Charles T. Gladstone Jr.

A champion of independent gas stations, he successfully fought against federal regulations and oil giants

December 23, 2008|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,

Charles Talbot Gladstone Jr., a service station owner who founded the Maryland Independent Service Station Dealers Association, died of complications from dementia Dec. 14 at Quail Run, an assisted-living facility in Perry Hall. The former longtime Timonium resident was 73.

Mr. Gladstone, the son of a filling station owner, was born in Baltimore and raised on Parklawn Avenue. He was a 1953 graduate of Polytechnic Institute and earned a bachelor's degree in education from the University of Maryland, College Park, in 1957.

He worked for Maryland Cup Corp. until taking over operation of his father's station, Pimlico Esso, at Park Heights and Rogers avenues, after his father's death in 1963.

Eventually, Mr. Gladstone purchased the business from his mother, but he was forced to sell the independent business to Exxon, the corporate parent, in 1966.

Mr. Gladstone left the business and opened Gladstone Citgo on York Road in the Pinehurst neighborhood of Baltimore County in 1969.

He owned and operated it until 1982, when he purchased a Phillips 66 station on Falls Road at Kelly Avenue, and converted the station into Mount Washington Car Care. He retired and closed the business in 1997.

Because he had personally been affected by the actions of oil companies toward independent owners, Mr. Gladstone founded of the Maryland Independent Service Station Dealers Association, through which he successfully lobbied the Maryland legislature to pass a 1974 law that prohibited petroleum refiners and producers from operating retailing outlets.

"When I was a young man, my father told me not to be an angry young man. I guess I haven't lived up to that advice," Mr. Gladstone told the News American in a 1974 interview.

"I enjoy this business. I like working with people. I like working with automobiles," he said.

"I'm angry at what the oil companies and the federal government have done to me and my customers. I don't consider myself an activist. I got forced into this," he said. "The government has bungled this from the start."

As gas supplies dwindled and prices climbed, membership in the MISSDA also climbed with more than 700 independents statewide lining up behind Mr. Gladstone.

In 1977, he organized a large protest of Mid-Atlantic service station dealers against federally imposed gasoline price freezes and led a caravan of several hundred tow trucks as they paraded through downtown Washington.

The oil companies struck back, and so did Mr. Gladstone's organization. Their efforts culminated in a 7-1 Supreme Court decision in 1978 that upheld the constitutionality of the 1974 Maryland law.

Mr. Gladstone was so elated by the Supreme Court's decision that newspaper photographs from the time show him pouring glasses of champagne atop a gas pump at his York Road station while he gave away gasoline to motorists.

"It was a three-ring circus around here," he told reporters.

"The oil companies were taking over independent, full-service service stations and rapidly converting them to gas-and-gos," said his son, Charles T. "Chuck" Gladstone III of Cockeysville.

"The stance of my father and the service station dealers association was that this restricted automobile service options to the consumer and put many mechanics and service attendants out of work."

Since childhood, Mr. Gladstone had been fascinated by airplanes. He built and flew remote-controlled airplanes before earning his pilot's license.

"He purchased a single-engine plane that was capable of minor aerobatics," his son said. "He would entertain friends and family who were sitting on the beach at Ocean City by performing loops and rolls out over the ocean."

In 1992, Mr. Gladstone built a Kitfox, a kit airplane, in the basement of his Timonium home.

"I remember him bringing the wings up from the basement and out the front door with only inches to spare," his son said. "He then attached them to the fuselage that was in the garage."

The plane's wings could be pinned back and then the plane was attached to a trailer hitch for towing to the airport.

"Wearing a motorcycle helmet, he took his Kitfox for its maiden flight from Fallston Airport in 1995," his son said.

Frequently, Mr. Gladstone and his wife, the former Elizabeth Stewart Bennett, a college classmate whom he married in 1959, would fly all over the state to remote destinations for lunch or enjoy weekend airborne excursions.

He gave up flying several years ago when his plane developed mechanical problems.

In 1980, Mr. Gladstone purchased an Ocean City condominium, and he and his wife began spending more time at the beach. They moved to the resort permanently in 1998.

He was a member and usher at Atlantic United Methodist Church, where he enjoyed preparing food for the church's annual winter fundraising event.

He was also an active member of the Ocean City Airport Association.

A memorial service will be held at noon Jan. 3 at his church, Fourth and Baltimore streets, Ocean City.

Also surviving, in addition to his son and wife, are a daughter, Elizabeth G. "Betty" Schaake of Southbury, Conn.; a sister, Jane G. Wall of Laurel; and four grandchildren.

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