Above, Possibly an old milk house, and formerly decorated as a railroad office by the Dews of Onsted, Bruce Schultz repurposed the building as a general store.
By Michelle McLemore
His friends call him “the scrounger.” Bruce Schultz blames his genetics. “I have quite a bit of my Grandmother Schultz in me. After she passed, we found a box labeled ‘string too short to use.’ She collected. Dad inherited it and I inherited it from him.” Whether proclivity or cure for boredom, Schultz has even made his storage areas works of creativity.
One of his earliest storage sheds formerly belonged to his Grandpa Knowles on his mom’s side. It was his grandpa’s workshop when his mom, Anita, was just a girl. Schultz moved it from Round Lake Highway roughly 30 years ago to his Stephenson home when the owners wanted it torn down. He added a new front this summer to give it an appearance of an old gas station and then restored a gas pump to sit out front. He framed a Texaco sign with the radiator shell from a 1927 Chevy car. A buddy suggested it needed a crank so one was scrounged up “from a pile of junk I had somewhere,” Schultz laughed.
Grandpa Knowles workshop was remade as a gas station front with a refurbished gas pump out front.
When he and his wife Denise visited Virginia in 2010, they liked the southern cabins in “the hollers.” So, upon returning, they decided to create a storage shed and give it the same character. The only thing he bought for the construction was nails. The rest came from salvaged and used materials. The shed, dubbed “Schultz Cabin”, was built to function with no electricity and uses kerosene lighting.
Bruce shrugged his shoulders, saying, “You collect all of it and then need a place for it or you forget you got it.” The vast collection contains family hand-me-downs, as well as a flea market and auction, finds.
From meat grinders to antique coffee grinders — cooking utensils from back in the day give the modern viewer a lot to be thankful for.
Next to the cabin is a windmill and even that was a find by friends. The Lucks on Brazee Road had put the word out that they had a fallen windmill available. Bruce loaded it up, straightened it out, and set it back up. This was his second windmill. When his dad Marian and he had been on the Onsted Fire Department, they built a tower to dry the hoses. The tower eventually found its way to Schultz’s property. He added a fan that he picked up at a garage sale and a motor from a neighbor on Brooks Road to make it a functioning windmill. This sits next to his current workshop.
How does one get trained in so many different aspects of construction? Schultz clarified, “As far as schooling, I took body shop class at Vo-Tech. Dear old dad taught me a lot – welding fabrication work, mechanic work. A lot I had to figure out on my own. I hated carpentry work when I started building my house, but I learned to like it. I like a challenge – and I get bored – that’s why I do things.”
When comparing his jump-in-and-do attitude to others, Bruce speculated, “People are afraid they will get yelled at if they screw up. If you screw up, just start over!”
To the north of the cabin, the shed is the “general store.” This was moved from Dew Realty on Onsted Highway south of the village. The building had originally been parked by a caboose (which is now outside the car wash in Brooklyn). Bruce speculates that originally the shed may have been an old milk house. Like the other building and windmill, Schultz jacked it up and put it on a flatbed trailer. This, however, wasn’t the easiest of moves. The walls were saturated with honeycombs.
After the move, and not related, Bruce had hand surgery. Wife Denise brought him home a railroad lantern as a gift. “I couldn’t work so I got on eBay,” Bruce smiled. “We now have 96 lanterns and kerosene lamps – 14 just on one wall. She doesn’t let me play on that anymore.”
Lanterns, scales, and a hodge-podge surround the old cash register Denise Schultz found in South Haven.
Still, Denise shares Bruce’s enthusiasm for collecting. She found the cash register for the store at a flea market in South Haven and rounded up miniature metal pencil sharpeners for some of the shelves.
As one looks around, many pieces have personal stories. Around the top ledge sit teal, glass telephone insulators. It turns out, back in the day, the phone company came down the road wanting to take out the 10 wire poles to put in underground wiring. Bruce’s dad made them a deal: They could access the same right of way if he got all the old equipment. Ten strings of hanging wire were easily converted to five wire low-voltage electric hot fences for the fields. Maybe there is something to that family trait of creative recycling.
In addition to a unique fieldstone sculpture in the back, the front yard sports a diesel engine that once ran everything in the H&E Branch and Son mill in Onsted. When the mill burned the first time, they pulled it out of the basement and transported it to his home. No longer functional, it sits as a reminder of earlier times and local history. Schultz also has the original Onsted and Kerr safe from the old lumber mill.
Here in Schultz country, ingenuity restores value to historical items which otherwise might only be seen as scrap to many people.
Everything has a place in this storage shed lit by kerosene.