Lake Maxinkuckee Its Intrigue History & Genealogy Culver, Marshall, Indiana

My Memories of the Station Years & 700 Lake Shore Dr.  

I can not remember the name of the brand of gas when dad enterd the station or if it was just 'generic' (by reading old citizens I found out it was Hoosier Pete Petroleum Products) but it had changed to Enco and then to Exxon by the time the station burned - tho the name of Lake Shore Garage I beieve was still attached to the building; if it was not it was still refered to that by that name by the 'oldtimers' of Culver .

I do not even remember how dad found out about the postion as manager unless it was advertised in the Culver Citizen (I have been looking for one but can not find any) or Plymouth Pilot.

I do remember that Mr. Perrine and Wayne Hittle and another gentlemen meeting with dad at the house where Pat McCarthy now owns and where we were residing at the time; and discussing the taking over of the managership of the gas station.

Alvin R. McKee took over Managership sometime in 1st Aug. 1962. Oscar Perrine an East side cottager owned the building at the time and Wayne Hittle of Rochester leased the building from Oscar Perine and was buying it or had bought it about the time of the fire. I have found Perine died in 1970 so it was probably had to be sold to close his business dealings and estate.

For about a year we lived next door in the little brown house - that soon ended as the electric bills were skyhigh and there seemed to be an electric leak that NIPSCO or no one else could find - plus I think the straw that broke the camels back so to say was the leaky roof that leaked onto the bed mattresses upstairs.

This location was nice as it was only a few yards to carry dad's noon and supper meals. It was across from the park where we enjoyed spending alot of hours. - Beside being somewhat closer to dad

While we lived next door and I even think when on Main Street Street my brother and I would main the bare lot where the under ground gas tanks were - I think we charge maybe a $1 to park on Sundays, holidays and special events. You would be amazed to at the poeple who would get irrate over this and while we lived in the house they thought it just fine that that could even park up to within a few inches of the house without even consider paying. - That was the time there was no parking in the town park area - all that was left was Lake Shore Dr., the sides streets and even College Avenue if need be - besides the water tower are on 'Bunker Hill' and the parking lot of what is now Papa's when there was no business open there. The Lake beach goers disliked to walk any great distance - but some also considered that you were 'ripping them off' By charginga small fee to park on 'Private Property'.

From there we moved to Mains Street (Crabb's rental house). Which meant a longer walk to get dad's noon and supper meal to him.

The most memorable time of taking dad's lunch from this location was on a Sunday - it was Kentucky Fried chicken, mashed potatoes with gravey, cole slaw, hot rolls and fresh strawberry pie with whipped cream topping. The back stairs were nothing but broken concrete (what was left of them) and I have no idea what happened but I landed head first down them with dad's dinner all downmy front and the only part of it salvagable was the chicken! My pride was not the only thing was that I had a big deep gash on my left shin between the knew and ankle which still bears the scar today, and a smaller gash to my right ankle and probably some chipped bones it hurt and bothered me for years after. My wounds had to wait - mother salvaged the chicken - went back replaced the rest of the dinner and we delivered it.

My brother and I helped at the station during those years - the first memory of my helping is was soon after dad took over he changed oil in the car - including he oil pan - when he went to put it back on he could not get the bolts to match up to the holes and screw backup - I have no idea how long I really stood under the car and hoist with my hands in the air holding on to the oil pan and cars coming in for gas - finally after dad's mumblings and when he went out to pump gas I would turn the pan around only to have dad switch it back - after what seemed hours to me the former manager came in and noting the problem told dad if he would turn it around the bolts and the holes would line up! Dad was use to farm tractors - not cars.

The another incident was the 'little old lady' who lived around or on the lake somewhere - she always seemed to want to take the gas pumps with her one way or another - either on her way in - or on her way out with the hose still attached to her car!

As kids we use to play in the back area - there were numerous old items left in the gargage from the Schweidler's and others a big old anitque safe that stood at least 8 feet tall and at least 6 feet wide or better - it was double doored. There was an old hugh cash register - I do not remember the name - but it was metal and sat at leat 3 feet tall and could not be moved from its spot - and it worked!

Of course there were all the lake and academy people that came in and trade with dad - but back then names did not mean anything to me - they were just people - customers who we had to please as the customers where importnant and if they were not happy they would not come back so we made sure that we kicked the tires, washed the windshield, asked if they wanted the oil etc. checked and was polite and smiled and of course the gas was pumped for them. If they had questions we tried to answer them to the best of our knowledge.

