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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Then and Now: True’s Oil Company

Lorenzo L. True was born around 1844 and grew up in Pennsylvania. He and his wife arrived in Spokane in 1899, and he began working in the petroleum supply business. He founded True’s Oil Company around 1900, focusing on sourcing and delivering heating oil before moving to fuels for internal combustion engines.

Sons Burt and Arthur joined the business and helped their father open what might have been Spokane’s first gas-filling station in the Spokane area in 1906. The station was near the present-day Gonzaga University campus around Trent Avenue and Cincinnati Street. Another gas station at 118 N. Division St. was the first in the area to have the fuel storage tank placed underground.

True’s Oil products were sold under the brand name of Rainbow gas stations.

Lorenzo True died in 1917 at the age of 73, leaving son Burt as president with other family members filling in management positions. America was caught up in the boom in private auto ownership and the growth of commercial trucking.

In 1937, the company opened the Civic Center Super Service, a Rainbow gas station at Main Avenue near Monroe Street, featuring the latest amenities for the time: a fully paved lot, bathrooms with hot and cold running water, mercury vapor lighting, and a 20-foot-tall rotating neon sign on the roof with the word “Rainbow.” The company was served by a 1.5 million gallon terminal in Tacoma.

Burt True died in 1939 at the age of 67 and brother Art was voted in as the company’s president. Art had three sons: Cecil, Lorenzo and Paul.

Arthur died in 1952, and Cecil became company president.

In 1959, Cecil sold his company shares to industry giant Standard Oil Company, allowing a takeover. And though some family members continued working in petroleum, most moved on to other pursuits. The True Oil name persisted until the 1970s. At that time of the sale, the company listed 125 Rainbow gas stations and 22 bulk plants in its assets, valued at $2 million.

Cecil True moved to Seattle and founded Gull Oil Company. Cecil died in 1972. His brothers, Lorenzo and Paul, formed and ran True & Company, a commercial real estate investment firm for many years.