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Popcorn Pete

Some might ask, 'why would you be the one to write a story about Peter Zimmermans hot dog wagon?'


Well, I feel pretty qualified and am going to tell the story from my point of view.

Peter started selling popcorn and hotdogs from his Model T in 1929. Some might argue saying it was 1931 but I always remember hearing that Pete, Reg. McGee Garage and Geo. Schaefer Dry Goods all started in the year 1929.


Pete's wagon sat every evening on the corner of Hamilton Street and the Square. Our garage was then located right behind the Royal Bank and most evenings after work as a young lad I would go up to Petes and sit in the wagon, eat Dogs and Corn and talk with him. I was so impressed with the way he handled and talked to his customers young and old. Each person had his full attention and inquiries always came from Pete in his kind and gentle way of how are things were with the family and so on ,endearing him to all his patrons.


Around midnight I would help Pete clean up in the area where people might throw napkins etc: He always left his corner only after it was neat and clean.


Pete drove Studebaker cars purchased from Gord. Bannister garage in town.


At one time from his house he sold and installed aluminum awnings.

One evening as a story goes, Pete was driving home down South Street when a new Rookie cop pulled him over for no taillight.

Pete got out, looked at the light and said to the cop- got a match?

The young officer obliged, Pete lit the oil lamp and drove off much to the cops amazement.

Finally it was time for retirement and the wagon was set in the backyard of their home on Cameron Street, covered with a heavy tarp.


The odd time the tarp was pulled off and Pete would do hot dogs for family and friends gatherings in their backyard.

In 1987 The Rotary Club was raffling off a new Pontiac Grand Am and the final day draw event was to be in Courthouse Park. I thought would it not be a great idea if we had Pete and the wagon uptown for this.

I asked a fellow Rotarian who had worked in the Wagon as a youngster by the name of Howard Aitken to come with me to Pete's house.

We sat on the back porch while I brought up this idea and surprisingly, Pete agreed as long as we picked it up and delivered it back in proper, clean condition and that we used exactly the same dogs and condiments that he used and for sure, fried onions and steamed buns.

What an evening that was. Pete sat in a lawn chair close to the wagon and hundreds of people showed up. While waiting in line to be served they all chatted with Pete who was loving every moment. He had endeared himself to a whole generation of people and it sure showed that night.


After that the wagon was donated the Huron County Museum who promptly put it in storage in a shed out by the airport.

Another Rotarian by the name of Mac Campbell was deeply disturbed by this and got hold of Pete's daughter Carol Ann (Fisher) now living in London and asked her if she would ask the Museum to grant ownership of the Wagon to the Goderich Rotary Club and for a $1.00 fee the ownership was transferred to the Club.

We stored it in Mike Rogers driving shed at his farm out in Colborne where many evenings of work parties worked on the old Model T. Painting, woodworking, scrubbing got it looking good but it was not in running condition. McGee Motors had an old time Ford mechanic working for them at this time by the name of Don. Duench. Don had actually apprenticed for Rice Motors, a Ford dealership in Milverton who owned a few old Model T cars so we had a qualified person to get this old wagon running again.

McGee Motors absorbed the bill for all the time and repairs but as I remember, some used car seemed to get a large bill for reconditioning costs.

So now you have parts of the story you never heard before.

However the old T was a deathtrap to drive. You had no vision but straight ahead, doors flapping open, pots and cans rattling around, the seat was a coke case that I found in an antique store in Harriston because that was always what Pete sat on, so we decided for safeties sake it would now be towed to all occasions.


It sits stored out in the Service Club shed until the club wants to get it out for an event. The club still uses every food item that Pete did for preparing the dogs and the buttered popcorn. The amount of comments the club receives and the remembrance of Pete and especially of the smell of fried onions is mentioned by so many at every event. It has been brought out a couple of times for Christmas display and in local parades. This summer it was a smash hit at the Old car show on the Square and sold a pile of hotdogs which helps the Rotary Club do its good deeds in our community and to keep alive the great memory of Pete and his wagon.






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