Yes, I went to the Barrie Automotive Flea Market once again this spring, held at the one-and-only Burl’s Creek Family Event Park. And, in a continuing theme from the spring of 2011, it was a wet affair.
I drove through some spotty rain on Friday evening, and had to swerve to avoid turtles that were awakened by the rain and crossing the road. Actually, one of them was more like one of those giant tortoises you see on TV. It was a couple of feet long and just lumbered across the road. I flashed my lights at oncoming cars for a mile afterward to get them to slow down.
I met Eric Vettoretti at our reserved campsite after dark and managed to pitch my tent despite not being able to see. The stars were out, but we had both packed our rain gear, and for good reason. The forecast said that rain would begin overnight, continue through the morning and end around noon. Well, the rain did start sometime in the night, and I was awakened by its incessant drumming on my tent. I figured I might not stay entirely dry, but I was too tired to care.
I finally awoke in daylight and shed my sleeping bag, having had a puddle on it for much of the night. I was dry for the most part, and I packed up my gear before unzipping the tent and stepping outside into a lake. Our entire campsite was covered in standing water, with the notable and fortuitous exception of the seven-foot-by-seven-foot square that I had chosen for my tent. If I had pitched it anywhere else, I would have been flooded.
Eric and I got to the flea market fields by seven-thirty. Many vendors were still closed up, with their eyes pointing skyward in a pointless attempt to find more precipitation. Eric had combed the fields the previous afternoon before I arrived, and noted on his map the vendors with license plates of interest. When we hunt for plates together, we pool everything we find and then take turns selecting. It takes the stress out of the hunt, so we can concentrate on just getting the best stuff possible and figure out who keeps which plates later on.
One vendor on Eric’s hit list was selling a pair of ’57 plates the previous day that Eric had been hesitant to buy. We decided it was a good deal, so we went back to the seller’s plot—but everything was covered with tarpaulins. No matter, we figured—it’s still early.
We combed the fields methodically and found—well, not much. Vendors were either closed or had common rough plates that didn’t interest us. On the south side of the market, in all of the red and green fields, we found a single vendor with anything of interest. He supplied Eric with some PCV plates for his run.
We returned to the ’57 seller after a half hour, and there was still no sign of life. After another half hour, still no sign of life. We asked his neighbours if they had seen him—the answer was “no” all around.
We combed the fields some more, had a bite to eat, and admired a 1911 Cadillac, safely secured inside its container, and screaming for a set of 1911 porcelain plates. It was for sale for only $125,000—it was accompanied by a news article from some automotive newspaper that said it was sold in the 1950s for around $2000. Now, sixty years later, it’s worth sixty times more!
We returned to the ’57 seller another three times, and each time, he was closed. Our exasperation was mounting—it was noon on the busiest day of the event, and of all the vendors we really wanted to see, he was the one who was gone. We talked to another of his neighbours, who said that he had dropped an outboard boat motor on his foot while moving it, sometime the previous evening. The injury looked bad, and he speculated that he and his partner were at the hospital.
Eric and I checked out the sparsely-populated show field. It hadn’t rained again, but the grass was still wet and it seemed that the local show car owners didn’t want to risk a downpour, since the clouds were still a uniform gray. We did spot a couple of autos with YOM plates, including a two 1965s and a 1948 Plymouth. One owner had bolted a red 1968 truck plate atop the historic plate on his ’68 Dodge. Eye-catching, yes… but not at all accurate from a historical viewpoint.
It was time for Eric to go, so we split our pool and squared up before he drove off. We suffered a brief downpour of rain, but it was finished within ten minutes, and people were keen to stay open so they could wheel and deal. I still had a couple of hours before I had to leave, so I combed the fields some more.
I went back to the ’57 seller, and this time, and a younger guy was there with everything uncovered. He was on his cell phone-- I just showed him the plates, which were marked with a price, and handed the money to him. After seven hours of chasing after these plates, it took all of ten seconds to buy them, and I didn’t even utter a word. I also bought a 63 pair from a different vendor I hadn't seen earlier-- he was only just unpacking his plates for the first time that day due to the rain.
I took the long way home going counter-clockwise around Lake Simcoe. I had a time set with a couple of Kijiji sellers that were along the south shore of the lake—I bought a nice set of 65s and two 1967 pairs between both sellers.
From there, I took Highway 35 / 121 through Fenelon Falls. I stopped at a local pizza stand and ate a slice while sitting next to the lock on the Trent-Severn waterway. It’s a cute place; I’d never been there before. I saved my dessert for the Kawartha Dairy ice cream stand in Bancroft, about 90 minutes later. It was a pleasant evening and the weather stayed dry, so I didn’t have to worry about the big turtles on the way home. I didn’t have enough plates to make that familiar clattering sound, but it was still a nice trip. It always is.