PROVO — On the outskirts of Provo, just down the road from the airport, lies a storage company. This, in and of itself, might not seem very interesting, but Lakeside Storage is also home to a unique outdoor museum full of 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 is safer to say, he’s the head collector. Sparky is a true American picker.
“In the old days they called us scroungers, but ‘Scrounger’ is kind of a demeaning term I guess,” Sparky jokes. “But in the old days, that would be the 70s, there was no internet, there was no way to find this stuff. You just went out and you had to sniff it out.”
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 his son Tim got involved. Tim not only helped to pick but encouraged his father to buy signs to go along with their pumps. And the first sign that Sparky and his son collected was the Kendall motor oil sign. They picked it up for $100 at a local swap meet, rest as they say, is history.
Since the purchase of that one sign, the museum has grown by hundreds of signs, gas pumps and other oddities. Sparky and his family have logged thousands of miles traveling around the US and Canada to find these rare and interesting items and why does they do it? Well, Sparky says that he loves stories and history each piece has.
“They represent to me ingenuity, American ingenuity, they represent people that had dreams...It's an inspiration, and I really like that. I think we need more of that.”
Sparky says there’s is no way he could pick one favorite item from his collection, but he does have a few that he is partial to including an actual World War Two P-57 Mustang that he found in North Carolina and several rare signs including a Frontier Gas ‘Golden Cowboy’ sign that’s estimated to be worth upwards of $30,000.
For now, the collection sits outside along the storage units for passers-by to see, but soon the museum hopes to open an indoor space to display some of their truly unique finds. Sparky, now in his 80’s, has no plans to stop picking. He just hopes that the old items will help inspire future generations.
“I just hope that the people that come through here will, will find something that gives them the 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 come true, because it can happen...So, keep dreaming.”
For more information on Lakeside Storage & Museum, log onto their website at aaalakesidestorage.com.