Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Jack's Switch Engine and preserving vintage tin in our home towns of Fort William and Port Arthur, Ontario.

I've always wanted to tell this story....most of it is fact but keep in mind that some is somewhat hearsay.  I've been told this through the years and believe it to be the truth.  The story will develop into wondering why us gearheads preserve vintage tin.
The story begins in 1927 when a young man named Jack Merlin came to Fort William with his father at the young age of 3.  Jack and his family lived in Montreal, as his father was working for Canada Car and Foundry there.  His father was promoted to Superintendent of the Fort William plant in 1927 so off they went to make their home here at The Lakehead.  Jack himself began working at Can Car in 1941 at the age of 17 and retired in 1989.  During this time two important things happened.....
Firstly he had an affinity for old cars of which he purchased his first at age 12.
Secondly, during his tenure at Canada Car and Foundry he had purchased a General Electric Diesel/Electric 44 ton switch engine from the then Great Lakes Paper Company, which he had stored at Can Car for years.  Near the end of his years there and when it became Bombardier, the switcher was still stored there.  He felt that he had kept it all those years so why not take in home...which he easy feat.
...Now when you travel west up Oliver Road and not too far before Murillo....look to your left and you will see Jack's train on a short piece of track set back on his may also notice a few old vehicles along Oliver Road near the train, however what you can only see from aerial photos thanks to google earth are literally 100's of vintage cars there mostly from the late 1940's to the late 1960's.  I had the privilege about 12 years ago to visit Jack's collection with my old friend Clarence Merko, and was blown away by the massive amount of fully intact cars in there, and apparently none for sale...mainly because of their accessibility....I hope that someday, Jack's family might let people in to see this collection much of which may or may not be now some photos.
The original Great Lakes Paper 
Mill and Woodlands Logo.
This is one of the many Great Lakes Paper's Original switchers
but not Jack's.  This one is #128 and the GLP logo is shown on the side.

Here's GLP #129 - not Jack's either.

This is what you will see as you head out west towards Murillo on the south side of Oliver Road.

To the left is a close-up of Jack's train on the property and the photo on the right is the same engine - a GE44 Ton (again...built by General Electric between 1940 and 1957).  This engine was also used in Europe during the war years.  The paint scheme had changed somewhat but it was the Great Lakes Paper engine.  The window configuration is exactly the same.

The next photo shows approximately where it is located on the Merlin property and also shows the massive amount of cars from a Google Earth photo.  Oliver Road runs east and west along side the property on the left.  The top of the photo would be east and the right would be south.
 This next photo is a similar photo turned showing Oliver Road along the top....left is west and right is east.
 Jack Merlin was a great guy, and the visit that Clarence and I had those many years ago was very memorable.  I remember seeing Jack at auto auctions around our city and was always likely to win with his bid.  I must also mention that Jack ran "Merlin Motors" in 1960 as well as working at Can Car.  There is no phone listing in the 1960 phone book, so if any of you remember where Merlin Motors was, I can add that to the post.
The next part of this post is firstly a story that was posted on this blog in January of's a great memory written by my friend George Rogers who now lives in Winnipeg......It is about the excitement in finding an old piece of junk when we were kids which was always elusive as we were either run off someones property or we could never afford it at the time.....this falls in line with all the vintage tin still on Jack's property....still elusive to this day.
Please click on this link to view the post then return for the rest of the story.... Field of "A's"

This is a photo of the guys wife who wouldn't let us kids purchase the cool potential hot rods.
 This final group of photos are a few of my own field finds and what they became over the years
'32 Ford Coupe before from Mankato Mn.
My '32 Ford as it appeared in American Rodder magazine in 1995.

This Old Stock Car Chassis
....and this old stock car wreck
from about 1954
 The Chassis and Body parts on the left were restored to the modified race car here.  This was another check mark off the bucket list.

Many of you have already seen the before and after of the model A sedan I drive.

Last is my present Model T custom started as the partially primered sedan in this field of dreams, but took me way to long to finish to the "Thai Teal" sedan you see in the last photo below.

Thank you to Jack for preserving that diesel engine and all those great cars...thank you to George Rogers for the impressive local story and thank you to all those who held back from scrapping all that tin and saved a few pieces for guys like myself to resurrect them into something new again.  It's been a fuel tank's almost on more projects for me.....LOL.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Some CLE Memories in our home towns of Fort William and Port Arthur (Thunder Bay)....

