I’ve been to the Barrie Automotive Flea Market a couple dozen times since I discovered it in the mid-1990s. The first time I was there was a bit of a blur—it was the summer of ’96 and I went with well-known ALPCA member and Canadian expat Joe Sallmen. But back then, both of us had been ALPCA members for less than a year, and neither of us were known by anyone—and Joe was still living in Canada at the time. I was working ridiculous hours at a minimum wage job to make my ends meet. It was flexible enough that I could choose those hours, so when the BAFM weekend came in June of that year, I was able to clear my schedule.
I stayed up late the previous night at work before driving two hours to Toronto, getting about as much sleep, and then intercepting Joe for the ride to Barrie. I was sleep-deprived to the point of impairment. I recall wandering around the field with Joe in the lead because I was too tired to navigate on my own, and I could feel myself coming close to nodding off while on my feet. There weren’t a ton of plates to find while we were there, although we did split a pair of near-mint 1956 plates—mine stayed in my collection for years before I eventually found a number I liked better. Close to the end of our walkabout, I found a vendor who was selling near-mint pairs of stickered 1981 and 1982 passenger plates. One of them was a long-box die variant, and when the seller offered me the whole lot for $2 per plate, I couldn’t refuse, no matter how groggy I felt.
The field was somewhat wet and muddy, and neither of us had much of an appetite for slogging through it after early afternoon. We gave up and drove into Barrie proper to look for a large indoor flea market we’d heard about. We located it, did the rounds within, and didn’t find plates that fit within our desirable + affordable scope. However, something else happened. Joe found an empty box of Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes, complete with Tony the Tiger on the front, and a promotional Toronto Blue Jays logo with a picture of first baseman John Olerud. The box dated back to ’92 or ’93—I forget which—but those were the years the Jays won the MLB World Series.
Joe was interested in the box, and explained that he liked the Jays, John Olerud was his favourite player, and that he’d always quietly admired tigers. So he bought the cereal box for a few dollars, in the absence of any desirable plates. I smirked at him, but to each his own, and Joe took the box home. As it happened, that turned out to be the flashpoint of the tiger fandom that has subsequently defined Joe’s personality to many people. Soon enough, he collected tiger license plates, tiger signs, wore tiger shirts under a tiger jacket, and even bought a Triumph Tiger motorcycle. He wasn’t referred to as “Tiger Joe” when I first met him, as none of that fandom had yet taken hold. And I suppose it’s an old habit that I always just refer to him as Joe (sans Tiger). And I know him well enough that I know he'll probably write me when he reads this to share his recollections of that day-- which may be clearer than mine.
I guess I’m remembering that first journey to Barrie because my most recent journey this year fell substantially short. I had all but written off Barrie because my wife had been ill and there was no way she could stay at home alone to look after our two children. She began to feel better on Friday afternoon, and I suggested that if I brought the higher-maintenance kid along with me – my son – then maybe the trip was still doable. She agreed, although she thought I was nuts.
I hastily packed up my camping gear and threw it in the car, before floating the idea to my boy. “Do you want to come camping in the tent?” Of course he did. So off we drove. He advised me as we left that his belly felt a little sore. But kids say that all the time—especially mine.
He loves McDonald’s, but he wasn’t interested in having a bite before leaving town. He fell asleep as I hit the highway, and snored all the way to Arnprior. He awoke, and I again offered him a stop for some McFood. “No thank you, Daddy,” was his answer. His belly was still bugging him.
We passed through Renfrew. I got myself something to eat, but he wasn’t interested. He didn’t even want my fries. Something odd was afoot. But I pressed onward.
We got as far as Dacre on Highway 132 before he complained about his belly. We stopped for a quick stretch, but his belly was still bothering him. He still hadn’t eaten. I gently asked him if he wanted to turn around and go back home. He thought about it briefly, but answered with a definitive yes—so, having driven 90 minutes, and making almost a quarter of the way to Barrie, I aborted the trip and headed for home. I wasn’t upset in the least. I had tried as hard as I could to go, and it just wasn’t in the cards. On the bright side, we saw a family of deer during an impromptu scenic detour, and the drive home was quite pleasant.
And to make it up to myself, I’m 200% going to Grimsby in October, and I might even take the long way home!