Two Howard Lake brothers remember gas prices of years past

April 14, 2008

By Jennifer Gallus
Staff Writer

Howard Lake brothers Gene and Tom Main, although retired from the oil business, say that there have always been gas price wars.

Their father, George, was in the bulk oil business for 20-plus years before Gene joined him in 1960. Then in 1968, George and Gene built Main Fuel Company, which is now Joe’s Sport Shop. In 1969, Tom entered the partnership, as well.

The Main brothers operated Main Fuel Company until 1986, which is when they sold it to Joe Drusch.

Main Fuel Company originally carried Gulf Oil products until that company left Minnesota, Gene said. Then they carried Pro Oil, which consisted of home heating oils, diesel, and gas. Eventually, the station switched to Phillips 66 oil products, which is what it carried upon selling to Drusch.

The Main brothers delivered the oil products to farms and commercial accounts in addition to the gas station business.

Gas prices around 1976 were about 56 cents per gallon as seen in an old photo of the Main Fuel Company. In that same photo, a Skelly station, just down the street, listed gas for 60 cents per gallon.

“That picture must have been taken just as one of us changed our price because we (gas stations) were all always within a penny of each other,” Gene said.

If the gas station down the road changed its price, “you would march out there and change your sign,” Gene said. “There’s always been price wars.”

That Skelly station in the 1976 picture was owned by the late Martin Shepperd, who also sold Chevrolet cars on the corner, Gene said.

In 1978, the Main Fuel Company’s garage portion of the gas station was remodeled and changed into a convenience store.

“We did oil changes, tire repairs, and minor car repairs before the remodeling,” Tom explained.

After the Main brothers sold their gas station in 1986, Gene managed Howard Lake Oil until he retired. Today, Gene drives bus for the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted School district.

Tom opened the Mr. Tire business in 1986, previously Moorehead Implement, and retired from that a couple of years ago.

Both brothers agree that today’s gas prices are “awfully high.”

“I think they’re higher than they should be,” Tom said.

“They’re wild. I watch them every day on the news and on the future’s markets,” Gene said.

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