Do you remember when you could fill up your gas tank for less than $5?
Akron Children’s security officer Rick Trego does . . . and he has the gas pumps to prove it.
Stepping into Trego’s 24’ x 44’ garage is truly a step back in time. Surrounding his sparkling 1978 Chevy Nova are 20 old-time gas pumps and 1,000 2-gallon oil cans – all meticulously restored.
The seeds for Trego’s hobby were likely planted when he rode with his grandfather, an Atlantic Richfield driver, who filled the underground storage tanks at local gas stations. What really fueled his interest, though, was that ’78 Nova.
“It was the first new car my father ever bought. He paid $4,100 for it,” said Trego. “When he was ready to get rid of it, I bought it from him. Then I decided I needed an old gas pump to sit next to it in my garage.
For nearly 35 years, Trego has scoured swap meets and the Internet (he’s a confessed “eBay junkie”) for gas pumps and oil cans to restore.
“I love old-fashioned things like that,” he said. “It reminds me of simpler times – those times when gas stations were full service, and the customers and attendants knew each other. I miss that human contact. I wish that was a part of Americana that would come back.”
One unique project wasn’t a real gas pump but rather a painted gas pump carved from a tree in his front yard. The years took their toll on that pump, but for a time, passersby often mistook it for the real thing.
Trego’s oldest pump dates back to 1908. He has another from 1925. He’s left the original gas prices on the sides of the restored pumps – prices ranging from 12 to 50 cents per gallon.
“And all of the meters stopped at $9.99 – but at those prices, you could fill a 15-gallon tank for much less than that,” he said.
Trego sometimes takes his Nova to classic car shows, including the annual car show held by Aluminum Cans for Burned Children to raise funds for Akron Children’s burn center. He said he was especially honored when his Nova and garage were featured in a promotion for one of those shows.
The ad included a burn center survivor who is now a nurse in Cleveland.
While the car shows are fun, Trego spends most of his free time working in his spotless garage. “It’s the ultimate man cave,” he joked.
The workshop portion is heated, and the garage has cable TV, a small refrigerator and a phone – but not just any phone. It’s a restored pay phone from an old gas station.
The garage has turned out to be a great gathering place for friends and family. Trego and his wife often use it for entertaining.
While it has some modern amenities, he wanted to make sure the garage’s interior had an old-building feel to it. The ceiling is covered with slate shingles from the old Grace Church that used to sit at the north end of Children’s campus. And the wallpaper looks like rustic barn siding.
Trego’s hobby doesn’t end with the Nova and gas pumps. Also on display are license plates – one of every license plate Ohio ever made, starting in 1908.
And remember the old air hoses gas stations had that made the “ding-ding” sound when cars drove over them? He has one of those too.
Trego loves when people stop by his garage for a trip down memory lane.
“I’d like someday to open a museum,” he said. “It’s a hobby that’s snowballed, but it’s cool to preserve the past.”