ConocoPhillips Has Mercilessly Murdered Halloween

2006: ConocoPhillips is Killing Halloween
2007: ConocoPhillips is Merely Torturing Halloween
2008: ConocoPhillips has Mercilessly Murdered Halloween!

Photo of my daughter standing next to the orange 76 Ball that is easily 7 feet tall. A Bank of America sign is visible in the background.

I was driving through my hometown last week when I spied my daughter’s beloved 76 Ball sitting next to a flatbed truck. I called home, and 5 minutes later my Little Miss jumped in the car.

She was jazzed to pose for this photo. I didn’t have the heart to tell her ConocoPhillips was taking her buddy away forever. Goodbye Halloween.

Longtime readers are familiar. Here is a recap for you new kids…

Union 76 is a gas station chain on the West Coast known for its trademark revolving orange ball. The sphere is massive, better than 7-feet-tall, emblazoned with the 76 logo. It rotates endlessly, and at night is lit like a beacon of petrol purity shining through the foggy autumn of our discontent. It is unique. Distinctive. Memorable.

This fully functioning gem of Americana was carted away as if it was a piece of junk.

Oil giant ConocoPhillips bought Union 76 a few years ago and began rebranding the stations in its own image. A war of aggression was waged against 76 Balls across the west, left unchecked, unquestioned by anyone.

Balls were dismantled and replaced with the same boring rectangular signs that all gas stations use. It was corporate peer pressure… self-circumcision for the sake of looking like your oil buddies.

Then one brave soul started, the people found their voice, and mighty ConocoPhillips was brought to its knees. The remaining 76 Balls would be saved, we were told. Hooray! Oh, but not quite.

Last week our healthy and vivacious 76 Ball was replaced with a dinky red one, red being the unique, signature color of ConocoPhillips.

Logos for Chevron, Shell and Exxon gas stations, all of which prominently feature the color red.

…or not.

Imagine if the descendants of Marcel Marceau bought McDonald’s and turned Ronald McDonald into a mime. Or if Princess Diana had bought Burger King and demoted him to a prince. Or if Jack-in-the-Box executives blew up the restaurant chain’s beautiful square box. Oh wait, they did that and replaced it with a car antenna topper. My car’s antenna retracts when I turn the radio off. Thanks a lot Outsourced Marketing Team.

Why does all of this matter? Because, 2007 became a bygone era last week. Near Halloween, Union 76 stations everywhere would turn their orange balls into the ginormous personage of “Jack,” a jack-o-lantern created with the help of a mighty vinyl mask. To my almost-4-year-old, jack-o-lanterns and Union 76 are inseparable.

Two photos of the 76 Ball from Halloween 2006, decorated like a jack-o-lantern. Gasoline cost only $2.83 a gallon. Ahh, those were the days.

But Jack has been murdered. This October there will be no community jack-o-lantern. Or if there is one, my daughter will know better than to accept a shilled red imposter into her heart.

The new red balls are small, too small to properly fit the majestic mask of yesteryear. I won’t validate them with a photo.

ConocoPhillips has proven itself a vile, soulless corporate ne’er-do-well that has destroyed Halloween for my family and families across the west.

Jack exists now only in my memory.

Er, and my pictures.

Oh, and here’s one more thing. See the Bank of America sign in the background of the first photo?

Photo of the Bank of America logo today and the old logo. The new logo is square shaped, tilted at an angle with red and blue stripes roughly similar to the red and blue fields on the US flag. The old logo features the letters B and A with the silhouette of a bird formed between the letters.

The bank redesigned its logo a few years ago. Does it remind you of, say, an American flag fashioned into a doormat? Hip and trendy, so in-the-now and friendly to people with dirty feet. And yet, it’s no more timeless than those flag magnets everybody doesn’t stick on their cars anymore.

This new logo was, you guessed it, the product of a corporate buyout.

I prefer the old logo featuring interlocking letters that create the silhouette of a bird. Did that bird have a name? I bet it’s dead now, too. Thanks Bank of America.

Oh, okay, one more thing, again. How can I not mention gas prices? Read ‘em and weep. California knocks out even Alaska and Hawaii.

Photo of the Union 76 gas price sign showing unleaded gas selling for $3.79 and nine-tenths a gallon.

