Cruise back in time through New Castle man’s antique Texaco collection
Iconic machines of nostalgia sit inside a New Castle automotive garage cluttered by loose tools and parts: a 1957 Dodge pickup truck and a 1953 Chevrolet sedan delivery truck.
This is Jim Shrull’s sanctuary, where past meets present. When Shrull’s not renting out U-hauls to folks moving cross country, he’s tinkering with hot rods and any other vehicle customers pull up to his longtime New Castle Garage of 34 years.
But what arguably reigns supreme in this downtown New Castle auto shop aren’t the old-school sets of wheels resting in the bays. It’s the reception area, where a seemingly priceless collection of bonafide Texaco memorabilia greets every customer who walks through the glass door.
If they happen to look up as Shrull hands them the key to their tuned-up ride, they may see a pre-1936 Texaco globe that once stood atop a vintage gas pump.
“That’s the first thing that I bought,” Shrull said of his collection. He stood near an antique, imitation wood National cash register and his wife, Samantha, as the sun set on a recent Thursday evening. “I bought it at an auction in Silt, and I got hooked on it.”
That fateful day some 30 years ago spiraled into a habit — if you were to place a dollar sign on it — worth more than a newly restored hot rod.
“I have signs from many, many companies,” Shrull said. “When I bought my house, I sold most of my collection to pay for the renovation on that house.”
The renovation cost $80,000. The sold signs defrayed between $50,000 and $60,000 of the final bill.
Like stepping into a time machine, a metallic Texaco sign peppered with brown rust spots acts as the garage’s unofficial centerpiece. Above, a gallery of smaller Texaco signs line the top of the back wall. Even outside, a towering Texaco sign Shrull purchased at an auction in Rifle pierces the picturesque view of New Castle’s quintessentially western main drag.
Shrull said the sign, originally posted at a Rifle bulk plant owned by the Goodrich family, often lures in cross-country motorists itching to peek inside.
“You can never replace it,” Shrull said. “Some of the cars I’ve sold you can’t replace; that garage full of signs I’ve got, irreplaceable. It would cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars to find them.”
WHEN THE OIL CHANGES
Possessing a distinct love for traveling across state lines to bid for collectibles, the 62-year-old Shrull sure hasn’t uprooted his life much.
“He was born and raised in New Castle, and he moved, what, five blocks?” Samantha quipped.
Shrull, wearing a well-broken-in Colorado Rockies jacket, confirmed.
“I moved from that end of town to this end,” he said, pointing.
Perhaps that’s why Shrull’s Texaco collection catches his fancy so much.
Shrull remembered New Castle when it resembled more of a small town. Now, “there’s literally a rush hour” every day, and “you can’t hardly walk across the street,” he said.
“They say this was the fastest growing town per capita at one time,” Shrull said. “This was about 15, 20 years ago, but, man, it just exploded.
“You know what it looks like behind that mountain — it’s all houses,” he said of the newer Castle Valley and Lakota Ranch neighborhoods.
But, as New Castle’s small town charm continues to absorb more inhabitants, one thing remains constant: Shrull’s vintage Texaco collection.
In addition to the old days, seeing his signs every day reminds Shrull of his kids, now fully grown with nine kids of their own. Combine Samantha’s two grandkids, that’s 11 total between these two hot rod lovebirds.
“They helped me go get all of this stuff,” Shrull said of his grown kids. “Even though they were girls, I raised ‘em like boys.”
For Samantha, who married Shrull in 2008, the collection symbolizes something like the satisfaction of a long search.
“It is really rewarding,” she said. “Especially when you’re really looking for something.”
Sitting among Shrull’s vintage Texaco memorabilia, a collection originally spawned from The Texas Co. of 1902, is a late-1920s model General Electric refrigerator with one door and an antique gas pump made with a transparent cylinder.
Though they’re prize pieces, Shrull is always game for more.
“I am always looking for something new,” he said. “I was thinking about putting a ski-lift chair for a swing in the front of my house.”
That project may come, it may not for Shrull’s house, which sits across the street from his auto garage. While his collection of yesteryear is there every day to remind him of what once was, Shrull is usually too busy keeping up with times.
“The U-haul stuff has picked up,” he said. “There’s so many people moving these days that sometimes I don’t have time to work on anything else.”
Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or email@example.com.
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