Rural Missouri - June 2011 - (Page 36)

N E I G H B O R S by Jason Jenkins T hese days, with gasoline prices hovering near $4 per gallon, motorists everywhere are on the lookout for the best deal possible when it’s time to fill the tank. So the next time you drive through Stover, try not to hurt yourself when you do a double take at the price of gas at the Skelly station on Second Street. Although the sign in the window may read 11 cents for regular and 14 cents for super, you won’t find any petrol here. What you will find, however, is a gas station so painstakingly restored to its 1920s glory that you’d think it was still in operation. With its vibrant red, white and blue paint scheme, you’d swear that at any minute, an attendant in a crisp white uniform will step out to service your Packard or Model A, topping off your water and oil while filling your tank from one of the two “visibles” on the pump island. That’s exactly what Joe Ryan set out to accomplish when he bought the building in 2009. “It was just a dilapidated shell. It didn’t look anything like it looks now,” says Joe, who has lived in the Stover area for nearly a decade. “Now, it looks pretty much like it did when Gerd Tietjen, the original owner, opened up in 1928.” The Skelly station is the latest in a series of restoration projects the 65-year-old has completed across Missouri during his lifetime. He began cultivating his love for old structures as a young man serving his country during the Cold War. After growing up in Norwood in Wright County, Joe joined the Navy and spent four years aboard the USS Tigrone, a World War II-era diesel-electric submarine that was in Tokyo’s harbor when the Japanese surrendered. While he says much of his time was spent in the north Atlantic Ocean keeping tabs on Soviet vessels, he did spend time in the Mediterranean Sea, which allowed him to tour many European cities. “I’d travel around on leave and visit all the old churches and other buildings, all the Gothic stuff,” Joe says. “I loved it.” After leaving active duty, Joe settled in Massachusetts, remaining in the Navy reserves for another 10 years. Here, he found himself as enam• ored with the architecture of New England as he had that of Europe. Joe eventually made his way back to Missouri where he began his own construction business in Kansas City. His specialty was remodeling and restoring older homes. He’d fix them up, live in them for a while and then move on to the next project. Among his favorite projects was a turn-of-the-century farmhouse he restored near Plattsburg. His biggest project, however, was an 1889 Victorian mansion on Gladstone Boulevard in Kansas City, about a mile from downtown. With 2,200 square feet per floor, this behemoth had everything — parlors, living rooms, dining rooms, even a 1,520-square-foot ballroom. “I spent 10 years restoring that house,” Joe says. “I have no idea how much money I put into it.” Whatever the figure, others took notice of Joe’s skill. In 1995, a knock at the door brought an unexpected surprise all the way from Hollywood. “Robert Altman, the movie director who did ‘M*A*S*H’ was in town to do his next movie, ‘Kansas City,’ and they decided they wanted While Joe Ryan doesn’t keep regular hours at his restored Skelly gas station in downtown Stover, the 65-yearold is never far away and is always willing to answer questions from those who stop by to take a look. Restoring Stover Joe Ryan is bringing life back to Stover’s Second Street to use my house in the film,” Joe recalls. “We worked it all out, and I even got to be an extra in the movie. You’d never be able to pick me out, but I’m in there.” Joe and his significant other, Susan Ryan, decided to retire to the Lake of the Ozarks near Buffalo Creek Winery, but after a brief time on the lake, they moved to Stover, buying a 1904 farm house at the west end of Second Street. After remodeling the house to his likStover ing and restoring the barn, Joe found himself sitting around with nothing much to do. An e-mail from an old friend sparked an idea. “He sent me this message with pictures of restored gas stations, about a dozen of them,” Joe recalls. “It got me thinking that maybe I should buy the old station downtown and fix it up.” Joe admits that, growing up in Norwood, he doesn’t remember Skelly gas, so he did extensive research on the company as he restored the building. He found gas pumps at auctions and refurbished them. Everything that could be salvaged and restored — from the original wood trim around the doors and windows to the fixtures holding the red and blue light bulbs along the roof soffit — Joe put back into working order. “There was 80 years worth of paint on the trim,” he says. “When the inspectors came around and told them they needed to clean the place up a bit, they just put on another coat of paint.” The final touch was to fill the station with as much Skelly memorabilia as Joe could find, from calendars and signs to road maps and oil cans. Besides keeping Joe busy, the restoration project has had an unexpected, but positive, impact on Stover. Though it doesn’t employ anyone, Joe says the Skelly station has really brought back some life to Second Street. “It’s been a real galvanizing situation for the town,” says Susan, who operates Turtle Cove Coffee House & Wine Bar that sits along Highway 52 in town. “Now, whenever there’s an event downtown, like Stover Fest or the Christmas parade, it’s the center of activity. The town loves it.” In fact, last year the Stover Chamber of Commerce recognized Joe for his efforts with a plaque that’s now hanging in the gas station. However, he’s not through yet. Joe’s next project is already underway just down the street from the station. He’s restoring the old Osage Theater, which when completed will include both the original ticket booth window and a brand-new lighted marquee. Joe plans to show classic movies on Friday and Saturday nights, with a matinee for children on Saturdays. In the process of obtaining the building, Joe helped three other businesses get started. He says he hopes the theater will further Stover’s ongoing revitalization. “The town was just drying up. It was dying. After the restaurant closed and the tavern closed, there was nothing left in town at night,” he says. “Now, there’s traffic in town again, and there’s been other people that have brought business into town. It’s really given the town a boost.” You may contact Joe by writing to 612 W. Second St., Stover, MO 65078, or 36 WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP http://WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - June 2011

Rural Missouri - June 2011
In the beginning
The Missouri Lyon hunt
Mail Bag
Beaver Creek Paylake & Fish Fry
Out of the Way Eats
Hearth and Home
News Briefs
In the middle of everywhere
Around Missouri
Restoring Stover

Rural Missouri - June 2011