By Tim Ashley
A gas station, or more commonly referred to in the past as a filling station, on nearly every corner was not an exaggeration prior to about the 1970s. Even in smaller towns such as Syracuse there were several gas stations.
Before fuel injection, computerized systems and sensors, automobiles needed tune-ups and maintenance more frequently and tires didn’t last as long as they do now. So there was more work to distribute among the gas stations.
One such former gas station was located in what is now the Saint Andrew’s United Methodist Thrift Shop at 601 N. Huntington St. (SR 13) in Syracuse. For several years, the Sinclair brand of gas was sold and there may have been other brands sold at different times.
According to one of Ron Sharp’s series of Syracuse history books found in the Syracuse-Wawasee Historical Museum, in July 1938 E.A. Gast bought property from S.J. Shavely and built a Sinclair station. A house on the lot was moved and faced on Carroll Street. County property records show the concrete block building was built in 1937.
Ernie Rogers of Syracuse recalls the Sinclair gas station was provided the necessary gas and supplies by a Sinclair distributor based in Warsaw. The Sinclair station in Syracuse may have been known as Lyle’s Service Station at one time. There were likely multiple owners of the station through the years and one of them was Leonard Kline’s father, Theldon “Bud” Kline. Another possible owner was Delbert Whitehead.
Leonard Kline recalled his father owned the station from 1948 to 1955. After getting out of the Navy, Bud Kline was doing some barn painting and decided to enter the gas station business. When he owned the Sinclair station, he essentially was a one-man show. In addition to pumping gas and the typical windshield washing, checking fluids and tire pressure and checking belts and hoses, he did mostly oil changes and some mechanical work.
Leonard also recalled a “mystery man” would randomly visit the station and check belts and hoses himself. If Bud already knew a hose or belt was bad and needed to be fixed or replaced and told the mystery man, he would get a prize.
Bud sold the station in 1955 and started T.L. Bud Kline Excavating in Syracuse, now known today as Kline Excavating and owned by Leonard.
Information provided by Lera Reinholt of Syracuse shows the thrift shop opened for business in February 1968 “in a leased former Sinclair filling station.” This would indicate the gas station was no longer in business by February 1968.
Another gas station was located across Huntington Street and was a Standard Oil dealer and also a Hyde dealer. An advertisement in the 1958 Warsaw phone directory shows it was known as Don’s Standard Service at that time.
NOTES: Next I will write about the former Brethren church building in North Webster. If you have suggestions for future article topics or just want to make a comment, contact me at (574) 658-4111, extension 2306 or firstname.lastname@example.org.