One instance was flagging the coke-cola delivery man down - who was Max Schau. Dad told me I was not to miss him a nd made sure that he stopped - so I stood out on the terrace and watched for Max to round the corner at the A & W; when he did and all other traffic ahd cleared in fron of him I bravely stepped off of the terance stood int the middle of the westbound side of Lake Shore Dr. and flaged him down - only to get the lecture of my life from him after he finally stopped.

Dad never had any help with the station other than us kids - he done it all himself he never took a sick day either - the only 3-5 occasions that he did leave the station were when his father died at Lyons, Greene, Indiana in October 1964 and when his mother died at Indianapolis, Marion, Indiana and was taken to Lyons, Greene, Indiana in February 1966 for the funeral and burial. I am not sure if he just locked the doors and placed signs in the windows or whether he got someone to work those days. The other was for his Aunt & Uncle Sam and Maggie (McKee) Jeffers anniversary it was 60 or 65 years - my brother worked the station for him and mom and dad went down and us kids stayed home - me to cook the meals and help out at the station if needed. He took a few hours off in in 1970 to have his teeth pulled but went right back to work. Other wise he worked the station from 8 a.m. in the morning till 9 p.m. at night or if it was a holiday or an academy weekend with special events it could be as late as 11 p.m. before he walked through the front door. Mom did finally get him to start going back to chuch on Sundays sometime afterwe moved to the Lake Shore Drive address; this was on a rotating basis with my brother would work one Sunday morning and dad the next; and dad had the luxury of finally eating his noon meal at home before he would go back to the station to work.

Joe Schweidler,the fromer owner of the building when home from Flordia would drop by but of course he did not have far to come as he owned one of the two house directly behind the station and the other was owned by his brother, until they died. The former manager before dad also would pop in on occasion and talk eith dad and see how hings were going - how long he done this I am not sure but on a sort of regular basis at least the first year.

In 1964 or 1965 we moved to S. Plymouth street about the area of Mr. Semler's house at present - there were 2 small identical houses in front that were built by M. R. Cline and a larger one turned into 2 units on top of the hill over looking the lake - the railroad at that time still existed and frieght trains ran. This was yet a longer trek to take dad's meals at noon and supper to him. I soon figured out the railroad track - and the short cut and the scheduled run of the trains and would walk the tracks to take his meals to dad as it was over 2/3 short than any other route. We lived here till 1967/1968 moving to 416 Lake Shore Drive where the Willhites lived.

As i said before just when the station changed its name to 'Enco' - but along with the name change came the premiums with so many gallons of gas bought, the games cards -- and the advertising slogan 'Put a Tiger in your Tank'. Enco was also a sponsor of some of the Indy car racers at the Indianapolis 500.

The next time I remember working at the station was on a 4th of July weekend - or another holiday weekend in the 1970-1972 - I was cleaning in the storage room and ran my knee into an old plate glass mirror cutting it to the knee cap - the local Doctor's office was closed and you were either to go into Argos or into the hospital emergency room - mother was already at work and there was no one to drive me - I cleaned it up best I could at the station - walked home and finished the first aid job - again the scar is there on my knee cap as a remeberance of the occasion for years it was very visible with a dark streak in it - I guess time has been good with it as it has faded almost to non-existence.

Over the years various people had rented the space in the back area - from the leasee or the owner of the building - Randy's body Shop started its business there; Don Stubb's stored equipment out of the the weather there; Pearl Onesti stored Pete's wagoner Jeep in the back area; Leonard Richards and another also stored and worked on their race cars in the back area also. Those are a few of the names rememebred; as they all lost their items when the fire occured and were accounted for in the newspapers articles on the fire.

On Monday, 24 Jan. 1972 the building burnt.

It was the coldest day of the month also. The building was destroyed in less than 10 minutes after the fire department arrived on scene at 11:30 a.m. had been discovered shortly before that. It had started in the Attic and had been under way for quite awhile.

Only one injury occurred during this fire - a brick that hit a fireman standing behind the gas pumps when the front wall finally collapsed.

In an interview that Jeff Kenney and I was on with George Franz on 9 June 2007 he related how he had cleaned up the aftermath of the fire.

