Teamsters Truck Museum to be Reborn in Merritt? and MVSA soldiers on
May 14, 2011
May 14, 2011
Teamsters and Freight Carriers Truck Museum in Port Coquitlam has fallen on tough times, but it may flourish again in Merritt, BC. I was in Vancouver last week and dropped in to see curator and director Norm Lynch as he was manning the phones in the front office of the museum’s industrial unit in Port Coquitlam.
The collection has moved a couple of times since I first saw it eight years ago. In its present location, the magnificent trucks are more in storage than on display, but the spirit of volunteerism lives on. About half a dozen old timers are milling about the garage in coveralls involved in various tasks. A couple of guys are starting up a BC Telephone 1951 pick up that was recently donated. “Give it lots of gas and full choke,” Lynch hollers. Others are fabricating parts for the latest projects: a 1924 Federal and a 1929 International sitting in pieces on a drop deck.
Lynch tells me he’s known the end was coming for about a year now. “The Teamsters aren’t that interested in trucks these days. The guys are getting younger. Local 31 is even representing the Chilliwack school district now. Times have changed.”
Lynch who is 70 now, has shepherded the truck collection and archives since 1996, when then-president Garnet Zimmerman asked him to find a truck from 1936 to parade in the Local’s 60th anniversary celebrations. The following year the museum was granted its charter and the Aubrey King collection of trucks was added to its roster. Ironically, King was a shipping magnate who had a dispute with the Teamsters and locked up his trucks rather than bargain with the IBT. The Chevrolet Maple Leafs, all made in Oshawa, were retrieved years later from a padlocked warehouse and added to the Teamster Museum in mint condition.
According to Lynch, there has been a lot of interest in acquiring the collection since it became known the Teamsters were going to divest themselves of it. He speaks highly of a proposal from the city of Merritt to house and showcase the exhibits. It’s not a done deal yet, but talks are underway to move the trucks there.
It’s a wonderful collection from the oldest truck, a 1914 FWD, to Andy Craig’s restored 1936 Indiana, the first vehicle driven on the Coquihalla Highway by the trucking legend himself the day the highway first opened. I also love the 1935 Dodge Airflow that could stand up to any modern aero-truck in a wind tunnel test.
Norm Lynch and his group of steadfast volunteers are getting older and he’s looking forward to passing the torch. Lynch himself was a heavy haul float driver for Arrow before retiring. “There’s two other guys who volunteer here who were originally Teamsters and they’re 80 now.”
The visit left me thinking about the significance of the past and the need for keeping a historical record. I do hope Merritt, at the base of the Coquihalla, and a transportation centre in its own right, inherits this collection and does it up right.
Why is it important? Because it represents who we are and how we got here. Trucking is a culture that is rarely considered as such, but so important to the development of the country and our everyday lives. The Teamster and Freight Carriers Museum has to change and be reformatted to stay relevant. As do we all.
And speaking of organizations trying to stay relevant. I landed back in Toronto this week and went directly to the MVSA banquet in Mississauga. MVSA stands for Motor Vehicle Safety Association and has been around since 1947, but don’t bother to look it up on Google. It’s not there.
I know nothing about this body, except that my old friend David Logan, a legend himself, was a lifetime member, and I was invited to the function by Ken Hellawell, the fellow that taught me to double clutch so long ago, and a former columnist in Truck News. He’s also been forever involved and instrumental in running the Ontario Truck Rodeo Championships.
From what I gather, the organization is mostly volunteer, but it probably gets some money from Infrastructure Health and Safety Ontario to operate. They certainly were nice people, mostly representatives of some trucking-related goods and services, from insurance, to parts and accessories, to consultants, safety people, as well as folks from the truck and bus community.
Highlight of the night was the 2011 Safety Motor Transport Award given to Shawn Jameson Safety/Recruiting Manager for SGT of Brampton, Ont. Jameson made some heartfelt comments about the meaning of public safety and society-at-large. He was accompanied by his family and also received a diamond ring and $500.
But just like volunteer staff at the Teamsters Museum, and commercial drivers in general, I noticed this group is also getting long in the tooth. The MVSA has a good crop of retirees, and I’m not suggesting they turn anyone out to pasture, but they could really use a few faces under 50. Ken tells me the organization has been somewhat dormant and is looking to revitalize. In which case here are a few ideas.
Get a website presence. It’s absolutely crucial if you want people to know who you are and what you do. Otherwise MVSA is just another acronym like McMaster Vietnamese Student Association, which has a website. It’s unthinkable not to be online, especially if you’re looking to be relevant and appeal to a new generation.
Go looking for some good people to bolster your ranks (and inject some new ideas). I’ll bet dollars to donuts most people in the transportation community have never heard of MVSA, but might be interested if you were to reach out.
Mostly males, and no ethnics, makes an organization dull and less diverse than it could potentially be. I’m not quibbling that Caucasian males aren’t great safety people, but no women have won the fleet safety award since it began in 1947? Lots of great women in the industry now. As for ethnic diversity in this group—I didn’t see any. Not that I care much. I go to lots of all-white functions, but this group is not really representative of the transportation community as it exists today, ethnically at least.
Harry Rudolfs has worked as a dishwasher, apprentice mechanic, editor, trucker, foreign correspondent and taxi driver. He's written hundreds of articles for North American and European journals and newspapers, including features for the Ottawa Citizen, Toronto Life and CBC radio.
With over 30 years experience in the trucking industry he's hauled cars, steel, lumber, chemicals, auto parts and general freight as well as B-trains. He holds an honours BA in creative writing and humanities, summa cum laude. All posts by Harry Rudolfs