PROVO – On the outskirts of Provo, just down the road from the airport, is a storage company. This, in itself, may not sound very interesting, but Lakeside Storage is also home to a unique open-air museum filled with vintage gas pumps, signs, and Americana.
Lavorn Sparks, or ‘Sparky’ as he likes to be called, is the head of collections here or maybe it’s safer to say he’s the head collector. Sparky is a true American picker.
âThey used to call us scroungers, but ‘Scrounger’ is a demeaning term, I guess,â Sparky jokes. âBut it used to be in the 70s, there was no internet, there was no way to find that stuff. You just came out and you had to sniff it.
Sparky has been sniffing out things like old cars and gas pumps for years. And it became a family affair almost a decade ago when her son Tim got involved. Tim not only helped choose, but encouraged his dad to buy panels to go with their pumps. And the first sign Sparky and her son collected was the Kendall Motor Oil Sign. They bought it for $ 100 at a local exchange meeting, rest as they say is ancient history.
Since purchasing that one sign, the museum has grown with hundreds of signs, gas pumps and other oddities. Sparky and her family have traveled thousands of miles across the United States and Canada to find these rare and interesting items and why are they doing it? Well Sparky says he loves the stories and the story behind every room.
âThey represent to me ingenuity, American ingenuity, they represent people who had dreamsâ¦ Itâs an inspiration, and I really like it. I think we need more of this.
Sparky says there’s no way he can pick a favorite item from his collection, but he has a few that he prefers to include a real WWII Mustang P-57 that he has. found in North Carolina and several rare signs, including a Frontier “Golden Cowboy” gas sign valued at over $ 30,000.
For now, the collection sits outside along the storage units for passers-by to view, but soon the museum is hoping to open up an indoor space to display some of their truly unique finds. Sparky, now in his 80s, has no plans to stop picking. He just hopes the old items will help inspire future generations.
âI just hope that people who pass here find something that makes them dream. And and realize that America is the greatest country on Earth. And we can keep it that way, if we keep dreaming. Don’t just dream it, dream it and then figure out how you’re going to make it happen, because it can happen … So keep dreaming.
For more information on Lakeside Storage & Museum, log onto their website at aaalakesidestorage.com.