Updated: May 5
In Wynndel, at the southeast corner of Highway 3A and Duck Creek Road, stands the ruin of a gas station whose design gives it away as having been built for British American Oil. While not all BA stations looked alike, this was one of many from the 1950s that followed the same basic pattern. (BA became Gulf in 1969.)
Although BC Assessment indicates the building was constructed in 1948, Forests to Fields: Duck Creek to Wynndel 1886-1986 suggests it was actually 1951. Buck Davis built it and leased it to Otto Rollag, who with his father previously ran another garage in Wynndel called Speedway Motors. Here it is when it was brand new.
From Forests to Fields: Duck Creek to Wynndel 1886-1986
Rollag’s daughter Pauline recalled in the book:
[In] May 1951 … we moved into a new garage on the new Highway 3. This highway had just been rebuilt on the high road to Creston; it was paved and a big improvement.
We rented this new garage from Buck Davis of Creston until November 1953. We sold two gallons of gasoline for $1 and made a profit of eight cents … We sold our business to Wade and Wells Construction Co. in November 1953.
This is the sequence of the ever-changing ownership of the business (but not the building) as laid out in the book:
The garage was initially known as Wynndel Service, then became K&W Service in 1958, after proprietors Kovach and Wishlow. During that time, the book says, “they did auto repairs and sold BA products. Bill Fletcher was their front-end man until he went to school in Calgary. Harold Floer and Barry Robinson worked there, also in the front end.”
The Kovachs lived in the house behind the garage, where Ernie’s wife Margaret set up a beauty salon. Kovach and Wishlow moved to Creston in 1962, where they established a different K&W Service.
By early 1964, the business reverted to its old name of Wynndel Service. A Mr. Rasmussen, Fred Chappell, and Ted Chauncey were hired as mechanics. From 1962-67, the property was also home to a Volkswagen dealership.
From Forests to Fields: Duck Creek to Wynndel 1886-1986
When Terry Tetlock took over the business in 1977, he bought the building from BA Oil, which had acquired it from Bud Davis’ widow a number of years prior. Besides operating the garage, Tetlock sold used cars and his parents ran a hamburger stand and flea market on the same property.
The garage closed in 1982 and was vacant until the fall of 1985, when it reopened. It was presumably still in business when the book was published the following year. But after that? I don’t know.
Tammy Bradford at the Creston Museum and Archives kindly checked the phone books for me. She found Wynndel Auto Service, Hardware and Variety listed until 1982 and then Wynndel Service Centre listed in 1986 and 1987, but not 1990 (they don’t have the intervening years).
“If it ever did come back to life after 1990, it could not have lasted more than a year or two,” she says.
Bradford says that in her memory, the building has been abandoned at least since 1998. Someone talked about doing something with it a few years ago, but little seems to have come of it. Strangely, it has not been boarded up. It bears a homemade sign of recent vintage that says “Wynndel Station.”
A photo from 2010 shows it was then in its current state, although a number of vehicles were parked on the property. As seen in that photo and one of the ones above, it used to stand in the shadow of another Wynndel landmark, the grain elevator, which sadly was demolished in October 2013.
But here’s the really interesting part: identical BA service stations were constructed in various places. And in Newtonville, Ont., not only is one still standing but it’s been restored to its original appearance.
It’s not a perfect match for the Wynndel station, as it’s a bit longer. But the design is darn close. It was a general store for a while and is now an auction house.
The restored BA station in Newtonville, Ont. (Courtesy Gerald van Wyngaarden)
Another BA station existed as Yahk, known as Holiday Haven Service. It appeared on a ca. 1960s postcard, seen here.
According to the book Unforgettable Memories of Yahk, Ed Brenner and some partners from Calgary built the combined gas station and restaurant in the late ‘50s. The design reversed the one used in the Wynndel and Newtonville stations, and it was built of cedar, but still featured the trademark curved roofline.
I wasn’t sure if this building was still standing, but in the comments below, Kyle Kusch confirms that it is, though it no longer looks much like it did here. (He has included a link to a Google Street View image.)
Another former BA station can be found at 1995 Columbia Ave. in East Trail, where it is now Integra Tire and Auto Centre, seen below. It was formerly Riverside Motors, run by brothers Reg and Roy Wylie. BC Assessment says it was built in 1958, although Riverside Motors was already at that location by 1937 and the business dated to 1932.
Bobby Guesford, who pointed it out to me, notes that the service station thrived until the Victoria Street bridge opened in 1961 followed by a second blow when the new highway was completed in 1965, re-routing traffic away from Columbia.
A fourth former BA station survives at 1745 Highway 3A in Thrums. BC Assessment says it was built in 1955. I’m not sure when it ceased to be a gas station, but it remained a repair garage into the 1990s known as Mike’s Service. Afterward it was home to a whole bunch of different businesses, including an accountant and I forget what else.
It’s now the home of MS Steel Design, but it’s not easy to get a good picture of the front of the building.
(Google Street View)
Joe Ringrose kindly shared the two photos below of the old BA/Gulf station in Nelson (replaced by the present 7-Eleven in 1984). In the second photo, you can also see the old Safeway, which was replaced by the present store on the same site in 1997.
— With thanks to Tammy Bradford, Gerald van Wyngaarden, Bobby Guesford, Joe Ringrose, and Kyle Kusch.