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PROVO — A man’s passion for antique signs may soon have him in the record books.
Sparky Sparks, owner of Lakeside Storage, 4095 W. Center St, now boasts a collection of 217 porcelain signs on posts — a collection he believes is the largest of its kind in the world.
“My friend down in Lubbock — his is 130, which is the next biggest one to us and we’re at 217 and have another four to put up,” Sparks said. “I didn’t intend to have the biggest collection, it wasn’t done for that, but it happens to be that.”
Sparks said he had applied to Guinness World Records to have the collection recognized.
The hobby began roughly five years ago for Sparks, who has always held an appreciation for antiques.
“I restored antique cars in the 1970s,” Sparks said. “I did ground-up restorations on early cars — 1909 to 1912 Fords. 1909 was the first Model T Ford.”
More recently, he began collecting old gas pumps.
“It wasn’t until 2013 when my wife and I were getting ready to go on a second mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” Sparks recalled. “My eldest son … he says, ‘Dad, I can manage your business with your managers. I can manage your managers while you’re gone, but I think we ought to dress the place up a little bit. Why don’t we take some of those old gas pumps that you’ve got stacked up back there and stick them out front.”
Sparks said his son then suggested collecting more pumps as well as signs when the couple returned from their mission.
“He said, ‘Dad, you can’t just collect pumps — you’ve got to collect porcelain signs that went with the pumps!’” Sparks said. “That was five years ago and this is what we’ve got in five years, so you can see you plant the seed and you never know!”
Sparks said he has invested his 401K into the collection, which he also considers an investment.
He noted as well that the signs have also served online to draw interest to the storage business.
“I think it’s about a dream,” Sparks said, smiling beneath several of his antique signs, which line the perimeter of the business property. “A lot of these guys were nobodies that started these companies and they just got some people with money and put them together and got their business going and they made millions, but to me that shows to anybody that you can be anything in America, you can do anything.”
Sparks also said he hoped the site, which he has also developed into a museum, will make people curious about their history.
“The history of the gas-oil business is very, very interesting!” Sparks exclaimed.
Sparks has further development plans in store for the property, including a 500-person event center which will display many of his antique signs, pumps, statues and cars.
“Just one or two pieces inspire people enough to ask questions,” Sparks said. “I hope that kids start asking questions and parents start looking it up.”
Sparks has collected the signs from all across the country. Some date back to the early 1900s, with the majority manufactured sometime from the 1940s to the 1960s.