Story and photos by Kristen Cart
On the way out of town after visiting the Wauneta, Nebr., elevator complex, we noticed a rather striking old building, which was an auto repair garage, currently owned by Robert Jones, and called Bob’s Auto Repair and Service, at 512 S. Tecumseh.
I stopped to take pictures. A man came out, introducing himself as Jerry McBride, and asked if I liked old buildings. I said I did, and that I had a particular interest in old elevators, having visited Wauneta’s that day. He invited me in to see the shop. It had been built in the 1920s, Jerry said, and mostly knocked down by a tornado sometime before the 1950s, when it was rebuilt and an extension added.
All of this happened before Jerry was employed there.
He said that he had been hired by Ivo Valentine Pennington in about 1962. Before that he was employed as a “broom man” at the Wauneta elevator for six months or so, making fifty cents an hour. Cleanliness was of utmost importance at the elevator. Wauneta gained the reputation for having the cleanest elevator in the state, Jerry said. Unclean elevators would catch fire, or worse, blow up. He kept the elevator clean, as dust free as possible, but it was nevertheless hard and dirty work and did not pay well, so he quit and looked into the possibility of going to school. Then I.V. Pennington offered him a job and all the training he would need to become a mechanic.
Even the cash register was old–as Jerry pointed out, he did not have to close for a power outage, because the register still worked.
It struck me that Jerry McBride had first worked in this shop when the Wauneta elevator was less than ten or fifteen years old and the first annex was new. The repair shop was already old by then. Except for some modern tooling, the shop does not appear to be very different than in the 1960s.
- Budd Gauger recalls delivering grain to the Wauneta elevator (ourgrandfathersgrainelevators.com)
- Wauneta registers as an important architectural landmark and literary archive (ourgrandfathersgrainelevators.com)