1996 RETRO REPORT

1996ggRICK @ the RACES (RETRO REPORT 1996)

EPISODE # 30

1995, was the ‘Young’ families first full year in Canada, and it had been a difficult one, as we struggled to get established in our new country.

By the end of that year I’d found a steady truck driving job working out of Ottawa, while Pat had got a waitress job at ‘The Ashgrove Inn’ in Barrys Bay. Our winter entertainment was once again centered around watching the Pembroke Lumberkings hockey games.1996a

As we went into 1996, our second full year, I was still happily driving for Fly Transportation on a dedicated run to Espinola in Northern Ontario for the paper mills of Ottawa. I’d take an empty trailer up to Espinola, then load up with wood pulp to bring back. It was a challenging job on a tight schedule that involved traveling along the Trans Canada Highway in all weathers. The route was often treacherous during the winter snow storms and it was a truck driving job that separated the men from the boys.1996b

( I digress, In recent times a TV series about Ice Truckers became popular which got viewers gasping , but in my opinion, that was ‘nothing’ to the ‘white out’ conditions we had to endure up in the mountains near Matawa, Ontario).

The job paid pretty well, but the big downer was the location of the companies terminal. It was situated in the east end of Ottawa and it involved a two hour drive in my car from Combermere before I could start my work shift.

We began to look for somewhere to live nearer to my work, but house prices in Ottawa were out of our reach. The western outskirts of the city were also more than we could afford, so one day in February while I was at work, Pat and Carla took off to explore the property market east of the city.

They called into the towns along the Highway 417 corridor and checked out the real estate companies. It was a long drive from Combermere and they had to stay overnight in a Cornwall motel while doing so.

When they returned from the trip , they had a short list of places we should go and look at, on my next day off.

We decided to check out two of them that were quite close to each other and only a short distance from the St Isadore exit of the 417.

The first one at Dunvegan we quickly dismissed, where as the second one  in Maxville, we all liked.

On our return to Combermere, we phoned back to the agent and made an offer. In the meantime, we had to wait and see what transpired.

By now it was the beginning of March and there was still a lot of ice and snow on the ground. At this particular time,  OPSEU, the union responsible for the workers who plowed and salted the roads were taking industrial action, which obviously made the highways very treacherous .

In the early hours of Monday March 4 , I arrived home in Combermere from a three day work shift out in the truck. The roads had been bad, and I was tired and ready for bed. As Pat got ready to start her breakfast shift at the Ashgrove,  I laid down to catch up with some sleep.

I’d just dozed off, soon after she’d left for work, when there was a knock at the door. A lady stood on the door step who I didn’t recognize, and she began with the statement, “ Ive got some bad news” . “Your wife has been involved in an accident, but don’t worry, she’s OK”

She told me where the accident was, and I quickly set off in the Plymouth (which was the car I used for going to work).

Just before Barry’s Bay and close to the Mt Madawaska Ski Slope, I came across the crash scene . The Pontiac had slid into the path of an oncoming logging truck. The car was demolished and the truck had gone off the road into a snow bank.

There was no sign of Pat, but one of my truck driving friends , Sean Clancy ( who , we coincidentally bought the Pontiac from) was on the scene and told me not too worry, Pat was OK , but they’d taken her to hospital.

The Barrys Bay hospital was close by, and I was there within 10 minutes.

In a small community like that, word travels quickly and Pat’s cousin Terry was already there sitting beside her when I arrived.

Unbelievably when you take into account the state of the car, she only suffered minor injuries, with a cut finger and sore ribs. Luckily as the car slid on the ice, it had spun around sideways and the passenger side took all the impact. I’m glad she had no passengers !1996c 1996d 1996e

A photo of the accident appeared on the front page of our local paper, ‘Barrys Bay This Week’. (Tuesday March 5 1996)

Pat was allowed home soon after check ups, while the car was flat bedded to a garage in the town. I went along later to take the attached photos.

