this respect, the automobile may be seen as a central symbol in American life similar to the place held by maize in the Mayan villages studied by Redfield (1955: 22-3). Most Americans are unable to conceive of life without automobiles. The functioning of the automobile itself is a mystery, a source of anxiety, and the subject of various rituals for many motorists. Although, for increasing numbers of motorists, self-service gas stations, automobile dealers' shops, or service facilities of large chain retail stores are sources for satisfaction of automotive needs, many still obtain gasoline and minor repair and service work at dealer-operated service stations. Not only do motorists spend large amounts of money each year on their automotive needs, they also spend time at service stations obtaining gasoline and meeting appointments to have their automobiles serviced and repaired. Furthermore, many people earn their living either by working in service stations or supplying service stations themselves with goods and services. Service stations are an important part of modern American culture; they affect the lives of many people. Many of the customers I observed and talked with seemed to have a limited understanding of the service station setting. This was especially true of younger people. One of the practical implications of this study, then, is that it may help automobile drivers and owners to select a service station and deal with the participants of that station in such a way as to better have their motoring needs met.


A Thesis Presented to the Department of Sociology and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillmentof the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts University of Nebraska at Omaha. Copyright Gilbert W. Gillespie, Jr., July, 1977

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