Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Having a gas of a time at the Wisconsin Book Festival

If you live near Madison and like books, then you probably know that the Wisconsin Book Festival is going on right now. If you live near Madison, like books, and gas stations too? Well then, you’re really in luck!

The good folks at the Wisconsin Historical Society Press are hosting a fabulous book launch party at Parman’s Service Station on Saturday, October 18, 2008. The event starts at 10:00 am. Parman’s is located at 3502 Monroe Street in Madison. For more info, click here.

We’ll be set up in the service bays ready to share some stories and more importantly, coffee and donuts. If you are not familiar with the scene at Parman’s, you’ll enjoy this short clip from the companion Wisconsin Public Television documentary, Fill ‘er Up: The Glory Days of Wisconsin Gas Stations. Click on the seventh segment.

If you’re busy Saturday, you can find us Sunday at the Wisconsin Historical Museum at 30 N. Carroll Street at 4:00 pm. For more information, click here.

We’ll hope to see you this weekend.

Keep 'em coming

Bill Droster recently commented on the blog that he was delighted to see a couple of his family’s photographs in the book. Bill copied some images for the Wisconsin Historical Society a few years back and we’re sure glad that he did. Bill emailed a few photographs to me and one in particular jumped out as I thought about Jim’s most recent post.
I don’t know why the four kids are lined up, but I am sure they were having a good time. I particularly like the sharp-dressed lad with the Texaco attendant’s hat on. It’s easy to see in a photograph like this why so many people have fond memories about hanging out at old stations.

Let us know your stories and keep the photos coming.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Share your stories

Last week I had a book event at the Brown County Public Library in Green Bay. My favorite part of these events is the willingness of people to share their own stories. One of the attendees was a man in a NAPA auto parts shirt who regaled me with stories while I was autographing books. He started working in his dad's gas station at age five. It was a full-service station and he washed windows while his dad pumped gas. Since he was too short to reach the windshield, his dad rigged up a stand with an upside down five gallon pail set in a rubber tire. He would pull the pail over to a car, hop on top and squeege the windshield. Even so, he could never reach the top center of the windshield, so a little inverted dirty triangle left behind became his signature. His gleeful description of this odd contraption left me with a smile that stayed with me all the way back to Madison.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Keep in touch

Jim and I have officially begun promoting the new book and a whole series of events are taking place between now and the end of the year. You can view an updated list here at the Wisconsin Historical Society Press Fill 'er Up webpage.

During a recent promotion, we mentioned that individuals could reach us on the blog...and you certainly can. Sign up and post if you'd like! But you can also reach us by email at [] or [].

We'll look forward to hearing from you.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Write it down

One of the challenges of writing a book about historic gas stations, or about any type of historic structure for that matter, is finding the personal stories. Making connections with the owners, operators, and individuals who worked in the 59 stations spread throughout the state was one of the most rewarding parts of the project. Families graciously shared their snapshots and engaging stories with us for Fill ‘er Up: The Glory Days of Wisconsin Gas Stations.

Mark Mowbray, a former employee of the Yellowstone Garage in Fond du Lac, was kind enough to recently share a history he compiled. The 20-plus page history details the history of the station which was built about 1920 along the Yellowstone Trail. Mark’s father, Jim Mowbray, operated the garage from 1949 to 1966 and Mark’s interest grew out of his “employment” there.

The History of the Yellowstone Garage documents the names of those who owned and operated the garage over the years, notes how roads changed in the area, and includes several historic photographs. Mark also included fun anecdotal memories about tow truck calls for cows and drunks alike. All of the information included in the short history represent an important effort to document pieces of personal, architectural, and local history. Clearly, the Yellowstone Garage was an important part of their lives.

Thank you Mark for documenting this part of your family’s history and slice of life. I hope that others follow your lead and choose to write it down.