Charles E. Pergl

Chuck Pergl, at right, leans on a 1940 Chrysler that is just like the one his father repaired for his best friend, Jim Gardner, at left, in 1955. Mr. Pergl framed the pictures as a gift for Mr. Gardner in 2005.

Charles E. Pergl, a member of the first class to graduate from Guilderland High School, was inspired by a relative who once had an old-time gas station on Carman Road to build a reproduction of a gas pump complete with globe. He turned his love of gas-station collectables into a business and had one of the largest collections in the country.

Mr. Pergl of West Colesville, New York died on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017. He was 81.

“He had a photographic memory and was an absolute perfectionist,” said his lifelong friend, James E. Gardner.

Mr. Pergl, known as Chuck to his friends and family, was born in Schenectady, the son of Charles and Josephine Pergl. He was raised in Guilderland, across Western Avenue from the Bavarian Chalet.

“His grandparents lived right next door,” said Mr. Gardner. “They were immigrants from Czechoslovakia. When they had a weekly night of family cards, his grandma would bake unimaginable Czechoslovakian pastries,’ Mr. Gardner recalled.

Mr. Gardner shared this memory with his friend when he visited him just before he died. “That brought a smile to his face,” said Mr. Gardner.

Mr. Pergl and Mr. Gardner met as students at Altamont High School. They were members of the first class to graduate from the new Guilderland High School, in 1955.

In 2005, as the high school celebrated its 50th anniversary, Mr. Pergl recalled for The Enterprise what it was like to be in the first class. He and his classmates were proud of the new school colors they had chosen — red and white, a brighter version of the old Altamont High School colors of garnet and gray.

Mr. Pergl recalled how the late Frank Elliott had suggested the school’s symbol — the Flying Dutchman, a spectral ship said to appear in storms near the Cape of Good Hope, captained by a legendary dutch mariner condemned to sail the seas against the wind until Judgement Day.

Mr. Pergl also recalled the old school bell that symbolized the centralization of the district. “It came from a one-room schoolhouse,” he said of the bell. “It was set on a stone monument with a plaque saying the names of all the schools. I went to Fullers.” Mr. Gardner had gone to the two-room school at the top of Willow Street.

During their high school years, Mr. Gardner and Mr. Pergl would travel to horse shows throughout the Capital District as Mr. Pergl’s father had a deep love for horses and would act as a judge at the shows.

“His father was a machinist at GE, and a good mechanic, too,” said Mr. Gardner. “I bought a 1940 Chrysler, my first car. The engine went bad, blew a gasket. His father rebuilt the engine for me with Chuck watching over his shoulder … He had a great interest in cars from the get-go. It blossomed from there for Chuck.”

Soon after Mr. Pergl married, Mr. Gardner recalled, “He found a 1928 Buick, an absolute bucket of rust. He took that apart and started from the frame up to restore it. He put on 140 coats of primer, sanding between every coat so it was like glass. He had the missing pieces made to exact specifications. He won a grand national championship with that car.”

Mr. Pergl followed in his father’s footsteps and began his professional career at General Electric in Schenectady, as a toolmaker. He continued on at GE Westover, and then went to IBM Endicott as one of the first engineers hired without a college degree.

“His passions were restoring antique cars and collecting petroliana,” his family wrote in a tribute. “As a lifetime member of the Antique Automobile Club of America and a charter member of Carlisle Events, he promoted the antique car restoration hobby for over 52 years.”

Mr. Gardner said that his friend’s interest in reproduction gas pumps and gas globes had its roots in Guilderland. “It started because a relative had an original pull-off-the-road gas station on Carman Road … Chuck made it a mission to get old photos and rebuilt it for himself.”

From that beginning, Mr. Pergl went on to travel the country, finding the old gas globes and getting permission to reproduce them, said Mr. Gardner. “He had to find places to make the parts. He loved a challenge,” said Mr. Gardner.  “He sold both the reproduction gas pumps and the globes that sat on the top.”

