KEARNEY, MO. A black and white photograph of then 3-year-old Gary Porter clad in a white service station uniform and hat with a Clark gasoline logo speaks volumes about his collection of antique gas pumps.
The Kearney-area resident and owner of Kearney Body Shop can easily blame his father, Vernon, for his gas pump collecting tendencies.
In the 1950s, Vernon Porter ran a Clark Super 100 full-service station in the Kansas City area. For a dime of gas, customers of the Clark station got full service treatment. Dressed in black pants, a black tie and a uniform hat, employees only needed to hear the sound of the bell to know it was time to go to work.
They washed windshields, checked oil and other fluids, aired tires and pumped gas - all for free.
"Nobody pumped their own gas, whether it was 50 cents or a fill-up," Gary Porter said.
A natural fit
Porter remembers his father's shop well, and while he only had it for a couple of years, the concept of a full-service station had a lasting effect on him.
It wasn't until about 15 years ago that the younger Porter started collecting antique gas pumps.
Before that he collected NASCAR memorabilia.
A friend got him interested in the hobby and his first pump. It wasn't just the antiquity or nostalgia of his dad's shop that made him interested in them.
Porter has worked on cars since he was a teenager. He worked in a body shop when he was 16 and completed a cooperative education program for auto body work in school.
Finding neglected, antique gasoline pumps that needed body work and a fresh coat of paint seemed a natural fit, he said.
He started scouring the papers for antique pumps and attended auctions most weekends. His interest: gas pumps from the 1920s to 1970s and other related items that a full service station would have had back then.
The first gas pump he found happens to be his favorite. The 1952 Harvey pump needed some body work and a globe - a circular, interchangeable piece on old pumps that held the name brand of gasoline.
Porter chose orange and black for the body and came across a Johnson gas globe and decals.
Through some research he learned that the Johnson gas company never made it to the area. The company started in Madison, Wis., and most of the gas was sold east of the Mississippi River.
The gas company didn't last, but Porter is carrying on its legacy. And it just so happens that he shares another tie with Johnson gas.
The Johnson gas motto was "time tells." "I have an old saying that, well, time will tell," he said. "If time prevails."
While the Johnson pump is his favorite, Porter also collects anything Clark. He could name dozens of other gas companies from the full-service era.
At that time, he said, all it took was a truck and a tank to have a gas company.
"It's amazing how many companies there were," he said.
"The little mom-and-pop operations - if they had enough money to get a sign they would put them on a globe."
Many of Porter's gas pumps still need to be refurbished. They sit in a barn, dusty, rusty and missing pieces; just waiting to be restored to their former glory.
He plans to turn another one of his favorites into a light post. The 1923 Fry visible pump is fully restored.
He has a few visible pumps that, in their day, allowed people to see what they were getting.
Porter said they came along at a time when people didn't trust that they got what they paid for. The visible pumps were more than 7 feet tall and topped with a glass cylinder. Use of a hand crank allowed gas to be pumped into the cylinder that was numbered by the gallon.
"They changed to visible pumps so people could visibly see the gas being pumped," he said.
"Very early cars didn't even have gas gauges. It became necessary to know much gas you were getting."
Some of Porter's antique pumps still note the price that gas sold for at the time. The old computer pumps, as they were called, were equipped with analog number gauges.
One pump showed the last time it was used, gas was about 44 cents a gallon.
Porter said that the cheapest he ever got gas was when he was 16. There was a gas war going on in Gladstone and he filled up his tank for 13.9 cents a gallon.
Nowadays gas is expensive, full service is an ancient concept and big name companies dominate the market.
Gary's gas pumps are a lasting reminder of the good ol' days when gas was cheap, full service was the norm and the gasoline market was competitive.
Those were the days as far as he's concerned.