Sinclair station ‘restored’
Dr. Roger Pecina nails details in recreating a Sinclair gas station where there never was one on the bluff overlooking Stone Lake.
His pursuit of authenticity has consumed three years.
Pecina remembers old-fashioned service stations of the 1950s and ’60s already lost to Americana.
“I loved gas stations growing up” in Michigan City, Ind., “and I spent so much time there. It was a big part of my life, mowing the grass for a buck and a half, pumping gas, washing windshields, doing oil changes and busting your knuckles on the tire machine. I always thought it would be cool to have my own gas station.
“There are two, three generations now who have no idea what a gas station is. It’s gone. Now, it’s a convenience store.
“I’ve got kids in their 20s and 30s, and they’ve got no clue things like this ever were. By restoring it and letting people see it, not only does it nurture memories of people my age, but it allows other generations to see a piece of history, like any other museum.”
Sinclair, with its trademark green dinosaur Dino on all kinds of products, from road maps and calendars to paint and inspect spray, is particularly popular with collectors.
Pecina, a dentist who built 90-employee Afdent clinics, allowed only two reproduction pieces inside the DX station vacant for 30 years — a Roger’s Garage sign “since 1952,” the year he was born, and a personalized can. A yardstick came from Atkinson’s Chevrolet dealership next to the 1899 courthouse.
A radio to listen to baseball, a Life magazine with Dr. Martin Luther King on the cover, a sign promoting S&H green stamps, are all true to the period.
There is a dispatch desk with a 1952 calendar, CB radio, book matches and a service board chalking appointments for service or repairs.
In the summer, a wrecker is stationed “on the point” by a vintage police car and other service vehicles.
“People are in and out of here all day,” he said. “It’s a picture stop,” with a midget racer for children to sit in.
Pecina started collecting at 13, but not baseball cards, though he is a White Sox fan with Comiskey Park seats stashed in his warehouse.
“Furniture, believe it or not,” he said. “I refinished furniture and collected bicycles. I had a small bicycle shop and repaired them and painted them for kids in the neighborhood. We actually put on bicycle thrill shows with ramps. I went through a burning wall of fire.”
The men’s restroom contains a condom machine, a Boraxo powdered hand soap dispenser and a brand of kitchen cleanser which scrubbed sinks of that era.
The pop machine dispenses 10-cent soft drinks to wash down free ice cream.
A row of trophies caught his eye at a yard sale.
The guy selling them grew up around racing, which is why there is also a photo propped there of A.J. Foyt.
Hardest to get were original doors with glass panes. Over the years, they had been replaced with “junky aluminum” doors.
“Part of the allure of the old station to me is the glass door so you can see inside.”
In fact, with overgrown vegetation cleared away behind, a mechanic at a tool bench would enjoy a view of ice fishermen spread out across Stone Lake beneath him.
An array of pumps are all restored originals — 49 cents a gallon, reads one; 34, another.
There’s a station wagon dragster from Massachusetts parked in a bay.
There’s that dinging bell hose that alerts an attendant when a vehicle pulls in.
Pecina created a private office in back where his overalls hang next to his leisure suit.
“I get a lot of donations,” he said. “People come by and say, ‘My dad had this sitting in the garage. You might like to have it.’ ”
Founded in New York in 1916 and reincorporated in Wyoming in 1976, “There are still Sinclair stations out west.”