By J. Alvin Speers – Calgary, Alta.
In 1951, I made my second trip West when harvesttime came. An older gentleman and another young fellow were driving out from our Ontario homes. I asked if the driver had room for me in his vehicle and he replied, “Yes, sure.”
A few days later, the driver came to my job site. I asked him when he was leaving and he told me he’d pick me up at my house at 7:30 the next morning.
I was too excited to concentrate on my work. I wanted to sing. At noon I told the boss that I had to take the afternoon off to pack and would like to pick up my paycheque around suppertime as I was leaving for the West. That was acceptable and home I went, walking on air.
I rounded up what clothes I would take, went up town to pick up an item or two I needed from the stores, and packed my suitcase for the trip. I got paid and everything was set.
On a bright August morning, sunny and grand, I put my suitcase in the back of the pickup, climbed in the cab with my two friends, and we were off.
Compared to the monotony of travelling alone on the train the year before, this was great. Three of us driving in a nearly new truck, stopping to gas up, eat, or view points of interest, made it a lot of fun.
Welly, short for Wellington, drove at a steady, sensible pace just under 50 miles per hour, up hill and down dale. Most people passed us but it didn’t worry him. The other chap, Herb, didn’t drive so I occasionally spelled Welly off, but he drove most of the trip. It was enjoyable. We pooled expenses, each one paying their fair share.
This was more new scenery for me – the highway was quite different from the railway right of way I had seen the year before. We kept going west instead of taking the all-Canadian route, and crossed into United States, another first for me, at Sault Ste. Marie. Upper Michigan was in all its late summer glory.
At Emerson, Man., we reentered Canada and went north to Winnipeg where we swung west again. The Trans-Canada Highway was still under construction.
The prairie was as fascinating as I remembered from the year before, and every mile was exciting. It is 61 years ago so some of the details are beyond recall, however, isolated incidents remain as clear as though it happened yesterday.
Sunday morning west of Winnipeg, after an early start, we discovered we needed gas. We pulled into a hamlet and found the only service station where we rattled the door and beeped the horn until a second storey window was raised by a man in pajamas to ask us what we wanted.
“Can we buy some gas?”
“Alright, I’ll be down shortly.”
We waited and waited. Welly periodically checked his watch.
He being a down-to-earth fellow would have hauled on overalls and come down, had he been the proprietor, to serve a customer without ceremony. Not this garage operator. He took what seemed like forever and didn’t make appearance until he was washed, shaved, hair slicked down just so, fresh shirt and pants on, boots shined, and laces tied in bows.
Welly was fit to be tied. He had his ‘slow and steady wins the race’ schedule to keep and deemed this unnecessary delay. He was so angry that, instead of filling up the tank, he bought $3 worth of gas to ensure arrival at the next town’s pumps, and we left.
At least the guy was all decked out ready for his next customer!