Sunny Days For Sunoco
As Radio Sponsor
“When you stop at Sunoco…..
you go with confidence!”
Lincoln, Me. (DG)—
In numbers, the Sun Oil Company, or Sunoco for
short, didn’t sponsor very many radio programs during the golden age.
In this case, the number of programs the company sponsored isn’t very important---
it was the longevity of 2 of the programs it did sponsor. From 1932-1965,
Sunoco and its petroleum products were heard as a radio sponsor
of the weeknight newscast at 6:45 PM. Since we have 33 years to cover
in a short time, let’s start at the beginning.
all started on Monday, June 20, 1932 at 6:45 PM over the stations of NBC’s
Blue Network. This was the first Sunoco sponsored
newscast with Lowell Thomas, one of radio’s greatest and most popular journalists.
On his newscasts, Thomas didn’t use theatrics, make personal comments on the
issues, or create controversy--- he simply presented the latest news.
For the most part, the news wasn’t pleasant for the listeners to hear, but
Thomas had an optimistic sound in his voice that the news wasn’t very good
today, but it might be good tomorrow.
If you think a newscaster needed to be colorful and controversial on the air
to be successful, you might be surprised with the ratings of the radio news
programs. While the colorful and controversial newscasts achieved so-so
ratings, Thomas’ Sunoco program was consistently the highest
rated newscast. As an added bonus, there were several radio seasons
where Thomas was listed with AMOS ‘n’ ANDY, Jack Benny, Bob
Hope, and other radio programs with high ratings.
For the 15 years Sunoco sponsored Thomas newscast, it seem all
went well. In all honesty, it did--- except for a weakness Thomas had
on the air every now and then. At the most inopportune times, Thomas
had an attack from his funny bone.
These outbursts occurred either when Thomas read a story that struck him funny
or he accidentally mispronounced a word into a naughty (and censored) word.
When it happened, Thomas broke out in uncontrollable laughter.
As you know, laughter is very contagious and it was no exception with the
people responsible for presenting the Sunoco news program..
On the close of a particular newscast, Thomas had an attack of the giggles.
In closing out the broadcast, announcer Hugh James had to say a few words
about Sunoco Motor Oil.
credit, James kept his composure in presenting the message, but the listeners
could tell he was struggling in doing so. When he closed the brief commercial,
James turned it back to a laughing Thomas who barely got off his famous
“So Long Until Tomorrow” closing. James, now on the brink of the
tee-hee’s, managed to close with “This Program Came To You From New York”
before joining Thomas in laughing. Sunoco may not
necessarily be impressed with Thomas laughter outbursts, but it showed the
radio listeners that he was human and his popularity increased even more.
The combination of Thomas and Sunoco began in 1932 on NBC’s
Blue Network and went all the way until NBC’s breakup in 1943.
NBC’s Blue Network was now known as the Blue Network, a completely
independent radio network. Newscast, sponsor, and timeslot continued
on Blue until 1945 when newscast and sponsor moved to NBC’s
weeknight 6:45 PM time slot.
It has been said all good things must end. The relationship between
newscast and sponsor was no exception. After 15 good years, Thomas and
Sunoco went their separate ways after the Friday, September
26, 1947 broadcast. The following Monday, the journalist was heard weeknights
at 6:45 PM for Ivory Soap on the CBS Radio Network.
As for Sunoco, the oil company was still sponsoring the weeknight
6:45 time slot on NBC, but now the sponsor was in the unenviable position
of competing against Lowell Thomas. It was going to be tough, but there
was also a new idea in how the newscast was conducted. Instead of having
1 journalist presenting the news, the new Sunoco news program
had 3. The new Sunoco news program was known as
3 STAR EXTRA.
The newscast featured Ray Henle, Ned Brooks, and Felix Morley. Henle
was the program’s editor-in-chief, while Brooks reported and commented on
domestic news, and Morley reported and commented on the news from overseas.
In the news competition between NBC and CBS, Thomas was still
very popular with the listeners, but 3 STAR EXTRA also had its
fair share of the radio audience. Both newscasts competed with each
other for the next 18 years.
that we have briefly covered 2 long running programs Sunoco
sponsored on radio, let’s get to the sponsor itself. It wasn’t your
typical oil company during radio’s golden age--- and even in those years before
leaded gasoline gave way to unleaded gasoline. The following information
is based from a combination from what I personally remember about Sunoco,
and a brief history of the company found in a wonderful book, Guide To
Gasoline Logos by Wayne Henderson and Scott Benjamin.
Sunoco stations were originally
found in the Northeast (including good ol’ Maine), Mid Atlantic, Washington,
D.C., Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, and Florida.
Instead of selling 2 grades of gasoline (the famous “Regular” and
“Ethyl”) as other oil companies did, Sunoco sold only
1--- Blue Sunoco, a premium grade in the dark
blue gas pump. Although it was a premium gasoline, Blue Sunoco
didn’t cost any more than the regular gasoline from other oil companies.
Briefly after World War II ended, Sunoco went the traditional
route and sold 2 gasoline grades. Since Sunoco did things
a little different, there was something more than meets the eye concerning its
2 grades of gasoline--- they were both premium grades. In addition to
the familiar Blue Sunoco, there was a higher octane premium
gasoline known as Dynafuel. This experiment didn’t last
very long, as once again Blue Sunoco was the only gasoline sold
at all Sunoco stations until the late 1950’s.
When the 1960’s was getting under way, some changes were being made in the
Sunoco camp. Instead of just 1 grade of gasoline, there
were 6 different premium grades found in only 1 Blue Sunoco
pump.* For those of you who aren’t familiar with Sunoco
during the 1960’s and early 1970’s, you might find it unusual, but clever.
When a motorist stopped at a Sunoco station, he/she called out
a specific number from 200-240 or 260, and the
Sunoco attendant filled the vehicle with the gasoline that went
along with that particular number. The motorist had the choice of
200 (premium), 210, 220, 230, and
240 (all mid premium), and 260 (super premium).
If the motorist asked for 200, the attendant moved the “Blend
Selector” dial on the side of the Blue Sunoco pump to
200. From there, the attendant was ready to fill the vehicle
with 200 gasoline. If the motorist asked for a higher
number, it got really interesting! The Sunoco attendant
moved the Blend Selector dial to the desired number. The vehicle was
being filled with a combination of 200 gasoline and a specific
amount of octane additive for the desired number. The higher the number,
a higher amount of octane additive was used. This unique method was
known as “Custom Blending.” As far as I know, Sunoco
was the only oil company to do this.
While the type of gasoline it sold was unique, Sunoco also featured
the traditional automotive products to help cars and trucks perform on the
roads and highways. Sunoco Motor Oil, Sunoco’s A
to Z Lubrication, Kelly-Springfield Tires, and other automotive accessories
and services were also available in each Sunoco station.
To get in a plug, they were mentioned from time to time in the commercials
on the 2 Sunoco radio newscasts.
For 33 years, Sunoco sponsored legendary journalists who presented
the latest news that began with the era of The Great Depression and ended
with the turbulent times of the 1960’s. While most the news presented
over the 33 years was bleak and a little scary, it was sunny days for