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Stories from the Hamilton Street Garage

Having been involved in the garage business my entire life a lot of interesting things happened.  Here is just a few of the  stories that you might enjoy.


The first story happened to my brother Alvin. Like all of us as kids he would be hanging around in the garage, in the way of or bothering the mechanics.  This day, a veteran mechanic by the name of Worthy Young had enough of young Alvin’s antics, picked him up by the arms and deposited him in a 40 gallon oil drum full of used waste oil. Just picture this with his arms hanging over the sides and oil gushing up all around him.


Every garage I knew did this to the new young helpers.  I remember sending a young man from Saltford over to get a left handed monkey wrench from the CTC store which was right behind our garage. They would then tell him they had no stock but Bradley Automotive had them so off they would go there. Finally someone would break the news- kid you have been had! Oh, some of them got really upset!


We had a mechanic by the name of Donnie D.  He was a very good mechanic but failed to pay his bills.  Harold Shore Insurance was right across the street from our garage. I remember Harold coming in, bill in hand looking for Donnie but Donnie seen him coming and ran into the far back of the garage. Harold was yelling at him as he stepped between two cars not knowing they were parked over the pit. The last I heard from Harold was his moaning while laying in the pit and as we helped haul him out.  John Schaefer from Schaefer’s dry goods was always walking out of his back door into our garage, mostly just to visit and he fell victim to that pit as well. John was always dressed to the nines but he was a bit disheveled coming up out of that pit.


In the 60,s we were able to tender on the local OPP police car business and for several years we supplied new Pontiac Police cars and take the one year old, usually high mileage cars in trade. The new cars were shipped direct from the factory to the OPP Police car garage just off the Queensway in Toronto for conversion to Police cars. The local OPP would drive the car being replaced down for it to be stripped of its sirens, lights etc. and then drive home in their new car.  It was up to us to pick up that trade in car and bring it home for resale.  At that time they were all black cars with white doors and they just lightly sanded off of the doors of any Police car identification. In 1968 four of us decided to get away for a little fun in Toronto and pick up the used cruiser. One person drove us down and turned around and came straight home. My brother Alvin and a man by the name of Vaughan Harris who ran the local IAC finance branch in town jumped in the used cruiser and after a bit of carousing on Yonge Street we headed home. I was driving and on the 401 I missed the turn off for Kitchener. Drat I thought and as no cars were going either way at the moment decided to turn around and as it was dark did not realize the center median was actually a ditch and plunked the car on its nose, fan blades through the radiator. Truckers coming each way and spotting the white doors thought it was a Police car in distress and started stopping, at least two dozen of them. What a scene and what an embarrassment. As some gathered around the car I said I got to get this thing out of the ditch and with them shoving and me with the gas pedal on the floor out it came and I pulled it over to the roadside. One by one the truckers started to leave but along came a OPP car.  What to do! Quickly I walked up to his door and said I was bringing this car home from the Police car garage and it overheated and all these fine truckers stopped to give assistance and could you please tell me how far the next turn off is. Just a short piece up the road he replied and left. With that I cut off the fan belt and started driving away, got off the 401 and had to stop to let the car cool down. I spotted a house up ahead with a lot of junker cars sitting around and spotted an 8 year older Pontiac and with the owners help and a flashlight we pulled out the radiator and fan blades and put them on the 1967. Several modifications to rad hoses and cooler lines had to be made but when filled with water I was able to drive it home. What an adventure that was. Anyway with new parts and a lower front valance we were able to get it fixed up back at our garage. I really haven’t told many people this story about this adventure 56 years ago


In the showroom part of the Hamilton Street garage we had a row of show cases with glass windows held in locked with a key that we just left in the lock.  Wayne Tucker was just a little kid and lived above where Cravings is now. He would wander in to our back shop all the time. This one day he pushed the hoist lever and up went the hoist with Cornish Electrics new Dodge pickup on it. We always had to be careful with the pickups as their high cab could hit a steel beam when it was mounted on one particular hoist. Unattended, that hoist went up and put a large crease in the roof just above the windshield on the pickup. I can remember running after Wayne with an oil squirt gun as he was hi tailing it up the backstairs to home and safety.  Wayne decided one day to get even for his oil bath and he ran into the front showroom, turned the key on all the glass showcases and one by one they all crashed to the floor in hundreds of pieces. Wayne just kept running out a side door heading for home as fast as his little legs could go.. Eventually He went on to operate a successful repair garage with his wife in town. Dawn, Wayne’s wife, has proof read this story and has given us permission to print it and hope you get a chuckle out of it.


 Back to those show cases. The first two were full of cigars, peanuts, chocolate bars, chips etc: Craigies  Pool Room on the square was the local wholesaler back in the fifties. I remember going over to their place and Cueball McConnell would open up the trap door and I would go into the basement and pick out all the needed supplies. At the garage we also had two automated pop machines, one just Coca Cola and the other mixed sodas. In the bottom of that cooler Bud Harvey would keep us supplied with Chocolate milk in half pint and full pint sizes from Andrew Dairy.  We also handled Silverwoods Ice Cream Products.  We were kind of like one of the first convenience type stores as well as a repair garage and car dealership. I just loved that era.


I remember as a kid walking into the back shop after school and seeing this beautiful red ball sitting on a steel work bench and I just had to grab hold of it. It happened to be red from the torch a mechanic was using to get it off of a hitch.  Kurt Wall, the shop foreman grabbed my hand off, now stuck on the ball, poured a can of oil over my hand and rushed me to the hospital.  I never tried that trick again.


Verne Willis, a ship’s Captain who was from town was my father’s best man at his wedding. When Verne was in town they usually got together. Not long after the new garage was built on Hamilton Street, Verne landed in with a few hays down and went in Reg’s office and jumped on his lap while he was sitting in an office chair with wheels. They both landed on the floor in a heap atop of each other and laid there laughing their heads off. It was quite a sight. True friends!


Last story for the day.

It was a beautiful Saturday morning in 1952 when a black 48 Chevy Coupe pulled up to the gas pumps driven by Wilfred Peachey, a WW1 vet, with his wife Eva by his side. As I gassed up his car I told him about a 52 Dodge black coupe with very low mileage that we had for sale. Remember at this point I am 12 years old. He seemed interested and I got Alvin to look at his car and give me a valuation.  Wilfred thought it over and said lets shake hands on that deal. I had just sold my very first car, not knowing that several thousand car sales were to follow and that in 8 years time I would be marrying his Granddaughter.

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