The Agricultural Side of McGee Motors
Updated: Feb 22, 2022
Reg. McGee was born in 1891 to a large family on a 50 acre plot of land on the North East corner of what was to become Port Albert Airport.
Eventually he started farming in Kingsbridge, and in 1927 married Della Dennis.
His brother, J.W. McGee was operating a car business and repair garage at 29 Hamilton Street in Goderich and sold that business to Reg. in April 1929 and he continued with the car repairs and as an agent for Chrysler Corporation.
They suffered through the depression years but things started rolling well by the late thirties.
Because of his love of farming, Reg. purchased 50 acres of land across from where L.H. Jenkins recyclers is now; from a Mr. John Graham; and then immediately purchased the 150 acre Gundry Property that abutted this making a nice 200 acre parcel of land. The first family to live in the farmhouse and manage the farm was the William Fowler Family - They were not there that long before the Charles Mathers family took over this job, followed by the Art Thomson family who were there a long time. The last family was the Earl Feagen Family. Eventually the very first pit silo in the area was built at this farm. It was known as Green Acres and the barn was green and had white fence posts with green tops. It was a beautiful looking farm! It housed cattle, horses, pigs, sometimes sheep, and had its own hen-house.
There was also a large apple orchard and a prime wooded area complete with a dam Reg. built and stocked with fish.
Many farm animals were taken in trade by Reg. on car and truck deals and he now had the place to put them which suited him just fine.
I personally remember one deal, when at twelve years of age he took me with him to a German family who lived just outside of the village of Blake. Reg. had taken in a late model Oldsmobile and was trying to sell it to this farmer. Finally he woke me up around midnight where I had fallen asleep on a couch in the big farm kitchen, as they had made a deal.
No money changed hands, but in trade for the Oldsmobile we had a stuffed pig, two vats of homemade wine, a pony with cart and a beautiful 1932 Buick Sedan with dual side mounts which we drove home in that night. That is the car that put a lifelong bug in me for antique and classic vehicles.
Another trade tale was Reg. taking in a flock of sheep on a new truck from a farmer near Ripley. As he started driving down the lane way he met the neighbouring farmer and ended up selling him the sheep. Sometime later, the first farmer said, why did you sell my neighbour those sheep? Reg. replied, with a grin – well he told me the sheep were grazing in his fields because of your poor fences, so I might as well buy them. I hope they both got a good laugh out of this!
One last tale. Reg. and Art, with me in the back seat went up to Lucknow to see Reg’s Cousin, Albert Cook about a deal on some cattle. When they got the deal done, Ab reached into the haymow, pulled out a bottle of whiskey, and all had a good gulp. They drove up from the barn to Abs house and when he got out, Reg said “ Ab we had better have another drink on that deal” and with that reached down under the seat, pulled out a bottle and with Ab taking the quaff, finished the whiskey. Ab says “ That was good Reg!”
Reg replied “Glad you liked it Ab because that was your bottle from the haymow”, and then tramped on the gas to speed away. I am looking back through the rear window as Ab threw the empty bottle which bounced off the rear fender of our car.
In the meantime Reg. had purchased 100 acres of grassland just up the road a piece. Then in 1947 Port Albert Airport was put up for tender by Great Britain. Reg. had tendered the highest amount at $8000.00 and now owned 400 plus more acres of land.
He now had lots of land for his treasured Herford cattle and built a quonset building on one of the hanger foundations to house cattle there all winter.
My brother Ron and I would have to drive up in an old stake truck on Sundays, loaded with hay to feed the cattle and make sure the water trough had not frozen.
At the airport we had daredevil shows for awhile, leased the runways to the London Sports Car Club who held many races there on weekends.
In another deal we ended up with another 200 acres of land that was owned by the Hugh Hill Family, located near Sheppardton, Reg. used this land also for pasture for his Hereford cattle. It was ideal as it had a natural spring half way back, but there was some boggy bushland at the back. I remember as a kid riding with my Father in a new Dodge, Army style power wagon, looking for a lost calf - we eventually found the calf mired in mud.
By the time, J.I. Case Farm Machinery was added as the war had created a huge demand. Reg. had built a new dealership that opened in July of 1947, at 37 Hamilton Street and it seemed at the time that there was a lot of room for the machinery business as well. My brother Alvin looked after this more than anyone else, the sales, the setting up of the machinery with the help of farmhand Art and so on. Also, Choremaster garden equipment, Lil Beaver garden Tractors and huge Seaman Tillers were brought into the fold. We also sold James and Whizzer motor bikes. All of the secondary pieces of equipment and the bikes were purchased through a wholesale outfit called Duke Garden & Farm Equipment. They were located just east of Hamilton Ontario.
By 1950 a large quonset building was built behind the family home facing Picton Street to house the machinery and provide a place for setting it up. It still stands and you can still see our name on the upper front of the building.
The demand fell off greatly and in the 1953 the Implement Agency was discontinued.
Reg. and Della both loved horses and showed them at fairs all around the area. Alvin competed in jumping contests winning many awards and eventually Ron became one of Ontario’s best sulky drivers. These horses were housed in Goderich beside the machinery building in a stable which still stands today but as a small house.
Reg. by now was most interested in the farming end of the business as we four boys had all entered into the car end of it. Rambler was added on in 1958 because of quality problems with the 1957-1959 Chrysler products and AMC with their compact cars were coming on strong.
Reg. passed away on February of 1960 and shortly thereafter, Brother Leonard became president and a decision was made to change to the General Motors franchise which had become available.
However, - That is a whole other story!