About Stockton Oil Co
In 1936, Dan Stockton Sr. moved from the family ranch, north of Lewiston to Billings, where he found a job at Luke Wise's Community Gas and Oil. Although that job was not long lasting, it was the beginning of a long association with the petroleum business for the Stockton family. Ten years later Dan Sr. became a commissioned agent for the Standard Oil Company, in Billings, selling and delivering petroleum products such as: red and white crown gasoline, perfection kerosene and polarene motor oils.
The company's 1942 International Delivery Truck had an eight hundred-gallon tank with a hand operated piston pump that had a four-foot long oak pump handle. Bulk fuels and lubricant deliveries often were made using the heavy five-gallon buckets shown on display. The earliest documented delivery was a 55-gallon sale on October 17, 1946 to E.G. Dahl, a farmer just out of Billings. The price was $.20 per gallon, which included $.5 state tax and $.015 federal tax.
In 1948, Dan Dr. entered a partnership with Leonard Elijah and Standard Oil Company, in Lewistown. They called their new venture "Stockton and Elijah." Within a year, Dan Sr. saw an announcement that Phillips Petroleum Company was purchasing the home Oil Company and they were looking for cosignees (agents) to sell and deliver their products. A short time later, Dan's family, wife Lucille, son Dan Jr., and daughter Donna were back in Billings. This is when he started operating the "Silver Service" Home Oil Gas Station, at 3302 First Avenue North, and the Bulk Plant, at 1607 Fourth Avenue North. Soon Phillips 66 sent their sign and paint crews, and the shiny new orange and black Phillips 66 shields began to appear in Billings and places like Roundup, Hardin, and Laurel.
In the early 1950's, L.F. (leve) Colberg, Dan Sr.'s father-in-law retired from Carter Oil Refining Company (which was Yale Oil, Carter Oil, Humble, and finally Exxon), and started helping his son-in-law with the bookkeeping. Andy Lockrem joined the firm, as a driver, in the late 1950's. In 1966, Lonney Averill joined the firm. He bacame Secretary/Treasurer, and had an ownership interest for over 20 years.
Stockton Oil Company (SOCO) has been a struggling but growing company for the past 57 + years. Stations have been added almost yearly since the '50's, and in the 1960's a Union 76 on 24th Street west was added then converted to Phillips 66 and is now SOCO's quick lube. In 1979, Dan Sr. retired and Dan Jr. became SOCO"s president. That same year, after almost 30 years, Phillips 66 announced they were leaving Montana. During the same period, over the next few years, companies like Standard, Texaco, Mobil, Union 76, Gulf, Husky, and Chevron also left Montana.
Stockton Oil Company had purchased Sterling Oil Company in MilesCity and the Phillips 66 stations in Great Falls just before the pullout and needed a brand. This prompted them to purchase Joe Halters' Husky Distribution in Billings, but soon after the purchase, Husky Oil also left the market. It was at this time that Stockton Oil Company created SOCO brand and SOCO signs started replacing the Phillips 66, Union 76, Texaco, Standard, and Chevron brands. In the 1980's, the Sinclair Oil Company purchased Union Oil Company's Union 76 stations in Montana, and an old brand featuring the dinosaur (Sinclair) was once again promoting their brand. They approached SOCO to help with their expansion. SOCO approached many of their customers and monay of the SOCO signs were replaced with the Sinclair dinosaur.
Also during this time SOCO had some working relationships with Conoco and for a short time distributed their lubricants. In 1987, Exxon changed their direct distribution method and appointed SOCO as their distributor for the Billings area. Soon most of the remaining SOCO signs were exchanged for Exxon signs. In 2000, Exxon purchased Mobil Oil Corporation giving SOCO yet another powerful brand and line of products to the market. In 2002, SOCO purchased Cramer Oil Company in Lewistown (who over the previous 36 years marketed under Carter, Humble, and Exxon names.)
At one time, there were 54 oil refineries operating in Montana; today there are only four. Since SOCO was first in business over 57 years ago, they have continuously been raising their individual monthly service station gallonage targets from 6000 to 10,000 to 25,000 to 30,000 to 50,000 to 100,000. Now much higher monthly gallonage volumes are needed to support the new modern retail outlets. Vehicles are getting better mileage, while at the same time, more and more gallons must be sold at each station for survival. These challenges have created the need for additional revenue sources such as convenience stores, restaurants, casinos, etc.
Dan Sr.'s first documented delivery ticket for 55 gallons was measured with a five-gallon bucket. SOCO now delivers a large percentage of their fuels in 10,000-gallon transport loads; however, they still enjoy and solicit small tank wagon deliveries to farms, ranches, construction, and commercial sites. They package and distribute ExxonMobil lubricants to their customers as well as other distributors.
On display in one of our Lucky Star Casino location are examples of the evolution on retail gas pumps. The visible Phillips 66 pump operated without electricity. It was necessary to hand pump the gasoline up into the glass compartment. The gasoline gravity-flowed into the customer's container or vehicle, then the amount drained out was noted and the price was determined by calculating the price per gallon times the gallons delivered. Other versions like the Husky pump had an electric motor and a mechanical meter and calculator tat could price up to 49.9 centers per gallon and total sales up to $9.99. As a comparison, the new modern Exxon station, next to the Lucky Star Casino location, is equipped with features that will allow completely unattended sales. These types of sales, include the revolutionary "Speed Pass" that allows the customer to wave a small transponder in front of the pump and have the charges sent to any credit card preferred. The inventory in the tanks and lines is electronically monitored for environmental integrity, accountability, and ordering. This monitoring can be done from almost anywhere in the world.
Over the years oil companies have produced thousands of products from wagon-wheel-axle grease, bug spray, fertilizers, automotive chemicals, spark plugs, to countless automotive accessories as well as plastics. This collection of gasoline memorabilia on display, includes rare hand crafted leaded tin cans of various sizes to glass bottles to market motor oil. Today a quart of oil comes in a plastic container, which is also made from petroleum products. Until the middle 1950's it was common to see the illuminated glass and plastic globes on top of the pumps and porcelain signs were used to advertise, promote, and explain everything in the service station.
The petroleum memorabilia in the Lucky Star Casino location is dedicated to SOCO's founder Dan Stockton, Sr. his first two employees Leve Colberg and Andy Lockrem, and the founders of the companies that SOCO has acquired over the years: Don Sterling of Sterling Oil in Miles City, Lyle Stots of Union 76 in Billings, Joe Halter, a Husky Distributor in Billings, and Don Creamer of Cramer Oil in Lewistown. That memorabilia reflects American history, relationships, and the evolution of the business over the past 57+ years.
Mykel Stockton, Dan Jr.'s son, will soon be taking the helm of SOCO. As Dan Jr. and Lonney Averill are stepping back, they are striving to offer the best support they can to keep SOCO viable and the family tradition alive for more generations.
Visit our website for more locations at socomt.com!