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The Mural

At my Automobilia shop on MacEwan Street I have a 44 foot long mural that was hand painted by Peter Payne of Bayfield. The mural is based upon several photos, plus a page from the Signal Star.

The first part of the mural is from 1933. It shows the buildings at 69 Hamilton Street, just a couple of doors from where the tourist information booth is today. The leftmost red brick building was the shop and house for Gavin Green. Mr. Green was an antique collector, an author and a spiritualist. He was tall and lanky and resembled Abraham Lincoln. The house later housed the Gower family. It is now in a terrible shape of repair and should be torn down.

Right next to it is the Reg. McGee Garage. Reg’s brother, Jack McGee, originally had the Plymouth franchise operating out of that garage. In April of 1929 he and Reg. made a deal and our father became the garage owner. He specialized in car repairs, and the two men you see standing out front were George and John Hutchins of Goderich, both auto mechanics. My mother and father are pictured by the door with oldest son Leonard (1929-1980) in the doorway, and next oldest, Alvin on the window sill. (He is still perking!) Reg. continued as a sub dealer selling the Plymouth.

Reg. started with Shell pumps but Ross Scott, the area Sunoco fuel distributor in Brucefield convinced Dad that Sunoco’s “high test only” fuel was superior so he added Sunoco. As you can see in the picture, the two brands of gas pumps were offered side by side. This would never happen today! Sunoco far outsold the Shell so before long we sold just Sunoco fuels and in 1987 got rid of the gas pumps. (Thank goodness!)

In 1932 Chrysler upgraded Reg’s. franchise to that of a Dodge-DeSoto dealer. The car in the picture is a new 1934 Dodge.

What a start they had: The first new car fell through the floor and into the basement! And of course there was the start of the great depression. The thirties were super-tough times for everyone but business was much improved by 1939.

By this point car sales were great and repair business had expanded, but now that little garage was way beyond capacity. Reg. had started amassing property during the war years to eventually build a new garage.

Alas, along came WWII. Hardly any new cars to sell; just repairs, so the new building was put off till 1946.

At the newly purchased properties just behind the Royal Bank, we tore down Chas. Videan Feed and Seed store, Goderich Monument Works, Sam Lee Chinese Laundry, and Joe Mutch barber shop. Finally, construction began on the new “art deco” styled garage.

It was opened to great fanfare on July 29/47. CKNX barn dance group performed on a flatbed truck parked up under the canopy and there I was leading the group with a baton. I was seven years old and remember it vividly.

The mural includes a Signal Star article about the new garage, which was also featured on the front cover of the Garage Operator magazine as the newest most modern garage around, with the most up-to-date equipment such as overhead lubrication system, in ground hoists, etc.

The car in the picture was a new red Dodge convertible and was sold to Dr. N. C. Jackson of Goderich.

Reg. passed away in 1960 and shortly thereafter we had the opportunity to apply for the coveted GM franchise, which was granted to us on Jan. 22/62.

The final section of the mural shows what the Hamilton Street building looked like after we changed it to a GM franchise. I had the 2002 license plates painted on the cars just to date that picture and the cars.

It was one tough decision for Alvin and me to sign the contract to tear down the building, which was such a large part of our lives. However it needed major repairs, and for tax reasons, liability reasons, and property resale reasons, it had to go – so in 2004 we ended 75 years of doing business on Hamilton Street.

There are many more local stories and names that I could tell relating to that mural if there is an interest.

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