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Repeating the past: Rural Chippewa Falls man builds replica of service station he worked at in high school

CHIPPEWA FALLS — Four summers ago, Jake Buss took a tractor and started digging at his grandfather Bob Buss’ rural Chippewa Falls home.

“Dad came home, saw what Jake was doing and said, ‘I guess we’re building a gas station,” said Jeff Buss, Bob’s son and Jake’s dad.

With the help of Bob’s other son, John, they built a replica of the Larry’s Cities Service gas station Bob worked at in high school, pumping gas, greasing cars, changing tires, washing windshields and checking oil.

“I had to have a place to store my old cars, so I thought I might as well make it look like a station,” said Bob, joking that his bride of 62 years, Mary Jo, now wants a “she house.”

Of course, the project didn’t surprise those who know Bob, including son Jeff.

“He has always loved cars, he worked at the station as a kid, and through the years, he’s collected Cities Service merchandise,” Jeff said.

The Cities Service Co. was formed in 1910 by Henry Doherty, according to the Oklahoma Historical Society. Designed to concentrate on public utilities, including electric, natural gas and transportation, Cities Service also became involved in the burgeoning petroleum industry.

In 1940, federal courts ordered Cities Service to divest itself of either its public utilities or its oil and gas firms. Because the oil and gas business was so lucrative, the company decided to separate from its more than 200 public utility companies.

In 1959, the Cities Service Oil Co., headquartered in Bartlesville, Okla., was formed to absorb all the oil companies owned by the original corporation.

The Chippewa Falls gas station — located on Park Avenue down the hill from Holy Ghost Catholic Church — opened in about 1949 or 1950, Bob recalled.

Like Larry’s Cities Service station, the 24-by-40-foot replica at Bob’s House is white with three green stripes, with Cities Service and its logo painted across the top. (At the former Larry’s Cities Service station, “you can still see the three green stripes in the back,” Jeff said.)

In front of the station stand two gas pumps Bob restored; the red one “sells” ethyl, or leaded, gas for 0.369, and regular is sold for 0.399 from the green one. (Bob didn’t set prices; that’s where they happened to be when he acquired the pumps.)

Next to the pumps, Bob set out a metal sign advertising CLEAN REST ROOMS acquired from another service station.

Inside the station, Bob has an abundance of Cities Service memorabilia on display, including a bottle opener, ice cream scoop and old photos below the counter, a box of matchbooks next to one of two cash registers and a map holder on the wall with maps of various states, including Wisconsin.

On the shelves behind the counter, Bob has assembled a variety of cans and tins, including old Cities Service Blue Club Motor Oil tins and cans of Trojan Grease. He also has copies of J.C. Whitney & Co. Automobile Parts & Accessories catalogs and “The Eager Beaver Story Book,” which dealers gave to kids back in the day; and a Cities Service toy tow truck from Meyers’ daughter.

In two corners of the office, Bob has a vintage Coke machine and green gas can; the latter was a gift from his wife.

Over the years, Bob has picked up memorabilia at swap meets, and people have given some of the items to him. This past winter, Jeff found some items on Facebook Marketplace, and when the seller — whose own father owned a Cities Service station — learned about Jeff’s dad’s interest, she sent him a box of stuff, saying Bob’s station “would be a cool place for her dad’s things.”

Bob stores three old cars — a 1937 Chevy truck from Bill’s Sheet Metal in Chippewa Falls, a ’39 Plymouth and a ’40 Ford — inside the service bay, which has an assortment of vintage signs hanging on its walls, along with original Cities Service invoices for fuel delivery to a dairy.

“I just like old stuff,” said Bob, a member of the Chippewa Valley Model A Club, who also keeps an old Cushman scooter, vintage tools and his old pair of rollerskates in his station, along with a calendar from 1957.

The 81-year-old’s love of vehicles began decades ago.

As a kid, he put together a couple of Whizzer motor bikes he found in a box, and he rode them around town until he got his driver’s license. Bob bought his first car — a ’40 Ford, not the one he currently owns — at age 15.

After graduating from Chippewa Falls High School in 1955, Bob went to work for W.S. Darley & Co. In 1965, he took at job at the former Uniroyal Goodrich Tire Co., retiring as machine shop foreman in 1992.

When Bob took the job at Uniroyal in Eau Claire, Mary Jo was cutting hair in Chippewa Falls, and they only had one vehicle, Jeff said. So, his grandmother gave Bob a truck she won — the 1937 Chevy, and he drove it back and forth. Years later, Bob rebuilt it, doing everything but the paint.

“The guy has the patience of a saint,” said Jeff, noting his dad, a retired machinist, often makes what he needs instead of buying it.

When they built the station, “he didn’t draw anything out,” Jeff said. “It was all in his head. That’s my dad to a T.”

Northern Wisconsin State Fair
Tent to replace coliseum for animals, auctions at Northern Wis. State Fair

CHIPPEWA FALLS — Although the century-old red coliseum barn came down in April, the animal displays and auctions at the Northern Wisconsin State Fair, which starts Wednesday, will continue as in any other year.

Fair director Rusty Volk said large tents will be erected on the grounds of the coliseum, which was torn down in April after the roof shifted and the structure was no longer safe.

“On Thursday night, it will be very packed for the (animal) auction,” Volk said. “We’re dedicated to replacing the coliseum, and we’re doing a feasibility study to look at our needs.”

The number of animals that will be shown at the fair this year is up, with more goats, sheep and llamas, he added.

