By now, many of my faithful readers know that I wasn’t able to go to the fall Tinchasers’ swap meet in Grimsby. It was an unfortunate irony that, after helping Don mail out the flyers, and after springing for an ad in Old Autos, I was stuck at home on the big day.
Several weeks before, I had come to terms with missing the meet. I knew it wasn’t likely that I could go. Back in September, I stumbled upon a batch of plates that I urgently desired for my collection, but the Kijiji seller was from Orillia and wouldn’t deal through the mail, even when I volunteered to send cash. The only option left to me—the ONLY option—was to make the trip from Ottawa to Orillia to pick the plates up in person.
My wife’s response was less than enthusiastic.
The Barrie Flea Market had only just happened a week earlier, and I had driven through Orillia to get there.
“So,” she said, “You’re saying that you want to drive BACK to Orillia when you were just there? Why didn’t you just get these plates when you were there last week?”
I explained that the ad had appeared on Kijiji after my return from Barrie. I also did my best to explain how important these plates were, and I wasn’t just going to re-sell them. I was lucky to have seen the ad—there were no pictures posted, and the text was sloppy, although it did provide the details that told me I couldn’t miss these plates.
“Have you ever thought of how much you spend in gas going to get these plates of yours?”
Sorta, but it’s a labour of love.
“So you expect me to watch the kids while you go away, on yet another weekend? I’m so tired of this.”
I never take my little journeys for granted, and I never dawdle when I do make them. It took a lot of convincing and pleading over a few days.
Ultimately, I agreed to sacrifice the Grimsby meet if it meant that I could go to Orillia, and I would complete the trip as quickly as possible, with as little time away from the family as possible.
Orillia is a five-hour drive from Ottawa via the most direct route, which follows the Opeongo and Monck colonization roads through much of its length. To minimize the impact, I got up at 3:30 am on a Saturday in mid-September, and was on the road with a full stomach and a full tank of gas by four o’clock. I drove down the highways, which were devoid of vehicles.
The stars winked down on me until I reached Hardwood Lake, when the deep red and orange hues of the morning flooded the sky behind me. Right after Highway 28 takes a hard left turn at a stop sign, there’s a meadow on the east side of the road that slopes upward before rounding over the top of a hill. It’s lined with century-old stone walls that begin at the highway and disappear in the distance over the hilltop, with a few huge trees dotting the walls. In the distance are taller hills, and then the morning sky. I slowed the car to a crawl so I could look. It was one of the most awesome views I’ve ever taken in. Sadly, I had no camera with me—just my cell phone—and I didn’t want to do an injustice to the magic I was seeing by carelessly pointing my phone in its direction. I carried on.
By the time I reached Bancroft, the sky had brightened, although the sun had not risen yet, and a layer of frost covered the town. I stopped for a coffee at an empty Tim’s on the western edge of town. I was in the store for a good ten minutes, and aside from the staff and myself, there was not another person to be seen. Of course, it was before six on a Saturday morning, but not even a cop or an early trucker stopped by.
I had made arrangements to knock on the seller’s door at 9:30. I texted him to confirm my ETA, but I was running ahead of my time, and at my current speed, I was going to hit Orillia before nine o’clock. I reduced my speed on the cruise control to eat up some time, and maybe save some gas at the same time. I stopped at a boat launch on the edge of a mirror-smooth lake. There was no wind, and no birds were singing. I’m sure the place was perfectly silent, but the constant ringing of my tinnitus prevented me from experiencing the silence completely. I consoled myself by whipping out my phone and taking a picture.
I ran into a patch of rain around Head Lake, and it didn’t subside until I was almost in Orillia, although I did get to see a cool rainbow. By then, it was still only nine o’clock, and I had half an hour to kill. I gassed up, ate a snack, and decided to stop by the seller’s place fifteen minutes early.
I knocked, but there was no answer. I waited around for a few minutes, and then tried again. Who knew—maybe this guy wasn’t an early riser. After the second round of knocks, I heard the yapping of a small dog on the inside, and the sounds of some voices. A Caucasian guy in a Rastafarian hat opened the door… he couldn’t have been any older than his early twenties. He was the seller with whom I had talked, and he had the plates with him. In our earlier dialogue, I said I was interested in buying the whole lot, and so he offered them to me at ten dollars each ($120 in total). I handed him the cash and he handed me the plates. He smelled vaguely of marijuana, and I wondered if that had anything to do with his insistence on dealing in person, or if that was what my cash payment would be ultimately be used to buy.
I took the plates to the car, called my wife to report the accomplishment of my mission, and headed back to Ottawa right away. I arrived home at about 1:30 pm.
So, what was so interesting about this batch of plates that I was willing to bail on Grimsby? Well, take a look.
Of the twelve plates I picked up, three of them were prototypes I had never seen before. The 1941 has 1942 colours, and it also has the four-zero format of two other prototypes in my collection from 1939 and 1940. The 1943 has delicate paint that’s flaking off on spots, but it’s still quite displayable, and now that it’s in my collection, it won’t be subjected to conditions that will cause more paint loss. It has powder-blue numbers on a creamy beige background. The sheen of the paint is fairly glossy, so it definitely didn’t suffer any sun damage after starting its life as a white plate with dark blue letters. It’s actually turquoise on beige. The most interesting plate in this lot is the brown 1947, ending in F. It was around this time that brown permanent Forces plates were introduced for military vehicles, although such plates are very rare. This one seems to be a prototype for these military plates, although it appears that the decision was not yet made to issue them as undated plates.
The other plates consisted of samples, with a couple of high-quality passenger plates thrown in for good measure. I am planning on making a display of samples and prototypes for the Rochester ALPCA Convention in 2014, and if it comes together, I`ll be using a good portion of these plates.
My collecting interests are so narrow now that I`m lucky to find one or two plates for my collection when I go to swap meets. To find a whole pile of them in one spot was extraordinarily lucky, and worth the pain of sitting out the Grimsby meet. While the meet was going on, we took the kids to the national war museum, and we had a great time—but I was thinking about you guys in Grimsby all the while.