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First started as "My 2 Cents" in 1997, I have written posts numbering into the hundreds. It will take some time to resurrect the older posts, so keep checking back. They will include meet reports, travelogues, and news of interest to Ontario licence plate collectors.

Mileage may vary in Barrie

Updated: Oct 3, 2020

After passing on the Barrie Automotive Flea Market this past June, I cleared my calendar enough to guarantee myself a trip to the September installment. I figured that I owed myself some play time for mental health’s sake. It was a very busy summer—not at all relaxing—and it was an opportunity to escape, for however brief a time. Other people choose to escape in more conventional ways—I prefer to paw through junk to look for treasures.

By 9 pm on Friday night, I arrived at my campsite across the highway from the market. My site was missing its picnic table, which I needed to cook my dinner on my portable stove. I brought my gear over to the gazebo near the entrance of the grounds, and realized that I hadn’t bought any batteries for my lantern, which had been dark for the past three years. I put my nocturnal culinary skills to work and whipped up some Klik and beans by candle and starlight.

The following morning, I arrived at the main gates just past opening time at 7 am. I’m always torn by starting at this time—most vendors are still closed, and I miss them until I comb the top end of the field in the afternoon. However, some of my best finds have been early in the day, and that’s the way it worked this year… my first collectible find was a pair of Ontario ham radio plates, on the 1973 base, for $4. As a bonus, the callsign featured the letter G, which wasn’t a letter that was used on regular issues. These plates were destined for my collection, as my previous ’73 ham was damaged back in the day when someone carved a name into the front of it.

I came across various vendors with plates as 8 am approached. One vendor, who had some plates that I would eventually buy, had a great example of how not to repaint a plate. It was only eight bucks, but taking a picture was cheaper.

I located a snowmobile cowling with a brand-spanking-new registration sticker, dated December 2010. I’m not really into those, but I know Dave Steckley is. I did actually bump into Dave—three times, actually—and he apparently saw it, as it casually mentioned that he took the time to remove the sticker from the cowling for his collection.

As far as additional collectible plates go, I didn’t find much else during my combing of the fields. However, the YOM pair hunting turned out to be pretty good, and I exploited my mind for numbers to the tune of about 17 possible pairs. Many need restoration, but that’s all part of the fun of selling pairs to the classic car crowd. I also have a relatively new interest—Volkswagen parts, for my recently-purchased 1971 Super Beetle. I bought a couple of taillight reflectors, a window crank, something else that I can’t remember, and a speedometer to restore. I rebuilt four or so speedometers last fall after I inherited a bunch of VW parts— and I’ll still do it to stay busy.

Roy Solmes’ familiar green bus returned to the field this year, but without old Roy. It seems that he’s still finished with vending, but his son appears to have resumed the sale of plates. I don’t often buy from Roy, but occasionally he has had some stuff of interest, and of course, there’s the time that Eric and I bought him out in Stirling a couple of years ago. I didn’t pick anything up from him this year. I did stop by Dick Patterson’s spot, and he did have a few items that sparked my interest, but he already had a long lineup of folks waiting to wheel and deal. I moved on, meaning to return, but as it happens so often at Barrie, I became sidetracked with other things.

I found quite a few possible YOM-clear pairs of plates on the field, and out of 17 that I brought home, 15 were clear and warranted restoration. Unfortunately, one of the bum pairs was a 1963… I just can’t seem to find 1963 plates to supply to my YOM customers. I did happen to find two others, which are in the process of being restored.

Speaking of YOM plates, I was strolling through the show car field on my way out, looking for examples of YOM plates in use, when I found a 1930 Model A, sporting plates that I had sold only a few short weeks before. The car appeared unoccupied . The plate had been mounted with a cool AACA topper, as well as a small tab above the plate to allow space for the validation sticker. I don’t know why more people don’t do this when they don’t have a convenient corner to use, rather than sticking it either on its side, or in the middle. In any event, this was only the second time I had ever encountered a set of my own restorations—the first time being three months before at the car show in Kemptville.

I took the usual scenic route home toward the east, but I made a detour that added an hour to my trip, out of curiosity. I drove through Foymount, which is the highest-elevation settlement in Ontario, and was home to a listening station on the Pine Tree Line during the cold war. The military closed their operations there in 1974, and many buildings have remained derelict ever since. It’s a popular site, apparently, for “ghost town” enthusiasts, although I only shot a few pictures in the dying overcast light before heading to lower elevations. It’s a beautiful drive there, though. Try it sometime.

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