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If These Walls Could Talk: Kary's Tire Service

Anderson, Grenz & Straub. "If These Walls Could Talk: Kary's Tire Service." Northwest Blade, 24 November 2011.


Charles Pfeffer, Frederick Homeyer, and Reinhold Kary—three vastly different men. Each left an indelible footprint on the community of Eureka.

As Eureka was platted in 1887, Charles Pfeffer made his appearance as a townside or land agent for the Milwaukee Railroad. Charles Pfeffer was an astute business man. He was involved in the farm implement business, and established the bank of Eureka, where he used his authority to make very generous and agreeable loans to newly arrived immigrants. Mr. Pfeffer bought over 200 quarters of land, and along with his brother-in-law William Brameier, built the Eureka Roller Mill, on the south side of current Hwy. 10, across from the current Kary’s Tire Service. The Eureka Roller Mill, though not on the piece of land which is the subject of this article, is nevertheless part of the story of that plot.

An early Eureka farmer, Daniel Opp, remembered in his biography, "Due to the growth of Eureka and the surrounding countryside, Pfeffer realized the need and the importance of a flour mill. He took the matter in hand during the summer, and by fall the mill was in operation. It was of great benefit for the farmers. The farmer could trade in his wheat for cheap and good flour and would not have to pay a double price for it. Because of these undertakings, Eureka soon became the mecca for the farmers in the neighboring counties."

Pfeffer was also probably Eureka’s best promoter. He milled a carload of flour and enclosed a printed card in each sack, sending the shipment to Odessa where it was distributed among old friends. After reading the card telling of the opportunities available in McPherson County, many made arrangements to come to Eureka. ("Homesteaders of McPherson County" 1941)
The Eureka Roller Mills was operating when Eureka was known as the wheat capital of the world. At the height of its productivity, the Eureka Roller Mill had 15 employees who worked shifts around the clock to meet the demand. Eureka is touted in the Oct. 1897 journal of milling called The Roller Mill: "Exit Minneapolis as the ‘greatest primary wheat market in the world;’ enter a more rightful claimant to that title—Eureka, a small town in the state of South Dakota. What is a primary wheat market? It is a first-hand wheat market, a market where wheat has its first sale en route from the farm to the flour barrel. Minneapolis does not fill that definition; Eureka does. Therefore, Hail, Eureka, Greatest primary wheat market in the world!"

It is interesting to note that "Pfeffer and Brameier, and citizens and farmers of Eureka" shared their abundance with others in distress, and are recorded as having sent shipments of flour to Russia in 1891 and 1892. ("The Russian Famine of 1891 & 1892: some particulars of the relief sent to the destitute peasants by the millers of America" by William Crowell Edgar, p. 74)

Charles Pfeffer served as mayor of Eureka from 1892-1896 and again from 1898-1900. Not many details of his life prior to the mid 1880’s are known, although it was reported that he was born in Germany and inherited a great deal of money. He is pictured with his wife and daughter in a portrait at the Eureka Museum. His brief tenure in Eureka proved his business acumen. When Pfeffer left Eureka for the west coast in the early 1900’s, he sold most of his land and donated several quarter sections to county schools. Mr. Pfeffer died in a car accident on the west coast in 1923. Pfeffer was a bit of an enigma, flamboyant and boisterous. He was a man that people took notice of. Many people loved him, but a few found him to be overbearing, abrupt and much too blunt.

In 1889, John Cary, President of Milwaukee Land Co., opened for sale what was to be known as Milwaukee Land Company’s second addition to Eureka. In 1897, the two lots where Kary’s Tire Service now stands were sold to John Bauer and Jacob Hoff for $202.50.

Frederick W. Homeyer bought out Charles Pfeffer’s share of the Eureka Roller Mills in 1909. Along with buying the Roller Mill, Homeyer bought 1/2 interest of Lots 1 & 2 of Block 6, Milwaukee’s Land Co. second addition to Eureka, from Jacob and Barbara Hoff for $125. These lots, where Kary’s Tire Service now stands, were directly north of the Roller Mill, just across the road. Susan Hoffman, McPherson Co. Director of Equalization, verified that the first building on these lots was erected in 1910.

