Work was now a lot of fun! IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d get some neat assignment like shooting a football game or covering a fire or accident for the sports and the news departments. Best of all I got to drive my Healey and got paid five cents a mile to do so! The television station was set high on a hill in Callander, a small town nine miles south of North Bay. There were few intersections between the tv station and town so it became my personal racetrack every time I lit out on an assignment. It didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t take the local constabulary long to pull into the driveway at home and have a little chat with me. Apparently they had taken up the chase several times and couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t keep up. I also got dragged on the carpet by the station manager and my old man. I was promptly told to cool it a bit. I guess they were concerned about finding another shooter that would work for $45 a week! On my way out of the managerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s office one day I noticed a sign that read Ã¢â‚¬ËœWhy pay a man $80 a week when heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll work for $40?Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ It was a Roy Thompson organization, what could you expect? At least I was getting an extra five bucks over the forty they expected me to work for! IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d boost a bit more on the mileage. I never really considered it a job anyway. I was just having too much fun!
Friday and Saturday nights took on a whole new perspective now. When I drove up the main drag I began to notice the number of sports cars cruising around. Most of them traveled together. When we passed each other everyone waved. It wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t long before I pulled over to the side of the street where they were all parked. The guys immediately took an interest in the big Healey. They had an assortment of rides and often the cars matched the personality of the owner. Bobby had a white MGA 1600 bubble top. It was spotless inside and out. His parents owned a dry cleaners shop in town. Veetal, known as Vee, drove a silver Sunbeam Tiger. He was French and women loved him and he them. He was a hairdresser. He knew what they wanted and what looked good on them. Gerry was built like a jockey except he had broad shoulders. He too loved the girls and they also loved him. He had a little pug with the unfortunate name of Ã¢â‚¬ËœPuddlesÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ which he often left in the worst places. Gerry drove a beautiful dark blue Triumph GT6. It was a rocket, but Gerry was always putting the rear spokes out of tune when he got on the loud petal off the line. Craig was the owner of another big Healey. It was red and looked hot. Craig eventually bought a racing Healey and played at boy racer at Mosport, a road racing circuit near Peterborough about eighty miles east of Toronto. I had never heard of Mosport at this point, but would soon be traveling with the gang to see events both there and at Harewood Acres also in Southern Ontario near Hamilton. Craig was a long drink of water at over 6′ 4″. Getting in and out of the car was a job for him with his long legs. The other big Healey was driven by another Jerry. He had a blue 1955 100/4. The first gear was so low he never used it. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d always pull away in second. He was also a master behind the wheel and everyone knew he would take a lot of risks to be in the lead. He too had a dog that at times came along with him. Bruno was a St. Bernard about as big as a house and would somehow sit in the front seat with his head over the windshield! His big ears trailed straight out while his master roared around town. He always got a great laugh, but no one wanted Bruno in their car. He shed continuously and along with his constant drooling it did little to attract Ã¢â‚¬Ëœthe trimÃ¢â‚¬â„¢. Eric was generally quiet, that is until he got behind the wheel of his red Ã¢â‚¬ËœBÃ¢â‚¬â„¢. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d get a sneer on his face that turned into a grin as he left you in his dust. I only rode with him in the Ã¢â‚¬ËœBÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ once. We came tearing over a slight crest and right in front of us were two wires stretched across the road. Speed trap! I figured it was too late to slow down to at least the speed limit, but he jumped on the breaks and pulled on the hand break! I was enjoying my first hand-brake turn with someone else at the controls! When the smoke cleared I turned to see if Ã¢â‚¬Ëœthe manÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ was taking up the pursuit. He wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t! The unit that gave the speed to the officer was! When the car spun around the two wires across the road got entangled and pulled up into the rear axle and the line leading back to the cop came along with it as did the speed measuring unit! Right behind it was a lumpy rookie cop with a sandwich in his hand! I guess they had just dumped him off to catch speeders and were going to pick him up later. At least he brought along his lunch and a lawn chair. I loved this little group of guys and their girlfriends. I had always done well with Ã¢â‚¬Ëœthe trimÃ¢â‚¬â„¢, but the Healey! Now this was a real chick magnet! One other experience I enjoyed with the guys was the day I got hauled into the cop shop for borrowing a wheel. Earlier in the day I had dropped my right