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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.

2020 Highlights and Outtakes

I suppose that, after three years, I’ve established an annual tradition here at The Back Bumper… a 2Cents installment for all those little pictures that just didn’t fit anywhere else. In previous years, it hasn’t taken that much work to actually find pictures to use. But with 2020 being the train wreck that it’s been, there’s been very little to photograph. I’ve taken almost none of the journeys I might ordinarily take to gather plates for my collection. As for what few pictures I do have: Most have been used on previous 2Cents posts through the past twelve months.

Somehow, I still have a few pictures that either went unused, or saw a limited shelf life on social media. So grab an egg nog, relax, and read at your leisure.


Before all this pandemic stuff arose, I had to toe the line during a series of one-day strikes in January and February. Teachers like me spent those days picketing on the sidewalk, wearing long underwear and stuffing hot-shots into our gloves. Picketing isn’t very exciting, and it’s easy for one’s mind to wander. As I moved along the sidewalk, I had a “Sesame Street” moment where I found a number nine on the ground. It was a slim, blue nine, from an Ontario licence plate (or maybe its life ended as a six). It had peeled away, and dangled from its mother plate for a few months before it finally fell off in traffic. It eventually found its way to the sidewalk. I was bored and had nothing better to do at that moment, so I took a picture.


I went to Toronto in February to visit my pal Mark, who is an actor / filmmaker there. We attended a festival screening of his new short film, The Paperboy, which he co-directed and wrote. It’s based on his years of delivering the local news throughout the Sault Ste. Marie neighbourhood where we grew up. The two lead characters were based on the two of us. It was filmed the previous summer in Toronto. The film opens with a slow montage of neighbourhood scenes with locals jogging, playing, relaxing with a beer, or — in the case of this fellow — washing a classic Corvette. The story is set in the mid 1980s, and I was privately pleased that the car was fitted with a period-correct Ontario licence plate. Of course, a plate geek knows that the MAL series would have been issued in 1977-78, but there were still lots of spiffy late-70s plates on the road in the mid-80s. The film was played twice at the screening, and I was ready with my camera when I saw the Corvette for the second time.


That same weekend in Toronto, I stopped at a bar-and-grill for brunch before leaving town. I picked Squirrely’s, which has a big, old Crouse-Hinds traffic signal hanging in the front window. This signal is a rare type from, I believe, the 1940s and 50s. The backplate comes in three horizontal sections, one each covering the red, yellow, and green portions of the signal. Each section of the backplate is integrated into the sun visor for each lamp. There are horizontal seams in between each section of the backplate, giving it a panelled appearance. The signal at Squirelly’s has been painted a dark bronze colour. It’s switched on during the day, and greets hungry / thirsty customers and passers-by. I’m sure thousands of people walk past that signal each day, not paying much attention to it. But it’s a rare example; I know of no others that survive, and I can’t even find another picture of one. It stayed dark on the morning of my brunch, but with the help of Google, I found a couple of pictures of it alight.


A couple of years ago, I bought an old Eagle traffic signal, but the backplate was fairly bent, and several of the screws holding it to the signal head had snapped. It was going to need some hammering, new screw holes drilled and tapped, and a paint job. That was more work than I was prepared to do right then, so I stuffed it away. In 2020, a distant relative, James, was kind enough to snag a better one for me locally during the first lockdown. We eventually met up in the summer, so I could pay him for it and bring it home. I spent a day pulling out the old wires and soldering new ones in their place. I did this for both signals, so I could sell the lesser of the two more easily. Here they are, side-by-side.

When the keeper signal was ready, my son helped me mount it on the wall in the garage. I previously had a smaller GE Canada signal there, so I had to move one of the mounting arms in order for the Eagle to fit. Here we are with the Eagle in all its mounted, light-up glory, after a hard day’s play in the garage.


The Merry Dairy is a small business in my neck of the woods. They make their own ice cream, in all kinds of cool flavours. My family goes to the shop fairly regularly. They operate a small fleet of Grumman trucks that pass through the local neighbourhoods and sell soft-serve. This past summer, the owner added a truck to their fleet, and they bought another set of vintage Keep It Beautiful plates from my small YOM business (ordered and registered as personalized, with the truck legally wearing the vintage plates from me). When I dropped the plates off, I spotted their older truck, wearing a street-legal set of plates that I sold them in 2019.


My garage is pretty small and utilitarian. Most of the wall space is used for storage, but I hang a few plates near the door leading to the house. Nothing terribly special, but enough to admire. The JU-96 plate features my initials, plus the year of my first ALPCA Convention. Joe Sallmen found that plate for me in 1996. The Paraguayan plate comes from the city of Benjamín Aceval. It looks (and rusts) like an antique, but it was issued in 1999, and I found it for five bucks at the 2009 ALPCA Convention. WFA-983 was the first-ever plate that I collected in 1984. HJ7-658 is a truck plate that was issued in Sault Ste Marie, which I later used as a base for a pair of coat hooks (the tape is an old note from my Dad when he mailed it to me years later so I could use it in my apartment). 6430 is a repaint; it’s the product of an early practice session. The E-99998 plate has an illegitimate sticker stuck to it; so do the retired 7135 vanity plates. The Ottawa bike plate is purple because I painted it to match my daughter’s new bike many years ago. The others don’t have a story.