The building that Homeyer constructed on these lots in 1910 was used for a warehouse. One source says the warehouse was used for bran storage which, after being mixed with separated milk, was sold for hog feed. (1987 Eureka Centennial Book) Rumor has it that during Prohibition, chickens were stored in the building for shipment on trucks—but along with the chickens a great deal of bootleg whiskey found its way to Chicago!

F.W. Homeyer was born in Germany in 1870. Like Pfeffer, Homeyer was also an astute businessman. Before coming to Eureka, Homeyer operated lumber yards in Hosmer, SD, Zeeland and Hague, ND. Unlike Pfeffer, Homeyer was more genteel and loved the arts. Homeyer started a men’s choir in Eureka known as the "Männerchor" which sang at many social functions. Mr. Homeyer also served as mayor of Eureka from 1910-1912 and again from 1918-1920. He is pictured, as is Mr. Pfeffer, on the page of Eureka mayors in the 1937 book.

Mr. Homeyer saw the many opportunities a roller mill presented. He also owned an elevator, which supplied the roller mill with the grain that was processed into flour. The flour was divided into two grades, the premium known as Dakota Gold, and the second known as Dakota Silver. Their motto was "we grind the wheat that made Eureka famous." His head miller, in 1912, was Christ Bauer. In the fall of the year, the farmers would trade their wheat for flour which had to last them all winter. Some of the larger families would take home 1000 lbs. of flour. Once empty, the finely woven cotton flour sacks were used for clothing or other household uses.

During WW I, Homeyer had a government order for flour for oversees shipment to the US Army. Carloads of flour, 1000 sacks to a box car, moved by rail. Another sign of Mr. Homeyer’s aesthetic side was seen when he changed the names of the flour to "Edelweiss," which is the name of an Austrian flower.

The Eureka Roller Mill burned in 1922, except for the storage building on the lots on the north side of Hwy. 10. Homeyer bought the other 1/2 interest in these lots in 1923 from John and Christine Bauer.

Fred Homeyer died in March 1925, leaving all of his earthly possessions to his widow, Sophia, and his children. In August 1932, Mrs. Sophia Homeyer granted a 5 year lease to the White Eagle Oil Co., which in 1930 had merged with Socony-Vacuum Oil Co. There is an ad for Mobil gas, a trademark of Socony-Vacuum Oil, merged with White Eagle Oil Co., in the 1937 Eureka Jubilee Book. Gideon Klein was listed as the agent and three service stations were mentioned.

Stipulations of the lease were: rent would consist of ½ cent per gallon of gas delivered for resale, paid by the 20th of each month. The White Eagle Oil Co. agreed to furnish and install equipment needed to operate a service station on lots 1 & 2 of block 6—three 550 gallon underground tanks, pipes, three 10-gallon visible pumps, and all necessary and useable signs. Presumably, this is when the front canopy over the gas pumps was added, though this author was unable to verify this. If the lessee cancelled the lease before August 1937, a 10 day notice and $10 payment to Sophia Homeyer was required. Mrs. Homeyer agreed to keep the premises in good shape, or the White Eagle Oil Co. could serve a notice of default. If, after 10 days, things were not rectified, she would have to pay $200 as damage. Witness to this lease was Gideon Klein. (Courtesy of McPherson Co. Register of Deeds, John Hilgemann)

Shortly after this lease was enacted, a man by the name of Theo L. Bauer, listed as assistant manager of the Home Lumber Co., (1937 Eureka Jubilee Book) sued Sophia Homeyer, the White Eagle Oil Co., and The Home Lumber Co. This Mechanics Lien suit was filed November 2, 1932, for the amount of $250. Eureka attorney, Donald Kallenberger, explained to this author that a Mechanics Lien suit was for wages not paid for work such as electrical, plumbing or carpentry. The plaintiff, Theo Bauer, had one year to file this sort of suit or it would not be considered by the judicial system. Mr. Bauer filed it three months after the lease was enacted. No property can be sold with a Mechanics Lien against it, so it was definitely in the best interest of Sophia Homeyer and the other defendants to get it settled. By June of 1938, the suit had been settled, Bauer was paid, and the Lien was removed from the property. An interesting side note to these happenings is that Theo L. Bauer’s attorney, Thomas Ringsrud, married Sophia Homeyer, one of the defendants, in 1936. A bit of romance had blossomed during this suit!