I wish I could build a time machine and travel back to last week to enjoy those low prices. Those were the salad days.

Hoo boy, I’ve had enough mock rage for today. Thank you for letting me purge.


11 Responses to “ConocoPhillips Has Mercilessly Murdered Halloween”

  1. lindsey says:

    Wow, and I thought prices were high around here at $3.12

    My husband and I are combating the high gas prices by buying bikes. We don’t live in a metropolis, so we won’t be able to use them for everything…but it should help with those quick runs to the grocery store or Target. I’m sure my son will love the baby seat :)

    April 8th, 2008 at 6:21 am

  2. AJ says:

    Bikes are good in-town, but we’re a ragtag grouping of several towns separated by an inhospitable highway, certainly too risky with kids. Whether it’s a store or a gymnastics class, our outings are often by car.

    April 8th, 2008 at 7:57 am

  3. Chelsea says:

    Yeah the good old days. Up here in British Columbia we pay by the litre so it looks a little cheaper but at $1.246 a litre we are looking at close to $5 a gallon (yes in Canadian $$) so with the handy internet currency conversion tool, the total per gallon is a whoping $4.919.

    Oh well, it has helped me secure a telework option so I don’t have to drive as much.

    April 8th, 2008 at 8:42 am

  4. JMo says:

    “Or if Princess Diana had bought Burger King and demoted him to a prince” – ROFL. Thanks, for making my morning.

    April 8th, 2008 at 10:28 am

  5. RobMonroe says:

    I tried to convince the higher ups that I could telecommute, but they refuse to buy the idea. They said something about “the guy with the least tenure, AND the assistant to the whole office should be IN the office. What happens if we can’t send a fax…??!”

    I wish I was joking.

    There is a family in the rural part of Maryland that has begun to collect the classic logo/sign/displays of gas stations, and proudly displays them in their driveway. I’ll have to get a picture of it next time we head to the beach.

    April 8th, 2008 at 10:31 am

  6. nrbp says:

    Oh to be paying only $2.83 for a gallon of gas once again…

    My kids were dismayed to see the “Jack-o-lantern Moon Thing” go too.

    April 8th, 2008 at 11:13 am

  7. AJ says:

    Oof, I was joking about traveling back in time… but I see today that the same gas station is up 10 cents since I took the photo 5 days ago. When you hear news reports saying gas will cost $4 this summer, that means closer to $4.75 for me. We throw the curve, and so are never mentioned in AAA national gas price reports.

    The downside of freelance writing is that I still have to drive to my clients. On the plus side, we’re near a range of outdoor activities and camping, so there’s no need to travel far this summer.

    April 8th, 2008 at 11:44 am

  8. Cindi says:

    Hi, We have a Union 76 here in the Midwest, but I have never seen the mask on it for Halloween!
    I can see why you/your daughter are upset. My uncle used to own the Mobil Gas Station in the town where I grew up. Pegasus was always there for me to see. I remember when they took him down. Isn’t it funny about what we remember in our lives?! Thanks,Cindi

    April 8th, 2008 at 12:16 pm

  9. LiteralDan says:

    I’m also in the midwest and I know I’ve seen plenty of 76 stations (never realized they were called Union 76), but I can’t pin down any one location. I’m thinking along the highway in Southern Illinois and nearby states? I’m sure I could look up locations somewhere, but not without wasting a bunch of time first. Oh well

    Good for everyone working to save the balls– fight the corporate homogenization and soul crushing!!

    April 11th, 2008 at 7:41 am

  10. Jenna says:

    You know, my girlfriend lives up in Alaska. She states that she can practiaclly see the pipeline from her front door yet still gas prices aren’t any cheaper. She said in the summer, most people will ride their bikes, and in the winter, if at all possible they will try to cross-country ski to work (or snow shoe)……

    The increasing fuel costs have got to stop somewhere.

    April 12th, 2008 at 10:50 am

  11. AJ says:

    Jenna, gas prices stop one of two ways.

    1. People start taking the bus (and bus service then improves to meet demand).

    2. People demand electric vehicles return. We had them, and they were forcibly taken from us.

    April 12th, 2008 at 10:58 am