front wheel into a typical Ontario pothole. All the spokes were seriously out of tune and I needed to get my spare on the car to even get home. The spare was out of tune as well, but I got the car home. One of the guys suggested I call Pat Onions as see if I could borrow one of his as the engine was out of his car and it was just sitting on the lot. Pat owned a Shell service station up near town. I called, but Pat was away for the weekend. I knew there would be no problem with borrowing the wheel. The trunk of PatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Healey was open so I borrowed the wheel. I did it right in broad daylight with several of the guys sitting in their cars as I did it. We knew Pat would have no problem with it. I guess someone was watching and thought the cops should know. They turned up at my house, looked at the odd wheel on my car and I got to have a ride in the back seat of the cop car. We had told them what happened and they insisted on taking me in. When they came back to get the odd wheel it was gone! So were the other three wheels on my car. It was sitting right there on four cement blocks! The cops let me go and it was cleared up when Pat opened up the station on the Monday. He let me borrow the offending wheel until I could get the spokes on my wheel tuned up. Tuning up spokes was a regular pain-in-the-ass, but that was part of owning one of these beauties. There were a few other members of our gang, but they drove regular vehicles. John was a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force stationed north of town. He drove an immaculate Volkswagen Beetle. It was green and he looked after it like he looked after his boots! You could shave in the paintÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s reflection and eat off the seats. That brings me to another Eric story. Eric loved to drink…any time, anything! John seldom did and often ended up driving Eric home. On one such occasion Eric was in the passenger seat. I was in the back with some other hapless soul when Eric said he was going to be sick. Ã¢â‚¬ËœOut the window! Out the window!Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ was all I heard from John and Eric turned and began to puke out the window. The problem was he didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t open the window! John didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t come around anymore and we heard later he sold the VW shortly after. Fussy guy.
Craig often talked about a friend who raced cars so he took us north of town where this guy lived to meet him and see his race car. He had several hot cars one of which was another XK140. It was also white just like my bossÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s car. He let me drive it several months after we met. I think I might have said I was interested in buying it. I took it out alone and roared down the North Bay bypass right past a cop who must have been having a nap behind the truck weigh station. By the time he got his ass in gear I was about a mile up the road! Since there were two white Jags in town I guess he took off to my bossÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s house because he never turned up when I returned the Jag. The race car was an Elva Courier. It had a full setup for road racing. It was also white with blue stripes but didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t look like much until it was started and took off up the road. I was introduced to my second soon-to-be-legend of Canadian motor sport…Bjorn Cordts. Better known as Johnny to us, he drove some fine races in some not-so-fine cars and impressed all in both Can Am in a McLaren and his only Formula One drive in a Brabham. We all became good friends and often went up to his place to talk cars of any kind.
Our gang of misfits became very close over the next two years. We traveled as a group the 300 miles to Harewood Acres to watch John in the Elva. Bill Brack, my Healey salesman, was also there in his Mini. He was something to watch as was John in the Elva. Harewood was an old air base circuit marked out with hay bales which always caused some excitement when they were destroyed by a wayward race car. This was also the first time I saw an open wheel race car. It was a Formula Vee! That same summer we traveled to Mosport. We had no money for admission so we jumped the fence in the middle of the night and came out in a field between Turns Three and Turn Four. The moonlight was so bright you could have seen us for miles! In the morning we walked down into Turn Four and up the hill where we could see the whole hairpin now known as Moss Corner. Little did I suspect that Mosport would later become the track I would call home. It was beautiful! During one of the breaks in the action the public was allowed to walk the track. We made the trek up the long uphill straight where we could see the pits across the low valley to our right. There were beautifully coloured tents everywhere! The racing was exciting especially when BrackÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Mimi took on a bloody big red Camero driven by Mo Carter, a Hamilton Chevrolet dealer. Carter had an easy time with Brack and another Mini driven by Al Pease when they went up the straight, but the two MiniÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s hauled him in through the corners. I remember one lap going through Turn Two and down the hill into Turn Two A when the two Minis took him on either side! Racing was one wild and exciting sport!
Next up: Tragedy strikes again and again!
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