The Pontiac was an insurance write off , and because we needed to be a two car family, a replacement had to be quickly found. We liked the Pontiac, so decided to stick with a big car, and bought a 1985 Oldsmobile 98 Regal from a garage in Arnprior.1996f

During the Easter Holiday break ( 5/6/7 April) we drove the Plymouth Reliant down to Morris Plains NJ to visit our friends Pete and Laura Mayhew. ( Pete was an old stock car friend , who used to race BriSCA F1’s in England)

We stopped at their place for a couple of nights and on Saturday 6 April we all drove down to New York City for the day. 1996gOur first port of call was Jersey Island where we got a ferry boat over to the Statue of Liberty. We went in side and climbed to the viewing platform.

After this we returned in the boat to where our cars were parked, and I took a picture of the group with the Manhattan Sky Scrapers in the background. 1996hAs you can see from the attached photo, the famous ‘Twin Towers’ of the World Trade Center are clearly visible. Sadly after the atrocities of the 911 terrorists attacks they are no longer there.1996i

We then drove to nearby Hoboken where we parked the cars once more and took another ferryboat to Manhattan. After spending a bit of time over there we drove back to Pete and Laura’s place. We returned to our home in Combermere on Easter Monday.

The offer we’d put on the Maxville house was excepted and the place became ours on April 26.

By now Carla was attending the Barrys Bay High School and we didn’t want to disrupt her education, so kept the rented place going until the end of her school year ( 21 June) .

In the meantime I would gradually move our stuff over to Maxville. Each time I set off to work in Ottawa, the Oldsmobile would be loaded up, then after my shift, I’d drive on to Maxville to unload it. I did this until the end of June when the lease on the Combermere house was up, and Carla`s school year was over.

By then, we only had the big stuff to move, and just one trip borrowing Phil Foubister’s Pick Up truck was sufficient.

Maxville is a small town about a 45 minute drive from Ottawa and about 30 minutes from Cornwall. It’s best described as a small ‘oasis’ of Scottish heritage in an area of a predominately bi lingual French Canadian population.

The town is now famous for its gathering of the clans, at the annual Highland Games. These are held each year on the Maxville Fairgrounds, which were formerly a Speedway track.

I guess I moved there too late !

During the time that I was gradually moving our stuff over , I occasionally stayed the night in Maxville  and on one of those occasions I visited another new race track.

The Frogtown Speedway at Hogansburg NY was just across the International Bridge from Cornwall, and on May 5 they had a rare Sunday afternoon show for Dirt Modifieds. ( they normally ran on Saturday nights) I went along there, and the Frogtown Speedway became the third track where I witnessed the Dirt Modifieds in action.

When I visited the Brockville Ontario Speedway in 1995 I picked up a copy of the National Speedway Directory and at the start of the year I wrote off to all the local Dirt Modified tracks to get the 1996 schedules.1996m 1996s 1996v 1996w

One of the tracks I contacted , Autodrome Granby in Quebec, not only sent me their schedule, but also two complimentary tickets.

The late Bob Gatien was the promoter and he’d personally signed the tickets that he sent me. We’d now been living in Maxville since June and on Tuesday July 9, we took a family outing to Granby.1996r

Normally Granby ran on Friday nights but this was a mid week Skoal Super Dirt Series event. 1996xI can’t remember too much about that night, but the record books tell me that Brett Hearn was the winner.

I’d now been to four Dirt Motorsports sanctioned tracks, Two in NY, one in Ontario and now one in Quebec.

The Cornwall Motor Speedway was now my nearest track and I finally got to see my first race there on July 28. I was still on the same shift pattern, working every other weekend, so it meant I could only get there once a fortnight.1996p 1996n

1996qOn August 11, I was back at the Cornwall Motor Speedway once again. This time it was a family outing, as we had visitors from England.

