Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A Young Man's Dreams Dashed with Tragedy in our home town of Fort William, Ontario

Thank you all for being patient....I've improved quite a bit since my eye surgery in Winnipeg and finally able to get back to some blog posts.  Thank you for all the well wishes......Dave
This is one I've been working on for some time....

HR&J doesn't usually delve into subjects like this, however this sad story is part of Canadian Lakehead Exhibition racing history, and after some research and donated photos, we can read about the most serious local accident in racing history here in our Lakehead cities of Fort William and Port Arthur.  NOTE: IT IS IMPORTANT THAT YOU CLICK ONCE OR TWICE ON ALL THE PHOTOS AND ESPECIALLY THE NEWSPAPER CLIPPINGS TO ENLARGE THEM.
We start with the dream.
In the photo below, taken in front of Wes and Jerry's Service station on 231 N. May St. (The Service Station is behind the photographer) is Wes Inkster, Jerry Whittaker, a very young Lorne Hay, and in the cockpit of Wes' 1934 Plymouth Jalopy (stock car) is also a very young Lyn McIntosh.  The car was just built and sported a new paint job with #13 and even white wall tires.

 The building in the background of the above photo no longer exists...there is presently an empty lot on the north/east corner of Cummings and May streets as shown here.
The photo below was taken at the same time as the one above, and shows that Wes & Jerry's was a White Rose station....and kitty corner across the street was Gibson's Bowladrome which still exists today as Superior Bowladrome.  Sitting in Wes' car is a very young Lyn McIntosh who would later go on to an incredible racing career of his own.

 Gibson's Bowladrome and in the today photo Superior Bowladrome, as mentioned is still there, but the restaurant that is there used to be separate from the bowling alley.  It was named Uncle Frank's Top Hat Coffee Bar and Billiards and was located at 214 N. May St.
Wes and Jerry's Service from the front and still yet another rear angle photo of Wes' #13.  The Service Station was located at 231 N. May Street here in Fort William, Ontario.

 This corner is and has been completely vacant for some time now, and will likely be used as a parking facility for the new Court House as needed.
A huge thank you to my friend DENNIS WINKO for donating the above photos for use on HR&J.
Another friend of mine who also acts as a proof reader for me, ALAN YAHN put together the following history of the addresses surrounding Wes and Jerry's Service.

Wes and Jerry's would be to the right (north/west corner), Jessiman Motors would be to the right (north) of Wes and Jerry's and on the south/west corner would have been Tom's Texaco at the time.

Here is Wes' car at the CLE track the first day he raced it.

 This is what an original 1934 Plymouth Coupe would look like brand new and the picture I edited below it is a "what if" photo.....
Wes had dreams just as we all have.  He wanted to be a great driver like all the rest of the guys who entertained thousands of people at the old CLE track such as Merv Dove, Louis Tocheri, Tom Dow, Barry Kettering, Louis Tocheri and the Massaro Brothers.
Sadly this would not happen.
Read on to see and read the clippings, well done by the editors of our newspaper back in the 1950's.  The following clippings appeared in local newspapers after that fateful night back in the summer of 1957.......


After the accident, many fund raising events were planned to assist Wes and his family with the huge medical bills, such as raffles, dances, dinners and concerts.  The beautiful dolls below were raffled off and someone made tons of little cars to sell that kids could paint up with their favourite driver's numbers and names...some shown below....

Here's a young fellow showing off his wooden car collection all painted up.  If someone knows who built these cars for the fund raiser, I would like to know who it was.....Thanks

The above clipping was taken from the Fort William Gardens roster of 1957.  The benefit concert held at the Gardens was incredibly well attended and local artists gave of their time to help the Inkster family.  Our cities of Fort William and Port Arthur always came together to assist others through the years.

 This final clipping was taken from the 1957 CLE racing program showing a thank you from the Wes Inkster Benefit Fund Committee

Wes' #13 Car shown below with some of the damage from his accident never stopped racing however, as Junior (Fran) Speer took over the car sponsored later by Master Cleaners and Tailors on Victoria Ave.  Junior raced this car for only one year as #13, and later changed the number to #21. 

Junior Speer continued to race the car for many racing seasons thereafter and even headed across the border to race on occasion.

 A year later this advertisement with an earlier photo of Wes taken before his accident appeared in the News Chronicle.  At that time Wes was the sole proprietor.

This photo of the same car as #21 and still driven by Junior Speer may have been taken in Superior Wisconsin at their track.
Wes had moved out west many years ago.
After much research we believe that Wes passed away in Medicine Hat Alberta on October 2, 2013 at the age of 78 years.
1957 however was an extremely sad ending to a promising racing career at the old Canadian Lakehead Exhibition Track in Fort William Ontario.
RIP Wes Inkster....Your story lives on............

Sunday, April 26, 2015

"STAND BY ME" - A little taste of life in our home towns of Fort William and Port Arthur, 1955, 1947, and 1925.....

It seems as we get older, we love to reminisce more and more about our childhood years, be them bad or good.  I am no exception to the rule.  As I get closer to my birthday this June and feeling a little melancholy...I looked through some old family photos and came across one that stood out from the rest.  You will see it below, but it reminded me of one of my old favourite films shown in the two posters below.  Being only 11 years old in the photo I could put myself in the same place and time as these kids were in "Stand By Me".

