By Valerie Rossi
It looked as though the Canadian military dropped into Trail Tuesday, when 10 vintage vehicles dating back to the Second World War drove into the city.
Private collectors belonging to the Military Vehicle Preservation Association are touring the Southern Interior after participating in a parade in Penticton on behalf of the BC/Yukon Command The Royal Canadian Legion.
“Some people see us go by and think that the army is in town but we’re not, a lot of us are retired from the military but some not,” said John Hawthorne, a retired army man who was involved in the Canadian Armed Forces for 25 years.
After “getting stung by the green bug,” nowadays the Richmond resident owns about 20 collector vehicles of his own, which he rents out to the film industry.
He steered his 1941 GMC communications van into town, along with other collector buddies who brought vehicles like a 1944 Chevrolet field artillery tractor, a 1944 Chevrolet CMP cargo truck, and 1940s to 1970s jeeps.
“In some cases it’s sentimental value and in other cases it’s just the idea of restoring, some people have old cars other people have old aircrafts so we have old vintage army trucks. It’s just a hobby basically,” he said.
The 1944 Chevrolet field artillery tractor was one of the most impressive on the tour, according to Trail Legion president Vern Schneider.
“I spent nine years with Lord Strathcona Horse in Calgary, I spent two weeks in a tank and I said this isn’t for me so I went driving in transport,” said Schneider.
Whether it’s the right-hand drive 3/4-ton Chevy he learned to drive on when he was a member of the Rossland High School Cadet Corps or a jeep with the invasion star on the hood he navigated through Egypt, Schneider associates many memories with the old vehicles.
“I have one friend, I don’t know where he is, I haven’t seen him in about 20 years but if he walked in today, we’d still be buds,” he said of the bond the military can create between people.
Though Coquitlam resident Walde Libera was not involved in the army himself, his roots run deep.
“I suppose I have an affinity for the military, I’m actually the son of two World War 2 refugees, so Polish heritage, and in my dad’s family my uncle was killed in Monte Cassino in World War 2 fighting for the Polish army, and my grandfather was involved in World War 1 and he survived,” he said.
“So maybe that affinity is there, and I think it was there when I was young because I remember when I was playing with Lego, I was making military vehicles so I don’t know maybe I was born with it.”
The rarity of the collection also intrigues the man who fully restored the 1944 Chevrolet field artillery tractor originally found as a pile of junk in Mission.
“The rule of thumb is there’s 10,000 (Canadian military vehicles) left but only 1,000 remaining somewhere in the woods, in the junk piles and in the backyards and that’s it,” he said.
The convoy continued onto Salmo Tuesday, and is set to head to Nelson and Castlegar before leaving the region.