Garages memorabilia invokes motoring heyday

By Willa Wick in Community, Motors, Places, Events, & History

When was the last time you pulled up to the pumps and asked for two dollars worth of gas (and if the kids were lucky left with a five cent ice-cream cone in hand)? Do you remember the wooden steering wheel, the hood ornament that doubled as a radiator cap and temperature thermometer, or fancy steel license plates and hub caps?
The MacKenzie family owned and operated garages in town, and the late Grant MacKenzie, as well as being a historian, lived and breathed the auto industry. He saved everything he could, and son Kim has put together a display which contains some surprising information. This exhibit, which forms part of the Harriston Historical Society’s “travelling museum” will be showcased this month in the window of the NAPA / Ideal Supply building.
The recently-formed committee, aimed at recording and preserving artifacts of Harriston and surrounding community, has been incorporated and will now be officially recognized as the Harriston Historical Society. The goal of the organization is to find a permanent location to house collections. The current direction is to demonstrate to the public what is already available. This is being done by monthly displays in various store windows throughout town.
Hopefully as a result of these shows, it will be a reminder to families that they may have something which would be of interest to the society. Contact any of the ten board members to discuss your interest. Names and telephone numbers are included with each display.
One of the more interesting items on exhibit this month in the NAPA building is a radiator front from a 1926 McLaughlin Buick. Mounted on it is a collection of hub caps – one from every make of car produced in 1926.
Encased in a shadow box is a complete set of six tools, all that was needed for automotive repair work in those early days. Photographs of many of the garages as they appeared in the l920s, ‘30s, ‘40s and later are also included.
The display included a picture of William Hutchinson standing beside the first gas pump in town. Oddly enough Mr. Hutchinson originally worked in a piano factory in Ingersoll but came back to town in 1921 and put a pump in front of his son Tom’s tire repair business. This was located where Evergreen Variety sits now. Over the years this small service centre relocated a couple of times, first across the road and then finally down to what is now Lucky’s Chinese Restaurant.
One of the posters carries a list of the various garages in service in the 1960s. It is interesting to note that there were 13 in operation at one time, most with gas pumps, and now 50 years later, except for the card lock station at the Co-op, one has to go out of town for fuel.
Harriston has two long standing auto dealerships. Walter Grosz, after a stint working in Drayton as a mechanic, moved here and opened Harriston Motors in 1927. It has operated from several locations in town, and has been a family-run business for 83 years.
In addition to the NAPA window display, Ron Leslie (also a Historical Society board member) is setting up a Ford Motor Company display in the windows of the dealership. Harriston has the distinction of having the longest-standing Ford dealership in Ontario and the Leslies are proud to uphold that tradition.