I was very fortunate as a child to have happy loving parents that let me experience all the wonders of growing up.  This following picture was taken on my 11th birthday with "Stand By Me" friends sitting at my birthday table.  They are left to right.  Myself, Robert Cameron, Donald Wheatley, Mike McGuire, and Meyer Toole.  These were my bosom buddies when I was 11.  I told my mother that I didn't want the typical family, and female school friends in attendance, just the guys I hung around with at that age....I was growing up, you know!!

So now...looking closer at the photo (I love to enlarge small old photos to see all the detail), We are all drinking "Mission Orange" Soda Pop with the motto "Naturally Good".

We are also eating my mother Noreen's famous burgers - what else what a kid want on his 11th birthday but Mission Orange, my mom's great burgers and a nice little birthday cake.

I truly enjoy the old ads too, but also at the back of the table in the above photo you can see my mom's little windmill napkin holder.  I actually found one for sale on an on-line auction shown below.  It is identical to the one I remember.
Click on all photos to enlarge them!!!

Here's the same crew again with my 3 year old sister.

The photo below shows our old home and the exact steps where we were sitting in the above photo. We enjoyed many play days at Vicker's Park at the end of the block, and made our own fun without any cell phones.  I remember spending most of the 4 seasons outside, no matter what the weather man dropped on us.....and YES - The two family photos above will be 60 years old this June.

GOING BACK FURTHER - 1947 - When my father was discharged from the Army, we lived in a little apartment on Ogden Street.  Here is a picture of me in my Melton Snowsuit in front of Ogden Street School (long gone now) - you know, the one like the kid wore in "A Christmas Story".  We all had them.  The photo below shows pretty much the exact spot where this photo was taken, showing the playground of the present day and new Ogden Community School playground. 

GOING BACK ONE STEP FURTHER TO 1925 - My father lived in the east end in those days and went to St. Peter's School which is no longer there, but all the classroom photos of the day were taken on the steps of St. Peter's Church.  The wooden steps and hand railings were upgraded over time to concrete and steel however.  If you click on the picture below to enlarge it more, you will see my father, Jon Stephen Cano circled in red near the top left of the photo. 

This is what St. Peter's steps look like today.

Thank you all for watching....Look for more old Canadian Lakehead Exhibition Racing photos coming up soon, as well as stories on some old drivers not previously written about in these blog pages.
In the meantime feel free to look through over a thousand photos of racing, local history and just plain local memories on these blog pages during the Hot Rods and Jalopies years.  
Click on the picture below to view a trailer and listen to "Stand By Me" - 
As fate would have it, 2 days after I posted this story, Benjamin Earl King aka Ben E King passed away April 30th 2015.  RIP Ben E King Sept 28/1938 - April 30.2015.  The most famous song he recorded on his own was "Stand By Me".

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Happy Easter Memories from back in the day when we lived in Fort William and Port Arthur.....

HR&J wishes you and yours A Very Happy Easter 2015 
We were always very happy kids and at Easter time it was always quite special.  Easter brought back thoughts of spring, green grass and leaves on the trees as well as tulips and flowers....but most of all because we could get our bikes out and enjoy the beautiful spring weather.  Scroll down for more!!

 Bugs Bunny was always my favourite Easter Bunny anyway, and here he is, driving his Hot Rod in "Hot-Rod Hare".
I still have a few of these 10 and 12 cent Gold Key comics.

I really like this 1959 Easter morning photo.....My sister and brother are chowing down on their chocolate getting primed for their hyper sugar high for the day, and here I am, already to head out for Church with a not so pleased look on my face while I wait for everyone to get ready.  I always wondered why my parents let them eat all that candy before we headed out as they were absolutely wild in Church.  I remember those Easter Baskets were around our house for years......and often wondered where they got to.  (Love the curlers in my sisters hair).

It's too bad this picture isn't a bit clearer.....Here it is 1962, and my sister and brother are all ready to head out to Church on this snow-less Easter morning on Arthur Street in Fort William.  The car with the visor on the right is my first car...a 1949 Chevrolet 2-door sedan.  In those days everyone parked on the street in the 1400 block of Arthur Street in Fort William.

Here is another snow-less Easter in 1953.  My Easter present was pretty much the envy of all the kids on the block.  I never did get a brand new bike until I started to work, but my Dad would pick up a bunch of bike parts, bring them to Kam Motors Body Shop (where he worked)  to repair, and Canary Trevisan, the painter at Kam back then would paint and pin-stripe the wheels and frame.  I was a pretty lucky kid because I had the only custom bicycle in the whole neighbourhood.

Don't forget the movies of the day included this musical..."Irving Berlin's Easter Parade".  My mom would force me to go to these musicals under major protest.  She figured she could drum some culture into my life....LOL.  Be sure to click on the posters for full screen enlargements.

Pretty hokey.....but this is how the musicals were in the 1950s......."Easter Parade"
Click to play then X out any ads etc...then click the bottom right hand corner to enjoy full screen.

This next picture is of no one we know, but thought it was of the same era and shows all the kids dressed in their Easter finery, including their Easter bonnets.....and Mom's and Dad's two Fords in behind.

So....Have a Happy Easter - from our family to yours.  Enjoy Easter with your family.......