It had been a couple of years since I made the trip to the Stirling automotive flea market. It’s not my favourite location to discover license plates, because I haven’t found anything indispensable. It was a good way to finish up my farm collection, and sometimes you can find bus plates there, but for the most part, there’s not a terribly exciting selection. However, it had been a long winter and I was owed a babysitting favour by my wife, so I decided to make the trip.
To do well in Stirling, you have to be there early. Most times, I’ve rolled into town at about 9 or later, and the main street is already bumper-to-bumper. This time, I left home at 5, and arrived in Stirling before 8 am. Traffic through town was light, and parking was a snap.
Every time I’ve ever been to Stirling, there’s been rain in the forecast, and the fields are soft and muddy. This year was no exception. I trudged along the first row and found some vendors with plates, but nothing I needed to pick up right away.
I had been browsing for about 45 minutes when I heard a familiar voice while I was shuffling through someone’s plate box and looked up. It was none other than Eric Vettoretti, who decided at the last minute to make the trip. We decided to stick together at the market, rather than going separately. We collect a lot of the same stuff, and we occasionally find a plate that we both want, but neither of us are willing to fight over a plate. Besides, it’s fun to talk plates and point stuff out to each other.
We ran into Terry Ellsworth under Repaint Roy’s tents. Terry comes for the bottles, plates, and vintage OML guidebooks. We chatted for a while before I mentioned that I saw a pair of 1915s a few rows back. Terry is looking for that year, so he thanked us and went to check it out. I normally don’t buy much from Repaint Roy, but he had some crates that I didn’t recall seeing before. I pulled out a couple of half-decent pairs and haggled to a palatable price.
Eric and I decided to see if Terry had bought the pair of 1915s. We headed in the same direction as I had indicated to Terry. Evidently, he passed on them, as they were still lying on the grass with a bunch of other plates. Eric, too, needed a 1915 to complete his run. These plates were very heavily alligatored, but they didn’t have a lot of rust and were legible. The price was cheap at $15. Eric bought them, figuring that they’d do in his run as a filler until a nicer 1915 reveals itself another time. Now his annual Ontario passenger run is complete. Of course, he’s still looking for the undated rubber and leather issues, but aren’t we all…
I focused mostly on finding pairs, and I did come away with a few. Eric is still working on his quarterly truck run, and after picking up a few he needed, he’s down to one plate left... June '65, if I remember.
We meandered some more as the clouds darkened and threatened to spill. As it cleared up a bit, we came across a vendor of war memorabilia. He had some old equipment for sale, and Eric wondered if he might have some old military plates, so we got to chatting. He recounted a story of a military bus driver overseas during, I believe, WWII. I’ll paraphrase the story by memory: The bus driver was assigned to drive to his destination, presumably drop off his passengers, and then return to base. When he got to the end of the line, he spoke with a couple of pilots who had a large cargo plane that was headed back to the same location as the bus’ origin. They offered him a lift, literally. The bus drove up the ramp and into the cargo hold. The plane took off, flew for a while with the bus in the hold, and landed safely. The driver rolled the bus down the ramp, thanked the pilots, and drove back to the garage. The superior officer to the driver inspected the bus, as usual, and then became very angry with the driver, and accused him of not getting to his destination. Of course, the driver defended himself and maintained that he had, in fact, gone all the way to the end of the line. The officer didn’t believe him. Why? The odometer only showed he had driven half the assigned distance! –The story, as told by the vendor, was much more entertaining than my own watered-down version here. I picked up some plates from him, left a card if he should come across any military plates, and wished him a pleasant day.
We took a stroll through the show & shine lot before calling it a day. My favourite vehicle on display was a Mercury Monterey, dark red, but I’m happy to see any car sporting YOM plates. It’s quite a treat to see them in use, with a current expiry sticker stuck beside an embossed date of 1955. We stumbled across a line-up of 1930 Model As, which reminded us strongly of the ones we saw in Port Perry a couple of weeks before, on our way to Acton. I still had those images on my camera, and it turned out that they were the very same cars. It’s a small world.