The Canadian Lakehead Exhibition here in our home towns of Fort William and Port Arthur was always a huge annual event.  We as kids could barely wait until the CLE started, and the excitement for children is still there today.  In the old days however, everything was BIGGER and BETTER..... Many factors have caused the CLE to slow down somewhat for reason's I do not understand....just the fact that the race track is gone is pretty disappointing in itself, as the fair hosted many types of entertainment that could be viewed from the huge grandstand which actually held thousands of people, such as the Thrill Drivers, High Wire acts and of course our original Jalopy Stock Car Racing which began in the 1920s and ended at the fairgrounds in the 1960s with the demise of our 1/2 mile dirt track.  There were many more booths and displays than there are today as well, and many more people attended in the day.
Here we have a little collage of the CLE's south/west portion of the fair grounds, which includes the CJLX radio booth.  The Dave Ross colour photo dates 1961.  The "On the Air" portion of the collage is from Mike Wolowich dated 1959, and the Big 5 portion is my own from 1965

The Royal American Shows hosted the rides after the second world war back in 1947, and "The Death Dodger's" entertained at the racetrack.  They also gave away 60 attendance prizes culminating with a 1947 Mercury Sedan. Car giveaways continued into the early 1960's.  The fair board gave away cars every night and actually gave away a home in the early 1960's which exists to this day on High Street. 

Looking closely to the right of the Port Arthur and Fort William buses at the turn around terminal on Fort William Road, you can see the famed Co-Op Milk Bottle.  "Meet me at the Bottle" was actually printed on the bottle and it became THE meeting place for many, or even a place to find mom or dad if you got lost at the fair.

The Bottle and a ticket I saved from 1963........

Here's a couple of photos of a bear and it's trainer at the milk bottle in the late 1940's

Here's a close-up of the inside of the Milk Bottle showing all the 5 cent prices.  
Do you remember purchasing a "brick" or a "1/2 brick" of ice cream from the milk bottle?

The bumper cars were always my favourite....These old metal bumper cars are extremely expensive to purchase today if you can even find one.

...and Finally of course was the fabulous CLE stock car racing.....I can still smell the dirt and the fuel today.....Oh to go back....wouldn't it be wonderful...  I hope you enjoyed this little flashback of the old CLE days.....D.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Lunch Bunch BBQ....featuring living legends of our CLE racing days....Louis, Merv and Glen

Much thanks to Roger Rickards for hosting a memorable BBQ at his place with our typical "Lunch Bunch" group and three very special guests.
...left to right - Louis (Bobcat) Tocheri (The Scrapper), Glen Kettering (The Doctor), and Merv Dove (The Gentleman).  As Roger mentioned in his Facebook post...Merv later went on to be the flagman at Riverview Raceways.
They are holding models of the cars they raced at the old Canadian Lakehead Exhibition race track that I built about 40 some years ago.  I didn't have one for Glen's car so he his holding a model of his brother Barry's famous #47 (Bud's Thing)....(RIP Barry)
It was such a pleasure to have these living legends with us on June 24th this past Friday, sharing their memories and escapades.

 The following photos are of the real cars featured above.
Barry and his #47

Merv's Maple Leaf Service Car....

Below, you can see that we did this once before with Merv and Louis at a Canada Day BBQ at Ron Limbrick's place 13 years ago almost to the day.  The suggestion for the boys holding the models was my friend Alan Yahn's......and the funny part is that Louis Tocheri wore the same "Alaska" ball cap 13 years son Jay had noticed this....Louis must love cool is that.

The following photo is Louis and his #19 typically causing some controversy in front of the old CLE grandstand noticeably filled to overflowing with facing fans.
Louis would say that the racing promoters would encourage a scrap or two in front of the grandstand, and once told me that it was all orchestrated until Tony Massaro accidentally poked him in the nose ...then the real altercations began....which lead to the best entertainment ever.....thousands of fans would pack the grandstand every Wednesday night.  Great memories.
Our host Roger Rickards with Jerry McKenzie

Yours truly with the living legends...
 Click on all the photos for enlargements...

Two of Glen's Cars

Glen with foot on Barry's cut down '34 Ford

Merv looking a little disappointed here....

Merv's Maple Leaf Service Car......

Merv's pit Crew....his brother Reg on the right (RIP) and I worked together at Shell Oil on the Island in the day.

Louis Tocheri and a very talented young mechanic Lorne Hay...Louis said he
was one of the smartest mechanics he ever had.  Lorne went on to be Lyn
McIntosh's mechanic, and assisted many other stock car jockeys of the day.

Louis' BOB-CAT....

Merv and Bob

Dave and Glen

It was such a beautiful day on Friday that we brought our old cars out.  I picked up Louis at his home in my hot rod....he loved the ride over and said it reminded of the old racing days.  
We all enjoyed ourselves very much, and "the Boys of Summer" did also...thanks once more Roger for hosting this special event.