In 1945, Bernie Nundahl Sr. and his wife, Sadie, came to Perham from Minneapolis, Minn., and purchased the Phillips 66 Station and bulk plant from Ziegler and Johnson. Bernie’s goal was to sell more than a million gallons of gas and fuel in a year.
With four road constructions going and much farm trade, the heating fuel and gas pumps at the station were kept active from 5 a.m. until 10 p.m., making that dream come true.
Nundahl Oil was the first Perham dealer to install a metering system on their delivery trucks. As distributors, they supplied many of the Philips 66 dealers in the area and also supplied aviation fuel to Park Rapids, New York Mills, Wadena, Henning, Evansville, Detroit Lakes and Perham – where they had pumps and tanks at the airport. The shop at the station was a busy place, with repairs, tires and oil sales.
After serving three years in the Navy, Bernie Jr. joined his father in the business in 1946. Bernie Sr. retired in 1952, selling the business and leasing the station to his sons, Bernie Jr. and Vernon.
At this time, Ed Beringer became a partner. Bernie Sr. died in April 1954, at the age of 48. Ed Beringer retired in 1971, to recover from a heart attack, and moved to California. Vernon worked part-time at the Perham Post Office, eventually selling his share of the partnership to Bernie Jr.
In 1979, the Nundahl Oil building at West Main was purchased by Bauck Chevrolet. The business was moved to 210 E. Main, where Bernie Jr. and his wife, Jan, continued to operate the station along with the bulk plant (which had relocated to the industrial park).
Bernie Jr. and Jan retired in January 1992, ending the Nundahl Oil Company era after 47 years.
Bernie Nundahl submitted this information for the “1994 East Otter Tail History Book, Volume II.” Lina Belar is the founder and retired director of the Friends of the History Museum of East Otter Tail County. An exhibit about the early gas stations of Perham is currently on display at the History Museum.