Little garage had long history

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A Caroline Street West garage was torn down this week, causing many local people to share their memories of the little building’s history.  

The demolition piqued people’s curiosity so we asked around and cobbled together a little history about the place that has housed a business of one sort or another for more than a century. 

According to Gerry Blackburn, who has a spectacular memory for events and dates, the building was home to auto shops for most of its life. 

As far back as he can recall, Bert Walker operated the garage located at 4 Caroline Street West, and was a Maxwell car dealer. There is an old photo showing cars lined up all the way to Mill Street (see page 4).

“He sold the first new car in the village. In 1918 he sold 18 cars,” states A Glimpse of Creemore’s Past. 

Walker then expanded to Massey Harris farm equipment, later Massey Ferguson. He continued to operate the service garage and sell farm machinery for many, many years. 

In 1956, Walker sold the garage to Harold McArthur, who operated an auto body shop, road snowplowing service and even an ambulance under the business name of Creemore Car and Truck Rebuilders.

Pat Prime, a Creemore real estate broker, worked for McArthur 60 years ago. 

McArthur hired him within five days of immigrating to Canada. 

“He was a good guy. I had just come from England and I had just turned 17,” said Prime. “I got my start there. I learned to drive. I drove the ambulance and the tow truck at 17.”

Prime and John Wilson drove the ambulance, a sedan delivery. He said he didn’t have any medical training, let alone proper driver training.

“It was unbelievable. At an accident we were first responders, we had the tow truck and the ambulance. We just grabbed them out, threw them in and took them to the hospital and we’d drive a hundred miles an hour. It was a very fast vehicle.”

He was paid $22 per week.    

“It’s had some pretty good body and fender mechanics in it for a little shop. It’s a renowned shop, quality work all the way through,” said Prime. 

In 1959, McArthur sold to Frank Mlaker, who also operated a body shop. Throughout the years Ken Gibson had a body and fender shop there, Rob Hanning also had a body shop and Jim Potter operated Creemore Collision and Auto Sales. 

It was also a manufacturing facility for hand-made crafts at one point and most recently Tim Martin had his auto detailing business there, before moving to the main street.

Brian Doran owned it for more than 10 years, and said he used it mostly for storage. He bought it from Charlie Tidd and sold it about five years ago. 

Going back a bit, there was a fire in the building in 1958 and as a result, the building was structurally unsound.

Stephen Loewy said, with partner Catherine Morrissey, they were trying to renovate it when they discovered it was unstable.

“It was too old and decrepit and we could not repair it,” said Loewry. “We found it had been put together piecemeal, nothing was done to the building code. It was just slapped up.”

All the roof timbers had been burned out in the fire.

“When they pulled it apart they said they didn’t know how the building stood,” said Loewry. 

He said the plan is to put up another building that is going to look pretty much the same as what was there and it will be a commercial space.

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