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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.

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Updated: Jan 15

I was watching TV and playing on my phone on Sunday night when I received word from Don Goodfellow and Dave Colonna that longtime collector and faithful ALPCA member John Rubick had passed away the previous day. I stared in disbelief for a few seconds. I might have tried to argue with what the news was telling me. Then I could feel my brain start to rewind through my memories of John. I became lost in thought.

Promoting the hobby. Photo from the files of John Rubick. Click any photo to enlarge.

John wasn’t into the online world that many of us have entered. But really, he didn’t need it. He was of an earlier generation who knew how to write a letter and work the telephone lines. He cultivated relationships with his elected representatives. That’s how he built his collection. That’s how he aided other collectors. That’s how he promoted ALPCA. That’s how he helped “start it all” in Ontario by co-hosting the first swap meets for plate collectors.

On the prowl, documenting the Queen's plate while on tour in Canada. Photo from the files of John Rubick.

John spent his career as a welder with Hodgson Steel in Niagara Falls from 1957 until his retirement in 1998, for a total of 41 years. He worked on the famous Skylon Tower in Niagara Falls during its construction in the mid-sixties. It was about that time that he joined ALPCA, and his membership in the club was announced in April of 1965 as the 611th person to join. He remained a member in good standing right up to 2024… a remarkable 59 years!

Promoting the hobby again. Note the "ONT" hat. Photo from the files of John Rubick.

John used to tell us that Hodgson Steel received large amounts of unused plates to be melted down into new products. John was a persuasive man, and wasn’t afraid to ask around when he wanted something. While he could have asked his boss to keep a few of the surplus plates, he had his eyes on bigger prizes. John was well-versed in the issuance of Ontario plates through the 1960s and 70s, and he began contacting MPPs and ministers. His goal was not only to source some high-end plates for himself, but to have the hobby recognized and respected by the powers-that-were in Queen’s Park.

Note John's carefully-worded promotional display: IF MAD, VISIT RUBICK. Clipping courtesy of Dave Steckley.

John was a key part of developing the plate-collecting hobby in Ontario. He was a member of the little-known OLPC (Ontario Licence Plate Club), which was founded in 1972 by Mike Hathway. Hathway hosted a very small meet that year. John thought the idea of a Niagara-area swap meet was worth pursuing. He teamed up with two other Niagara-area collectors—Bob Cornelius Sr. and Bob Baker—to organize such an event, which occurred October 27, 1974 in St. Catharines. The ‘74 meet was successful enough that further meets were planned. John hosted the next documented meets in Thorold, on July 8, 1978, and again on July 12, 1980. A news reporter attended these latter two meets. It is quite possible that more than three of them occurred. Information and photos about Ontario meets in this era are scarce, and current-day Ontario collectors are eager to see if more info comes eventually to light.

High-resolution photo courtesy of Bob Cornelius Jr. Original article from the files of John Rubick.

Dave Steckley's haul of mint lefotovers after his1973 visit to Queen's Park. Photo courtesy of Dave Steckley.

John was instrumental, along with the two Bobs, in writing and calling their MPP to convince the Minister of Transportation and Communications to allow a small number of collectors to visit Queen’s Park each spring to get mint leftovers! Dave Steckley fondly recalls that each collector was required to make a separate appointment with the Registrar. Dave's first annual trip there was in 1973. He drove his little VW Bug into the bowels of Mowat Block to access the plate room pile. He came out with about 700 plates, and wondered if his floorboards would withstand the strain. Thanks in no small part to John’s talent with writing letters and working phones, there were a few return trips to Queen’s Park over the years. You’ve surely seen the fruits of these efforts: 1972 Doctor and Consular Corps plates? Mint snowmobile plates from 1973-1975? Mint moped plates from 1976 and 1977? Motorcycle plates throughout? Thank you, Johnny Rubick!

Always an ALPCAn. Photo from the files of John Rubick.

John was an unabashed supporter of ALPCA throughout his time as a collector. He wore ALPCA hats and T-shirts to promote the hobby. He contacted news outlets regularly and was dressed to impress when the reporters showed up. His philosophy was to promote, promote, promote the hobby far and wide, to media, to MPPs, to local offices… to everyone, because you never know what can happen. The proof of that was all through John’s collection: His most prized treasures were his prototypes and Lieutenant Governor crown plates. He kept his ear to the ground, and took several important pictures, documenting the use of special event motorcades and political VIP Ontario plates.

Left: Royal Visit motorcade, 1981. Right: Lt. Governor's plate, same era. Photos from the files of John Rubick.

The first time I met John was at the 1998 ALPCA convention in Niagara Falls, New York. I was a wide-eyed, 24-year-old collector who had been in the club for 3 years, and really, I'd seen nothing yet. My mind imploded when I saw John’s four huge display boards: Two were filled with plates from his passenger run, the third was loaded with old samples and off-colour prototypes, and the fourth was a who’s who of error, special event and VIP plates. He had Lieutenant Governor plates for most years from 1963 through to the 70s. There were invert error plates, Premier’s plates, summit plates, special event plates, Royal Visit plates, and—to my utter amazement—a Royal Visit error plate. The man was clearly a living legend, but he was gregarious and enjoyed educating me about… everything. I didn’t have enough film in my camera to take all the pictures I wanted. It was there, from John, that I acquired a 1961-1963 Ontario prototype plate. He had a couple of them left in his trade box.

A portion of John's display boards, Niagara Falls NY ALPCA Convention, 1998. Photos by Jon Upton.

