MORRISVALE – When 60-year-old Danny Hill was a young boy, his family would come to downtown Madison to shop and he would get to ride on coin-operated rides that included a pink elephant and a spotted horse.
“My grandmother Pearl Baker of Ruckers would always let me ride those coin-operated rides and it was like going to Disney World for me,” Hill said.
Today, Hill is a retired coal miner after 32 years with Hobet. Also, after retiring he worked with his family restoring old buildings, including the medical center building on Main Street in downtown Madison where his son Dr. Cliff Hill operates Hill Chiropractic Center.
After locating the two old coin-operated rides, the pink elephant and the spotted horse, Hill’s restoration hobby became his passion.
“They are now fully restored and on display at Hill Chiropractic Center,” he said. “My grandson Dawson likes to ride them.”
Hill’s restoration hobby includes restoring forgotten relics to their former glory. He has restored old signs, a New York City street light, coin-operated games and rides, an old doctor’s buggy and more, but one of his favorite is restoring old gas pumps.
“The process is a rigorous one,” he said. “My grandson helps me take them apart and I put them back together. The entire process from start to finish can be long, but I really enjoy it.”
There are no expensive tools or knowledge required to restore an antique gas pump. When completed, the finished project can be cherished or sold for a hefty profit. Some people have turned the process of restoring antique gas pumps into a profession, but for Hill it’s more of a passionate hobby.
“Restoration of cars, gas pumps, old signs and other antiques is just something I love to do,” Hill said.
His garage in Morrisvale off Big Horse Creek Road, just before the Morrisvale Volunteer Fire Department, can’t be missed due to its large oil and gas signs attached to the outside.
“Yeah it’s pretty hard to drive by without seeing the large signs attached to the garage,” Hill said.
The entrance to the garage has the look and feel of the old mom-and-pop stations that once thrived just by selling gas and fixing cars in the repair shop.
Those types of gasoline stations and repair shops can’t compete in today’s business market and no longer exist.
More than 50,000 stations have closed since 1991, when there were nearly 200,000 nationwide, according to the National Association of Convenience Stores.
The high cost of oil has made it hard to turn a profit selling gas, pushing station owners into selling snacks and soft drinks at their convenience stores to increase profit margins.
Like the popular cable television show “American Pickers,” Hill travels around looking for old gas pumps, signs and other antique he may be able to restore.
“I really only want things I can restore to fully operational again,” he said. “Shows like American Pickers have driven up costs, but I still enjoy the hobby.”
Hill says all of the relics he restores are part of American history.
“The things I restore provide a glimpse at American life in the recent and distant past,” he said. “It’s just a really fun hobby and my friends and family seem to really enjoy seeing and learning about the history of all this stuff.”
So for Hill, his hobby brings to mind the old saying, “One person’s trash is another person’s treasure.”