Reunion ... Thirty Years Later
Octagon Newsletter … October 1999
By John Veale
Reunions are great fun ... the conversations are good ... memories are sparked. ... stories are told of past experiences ... relationships grown old are rekindled. Let me share such an event with you … an event recently experienced by one of the early members of the Victoria MG Club and a reunion we were privileged to be a part of. But first, let me digress a little.
The envelope was one of those large brown ones, unmarked but carrying the colourful postage stamps of Bermuda. Arriving at our post office mail box in Yellowknife NWT in the middle of an early 1960's winter day our questions as to it's contents brought images only of sunshine, white sand and palm trees caressed by breezes from the sea. Little did we know that the contents would eventually lead to an association with the Victoria MG Club some thirty-eight years later.
For reasons still unknown, my inquiries to England regarding sports cars elicited this response from what BMC must have concluded was my nearest dealer. No matter, the contents fulfilled their mandate and my interest in sports cars had begun. The brochures (I still have some of them) included a "fold-out of dreams" ... the MGA 1600 advertising "More snap, more liveliness, more sheer exhilaration from every fleeting mile .."
That's what I would get, it promised from "the new MGA with it's bigger capacity 1600 c.c. engine, power-packed to deliver the punch of 79.5 bhp", and the list went on. On that minus forties winter day, those top down pictures made for enchanting dreams. We had to have one.
"Wants" sometimes take a little longer than "needs" to acquire and it wasn't until some years later that we began a more serious research into sports cars. No surprise then that I still have a well thumbed through copy of the November 1962 issue of Road and Track. For the price of 50 cents, I was treated to more dreams ... this time with a cover picture of an Iris Blue MGB Roadster complete with wire wheels and wide whitewall tires. Inside, a centre-page spread of the machine that dreams are made of. It even advertised the fact that I "couldn't wish for better cockpit comfort and layout. Everything's there! Even the pedals are spaced for size twelves". Now I was sold … finally a sports car into which I could fit my six foot four inch frame with it's size twelve Hush Puppies. (Some of you will remember those.)
The months and years inched by and the dream remained. It was fuelled again by the BMC dealer in Honolulu in 1965 when taking a break from those cold NWT winters. We rented an Austin Healey Sprite and, almost every day, ended up at the BMC dealer, trying the new MGB on for size. Unlike the Sprite, it fit perfectly.
My wife, Pat understood when I suggested holidays of another type for the following winter. We departed Yellowknife in early February during one of those too ordinary minus 45ºF. mornings and, through the magic of flight, arrived that afternoon, in Edmonton, to an almost spring-like minus 20ºF. Excitement ran high as we took a cab to GB Motors where we were introduced to our new 1966 Iris Blue MGB. It sported wire wheels, leather seats and AM radio all for the low, low price of about $2700. (About five months salary in those days.) What more could we have wished for! Our test drive ended about 5 weeks and 7000 miles later having given the 'B' a shake-down drive which included the Oregon Coast, California, Arizona, Utah, Alberta, the Ice Road across the MacKenzie River and finally downtown Yellowknife, population then 4800. Life was good ... we'd discovered sports cars.
Over the years, we learned that our sport cars are not only about driving ... they're also about memories. I can still remember the day we parked in front of the adoption agency in Regina in 1968 and, an hour later, introduced our new son Sean, wrapped in an (Iris Blue) blanket, to a "proper" car for his first trip home. I recall trips to the west coast ... the Mica Dam ... Chicago ... the Oregon Coast Banff ... Jasper ... California and the list goes on and on. Then, you've heard it before, the family grew and the car had to be replaced by something with more seats. Our daughter arrived in the same manner as our son, but Kristi didn't have the luxury of a first trip home in an MGB, rather a big lumbering Olds Dynamic 88.
The years passed, the children grew, and wanting to be good parents, we thought it only proper that we expose them to the finer things of life; in this case, another MGB. This one was a new ‘72 model purchased in January of ‘73. Sean (now five) joined me on a commercial flight from Regina to Winnipeg, where Burnell Motors had the new White 'B' waiting for us. (Interestingly, Malcolm Ives was the Service Manager at the time, though we had to wait until 1998 to meet him, when our association with the Victoria MG Club began.)
More memories were created. The kids have great stories to tell of this car. We even managed a trip from Regina to White Rock in the 'B'. Pat the consummate packer, got two weeks worth of clothing, etc. etc., for four in the trunk. No need to use our newly purchased luggage rack. We all remember heads of other travellers turning as they realized there were four people in that little white car.
I guess it had to happen though ... families always seem to need extra money, so it was with sadness that we put a "For Sale" sign in the window of the MGB. This was about 1978. Parting was made easier by Geoff, a young neighbour of nineteen anxious to purchase his first car and it seemed he might be the person to appreciate and look after it. Indeed he did. He still owns the car and has kept it in mint condition. About a year before my retirement in ‘95, Geoff arrived at my door. The MGB was parked at the curb ... top down and he handed me the keys and said "Want to go for a drive?" Again the appetite was whetted. It was SO much fun to drive that MG again, but no ... it was not for sale. He had already owned it for twenty-three years and wanted to drive it for at least another twenty-three. I couldn't wait that long.
Our third MGB was purchased shortly after our relationship began with the Victoria MG Club in 1998. Some eight thousand miles later ... (we've been busy creating memories), we were anxious to know more about the history of our car.
So ... back to the beginning of my story about reunions. Our present MGB was originally purchased by one of the Victoria MG Club's early members. Elisabeth Wade purchased it new in 1969. You'll remember the car ... Primrose Yellow ... wire wheels and adventure written in the wide smile on Elisabeth's face when she drove it.
A lot of memories are created during twenty-three years of ownership in a car like the MGB. Wouldn't it be nice we thought, if we could meet the original owner and perhaps offer her a reunion with the car she purchased some thirty years ago. We invited Jeremy and Barb Why to bring Barb's Mom, Elisabeth with them for dinner and a reunion with the Primrose Yellow 'B'. The evening created a wonderful new memory for Pat and me and I suspect reactivated a host of good memories for Elisabeth on that August evening. It was a most delightful treat to see the expression on the face of this, now elderly, lady, as she realised it was her old MG ... she touched it ... walked around it ... smiled and her eyes told the story of memories being reborn.
"How about a short drive before dinner? Would it be alright if the top were down?" She loved it. We'll not know all of the memories evoked in that little ride after so many years, but she beamed as the wind caught her hair ... and I think she felt young again. Who says you can't go back.
Thank you for Pat's and my new memory, Elizabeth ... it was a delight to meet you and we'll do our best to keep your car as young as your memories.
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