Special plates on John's display boards, Niagara Falls NY ALPCA Convention, 1998. Photos by Jon Upton.

John attended Don Goodfellow’s first Niagara-area swap in St. Catharines in 2003. He always had mint leftovers to sell, and he often brought show-and-tell items. In 2004, he “released” some mint brown military forces plates from his archives, and I bought one, which I still have. That year, he displayed a couple of his longtime favourites: Number X1 courtesy plates that were issued to Roy Lawson, the Ontario Lt. Governor from 1946 to 1952. John had the plate from 1949, which would legitimately be a Lt. Governor plate, pre-dating the “crown decal” plates by a decade. Lawson evidently still had some pull after he left the post in 1952, and was issued the same number, X1, in 1954.

John's Lt. Governor courtesy plates, as seen in St. Catharines, 2004. Photos by Jon Upton.

John attended every second or third meet in St. Catharines and Grimsby. If he didn’t attend there, he’d occasionally make the trip to Acton, so most of us would generally get to see him about one year in every two. In 2016, John attended Grimsby, but wasn’t really himself. He waved me over because he wanted me to make an announcement on his behalf. John had remained close with Bob Cornelius Sr, who had been hospitalized for some time, and things weren’t looking good. John told me the situation so I could relay it to everyone else. Because of that, I knew to take hold of Bob's MTO-100 plate that had been set aside as a surprise, and I was able to make the drive over to Bob’s house to present him with his plate.

Detail of St. Catharines 2004 group picture. John has his Trinidadian plate upside-down. Photo by Jon Upton.

As the online age dawned and more collectors used the Internet to further their collections, John continued his own grassroots promotion of the hobby in the newspapers. He knew how important it was to spread the word, and he did so marvellously. He didn't just stick to the Niagara-area publications; he reached out to larger publications and received national press. Many now-veteran collectors learned about ALPCA by reading newspaper articles like John's.

Left article: Welland Tribune, John Rubick files. Right Article: Ottawa Citizen, Jon Upton files.

I spent some time with John at the next Grimsby meet he attended in 2019, which would also be his last one. He was in high spirits and back to his gregarious self. He brought his photo albums for show-and-tell, which I didn’t remember him doing before. I wanted to hear about the “golden era” of Ontario collecting in the ‘70s and ‘80s, about which we, as a community, have precious little info saved. I took a lot of pictures that day of Johnny’s photos and clippings, some of which adorn this article. I photographed a portrait of the gentleman himself, holding one of his favourite promo photos. John really liked that picture, which made me happy. Truth be told, John was the one who suggested to Don and I in 2019 that a bigger meet venue was in order, and that's what ultimately brought us to the new venue a few miles up the mountain in Grassie.

John in Grimsby, 2019, posing with one of his favourite old shots. Photo by Jon Upton.

Unfortunately, that was the last time I saw John in person. He did attend the Vineland outdoor meet in 2020, but the pandemic had hit and I couldn’t get there. Although I missed him, John sent me a custom-made face mask with licence plates on it, not unlike the ones on his favourite vest. I attended Vineland in 2021, and John was hoping to go, but he wasn’t feeling up to it. Those of us who were in Vineland signed our names on the back of a 1933 Ontario plate—a birth-year tribute to him—and Don brought it to him after the meet. John was very touched and thankful.

John's 1933 tribute plate, signed by those who attended Vineland in 2021. Left photo: Don Goodfellow. Right photo: Jon Upton.

John continued his media magic in the summer of 2022. Dave Colonna was looking to promote the Vineland meet in the days prior, and he got in touch with a reporter from the St. Catharines Standard. When she asked about having a photo session to illustrate the hobby, Dave sent her straight to John Rubick. John dressed up in his brightest licence plate shirt, and brought the photographer on a tour of his home and collection. The printed article featured included only one small picture of John, but the online version had more images, and Johnny was sure to get reprints of all the best poses.

Print edition news clipping and accompanying press photos from Jon Upton files.

John wasn’t well enough to attend the new Grimsby meets in Grassie for 2022 or 2023. A few folks went to his house in Thorold to wish him well afterwards. I wished I could have gone, but now that I’m helping Don organize the meet, there’s a lot of tear-down and bean-counting that we have to do before we leave, and then I’m faced with a 5-hour drive home.

A few weeks after the '23 Grimsby meet, John received a letter from the RCMP, congratulating him on another milestone: His 90th birthday. The Sergeant Major who wrote to him kindly enclosed a commemorative RCMP plate, commemorating the 150th anniversary of the force.

A present from the RCMP on John's 90th birthday. Photos courtesy of Don Goodfellow.

Flowers from Krystian on behalf of the community. Photo courtesy of Krystian Kozinski.

John's journey through this life would end just a few weeks later. He was a pioneer of plate-collecting in Canada, and Ontario in particular. He never rested on his laurels. He was too busy organizing meets, writing letters, calling reporters, renewing his ALPCA membership, and enjoying the fruit of his longtime work in the hobby— not to mention being the family pillar to his kids and grandkids. Krystian Kozinski and Don Goodfellow attended the visitation to represent all of John's plate-collecting friends who couldn't be there. Krystian's flowers and note were a nice touch.

We collectors now enjoy two significant swap meets in Ontario each year, but John helped to set the example long before. It's safe to say he got the ball rolling around here, and I’m sure that many of us will continue to benefit from his example and ideas. Rest in peace, Johnny.

Remembrance art by the Rubick family. Photo courtesy of Krystian Kozinski.

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