Our long time friends Colin and Kim Herridge had flown into Toronto and rented an RV. They drove up to Maxville to see us at the weekend, and had parked it in our front garden. Of course, on Sunday night we all went along to the races, where Buzzie Reutimann of Florida took the checkers.1996t 1996u

Tuesday 20 Aug was conveniently one of my days off and on that occasion a 358 Super Dirt Series race was being held at the Frogtown Speedway. I went over the International Bridge early that day, and in the afternoon I remember talking to top driver Steve Paine, prior to the races in the St Lawrence Shopping Mall parking lot in Massena.1996j 1996k 1996l

Alas , this event turned out to be my first experience of a ‘rain out’ . Half way through the night it started to rain and the event had to be postponed to Wednesday 28 Aug, the following week. This was something new for me , because in England we raced, regardless of the rain.

Another negative thing I discovered about North American racing was the extra money that the tracks charged to enter the pits. Very few stock car tracks did this in Europe, and it was something I wasn’t initially willing to do. As a result, it meant that I took very few photos around this time. My camera wasn’t good enough to get action shots from the grandstands and I didn’t want to pay the extra to enter the pits.

On Sunday Aug 25 I was back at the Cornwall Motor Speedway where once again I was accompanied. This time I had Pat’s cousin Terry Staal with me, who’d driven over from Combermere to pay us a visit. The winner again, that night was # 00 Buzzie Reutimann.

The postponed Frogtown race, now rescheduled for a Wednesday ( 28 Aug) worked out well with my shift pattern, and fell on my day off. I was able to attend and use my ‘rain check’ ticket. Danny Johnson of Rochester, NY was the winner that night.

The following Sunday was the Labor Day Weekend and luckily I had the day off work. That meant I was able to go to the 358 Super Dirt Series race being held at the Cornwall Motor Speedway that night . The winner turned out to be Tim McCreadie of Watertown NY.

Meanwhile back in England it was BriSCA F1 World Final time, and on Saturday 7 Sept John Lund (53)  won at Coventry. The BriSCA F2 World final was held at Brafield on September 21 where Rob Speak (218) retained the title

On Monday 23 Sept Mum and Dad flew into Ottawa Airport from England to see our new home in Maxville . They were over for a two week stay and were looking forward to seeing the Autumn changing of the tree colors as well as Niagara Falls once again. When they visited the Falls , on the first occasion , it was in the middle of the winter and frozen over. This time they were able to get a better view and go on the ‘Maid of the Mist’ boat ride . 1996bbThey returned to England on October 7.

I was still doing the Espinola ‘Pulp run’ and the trip to Niagara was fitted in between my work shifts. By now Fly Transportation had changed it’s name and we drove under the title of Twilite Transportation.

One of the top Dirt Modified drivers of this time, who often appeared in the sports pages of our local paper ‘The Glengarry News’ was a guy called Ovide Doiron, better known as the ‘Flying Frenchman’. 1996zHe lived , and operated his business, Doiron Auto, in nearby Alexandria so on one of my days off, I went along for a chat. I showed him pics of the cars we raced in Europe and was given a tour of his engine building shop.

Earlier in the year I’d seen an advertising brochure for SUPER DIRT WEEK in Syracuse, I got talking about it with Ovide, and he told me he was going along to watch.  1996yI’ve always liked collecting race programs from important events, and so he offered to get me one. I arranged to pick it up from him on his return.1996aa

In December we took a family holiday to Orlando Florida where we drove down in our Plymouth Reliant ‘K’ Car. The Plymouth was a nice little car, but it wasn’t really the ideal car for that kind of trip. It wasn’t very quick and didn’t have ‘cruise control’. This made it a ‘long drive’ and we needed to stop overnight in Hagerstown MD ( because of a snow storm) and Savannah, Georgia on the way down.

Once in Florida, we did all the tourist things like Disney, Universal Studios and the Cape Kennedy Space Center.1996dd

While Pat and Carla went round the Daytona Shopping Mall, I visited the world famous International Speedway, where I took a tour round the NASCAR visitors center. 1996cc1996gg 1996ff1996eeAfter spending a week in Florida we managed to drive back to Canada with just one overnight stop, this time staying in Richmond, Virginia.

On our return to Maxville there was snow on the ground and just a few weeks to go before the first Christmas in our new home.1996hh