As always, the music acts are a top draw.

“We are about 20% ahead of last year in ticket sales,” Volk said. “Our VIP seating is sold out for all shows, except Hairball.”

Big & Rich, best known for their 2004 hit, “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy),” will headline the fair on Friday. Big & Rich was a headliner at Country Jam in the town of Union in 2008, and the duo played at Country Fest in rural Cadott in 2006, 2007, and 2012. This will be Big & Rich’s first time playing at the fair.

In 2016, the fairgrounds constructed a new, permanent stage costing $250,000, and added a larger, newer $100,000 grandstand that seats about 3,000 patrons. It is one of the main reasons Volk was able to land acts such as the Beach Boys in 2016 and country singer Martina McBride last year.

Big & Rich — Big Kenny and John Rich — won the 2004 Billboard Music Award for best new country duo or group. They were nominated for Grammy Awards for their hits “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy),” “Comin’ To Your City” and “8th of November.”

When Joan Jett played at the fair in 2003, her show was one of the largest-drawing nights ever, Volk said. Jett is known for hits such as “I Love Rock n’ Roll” and “I Hate Myself for Loving You.”

The fair kicks off Wednesday with a trio of well-known country singers. Collin Raye, Sammy Kershaw and Aaron Tippin are performing on the “Roots & Boots 90s Electric Throwdown” tour. Volk said the trio will be on stage together throughout the show, singing together while also each performing their major solo hits. The trio played at last year’s Country Jam as well.

The headliner on Thursday will be Hairball, which is described as a “bombastic celebration of arena rock.” The nationally touring show features a band including instrumentalists and three vocalists performing famous arena rock hits, including those by Van Halen, KISS, Queen, Journey and Aerosmith, in a high-tech visual and sonic production.

Among other events this year is a Lego building competition.

“They’ve created buildings in Chippewa Falls, like Olson’s Ice Cream and Northwestern Bank,” Volk said. “It’s something neat and new.”

The carnival also is bringing two new rides that will debut at the fair, Volk said.

Perhaps the most popular display last year, Lambeau Field Live experience, is back this year. Volk said it is the same exhibit as last year, and he’s honored the Green Bay Packers are bringing the displays and alumni as part of the event.

“Make sure you’re here, because you won’t see it again,” Volk said.

Last year’s fair began with heavy rains, and the grounds stayed wet throughout the event, particularly the infield in front of the main stage. However, Volk is optimistic the grounds are in good shape and will be better able to handle rain this year.

“We’ve done some substantial improvements by putting in some additional storm water drainage,” Volk said. “The grounds are in wonderful shape, and our vendors are already coming in.”

Because attendance has swelled in recent years to an average of 95,000 for the five-day run, Volk reminded the public there will be a free park-and-ride shuttle from Mason and from the Chippewa Area Ice Arena. He added that there will be bike corrals at the main entrance, and he encouraged local residents to bike to the fair.

Volk said that the fair will donate $1 for each grandstand ticket sold for the shows Friday and Saturday to the Community Foundation of Chippewa County’s fund for Girl Scout Troop 3055. Also, Northwestern Bank will donate $5 for each grandstand ticket sold those two days, up to $25,000.

Tickets for the fair will be $10 for adults, $5 for youth ages 6-11, with children 5 and younger are free. A fair armband, good for all five days, will be $20.

8 Frank Lloyd Wright buildings added to World Heritage list

CHICAGO — The work of famed American architect Frank Lloyd Wright was recognized Sunday as eight of his buildings, including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City, Los Angeles’ Hollyhock House and the Unity Temple in suburban Chicago, were added to the UNESCO World Heritage list.

“Each of these buildings offers innovative solutions to the needs for housing, worship, work or leisure,” read a statement from the World Heritage Committee. “Wright’s work from this period had a strong impact on the development of modern architecture in Europe.”

The committee met Sunday in Baku, Azerbaijan, and also added to the list Italy’s hills of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene, which is home to the world-famous sparkling wine Prosecco.

The group noted Wright’s use of “organic architecture,” including an open plan, with blurred boundaries between exterior and interior, and the “unprecedented use” of steel and concrete. The Wright buildings are the 24th U.S. site on the list.

The other Wright buildings included are the Frederick C. Robie House in Chicago; Taliesin in Spring Green; the Herbert and Katherine Jacobs House in Madison; Fallingwater in Mill Run, Pa.; and Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Among his most iconic buildings was the Guggenheim with its spiral ramp for viewing galleries. It was completed in 1959, the same year Wright died.

The Unity Temple is in Oak Park, Ill., which is home to the largest concentration of Wright-designed buildings, including his home and studio. The church, completed in 1908, was one of the first U.S. public buildings to feature exposed concrete, according to the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust, which is based in the Chicago area. The temple and the Robie House, which recently underwent restoration, are standards of Wright’s “Prairie style,” relying on strong horizontal features like a prairie landscape.

“This really is a significant moment for Frank Lloyd Wright,” said trust President & CEO Celeste Adams. “It places him on an international stage.”

Los Angeles officials also celebrated the status.

The Hollyhock House, Wright’s first California commission, is now owned by the city of Los Angeles and serves as an arts center. Councilman Mitch O’Farrell said the building, finished in 1921, “is a beloved masterpiece locally, and now a treasure worldwide.”

More than 1,000 sites in 167 countries are recognized by the United Nations’ cultural organization. They can be examples of outstanding natural beauty or man-made buildings.