WISDOM: Trucking veteran, David Logan, reminisces about the trucking industry's first years in Canada - a time when drivers would throw a horse blanket over the hood so the engine wouldn't freeze. Photo by Harry Rudolfs
TORONTO, Ont. – I met David Logan in a west-end Toronto Food Basics store. He’s 89 years old now and silver haired, so he wasn’t in any hurry.
He walks slowly these days, but Logan can’t be faulted for taking his time. After all, when he was machinery manager for Hendrie Transportation, he moved just about everything (like the Ming tomb at the Royal Ontario Museum, or Henry Moore’s Archer to Nathan Phillip’s Square at Toronto City Hall).
Logan started driving Macks and Internationals for Hendrie and Company back in 1936.
At that time the company was located on Peter Street, around the corner from where he lived.
The Hendrie family has a great history in Hamilton and Toronto. Hendrie and Company (established in 1853) was and remains one of North America’s oldest motor carriers.
Known for its strategy of hiring immigrants (particularly Scotsmen) to drive its wagons and later trucks, the Canadian company passed ownership to the Flynn family in 1989 and remains a force to this day in the industry.
Prior to joining Hendrie (in 1936) David Logan – also of Scottish ancestry – was driving a team of 1,900 lb. Clydesdale horses for Dominion Transport (which was later to become Dominion Consolidated) out of a stable in what is now known as the nightclub district of Toronto – the Queen and Spadina area.
“I was born down there,” said Logan. “The stables were there and it was mostly teamsters that lived around there.”
But even when he went to drive trucks for Hendrie he still couldn’t get away from the smell of horses.
“They gave us horse blankets,” Logan recalled. “If you were going to be at a customer’s for a little while, you threw the blanket over the hood so the engine wouldn’t freeze. So the trucks smelled like horses, but I like the smell of a horse.”
Logan’s day began at 7:30 am and often finished after dark, five days a week, with half a day on Saturday.
“Hendrie didn’t pay overtime,” Logan said. “The wages were $105 a month for the stake trucks, and tractor-trailer drivers got $110.”
In 1939, three days after WWII began, Logan, a member of the 48th Highlanders militia, got called up.
He joined many other Hendrie employees on the boat to England. Coincidentally, William Hendrie was colonel of the regiment.
Originally a rifleman, Logan managed to get a transfer to the transport sector and eventually wound up hauling petrol for the 48th Highlanders as they advanced through Sicily and Italy.
After the war, Logan was offered a position with the War Assets Corporation, eventually running three warehouses in St. Catharine’s and one in Hamilton.
At the same time Hendrie Cartage was just getting into heavy equipment moving, and as warehouse manager Logan again had dealings with the company.
“Hendrie’s superintendent Bill Marshall and George Hendrie came to see me one day and offered me a job running their St. Catharine’s Terminal,” said Logan. “Jobs weren’t all that plentiful at the time, so I took it.”
Logan spent four years in St. Catharine’s and then was asked to return to Toronto to take over the post of machinery moving manager.
“We moved heavy machinery, mostly, but I’d like to think that I had a good hand in getting them interested in things other than rail freight,” Logan said.
David Logan has always taken his involvement in the transportation industry seriously.
He was one of the directors of the Ontario Trucking Association (when it was still the ATA), and has twice been president of the Motor Vehicle Safety Association.
He was also the company official who went before the transport board to renew Hendrie’s operating authorities in the days before deregulation. On the whole, Logan doesn’t think deregulation has turned out well.
“At one time the licenced carriers had something to lose if they committed any sins,” he said. “You were subject to reviews and Eddie Shoniker (chairman of the Ontario licensing commission) was pretty tough on them.”
These days, Logan attends meetings of the MVSA and keeps an eye on the industry. “I’m still a heavy hauler at heart,” he said.