Melting snow and flood conditions may have been a damper on the rest of the state over the past few weeks, but Hal Colliver’s collection of vintage pumps and gas station signs stands tall.
Located at 1720 230th St. in Keota, Colliver’s collection is big enough that even he doesn’t know how many signs, vintage gas pumps and other items he’s gathered in his 20-odd years of collecting. Since most of the signs and pumps he keeps outside are porcelain, they aren’t really bothered by the elements. The most he’s had to do is bring in people like Kyanne Wagner, whom he brought in to repaint some of the poles holding up his gas station signs since the paint on them had started to peel and flake from being out in the elements. Wagner also touched up the “West Chester Savings Bank” sign he keeps on the side of his barn.
Though there are only a few painted items which are susceptible to rain and cold, there is one aspect of the weather that can put Colliver on edge.
“The wind scares me more than anything,” Colliver said.
Back in 1998, when his collection was much smaller, a 130-mph straight wind caused a lot of damage on his property.
“It blew the windows out of the house and it was a long time before we got things fixed up,” Colliver said. “I was lucky I didn’t lose the whole shed out there; it blew off the whole roof on the west side.”
Since then he hasn’t had any big problems, since the larger signs are held in place by concrete foundations, though some of the smaller signs do occasionally blow off and sometimes he loses the glass orbs that rest on top of vintage gas pumps he keeps outside.
“I can get a replacement at Gas Pump Heaven in Omaha, Nebraska,” Colliver said. “A reproduction would be $98 — $100; if it’s an original it could be worth several hundred.”
Because of that, he keeps most of the more actively valuable items inside.
He’s stopped actively collecting for the most part, but still finds the odd artifact here and there. like the Goodyear sign he added to his collection when he was passing through Moberly, Missouri, last summer.
But by and large he doesn’t go to conventions or seek out signs as much as he used to, but that hasn’t stopped people from coming to look at them.
Folks as far away as Germany, Brazil and Australia have come through to see his collection, and at one point the American Pickers were considering coming to see what he had on display.
“(They) told me I might be a little too organized for them,” Colliver said. “That’s about the only time I’ve ever heard that.”
Locals also come through frequently either to look or throw parties. Just last year, Colliver estimates he hosted more than 15 parties. Even though they’re usually held in his bar just a few meters from his house, he doesn’t have any problem enjoying himself.
“I get invited to the party,” Colliver said. “I get a free beer and something to eat that way.”
Washington local, Knupp Trucking, has a party there every year in December where he gets Missouri performer Dale Booth to play for three hours or so.
“It was only a year or two ago (Booth) told me ‘This is my second most favorite place to play.’” Colliver recounted. “And I said, ‘Where’s your favorite?’ He says, ‘Well, I do a lot of work for Budweiser in St. Louis.’ So I didn’t feel too bad about that.”
Through it all, year after year, during parties, flood and freezing snow, Colliver’s signs stand tall.