Like death and taxes, parking meters seem like the sorts of objects that have always troubled humankind, but the first one didn’t appear on a U.S. street until 1935. That’s when Oklahoma City decided that the depths of the Great Depression would be the perfect time to begin charging its citizens to park downtown. In fact, parking was a real problem for merchants near the corner of First Street and Robinson Avenue, where the first Park-O-Meter was installed. They were losing business because of the cars parked all day in front of their stores. With the help of newspaperman Carl Magee and a mechanical engineering professor from Oklahoma A. & M. named Gerald Hale, the city installed meters on one side of the street in one block and on the other side of the street in another. Parking cost a nickel an hour, but within three days, merchants on the free sides of the streets, where business was still slow, were asking for meters, too.
Those first Magee-Hale machines were followed in 1936 by ones made by Duncan, which is more famous in some circles for its yo-yos. The first Duncan machines were the model 40s, but Duncan hit its parking-meter stride with the model 50 and 60. Magee-Hale was purchased by Rockwell in 1963, so some collectors look for examples from that era in the company’s history. Since 1976, Magee-Hale has been known as POM, which is an acronym for Park-O-Meter. Collectors of parking meters go for single meters, doubles, and even fine boxes made by companies such as White Curb Box Company and Traf-O-Teria.