There’s something about vintage gas pumps that people love. Maybe it’s the designs or the bright colors. Maybe they are reminders of a time when gas prices were measured in cents not dollars. Whatever the reason the Classical Gas Museum in Embudo, NM attracts people from all over. We’d driven by it countless times, but never stopped. We always meant to, but you know how it is. You’re headed somewhere and just don’t have to time.
Johnnie Meier, a former scientist at Los Alamos National Labs, opened the museum in 1997, with items he’d amassed over the previous ten years. He loves spending his time restoring old items ranging from vintage gas pumps to old stoves to juke boxes to old cars. “I’m particularly attracted to the gas pumps” he said,” because to me, they represent art and sculpture.”
Meier is currently restoring an old diner, made by Valentine Manufacturing Inc. of Wichita, Kansas in the 1950s. He found it in a junk yard outside Santa Fe in 2006. He knew what it was the minute he saw it. It took three years to negotiate the sale and he’s been working on the restoration since the summer of 2011. He expects to have it done by the end of 2012. When fully restored, will be to be an ice cream parlor called “Eat Mo’ Ice Cream”.
Meier also sells found objects to artists, mostly sculptors, who incorporate them into their works. Another lucrative business over the last few years has been rentals for films, commercials and fashion shoots. His treasures can be seen in No Country for Old Men and Wild Hogs, both filmed in New Mexico.
While much of the vast collection is scattered around the grounds, there’s also a museum building full of gas station memorabilia including old signs, tins, and even an old toy Texaco gas station from the 1960s, The miniature service station, a Christmas promotion, originally sold for $3.49. Today, it’s worth about 100 times that. It’s a valuable lesson in holding on to things. There’s also a collection of vintage neon signs dating back to the 1930s and 1940s “What we have here,” Meier said about the advertising collection, “is a gallery of 20th century commercial art.”
Admission to the Classical Gas Museum is free. If he’s home, the museum is open. “It’s like a big open house here,” he says. “I’m here seven days a week from morning until the stars come out,” Meier said. “However, if I have to go to the hardware store or the lumber yard, I close the gated and go.” If you’re making a special trip, call ahead. You can reach the Classical Gas Museum at (505) 852-2995. If you pass on the way by on NM Route 68, stop if he’s there. If he’s not, you can get some great vintage gas pump photos from the road.
Have you been to the Classical Gas Museum?
While you’re visiting the Gas Museum, treat yourself to a brisket burrito or a Sugar Burger at Sugar’s, a roadside stand just south of the Classical Gas Museum. They’re open seasonally, Thursday through Sunday.