Warren Storm, owner of Precision Auto Body, stands next to a barber’s pole and a 1955 Stoner candy machine. Storm has a vast collection of Americana memorabilia that he has on display in his showroom at his auto shop. PHOTO BY KARA GUTORMSON/PLAINSMAN
Step inside the showroom at Precision Auto Body, located at 1278 Lincoln Ave S.W., and prepare to be transported to a simpler time.
Warren Storm, owner of Precision Auto Body, says he started collecting shortly after he moved to Huron. Customers marvel at his vast collection of Americana memorabilia — items that carry memories of the 1920s through the ’60s and ’70s.
Born and raised in Milbank, Storm graduated from Milbank High School and then moved to Huron in 1965 to attend business college. “Huron has really changed since then. There were parking meters in every parking spot downtown and there wasn’t an empty building anywhere,” he said. “There was a gas station on every other corner and they all provided full-service. In those days, you could get your oil changed and all the work done on your car at the stations. That has all changed now that we have convenience stores.”
Storm has been repairing cars since he was 14. “Then I came to Huron for school and never left,” he said. “I worked for Glen Carlson at the Texaco station as a part time job when I was going to college. I’ve always been interested in cars and the things that make them work and anything that can be put on them to make them look nice.”
After college, Storm worked at Armour and Company for a few years, then at Farm Bureau Insurance. In his spare time, he worked on cars in his shop at home. “Then, about 10 years ago, I decided it was time to have my own business,” he said.
His first shop was located on Old Highway 14. “We had our location there for about six years,” he said. “We built the current location four years ago. I had actually been planning the building layout for close to 20 years,” he said. “And finally I was able to live out my dream, which is what I’m doing now.”
Storm says he started pursuing Americana antiques in the 1960s, but on a small scale. He turned into a serious collector after deciding to build his own body shop. “That’s when I made a commitment to collect, because I knew I was going to have a showroom to display them.”
The first items he ever collected were gas pumps and gas station memorabilia. A favorite in his collection is a 1920s 10-gallon American visible gas pump. “You would pump it full of gas, and then you’d put in as much as you need, from one to 10 gallons. If you needed more than 10 gallons, you would pump more. It was gravity-fed, much different than the gas pumps they have now.”
Storm’s collection runs the gamut, from gas station items to classic car items to restaurant signs, jukeboxes, booths, model cars and tractors, neon signs, candy vending machines and more.
He creates an atmosphere that feels like a genuine trip back in time with his jukebox collection, which play tunes from the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s. “All three of the jukeboxes that I have came with the records in them,” he said. His pride and joy is his Wurlitzer 1015 bubbler, which plays 78s. “It’s really bright and has lots of colors when it’s lit,” said Storm.
He likes to be able to hear comments from his customers about his collection. “The antiques I have in the showroom are things that my customers can really relate to. They tell me they enjoy seeing them. It’s fun to hear their comments. They will look at the model tractors and say ‘That’s the first tractor I ever drove,’ or they look at my gas station items and tell me they remember when quarts of oil came in glass jars, things like that.”
One of his customers ended up giving him an old A&W sign from the business that used to be in Huron in the ’60s and ’70s. “About 6 months ago, a lady came in here to pick her vehicle up and asked me about my A&W sign. She asked, ‘Is that from Huron?’ I told her it was, and she said, ‘My husband and I went on our first date at that same A&W.’ Hearing those kind of comments from people mean a lot to me,” said Storm.
Not only does he purchase antiques for his showroom, but he also has quite a collection at home. “At this point, we are almost running out of room,” he said, laughing.
His showroom is like a magnet; he keeps on collecting items, mainly through his customers. “Sometimes they give things to me, or I will buy it from them. People come in and they say ‘I think I have something in my car or my truck that you might like to have,’ and I usually end up with it one way or another.”
A customer gave him a popcorn machine from downtown Huron. “The popcorn machine that sits next to the window is a 1955 Manley,” said Storm. “That popcorn machine was once located on the corner of 3rd Street and Dakota by the J.J. Newbury department store.
I bought popcorn made by that machine in 1965. A lot of people have wondered where it went and what happened to it, and I’ve been lucky enough to end up with it. It still works, too.”
The antiques have come from many different states. He has gas pumps from Oklahoma and Texas, and a large street clock and street light in the front of his store that he got from Alabama.
Storm says he likes to remember the days when Huron had a bustling downtown. “The parking meters are gone and there are more empty buildings now, but there are still memories — and those we will always have.”For the complete article see the 03-10-2013 issue.
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