This spring has been a tough one at work, and I’ve been feeling run-down at the end of the week. A nice day outside among old cars is extra-appealing at times like these. My son has been looking forward to resuming some fair-weather adventures, so he was raring to go. This is the first year since the departure of the AACA in 2012 that the Stirling market hasn’t been held on the same weekend as the Lindsay market or the Acton swap meet.
We booked a room in Trenton for Friday night. I chose the Ramada because it had a pool, which is ideal for my son Greg to burn off some energy. But after I checked in, I walked past the pool and found it empty. A sign on the door said it was out of order. I went back to the counter and asked if they could help a little on the price. Turns out that the price was already discounted because of the pool. It was a tired hotel with little to offer, aside from the jet fighter on display outside.
We arrived at the Stirling Fairgrounds early on a sunny morning. My son brought his wallet so he could buy stuff. He loves flea markets, but isn’t a plate collector like me. I don’t believe in grooming kids into parental hobbies. They should choose their own. He was more impressionable when he was younger, and I was careful not to push the hobby on him. I’m kind of relieved that he doesn’t care about plates. However, he likes guns, which I actively dislike. But I let him do his thing. He spent some of his money on an old toy pistol with a faux leather holster.
Stirling has borne surprises over the years, but it’s generally a better place to find YOM stock, and not so much for higher-end or older plates. The Acton meet, held the previous week, is sort of the reverse: There’s lots to see for older and rarer items, but the restorable YOM items are too expensive to be worthwhile.
I did find a couple of keepers on the field in Stirling. While completing my Ontario trailer run over the last few years, I completely overlooked getting a March 1970 plate. They’re very easy to find, and worth hardly anything, and I assumed I already had one. I’ve been looking since last year, but I didn’t want to fill the hole quickly and then upgrade later. I waited for the right plate. And so, in Stirling, I bought a short-numbered ‘70 trailer plate from a vendor I call The Spanish Lady.
She also had a diamond in the rough, to me anyway: A secondary highway 503 sign. The price was right, and I snapped it up. It was a light aluminum trapezoid from the early 1970s, and Greg was only too happy to carry it for me. Highway 503 doesn’t exist anymore; it’s now known as Haliburton County Road 503, and has different signs. I travel that road a couple of times each year, and I’m now quite fond of the area (my favourite stop there is at Furnace Falls).
I ran into Bernie Angi, and later on, Scott Craig. I had earlier seen a '37 trailer plate on the field that I knew would interest Scott, so I described where the seller was and gave him a bit of info about the seller. I saw Terry Ellsworth on the field talking with a vendor (I didn’t want to interrupt), saw John Hayes from a distance, and I spotted Martine Stonehouse’s van with its distinctive SAM-PLE plates.
I stopped at the Solmes plate bus to browse, and I bought a few YOMable pairs that had not been restored. I found a nice DAD plate on the ‘73 Ontario base. It will replace a lesser one in my collection. I didn't buy much else, but I really enjoyed the chance to walk around and take pictures.
The Solmes plate bus, a fixture in Stirling. Always worth a look, but the prettiest plates are generally repaints.
The "DAD" plate I scored at the Solmes bus. Photo taken by the little guy who calls me "Dad."
A 1970 or 1971 Volkswagen Bug engine lid, inexplicably decorated with a 1999 Newfoundland trailer plate.
One of the hard-to-find illuminated Toronto street signs. At $275, the price was a bit steep, but see if you can find another one! Yonge is arguably the most iconic street in Canada. I already have an illuminated Toronto sign, though... mine is less-iconic street (King), but the civic address can't be beat (1). I left this one for the next guy.
A couple of short-numbered plates, but they don't help my collection, so I left them behind.
Bernie told me about these, but he warned me that the price was a bit steep.
The concealed plate was pretty badly rusted. Overpriced at $100.
An interesting box that looked just as old as the plates used to make it. The paint is scraped, but shows great colour... Clearly this box spent much of its life indoors.
I painted these plates over ten years ago. Still looking great!
By about lunchtime, we had gone around the field and we were ready to move on. We drove to Glen Ross to check out lock number 7 on the Trent-Severn Waterway. Spanning the lock is an old, rusty swing bridge: A relic from a rail line that had its tracks pulled up long ago. That same line crossed the Trent River, and the river bridge is still intact. There were several people fishing from it, so we walked up to take a look. There are no warning signs, but the six-inch gaps between the ties reveal the rushing water below. We explored very carefully. The concrete bridge piers had been placed on an oblique angle relative to the bridge itself. The piers tapered into a point on the western side, angled perfectly to split the rushing water.
We were in no rush to get home, so we meandered along some quiet county roads. We stopped at the bridge in Chisholm’s Mills and admired the settlement’s namesake bygone Purina factory, built with its foundation jutting into the Moira River.
Later, we travelled into the region east of Tweed that was devastated by a tornado last summer. Mature pines and maples were just snapped like matchsticks. I’ve passed through that area along Highway 7, but the colonization roads reveal a different perspective.