From life on a farm, to a $5-a-week bookkeeper at a bank, to the bank presidency, financial devastation in the 1929 market crash, renewed wealth from a career switch to farm machinery sales, then another to building and operating a bus to aid the war effort--one of the most successful, independent oil companies in the country has evolved. One remarkable man started the evolution.
By the time Frank S. Owens was introduced to the petroleum industry, as his bus hauled gasoline along with local residents to their jobs at Elmwood Ordnance Plant at the height of World War II, he had experienced the extreme highs, lows, twists and turns of a business executive's career during the volatile 1920s and 1930s. Widely recognized for his financial and business acumen as the leader of a Kokomo bank and an automobile dealership, he lost everything with the market crash and collapse of the financial industry. In the early '40s, now highly successful at selling farm machinery, the imaginative Owens saw opportunity and a chance at meaningful wartime service by building a 35-passenger bus with a used body and an enlarged tractor frame. Times were very tough, local citizens needed a way to get to work at the defense plant in Joliet (converted from a farm implement manufacturer), and there wasn't a bus to be found anywhere.
"It wasn't fancy, but it never let us down," Owens recalled. The bus ended up traveling almost half a million miles over central Illinois highways. Hauling gasoline for the Wood River Refining Company led Frank Owens' fourth, and last, career change. He bought a string of ten small service stations, owned by T. G. Wells of Decatur. The enterprise that was to become Owens Oil Company, and later Freedom Oil Company, had been launched.
("Historic Illinois - An Illustrated History" by Janice Petterchak pg. 102-103)
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