May ‘22 was a busy month for me as a plate collector, with no fewer than three out-of-town trips to gather metal rectangles. The previous two years have been pretty dreary and boring for the most part. But now I’m back in the familiar position of balancing nerdy obsessions and family life. It’s a delicate balance. Three of five weekends in May have been sullied by plates, in my wife’s eyes, so I’ve run out of “points” to spend on further excursions for the time being.
This weekend was the new-and-improved AACA Automotive Flea market in Lindsay. The AACA used to run its annual flea market event in Stirling, but they switched to Lindsay nearly ten years ago. The town of Stirling, not wanting to let a good tradition go, continued with its own event on the same weekend, so there were always two big antique / auto flea markets happening in eastern Ontario on the same weekend, with the vendors split between the two. So attending both was the only way to win.
Eric browses through Tarp Guy's plates... our first stop of the day in Lindsay.
Starting this year, the AACA has moved the Lindsay market to late May. In doing so, the “split” with Stirling is no longer in play. Vendors with car parts can all converge at a single place and time. The market is fuller, the weather is warmer, and the field is drier. And the result? The Lindsay AACA Flea Market has overtaken the spring Barrie Automotive Flea Market. Lindsay is hands-down the better place to go. I won’t waste my time in Barrie next week (but like I said, I’m outta points anyway).
Eric Vettoretti did the driving this time, so I navigated. The GPS always says to stay on Highway 7 from Ottawa to Lindsay, but the route goes southwest of Peterborough and then just U-turns back north to get to Lindsay. Highway 7 in that area is usually busy, with only one lane each way, and no chance to pass anyone. So we plotted a more direct route—which saved time, and proved to be much more interesting, even on a rainy evening.
As Highway 7 began to veer toward the southwest, we stayed on a straight western concession road, which allowed us to bypass Peterborough. We ventured north of the city and toward a couple of the Kawartha lakes. It was then that we started to see some really old fingerboard signs at various crossroads. They were all made of wood and weathered heavily. On some of them, the original green paint and white characters were gone. The sun and rain had etched into the green background, but less so where the white letters had once been. The legibility wasn’t close to minimal standards, but we could clearly read the names of Nephton (which no longer exists), and Crowes Landing. The kilometric distances were given, which means these signs would have been installed no earlier than about 1971.
We drove north toward Lakefield, and we came upon the site of a dynamite explosion. Here’s what we saw:
The damage to the MTO sand shelter looked pretty fresh!
The historic plaque told the story of a couple of dynamite haulers who were bringing a horse-drawn load to Burleigh Falls as part of the building of the Trent-Severn Canal. Something ignited the dynamite along the way, and they were blown to smithereens, along with their wagons and horses. This happened in 1885, which meant that in the present day, 136 years later, there would be nothing to find of the debris. But the damage to the sand shelter, right across the road, looked like it happened only days before. Of course, it was the previous week that a derecho had cut a swath of damage across Ontario, and we knew that’s what had levelled the shelter. Ironic that it happened on the site of a dynamite disaster almost 136 years before.
We crossed Chemong Lake at the Gifford causeway. Eric discovered that the road had been serviced by a seasonal floating bridge up until the early 1950s. At that time, the causeway was built, with a small bridge added over the eastern shore to allow boats to detour past the road.
We couldn’t resist stopping along the way to take pictures of signs and roads. But much to our surprise, we arrived in Lindsay before nightfall. We needed to rest after a long Friday’s worth of working and driving, so we got some beer and snacks, and we watched the St. Louis Blues choke against the Colorado Avalanche on TV.
The following morning, we got an early start on the market field. The rain had been replaced with sunny skies and warmer temperatures, although the field was still muddy in some spots. The market hadn’t actually opened yet, but there were quite a few vendors who were already open for business (not at all like the Barrie market, where half the vendors are still sleeping an hour after opening).
Our first stop was Tarp Guy, who is always open early, no matter the weather. He doesn’t seem to have a lot of turnover, and the size of his Plate Tarp has diminished since we first met him. But I found a Canadian Forces plate on the tarp. It was worn, and was the less-interesting front plate, but it was definitely the type that had been used in France through the 1950s. I also took a 1939 Saskatchewan truck plate. It needed to be cleaned and waxed, but once it’s prettied up, I’ll decide whether it’s a keeper or a trader.