One of the few new acquisitions to my collection in 2020 was a pair of 1936 Ontario truck plates. They’re a late issue, with no front-mounted locking date strip, so both front and rear plates are the same. They were embossed with 1937 dies, which are slightly different than those used for either of the more conventional 1936 truck plates. If you look at the bottom stroke of the 7 of the late-issue pair (72256), it terminates toward the bottom centre. In contrast, take a look at the non-tab plate of the regular-issue pair (37441): The bottom stroke of the 7 terminates on the left side. The bottom stroke of the 7 in the locking-tab plate terminates at the bottom centre—though it’s obviously a narrower die set—which shows that there are three possible die sets to be seen on 1936 truck plates.


This isn’t an exciting picture… it’s just a 1943 plate on my workbench, after having had its characters repainted. Oranges are difficult colours to nail. It would be perfect if there was a “school bus yellow” colour of brush paint, but all I have is either canary yellow and “Home Depot” orange. Mix the two, and a weird shade of salmon results. The best I can do is get a spray can of school bus yellow, spray a bunch of it into a jar, and try adding stuff to it until it looks right. And yes, it does take some green to do the job. I hate mixing this colour, because spray paint congeals quickly and doesn’t spread well. I’ve been on the hunt for the correct colour in a brush can for years… Still looking.


My son and I are in the late stages of our COVID lockdown hair in this picture. He’s a creative kid… always drawing or building things. He decided to make a 1921 licence plate, but he didn’t know what one looked like. Rather than ask me, he just let his imagination wander. I must admit, a tri-colour design is cool for any older plate. When he was done, he asked to see a 1921 plate, so I dug out my favourite one.


I stumbled upon this old Studebaker truck while on a country drive with my son. We randomly stopped in Newboro, not far from Westport. The truck was just sitting in a grove of trees, still wearing its last plate: A quarterly that expired in December 1970. Although the truck clearly hadn’t been operational in decades, it also hadn’t been sitting for long where we found it. The only time Google Street View passed through Newboro, the truck wasn’t there yet.


Don Goodfellow found this 1925 truck plate for me and sent it to me as a surprise gift. His only request was for me to send a picture if I ever cleaned it up. Scrapes and nail holes aside, it was in decent shape… the paint had been dirty for a long time, which seems to have protected it from humidity and dew. I washed it with soap and water, gave it a brief bath in oxalic acid, and then polished it with coconut oil. Here's the before-and-after. Thanks, Don!


Speaking of oxalic acid, here are a couple of before-and-after pictures from the only “batch” acquisition I made in 2020. This pair of 1918 plates was a little pitted, but it had great original colour, and the oxalic acid bath (short and carefully watched) got rid of the rust stains. It worked well on a yellow 1919 plate, too… There wasn’t much colour visible under the oxidation, but I managed to improve the condition by a couple of notches.


I unpacked the aforementioned “batch” that I purchased in July and posed them, tile-style on the floor, for a picture. Some have been kept for the collection or restoration, and some have been swapped away. The rest have been squirrelled away in a box for sometime in 2021—hopefully—when I might be able to attend a swap meet again.


In August, Dave Steckley visited Ottawa with his wife Evelyn. He did the antique shop circuit, although there’s not much going on aside from the haphazard Rideau Antiques. An impromptu, outdoor, physically-distanced gathering ensued at Eric Vettoretti’s house. Dave Grant was able to drop by on short notice. The outdoor gathering limit at the time was 25, and so we only reached 20% of the maximum, with Evelyn included. Dave and Evelyn brought a QEW sign for Eric, which he found at Aberfoyle earlier in the month. With the four of us there, we settled a few other predetermined swaps. We had a few boxes of traders between us, and plenty of space to lay them out on the lawn.


While at Eric’s house for the spontaneous backyard swap, I was ecstatic to receive two additional #25 “Good Roads” plates made on the Ontario factory line. Eric managed to locate and acquire them, and they arrived just in time for Dave Steckley’s visit. I brought my other four Good Roads plates and posed them with the 1932 and 1934 from Eric. These two plates are definitely my most important addition for the year 2020. I’d love to find a 1933 someday.


I stayed as active as I could in August, and took my son for another road trip where we encountered a scrapyard in a forest. I already posted most of the pictures from that trip (including one of Bill and Lynda Thoman during our visit with them later in the day). Here are a couple of extras. We didn’t unbolt any plates that day. Although they seemed to be within the finders-keepers domain, they were pretty rough and it was cool enough just to find them.


My spare time evaporated in September when school restarted. There’s been very little opportunity to engage in the hobby since then because of the way the school year has been reorganized because of the pandemic. However, Thomas Zimmerman bought a set of 1956 plates from my YOM site, because his dad is restoring a ‘56 Volkswagen Bug. In keeping with contactless porch pickup methods, Thomas can be seen here giving a thumbs-up upon receiving the plates for his father over the Christmas holidays.

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