Half-car fans rally to save Kansas town's gag landmark, suggest moving it to museum

Will Edgerton half-car find new life?

The "half-car" on U.S. 56 must be removed, but Edgerton, Kansas, residents turned out by the dozens at a city council meeting Thursday, April 26, to ask to save it.
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The "half-car" on U.S. 56 must be removed, but Edgerton, Kansas, residents turned out by the dozens at a city council meeting Thursday, April 26, to ask to save it.

Small town, can-do spirit may help save the rusty “half-car” that some in Edgerton see as an eyesore and others say is a humorous town landmark.

Nearly 50 people turned out Thursday night to urge the Edgerton City Council not to send the rusty artifact on U.S. 56 to the scrap heap.

They extolled the memory of Ray Braun, one of Edgerton’s most prominent citizens, who had the 1987 Chevrolet Citation cut in half as a joke and installed nearly 30 years ago in front of his gas station at the northern entrance to town. For years it has sported the gag sign, “Divorced. She got 1/2.”

Residents say it’s a town welcome sign and the only way many people have any idea where Edgerton is.

Longtime resident Carl Peer recalled that the car has been used in community parades “and got a big chuckle.”

“What is it hurting?” he asked, wondering why it can’t be preserved as a memorial to Braun and his “acute sense of humor.”

Edgerton resident Deb Lebakken said she had started an online petition called “Save the ½ car” that had already collected several thousand signatures — far more votes than local politicians got in the recent election from the town of 1,700.

Mayor Don Roberts told the crowd that he has very fond memories of the half-car and of Braun, who served as mayor, deputy sheriff, volunteer firefighter and community icon before he died at age 90 in 2012. Roberts said he is the one who physically cut the car in half and helped install it in front of the gas station.

But the mayor also said the car — with wasps inside it, flat tires and no tags — violates code as a nuisance vehicle and has received citizen complaints this year.

“This was citizen initiated,” he said.

The City Council voted to require the car to be removed by May 7. But that wasn’t the end of Thursday night’s conversation.

At the meeting, Charles Troutner, a former city councilman and president of the Edgerton Community Museum, suggested the car could become part of the museum or an artifact at Edgerton City Lake.

“Fix it up a little bit,” he said.

Roberts said the car still needs to be moved, but if it’s placed inside the old service station and is out of view, that would “abate” the nuisance.

Danny O’Neal, owner of the car and the property it sits on, said he would need time to clear out space in the garage for the car to get moved in and out of sight. Roberts said there were plenty in the audience who could help with that.

O’Neal said he’s realized the importance of Braun’s heritage and he appreciated all the community support. As for whether the car can be saved as a museum piece, he said, “We’re going to see. And keep our fingers crossed.”

O'Neal said he hopes to preserve Braun’s history and memory.

“It means a lot to the townspeople,” he said. “I think they can make it a monument, and I’m going to spend my time and effort to help the city folk do that.”

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