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By May of 1931 this business was incorporated as the Rhineland Consumers Co-operative Limited, with 1. 1. Siemens serving as presi­ dent, P. B. Sawatsky as vice-president and W. W. Heinrichs as secre­ tary. The Board immediately bought the oil station and gasoline inventory of the Farmers' Oil Company and managed to borrow $7,500 from the bank to begin operation.

Despite early difficulties and a shortage of working capital, the Rhineland Consumers Co-operative managed to stay in business by careful management and close attention to detail. Purchasing was restricted to cash transactions, employees were paid according to gross income and all profits were used to reduce the company's debt and towards further expansion. By 1935 final payment had been made on the oil station and membership had risen to 235. Even the 1936 fire, which destroyed the oil station, did not keep the business closed for long. Four months after the fire, a brand new building had been erected and the co­ operative continued to gain strength. By 1937, $1,599 had been paid in dividends and by 1939 membership stood at 573.24

Success in the oil station venture encouraged members of the Rhineland Consumers Co-operative to establish another co-operative association to provide additional goods and services to consumers.

Co-op fire of 1936. At 2 p.m. on July 11, 1936, while temperatures were soaring from 108 to 110°F, fire believed to have been caused by a stationary gas engine used for pumping gasoline from a railroad tank car into storage, destroyed the Rhineland Consumers' Co-operative Ltd. office, equipment and stock. In the latter part of August 1936, a new building equipped with electric bowzer, gasoline, kerosene, and distillate pumps as well as an electric air-compressor, was built at a cost of approx­ imately $6000.00.

Credit: W. J. Kehler

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