My memory of this memorable day - I was working at the Coffee Shop it was the noon meal and no one was comming in - no fire sirens had yet went off.

'Peanuts' Larry Lowry the postman for that end of town had left about a half hour before - and came saundering back into the Coffee Shop money in hand and asking for a pack of cigarettes - I knew something was wrong as it was Monday and Wayne Hittle always was there early to fill the cigarette machine and Larry always most generally bought a pack of cigarettes there - He handed me the money - I turned to go get his cigarettes and was returning with them to him when he non-chalantly said "by the way your dad's place is on fire"

I do not even remember putting the moeny in the cash drawer, or opening the wood gate at the end of the counter, nor the front door or screen door - I just ran - I did not even look as I crossed Lake Shore Dr. and got the lecture of my life from Max Schu the coke-cola driver - about looking before your crossed a street - then asked what was wrong I told him and he said calmly thatit was not on fire and asking who told me that and I told him who and he said 'Peanuts' was pulling my leg or something to that effect. I had not really looked down the street as yet but still told Max the station was on fire - Max re-aassured me it was not as he had just left it and it there was no fire there - at that point we both turned to face the station and it was fully engulfed

All the firemen who ate at the Coffee Shop were down there as each as they came into town just stopped their vechiles where ever they could park them - David B. Burns finally was arriving in his red international jeep and like all the others stopped where ever he could park also. Firemen whee on the scene with no equipment to be had - He had to remind someone to go down to the fire station and bring some equipment down. Also call have someone call in for extra help from the area fire departments.

Max apologized to me for not believing me - and wnated to know why when 'Peanuts' tokd me I took his word - it was because of the little old lady who was forever trying to mow down the pumps or take them with her I always figured whe would succeed one day - funny she never did.

Cold, feet wet I trudged slowly back across the street - there was no need to hurry as there were no customers for the noon meal they were all fully occupied and for the next 3-4 hours. By the time I got back into the Coffee Shop the lights were out, and the phone was dead - all that remained was the natural gas. The meal was cooked so that fed whomever - Pearl found the old stand-by coffepots that were put on the stove to brew coffee and proceeded to make more coffee than already made - and this was shipped down to the firemen and other men of the communinty who were lending a hand and food that could be ate by hand and on the run.

Sometime during this period a salesman from where ever came in fully critizing the fire department and the people helping down at the station - claiming the building could be saved - I looked at him and told him "to hell with the building" asked him what the problem was and he stated there were 4-6 firemen or more with 4-5 hoses trained on a set of pipes at the end of the building - My only remark was "good for them" and he proceeded to try and argue and critize the fireman and I just turned and went to the kitchen - Irene Wilson was in the window where the food came out and he asked her what my problem was - she explained that it was my dad'd station he promptly told her to tell me he was sorry and apologize for him but still could not see why I was upset - I came back out and when I got the full information out of him they were the 4 main vent pipes to the underground tanks each containing 2000 gallons of gasoline or near. I just plainly asked him if he would prefer to be standing where he was then I explained to him what those pipes were - and the risk they presented to everyone down there and probably even to where we stood if they happened to get to hot etc. etc. Lucky the efforts of the firemen and the townsmen who were kind enough to offer a helping hand won out the pipes remained cool, then tanks did not explode and their was not greater loss than then building itself - even the gas pumps remained intact after it was all over with! Plus there was no injury other than a brick hitting one of the firemen in the head. The only result was some very tired, cold and water soaked firemen and townsmen but they all survived. Bennett's suffered a cracked window on the east side facing Liberty because of the intense heat

What I did not know until much later that in the meantime dad had went back into the station and retrived the cash drawer, then made another attempt and got the top desk drawer with the checkbook and all the bills he owed people for supplies; and his third attempt was to try and get the bottom drawer I was told but the building was fully engulfed but yet he was determined to go in and no one including my mother - his wife could stop him... that was about the time I was told that David had arrived on the scene and was able to stop him from entering the building the bottom drawer contained the IOU's for gas, oil changes, tire repair's etc. The majority of the people who owed dad money were honest enough to come to the house and pay him but there were others who knew the bottom drawer was not salavaged and there was no proof that they owed the money so they refused to pay him. Dad just let it go.

But dad the next morning set out about town paying the people he owed - and those that had to be mailed out... he did not want to owe anyone; there were a few that prostested but he paid them anyway, it was just his way, his nature. - Judith E. (McKee) Burns

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