Turn your calendar back to the late 1960s and read this column
The following is a letter from former Bluffton resident Ken Cookson. It is in response to the feature posted earlier this week on the Stauffer Pure Oil station pictured above.
Thanks for publishing the photo of the old Pure Oil Station. It wasn’t long after that photo was taken (maybe a year or two) that the building was razed.
By that time, the Pure Oil Company had been reconstituted as “Union 76.” I think Wilbur Renner and his son, Bob, worked there. The then new Union 76 station building was at the corner of North Main and Jefferson Streets. It is now a used car sales business. It’s quite likely that Lloyd Hardwick, with advancing age and mobility issues, still ran that Marathon Station. His brother was Charlie Hardwick, a high-ranking Vice President at Marathon headquarters in Findlay. At about this time, Lloyd Hardwick left the Marathon station business. My father wanted very much to keep a Marathon station in Bluffton. He really had no choice but to buy the building and run it himself which meant my brother Lee (BHS class of 1965) and his college friends (including Dick Herr) worked there.
Worked there on Saturdays
I worked with my father every Sunday afternoon from 5 to 9 p.m. and we were the only station open in Bluffton. We did as much business in those four hours as in a typical weekday. Around this same era, Mr. Renner decided that the new Union 76 station wasn’t what he wanted. Instead, he wanted to focus his work on car repairs rather than pumping gas.
He and my father decided to bring Mr. Renner’s repair business into the Marathon Station. There was already a garage door leading into the building along Main Street.
There was a hydraulic lift rack in there. However, the space was designed for an earlier generation of smaller cars and therefore it was pretty tight. A sign above that door read “Lubritorium.” My father knew the lift rack area was too small and installed a second garage door into the building from under the canopy of the Marathon station. Mr. Renner and his son did the repairs there.
Fire Department rented the back end The back end of the Marathon station building was vacant for many years. However, before I graduated from Bluffton High School in 1970, the Bluffton Volunteer Fire Department agreed to rent the back end.
A new retractable sectional garage door was installed that was placed right on the building's wall rather than recessed into the building about 8 feet as was the original door (which was a single-piece door that was lifted straight up into that hip roof area).
That allowed the fire trucks much better ingress and egress from the building. It’s hard to tell from the photo whether that door had been installed when your photo was taken (and therefore whether the Fire Department had begun it occupancy). The Marathon station in the building and the fire department left sometime in the mid-70’s. The Fire Department built a building further north on Main Street (still used today). Marathon Oil Co. built a new station at the corner of South Main and College Avenue.
That station was operated for a short while by a fellow from Findlay, then by my brother Lee, then by Paul Dudgeon and I lost track after that.
Marathon Oil still owns the building and it has operated under a couple of the retail badges of Marathon ever since. Soon after the new Marathon station was opened, my father struck a deal with A to Z. They have done a masterful job with the building and of course kept lots of jobs in Bluffton. It’s such fun thinking back on those days. Thanks Fred. Ken Cookson