Another early vendor had an interesting array of international plates on his table, with several from St. Maarten, and one from Australia. We knew there would be some newer collectors coming to Lindsay for the first time, so we left them behind. Flipping plates can be fun, but I prefer to stay away from international plates unless I’m going to keep them.
Scott Craig was lurking about the field at Lindsay, but we never bumped into each other. He came upon this old stop sign at some point after we had seen it, and he bought it for his collection. Eric and I admired the sign for a few minutes. But we specialize in King’s Highway shields, and the walls of our respective garages are saturated with signage. If either of us bought it, it wouldn’t be displayed. Scott will give it a good home!
It was a great morning for looking at old signs. We would see more and more of them… far more than either of us had seen in Barrie in the last decade. Lindsay is a sign collector’s dream! We love signs, but we had come for the plates. Would they pop up? Time would tell.
I came upon a vendor who had a lot of motorcycle plates, but they were all contemporary and out-of-province. There were a few odds and ends mixed in, such as city cartage plates, but the only city I collect is Sault Ste. Marie, and I wasn’t expecting to find any such plates in this neck of the woods.
Halfway through our tour of the field, we came upon a vendor with an eclectic selection of Canadian plates, and the prices couldn’t be beat. Chief among them was a low-numbered 1950 Alberta livery plate. I had a feeling that Calgary’s own Keith Murphy would be interested, so I bought it. I also took a couple of Northwest Territories bear plates, a beautiful 1958 BC Centenary passenger, and a stunning 1947 PEI passenger. It didn’t look like it had ever been bolted to a vehicle (the paint is all-original, without a doubt). I’m putting together a “Canada Collage” collection of interesting early and mid-era plates, and the PEI would fit right in!
A nearby vendor had a disco-era MTC Motor Vehicle Inspection Station sign, complete with brass grommets. Eric bought a more recent one with me last summer, but this one was older and in better condition. Eric bought it for a great price, and it was his signature purchase on the day… due in no small part to the fact that we had to carry it around for the next two hours!
At that point, we bumped into Paul Frater. Paul had seen a three-digit 1973 NWT bear plate. The price was steep, but the condition was reportedly excellent. Paul’s dilemma was that he already had one. He’d had it for decades and was very attached to it. But this one on the Lindsay field was a clear upgrader in all respects. So, would he turn it down and keep his long-time treasure? Or buy this one and upgrade? In the end, Paul couldn’t say no to the three-digit plate. But he also won’t say goodbye easily to his other one, so I think he’ll keep both.
We parted ways with Paul, only to run into him again at the same time as Dave Steckley. Dave and I rooted through a box of plates in tandem. Dave’s eagle eye spotted a “backslapper” error plate: One that had been fed through the paint rollers upside down, leaving a reversed pattern of paint on the flip side. Dave had found a couple of older dual-purpose plates at a table elsewhere in the market, where we had yet to browse. Eric is running them with fervor, and was grateful for the tip.
Dave crossed paths with us a couple more times as we finished the outdoor portion of the market, and he himself had run into Mike Franks, who was just arriving. Mike was pursuing an old Newfoundland dealer plate in an auction, so he had to babysit his bids until he won. His wife Alannah was stuck at work that morning.
Eric eventually found the dual-purpose plates that he needed. We had saved for last the pavilion with the indoor vendors. We made various finds for our YOM businesses, but not a lot of volume, and none were of the years we desperately needed to restock.
It was about 11 o’clock and we were done shopping after a little more than three hours. That time is comparable to the Barrie market nowadays, but most of Barrie is spent going, “Nope… nope… nope…” while walking past irrelevant vendors selling quilts, maple syrups, or videotapes. The advantage of the market at Lindsay is that every vendor sells car parts or tools, so every one of them is worth a slow look. So the number of vendors is smaller, but many of them have signs, plates, or other old mantique stuff that catches our interest. The quality in Lindsay surpasses the quantity in Barrie.
We took a look at the classic car show lot, which contained about triple the number of vehicles as compared to pre-pandemic times three years earlier. I found two cars sporting YOM licence plates that I had restored. My favourite was a 1958 Edsel convertible, which was getting a lot of attention. It was hard to take pictures of the car without people in the shot. I remembered the summer day in Brooklin when I made an unscheduled stop to buy those plates.
We were finished by noon, and we had to get home. Eric was taking his son to a monster truck show that evening, and I had to bring my daughter to a formal award gala downtown. We stopped only for coffee (very important) and for taking pictures of more old fingerboard signs (even more important).