Saved by the Gas Station Bell

A gas station bell and hose turned out to be the answer for a junk seller who needed a way to run his business from his home.
May/June 1981
Installing a gas station bell enabled the author to run his junk business from his home without missing customers ... or passing wildlife heavy enough to trigger the signal.


A year and a half ago I quit my job at the local sawmill and, since I was in search of independence, started my own junk business. I sell—among other things—old office equipment, electronics scrap, and army surplus canvas goods, all out of a converted third-hand trailer in my yard.

And let me tell you, my bootstrap business is some kind of improvement over the old commuter life! If I become cold or lonely over at the "store," I can always run to the house to warm up or play with the young'uns. I soon discovered that my dog would bark if shoppers appeared, and decided to spend my between—sales time working (and relaxing) around the home. What a good deal.

Unfortunately, my old mutt likes to take two-hour naps, and I found that I was missing customers as a result of his snoozes. In an attempt to cover for the dog, I tried running to the window every two minutes or so to check for visitors. That procedure got old real soon.

A "Dong" Good Idea

Finally, I remembered the old gas station bell at a station where I once worked. Thanks to that device I could fix flat tires, clean restrooms, and maintain the indoor equipment without ever missing a single customer. I decided that a similar bell-and-hose system would be perfect for my junk store, too, so I called an outfit listed in the local Yellow Pages under "Service Station Equipment and Supplies." The folks there said they could order the bell, and 150 feet of driveway hose, for "around" $100 plus shipping and get it to me in a month or two. As you can imagine, I became less enthusiastic about the idea in a hurry.

After a few more weeks of lost customers, however, I decided I had to have that bell no matter what the cost. So I called another equipment supply company (this firm was in Phoenix), and those folks charged me only $55.59 for the bell, hose, and shipping expenses ... and sent the material on its way to me the same day! I had to take a quickie bank loan to cover my check, but the system paid for itself within a week thanks to the increased amount of business I was able to handle. (Since then, I've found a supply house that sells gong and hose sets—in lengths of 50 or 100 feet—for a fraction of even the price I paid. You can get a catalog listing the equipment from J.C. Whitney & Co.)

My signal bell runs on regular AC household current, but it can also be adapted to work on DC. The only difficulty I encountered while installing the device was drilling a hole—to accommodate the hose—through the 18-inch adobe walls of my house. (Since I have only a 12 inch masonry drill, I had to go at the job from both sides of the wall and aim carefully.)

Now, with my built-in "alarm" system, I can read or write or eat or do household repairs without jumping up at the sound of every car that goes by. When anyone drives over that hose—even on a bicycle—there's no doubt of his or her arrival. The bell in my living room clangs as loudly as a pinball machine scoring 40,000 points!

My simple device has saved me a lot of steps and a lot of lost customers. In fact, you might even say that my one-man enterprise was "saved by the bell"!