Sometimes, when you get the call, you have to accept the charges. Such was the case this month for Dave Steckley, Eric Vettoretti, and myself.
As life goes on, the individual situations of collectors can change. Some lose interest. Some need to raise funds for other things. And some are faced with the need to downsize, prompting their de-facto retirement from the hobby. It’s inevitable for many of us. Longtime collector and Acton meet co-host Gary Edwards reached the decision earlier in the summer to dispense with his collection. He reached out to Dave, who subsequently reached out to Eric and I, and the three of us got to work.
We each took a private turn at valuation, and as it turned out, we were all in the same ballpark, which made negotiations pretty easy. The collection was high-quality, with mostly Ontario plates, and mid-era Northwest Territories. There was relatively little that each of us could use to add to or upgrade our collections, and there was no conflict of choice between the three of us. Our joint offer was accepted, and all that was left was the fun part: Dividing the spoils. But how to do it?
The collection was in Brampton, which was closest to Dave, so he was the natural choice to take possession. The Vineland swap meet, coming up in a week’s time, would make for an ideal setting for the three of us to meet up. But unfortunately, that wouldn’t work: Eric would be on a family vacation by then, and I’d be tied up prepping for my own family vacation, to start a few days hence. Neither of us would be able to make the 5+ hour drive from Ottawa down to Niagara. So we came to a happy compromise: We’d meet up someplace halfway between Ottawa and Dave’s home in Acton. And so hatched the plan for our swapping Belleville rendezvous.
We would need about three hours to divide the loot, so we started looking for a public park with a covered picnic area in case of rain. There were a few in downtown Belleville, but there would be many passers-by, and the city would require us to rent the space if we were going to occupy it for such a long time. We wanted something free, and far enough from the beaten trail to be private. We settled on the town park in sleepy Rossmore, just across the bridge from Belleville in Prince Edward County. We picked a date and set out to meet at the park at 11 o’clock.
One of the side-items I had arranged to get from Gary was a King’s Highway 2 shield. It used to be the “Route 66” of Ontario before it was mercilessly downloaded in the late 1990s. Only one stub of Highway 2 officially remains: A mile-long stretch just north of Gananoque, needed in order to connect the on and off-ramps to and from Highway 401. Those ramps are fairly distant from each other because of the unusual geometry at the eastern 1000 Islands Parkway interchange. We had to drive right past there on our way to Rossmore, so of course I stopped and photographed the only “2” shields remaining in active service.
Dave arrived in Rossmore, with his wife Evelyn, about 15 minutes before we did. Dave had the boxes laid out in the shade on the three picnic tables. We greeted each other happily, grateful that it was a comfortable, sunny day. We had a couple of unrelated, pre-arranged swaps to take care of first. Then we chose a box and started laying the plates out on the table. In order to divide things fairly, we tried a modified version of the round-robin format that Eric and I have been using. But instead of two people alternating choices, the three of us would take turns. We gave Dave first choice, in light of the legwork he had done in taking pictures and later picking up the plates. Eric won a coin toss, so he took second pick, and I selected third.
There were only two porcelain plates—and three of us—so I received first pick in the second round when we started a different box (which got me a 1944 short trailer plate). We had a master list and wrote our initials beside our choices, so that we could keep track of the realized value for each member of our trio. It was stress-free, and lots of fun. As we emptied each box, we started new rounds and took turns choosing first. There were seven rounds in all: Dave chose first for three of them, and Eric and I each got first choice for the other two rounds. As it happened, the porcelain plate that Dave selected happened to be the very first one that he ever owned. He had swapped it to Gary decades earlier.
Evelyn graciously offered to do a Tim’s run for us partway through the process. We stopped for a break when the sandwiches arrived. Rossmore turned out to be a great choice. It was a very quiet area, and we only saw one other person in the park the entire time. There was a strong breeze to keep us cool, although it upended a few of the lighter-weight plates as they were laid out on the tables.
When we got to dividing the later lightweight aluminum plates of Ontario and NWT, we laid them out on the grass to keep them from flying in the wind. Then we did a box of various Canadian, US, and international plates. We finished with a set of ALPCA Convention souvenir plates going back to 1992. Three hours later—not including a lunch break in there somewhere—we were finished splitting up just over 300 plates.
Dave and Evelyn had a visit to make to friends in the area, and I had to get home, so we said goodbye and hit the road again. Highway 401 would be even busier than it had been previously because it was the Friday before a long weekend. We had already witnessed a stunningly stupid driver slowing down to about 30 and then crossing three lanes of at-speed traffic just to make a non-essential lane change. I had to jam my brakes hard to avoid a collision. I decided to head north of Belleville on Highway 62 and then take Highway 7 back to Ottawa.
Highway 7 is a much more relaxing route, but the area between Madoc and Kaladar had been hit by a EF2 tornado a few days earlier. It cut a path of destruction going from west to east, roughly parallel to the highway. There was a temporary sign warning of debris on the road. While the highway had been cleared of fallen branches and trees, the landscape up into the hills had been flattened. I had driven this same route two weeks earlier, and the difference was like night and day. I captured a few images from my dash camera to compare with some “before” images from Google Maps.
Location 1: South side of Highway 7 at Genereaux Road.
At left, image from Google Street View, 2021. At right, the same spot after the 2022 tornado.
Location 2: South side of Highway 7, just west of Potter Settlement Road. At left, farmstead and surrounding forest. At right, the same property after the 2022 tornado.
The house still stands, damaged. The barn and surrounding forest have been flattened.
Partial track of the tornado's 55-kilometre path, with locations 1 and 2 shown (about 6 km apart).