Spring is here—it’s a beautiful sunny day, the windows are open, birds are singing, leaves are sprouting, and I’m leaving to get my ’71 Beetle from winter storage in about half an hour. I’ve been waiting for all of this – sometimes patiently, sometimes not – for many months.
Last weekend was the 2013 installment of the Acton license plate swap meet, congenially hosted each year by Dave Steckley at the Acton Arena. I was only able to attend the first third or so of the meet, so my attendance was bittersweet. I missed out on some of the fun, but I was lucky to even be there. I was in Burlington for the weekend on separate business, but as luck would have it, I was able to make time in my schedule to attend Acton. I could get there as early as I wanted to – so the earlier the hall opened, the better – but I had to be back in attendance in Burlington at 10 am sharp. This meant, by subtracting the driving time involved, that I had to leave Acton by no later than 9:15 am.
I had to travel light, so I brought a token number of higher-end plates in a single box. I arrived in Acton at about 7 am, and spied an unknown red car in the parking lot with two people inside. After I parked and began to eat my breakfast, Terry Ellsworth emerged from the car. I hadn’t seen him at a meet in about the last two years. He’s had other priorities in life during that time, but seemed pleased to be making fun trips again.
Very soon afterward, Dave’s familiar maroon Buick turned into the lot. He parked up near the road briefly to hammer the event sign into the ground (donated a few years ago by the generous John Powers). Dave greeted us and walked up to the front doors, to find that they were open and we were already free to unload and unpack in the meet hall. It was about 7:15 am… never do I recall the Acton meet opening so early. It was a windfall for me, meaning that I had two entire hours before I had to leave. Eric Vettoretti, my usual travelling partner, arrived at about that time, as did Gary Edwards. The crowd was already starting to form.
My first task was to finalize a plate-related deal with Dave, which I was able to do before the crowd became too heavy—Dave would soon have to man the door and take attendance. I chatted with Bill Thoman, who has quite the penchant for bringing interesting displays of plates to our swap meets. This time, he had a classy stainless-steel board with vinyl decals spelling out the title: “Early Ontario Motorcycle Plates.” The run featured a nice arrangement of cycle plates from 1914 to 1924, and then some others from 1935 to 1942.
I was pleased to see Paul Frater, an Ontarian who now lives and works in Germany. I wasn’t expecting to run into him—Paul had visited me at my place back at New Year’s, during one of his few chances to escape the Fatherland in order to visit the Motherland. He’s always got a really cool selection of European plates to swap.
Among the plates I brought was a 1984 Papal motorcade plate. It attracted its fair share of attention. I brought it in the hope that it would increase the foot traffic around my table, and it probably did. One gentleman I do not know inquired out it several times—the price tag was higher than he would have liked, but it’s a rare issue, with weird colours, and it’s the only Ontario motorcade plate that I know of that doesn’t involve a member of the Royal Family. Eventually, the gentleman became receptive to a price I had quoted previously, but by that time, I had a verbal agreement with someone else, so I had put the plate away, and it was too late (that verbal agreement has still not come to fruition, however, two weeks later, so it’s back on the market—sadly, I don’t have the first gentleman’s name).
Toronto Star reporter Katie Daubs received an invitation to cover out meet, and she showed up early with a camera over her shoulder and notepad in hand. I wound up talking to her at length about plates, collecting and ALPCA. She was quite thorough and spent a lot of time talking to collectors and taking pictures (she even took the group photo later on in the morning). Her article was featured in the GTA section of the April 30, 2013 edition of the Toronto Star. (link opens new window)
Between talking to Katie, selling plates at my table, and taking whatever pictures I could manage, I didn’t actually get any shopping done. It wasn’t until the very end of my time at the meet that I acquired something for myself. Martine Stonehouse had asked me to set aside a small handful of diplo plates, and my departure time was coming up, so I approached her to finalize the deal. She motioned to her table and asked if there was anything I’d be interested in trading for. I didn’t think so at first, but when I looked again, there was a nice four-digit 1956 Ontario passenger. I’ve been putting together a run of the all-numeric, four-digit low number plates from 1955 to 1972, and 1956 was the last year I needed. I took it and a not-so-hot 1963 four-digit as well. The trade was lop-sided in Martine’s favour, but I had to get going—I’m hopeful the good karma will one day smile on me.
9:15 came, and off I went. I missed the group picture, and probably missed talking to a number of collectors who showed up afterward. It was a busy day—I had to be back in Burlington by 10 to get my wife and son, and then to Jarvis and Carlton in Toronto by 11:30 to pick my daughter up from her cousin’s place… and then back to Ottawa.