Over many years, Mr. Gardner, who owns and runs Enterprise Printing and Photo in Altamont, would design and layout Mr. Pergl’s massive catalogues, picturing each of the gas pumps and globes he marketed.

“Many considered him to be an authority on gas globes and he had one of the largest collections of gas station memorabilia in the country,” his family wrote.

Both Mr. Gardner and Mr. Pergl had a lifelong love of classic country music. On one of his trips to Texas in recent years, Mr. Pergl attended a Don Williams concert and told Mr. Gardner it was “the best ever in his life.”

As teens, Mr. Gardner and Mr. Pergl would often double date and a favorite venue was was Dave Denny’s barn on Route 9 above Latham. The radio disc jockey would hold Saturday-night square dances there. “We had a wonderful time,” said Mr. Gardner.

But the pinnacle of their youthful love for country music was their “infamous” spur-of-the-moment trip to Wheeling, West Virginia, said Mr. Gardner. Listening to the Wheeling Jamboree on the radio wasn’t enough; they wanted to see the show at the Virginia Theatre in person.

“We decided to drive to Wheeling for a jamboree party.” It’s as far south as Mr. Gardner has ever gone and he said, “I can still smell the magnolias.”

The two drove Mr. Pergl’s 1956 Chevy — “his first new car” — and made it in time for the jamboree. Afterward, it was so hot, they “drove around half the night to get air stirring.”

Throughout their lives, they’d repeat a line they heard on the trip south from a scene that seemed “just like it came out of an old Western movie,” said Mr. Gardner, launching into the story.

“We stopped at a gas station and we saw this man, leaning against the building with his hat over his face … We pulled up to the pump — and sat there. And sat there. Finally, in slow motion, he walked over. Chuck said, ‘Fill it up.’

“He leaned on the fender, and Chuck asked, ‘How far to Wheeling?’

“‘’Bout 30 miles,’” the man answered, as Gardner, playing the role, stretched the words out in a lugubrious Southern drawl.

“‘How are the roads?’ Chuck asked, and the man answered” — again, Mr. Gardner stretched out the words for comic effect — “Hilly, windy, cain’t make no time on ’em.”

Gardner concluded, “Neither one of us ever forgot that. It was out of another world."

“Chuck loved telling a good joke or story, keeping in touch with his friends, coworkers, and classmates from high school and organizing family reunions,” his family wrote. “He often told young people that there was a lesson in everything.” He would say, “Education costs money whether gained formally or informally.”

****

Charles Pergl is survived by his family: children, Jeffrey and Patty Pergl, Janet Pergl, Jill and Bill Stackpole; grandchildren, Ann (Clint), Ian, Rachel (Brian), and Julie (Ryan); great-grandchildren, Carter, Chase, Ryleigh, Cameron, Claire and Patrick; step-brother, John King (Linet); brothers-in-law, Don Morrett, Jed Baumgold (Julia); ex-wife, Marilyn Cannon (Ron); Jeff and Sigrid Gilkeson, Kristin and Christopher Lindsey and Jim Russell; nieces and nephews, Debi (John), Paul (Marcia), Jodi (Neil), Kelly (Mark), Erin (Bill), Jonathan and Jennifer.

His sisters, Marion Morrett and Sharon Baumgold, died before him, as did his brother, Leon Pergl, and a nephew, Christopher Morrett.

The family thanks Home Instead Senior Care and the caregivers working on the third floor of the  Susquehanna Nursing and Rehabilitation Center for their loving care.

“He was a friend and resource to many and will be missed,” his family wrote in a tribute.

Services will be private.

Memorial contributions may be made to The Norwich Classic Car Museum, 24 Rexford St., Norwich, NY  13815 or to St. Peter’s ALS Regional Center, 19 Warehouse Row, Albany, NY  12205.

— Melissa Hale-Spencer

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