Station - 1941
Then and Now
Howard's Service Station, at the corner of West Liberty Avenue and Brookside Avenue, was a popular fueling stop for thirsty vehicles and automobile maintenance for many years. The business was owned by Howard Gebhardt, and later his son John.
For the first thirty-one years of his life, Howard Gebhardt lived in a large home that stood along the hillside at 1458 West Liberty Avenue. The Atlantic, and later Texaco, service station was owned and operated by the Gebhardt family for over four decades.
The stately home shown below (middle house along the hillside) was built in 1905 by German immigrants Jacob and Eva Gebhardt, along with the home next door (to the left in the photo) at 1462 West Liberty Avenue.
While Jacob and Eva lived at 1462 with their son Christopher, they rented the other home at 1458 to Hermann and Flora Ludewig, who had also immigrated to Pittsburgh from Germany.
The Ludewigs raised five children, including daughter Martha, at 1458 West Liberty Avenue. Martha eventually married her next door neighbor Christopher Gebhardt, who was employed at the Lewis Foundry in Blawnox.
The newlyweds moved into the Ludewig's home with Martha's family and raised two sons and a daughter, including Howard, who was born in 1919. After Christopher's father Hermann passed away the home at 1462 West Liberty Avenue was sold.
Howard grew up at 1458 West Liberty Avenue, graduated from South Hills High School and, in 1937, married Betty Jean Sweeney. Howard and Betty also moved into the West Liberty Avenue home and began a family. In 1939, Betty gave birth to their first of four children, Barbara Gebhardt.
In 1939 Howard purchased the gasoline and service station at the corner of Brooklside Avenue and West Liberty, which stood only a short walk from the family home. Howard had worked there for the previous owner, H.J. McCully, as an attendant for several years.
During World War II, Howard was away from home while serving in the Navy. During his absence, Betty had to learn how to pump gas, air tires and check oil levels to keep the family service station running.
As the years passed, things got a bit crowded in the Gebhardt home. Barbara Gebhardt remembers that her great grandmother Flora (affectionately known as Grandma Grosie) lived on the third floor. Barbara's family, which now included sister Janet and brother Howard Jr., lived on the second floor. Grandparents Martha and Christopher lived on the first floor. The three-story estate was also occupied by several other family members over time.
Some of Barbara's other childhood memories included hopping on the streetcars with her sister Janet. They would take the 39-Brookline to grocery shop along Brookline Boulevard and visit Kribel's Bakery. The 38-Mount Lebanon took them to Dormont and the Hollywood Theatre on Potomac Avenue.
Sometimes they would spend their return trip fare on ice cream sundaes at the corner drugstore and walk home. They took the 42-Beechview to attend Mass at St. Catherine’s and go to dance classes. During the summer they would walk to Moore Pool.
In 1951, the Gebhardt family sold their West Liberty Avenue home and moved to Baldwin. Howard retained ownership of the service station (shown below in the mid-1970s) for many years. His son John, who was born in 1959, eventually took over the business.
Howie's Texaco, as it was known in later years, had expanded from a one-room building into a multi-bay service outlet. It remained a popular stop for South Hills residents and a trusted repair facility. After the Gebhardts retired, the family retained ownership of the property and the billboard rights.
As for the Gebhardts former home at 1458 West Liberty Avenue, it was later sold to Dean Tech for use as a student dormitory. That house, along with the home at 1462, were razed in the 1990s. The site is currently the location of a used car dealership.
Howard's service station still stands at the corner of Brookside and West Liberty Avenues. It retains much the same look as it did back in the 1980s, when it was run by the Gebhardts. Presently, the auto repair shop is known as Paul's Automotive.
Howard Gebhardt's daughter Barbara went on to marry Richard Dei, who lived on Eben Street in Brookline. Barbara and Richard's daughter, Cherie Ward, granddaughter of Howard Gebhardt, contributed this information, along with the photos of Howard's Service Station.
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