NEWS FROM AROUND THE REGION
Spirit Region Hosted at Antique Warehouse
Every town should have a street named Happy Lane! The word ‘happy’ evokes a sense of cheerfulness, ecstasy and joy; it’s an upbeat sort of feeling. And don’t we all yearn for happiness as a permanent state of mind?
Well, St. Louis does have a Happy Lane, and that’s where over fifty members and guests of the Spirit Region gathered on Saturday, June 3, 2017, for a tour of the Antique Warehouse, member Greg and Ann Rhomberg’s personal collection of late 19th century and early 20th century artifacts of old St. Louis. It’s the anticipation of what you are about to experience that creates excitement and then…………… a feeling of happiness that where you are is where you should be at that moment in time.
The Antique Warehouse is a treasure trove of neon signs, vintage cars, campers, tractors, fire engines, coin operated machines and so much more! Upon entering the facility visitors are encouraged to sign a guest register before entering the collection which begins in the front hall gallery with an array of display cases filled with everything from smaller collectibles to model toy trains. A pair of antique Koken barber chairs occupies a prominent spot nearby.
One of the few remaining Bevo Boats, a promotional vehicle built on a 1930 Cadillac chassis by Anheuser-Busch, resides just outside the gallery in the main warehouse. Behind that is a beautifully restored General Monarch fire engine built in St. Louis, and nearby is a row of antique fire hydrants standing like sentries. Goodness knows how many fires the big engine and the street corner hydrants may have helped extinguish when they were in service.
Along the walls are rows of shelving displaying antique soda machines, gumball machines and soda fountain equipment. Hanging from the rafters throughout the main room are a multitude of signs, some porcelain, others tin, and still others bright and flashing neon. The neon signs are all functional, and long ago provided illuminated advertisements to cajole St. Louisans into purchasing things like Budweiser or Falstaff beer, Buster Brown Shoes and Pevely Ice Cream. I had often wondered what became of the Busch’s Grove sign that for years identified the old, and now long gone 1890s restaurant at Clayton and Price Roads, and looking up it was no surprise to see that it had been rescued and was safe in Greg’s collection. In the background, one hears the din of working pinball machines and the sound of an oldie playing on a juke box. Everyone is happy.
And there's still more to experience! A short walk from the main warehouse leads to another smaller room that houses more ancient fire engines, one a big MACK (pardon the pun) from the twenties bearing the name of the City of Floral Park Centre, New York, and a gleaming 1927 Ahrens-Fox pumper. This room gives way to an even bigger garage area where you will find several beautifully restored Model A Fords, an unrestored popcorn wagon that still functions as new, and two classic vintage campers, houses on wheels as it were, that allowed families and friends to travel far from home and enjoy the great outdoors. And tucked away in the back of the garage is a 1948 White Super Power school bus converted to a camper and painted in a psychedelic color scheme. The destination sign on the bus reads Farther, a tongue- in-cheek nod to Ken Kesey and the Merry Prankster's bus Further.
It may come as no surprise, but there's more to this collection than what was present on our visit! That's because the Rhomberg's curated and provided many items to the exhibits Route 66 at the Missouri History Museum and Trails and Tales at the Museum of Transportation.
As if we weren't smiling enough at all of this, Greg treated everyone to ice cream with all of the fixings dispensed from a soda fountain from another era.
So the next time you see or hear of an unusual historical item, especially one with a St. Louis background, remember to contact the Rhomberg's and they will see to it that it is preserved for future generations to enjoy.
We will not soon forget a happy day on Happy Lane………..thank you Greg and Ann Rhomberg!
Story by John Lowell
Photos courtesy of Kevin Williams