(Words and photos by Greg Rourke) – Here in the Midwest when you have rug rats, vacation means the Wisconsin Dells. When the little darlings grow up and move out, the adults go to Door County, Wisconsin. Last week, I made my first pilgrimage up to the end of the world.
Besides the cherry orchards, antique shops and marinas I found a little piece of local history. Gus Klenke’s Garage.
The story goes that Gus arrived in Ellison Bay Wisconsin in 1918 and went to work making cheese (big surprise) in the building that would later become his garage. In the late 20’s Gus became a Standard Oil dealer and would remain so until his death in 1981. Gus was known as a man of few words, a man devoted to his work, and a beekeeper. As the farthest north garage in Door County ol’ Gus was the go to guy to rescue your fishing trip when your outboard crapped out.
Many communities would consider the old garage an eyesore and tear it down to make room for a boutique or some other nonsense, Ellison Bay recognized a landmark when they saw one. The historical society added a coat of paint and a new roof to the place to prevent further deterioration, and locals add decorations to Gus’s old pickup for appropriate holidays.
Speaking of Gus’s pickup, it’s a 1968 Chevy short bed stepside. Looks like a 6 cylinder, definitely a three-on-the-tree, zero option special. The type where they wouldn’t have ordered turn signals, had they been an option. It got the job done. Inside the garage was what looked like a Honda Dream motorcycle, an ancient snowmobile, racks of old parts catalogs and assorted junk.
If you ever make it up to Door County, be sure to head up to just shy of as far as you can go. Raise an overpriced microbrew to Gus Klenke and others like him. They surely would have been BangShifters.