Saturday, September 14, 2013

Local Celebrity

I waited in line for quite awhile to get into an estate sale a few weeks ago.  

I wanted to look at the old post cards, the hardcover books, the vintage linens and so on that the estate sale company had posted in their ad on 

But what I really wanted to see, was Harbie.  

I mean, how often do you get to see a Harbie the Harbor Seal in person these days?  I had to at least see him.

The estate sale company had photographed Harbie in the back yard of the house where he had apparently been living since the Harbor Gas station closed years ago.  

Not that I would have bought him, mind you.  For one thing, I heard they were asking "four figures" for him.  And I have enough trouble finding room for the 12" model horse figurines in my built-in bookcase, much less a six-and-a-half-foot tall fiberglass seal.  I have to draw the line somewhere.

So I contented myself with taking Harbie's picture.  The sellers had moved him into the garage for the sale.  People were walking by and patting him.  I had to wait a few minutes to get a clear shot.

Harbie the Harbor Seal was the mascot of Harbor Gasoline, a chain of stations in Southern California.  I wasn't able to find too much information on Harbie's employers online.  The Harbor Refining Company was established in the 1930s.  Like a lot of gasoline companies, they produced road maps with nice artwork. 

At some point, Harbie got his picture on the front of the map:

A couple of online sources I reviewed, reported that Harbor Gas was the victim of a corporate merger with a larger company during the "Gas Wars" in the 1970s.

But even though the regional chain of neighborhood gas stations is gone, Harbie is still at work in other locations around the country because people still value him.  

Blogger Quartz City recounts some of Harbie's glory days:

Several people have commented, sharing fond memories of seeing Harbies in front of gas stations when they were kids.  A couple of them have acquired Harbies of their own.  

Roadside has kept track of where a number of Harbies are now living:

And the folks at Vintage Roadside, who collect fiberglass mascots, are the proud owners of at least two Harbies, which they transported up Interstate 5 a couple of years ago:

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