After the White Eagle Oil Co. lease expired in 1937, the building was sold to a Java farmer named John Klein, on May 31, 1938. A year later, Klein sold the business to John Banek and Jacob Kary, who ran it as a Phillips 66 station.

At the same time as the above events, in August 1935, a gentleman named Reinhold Ladner started a business he called the East River Oil Co., changing the name to Home Oil Bulk in 1936. Ladner had two 12,000 gallon tanks, and he added two additional tanks. All of the gas was delivered to Eureka by train until 1940, when some deliveries were made by trucks. This oil company always handled Phillips 66 products and served the Banek-Kary Service Station.

Jacob Kary, along with gasoline, oil, grease and other small car parts, also sold used vehicles. In a 1942 ledger supplied by Melvin and Roland Kary, very interesting entries are found. The types of used vehicles sold were varied. One 1926 Model A sold for $50 with a trade-in. Another 1937 Chevrolet sold for $460 with a trade-in. The highest priced vehicle was a 1941 Ford V8 which sold for $825.

John Banek sold his share of the business to Reinhold Kary in 1943. In 1945, Jacob Kary also sold his share of the business to his brother, Reinhold. (Jacob Kary went on to pursue other business interests with Forster and Nelson, auto and implement dealers.)

In 1948, Reinhold Kary added an addition to the north side of the original building. In this addition, he sold kerosene and gasoline powered appliances, finding a large market in local farmers who still did not have rural electricity. Next, in 1949, he purchased the bulk plant from Reinhold Ladner. Reinhold Kary now owned both the service station and the bulk plant, not a small achievement for an immigrant of little means. An interesting tidbit: during the late forties, Reinhold Kary and Straub Furniture received a shipment of appliances by train. Along with this furniture were free clocks that were given to them with the radio station KSJB advertised on it. The clock that the Kary’s received is on display in their place of business and still keeps perfect time today.

Reinhold Kary, a humble man, like Pfeffer and Homeyer before him, immigrated to the US in 1907. He married at age 24 and farmed for 17 years before moving to Eureka, where he worked for a few years as a mechanic at the Ford garage. Reinhold and his wife Frieda had nine children. Mr. Kary worked diligently and steadfastly, making Eureka his home and his place of business. He believed in the principle of bettering one’s life through hard work. Daily he worked long hours at the service station and bulk plant. He and his large family lived in the east side of the service station for almost 20 years before moving across the street to a house in 1966.

Reinhold Kary worked at improving his family’s well-being, eventually retiring at age 72 in 1979. Reinhold sold his business to his son, Leroy, who along with brothers, Melvin and Roland, continued to run the business. Leroy retired in 2002. Roland and Melvin Kary continue in the tradition of their father, Reinhold. They are not afraid of hard work, and both of them remember fondly living in the back part of the station, which is now used for tire repair.

The addition to the north of the original building is now one of the most popular places in Eureka every June, where Roland sells fireworks for the upcoming Fourth of July celebration. Both Roland and Melvin recall humorous incidents from spending the majority of their lives working and living in this building. One especially humorous story involves an elderly gentleman who was encouraged by his wife to quit smoking. Since Kary’s was a place that sold many sundries, including paper for rolling one’s own cigarettes, this gentleman would request paper from Roland or Melvin, in German. After receiving the paper, he would wait until he saw someone begin to roll a cigarette and then proceed to mooch some tobacco from him. One wonders what his wife said when he would return home smelling of cigarette smoke!

If these walls could talk, we would probably hear stories from flour to fireworks… "I am still a family business that has produced four sons and a daughter of Reinhold Kary that stayed in Eureka, working and helping to show that Eureka can provide a good living and a wonderful place for families."

Eureka Roller Mill, south of current Kary's 66 Station
Eureka Roller Mill logo.
Eureka Roller Mill, established 1888 by Charles Pfeffer & Fred Homeyer, bought out by Homeyer, burned 1922.
Dakota Gold Flour advertisement, Eureka, SD
1888 Eueka Roller Mill - Pfeffer & Bramaier.
Men's Choir.
Mr. & Mrs. Reinie Kary in front of Kary's Service Station, before north addition in 1948.
Kary's Service Station.
Kary's Philips 66 Station & Home Oil Company.
Reinie Kary filling gas at Kary's 66.

 

Story courtesy of the Northwest Blade, Eureka, SD.
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