Servicing the hearts and minds of teens

KINGSTON — If My Girl Drive-In Museum had been operating as a restaurant in the 1950s, the scene there last Wednesday would have been very similar to what would have taken place 50 years ago — old-fashioned cars filling the parking lot, live music coming from inside and guys and their gals joshin’ about.

But in the middle of it all was one man who helped those who grew up between 1953 and 1994 learn more about cars and life lessons in general — Hal Sundberg, former owner of Sound Service Garage in Port Gamble.

A group of men who hung out at the garage as teens in the 1950s, including Jim Powell and Bob Thompson, organized a get-together Jan. 25 to thank Sundberg for his contributions to the community.

“He was a really important part of our young lives,” Powell said.

“We used to meet the girls down there and wash our cars before we went crusin’,” Thompson added.

Thompson, who owns My Girl Drive-In Museum on West Kingston Road, acquired Sundberg’s old desk from the garage and has it situated in the corner of the museum. The desk is complete with some of the original books and manuals Sundberg used, including one of his first service manuals dating back to 1953.

Sundberg was one of the first local adults who provided teens a place to hang out, wash and tweak their cars and bikes and learn a few things about car maintenance, Powell and Thompson both said.

The garage closed when the mill shut down in the mid-1990s and Thompson was able to acquire a few of the station’s items for the museum. The garage’s former building still stands but is now home to the Port Gamble Trading Company.

Sundberg was found standing near his old desk in the museum Wednesday afternoon, surrounded by family, friends, old customers and employees, plus a few folks he had never met before.

“A lady just thanked me for teaching her husband about cars,” said the surprised 78-year-old Poulsbo resident.

He fondly recalled one particular instance during his garage days when there was a knock on his door after the shop had closed for the day. There was a guy and his girlfriend on Sundberg’s front porch needing gas to get to the ferry in Bremerton, as the last ferry out of Kingston had left for the night. The stranger didn’t have any money, so Sundberg opened the shop and gave the him a few dollars worth of gas. The motorist said he’d pay him back, but Sundberg didn’t keep the paperwork on it and figured it didn’t matter if it was repaid or not.

“It was helping somebody,” he said.

Twelve years later, a man and his wife pulled into the shop and asked Sundberg if he had worked at the station for a long time. The customer reminded Sundberg of the situation 12 years earlier and paid him with a $20 bill, Sundberg said with a chuckle.

Rick Rice worked for Sundberg from 1960-1964, starting out cleaning parts and floors and leaving after he had learned how to rebuild motors. His son, Greg, followed in his footsteps and worked for Sundberg when he was a teen.

“He gave such an opportunity to learn,” Rick said, noting Sundberg was like a second dad to everyone who worked there. “He’s just a very special man.”

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