With $4 gas, another simple remedy needed

With $4 gas, another simple remedy needed Bob Karolevitz Writer At Large With gas hovering at four dollars a gallon and oil selling for $130 something a barrel, where was John A. Stransky with his fuel-saving vaporizer when we needed him? In the early 1900s refineries were still extracting as much kerosene from crude oil to satisfy the lamp and heating stove industries and the first motor cars had to be satisfied with the dregs of the refining process â�?�? a poor grade of gasoline. The early cars did not function well on the mixture. They sputtered and â�?�?knockedâ�? on the available stuff when along came a man with his tiny invention which changed all that. It was a simple thing â�?�? a vaporizer â�?�? which was attached to the carâ�?�?s carburetor which did the trick. John, who already had some success in the real estate business and as a politician, found himself with a small â�?�?gold mineâ�? on his hands â�?�? in Pukwana, of all places! Although he had originally adapted his invention to Henry Fordâ�?�?s Model T, it eventually became available for all models. It was a success when gas was selling at less than 30 cents a gallon. When his son, Leo, took over the business after World War I, Pukwana was booming. Orders came in from everywhere, including at least 70 foreign countries. With an average of 20,000 pieces of out-going mail daily, the Pukwana post office became a first-class facility. A crew of 100 handled the assembling and shipment of the orders. Pukwana with a normal population of 300 became known as The Biggest Little Town in South Dakota, with as many as nine restaurants to feed the influx of employees. Every bed in the community was taken. It was a town hooked on one industry which localites figured would go on and on like the Energizer bunny. But all at once, the business fizzled and died. Some blamed Big Oil for shutting down the company; others said General Motors and the power of the auto industry had a hand in the demise; Gurneyâ�?�?s Alky Gas â�?�? at some 17 cents a gallon â�?�? did away with a need for a vaporizer in order to save on fuel. The Great Depression finished it off. The stenographers went back to being housewives again; other employees took the train to Chamberlain (and elsewhere) to find work, and Pukwana became again the sleepy little Brule County town on the way to nowhere. Leo gave the last of the Stransky Manufacturing Company buildings to the American Legion post, and the business quietly faded away. John Stransky, who once ran unsuccessfully for governor of South Dakota died in California in 1939. With gasoline costing a sky-high price at the pump, possibly there are other tinkerers who have an invention in a small town somewhere to make gas affordable again. Is there another Stransky on the horizon? �?© 2008 Robert F. Karolevitz

Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>