DEALERSHIPS OF THE PAST: A.J. Smith International Harvester Dealership, Meyronne, Saskatchewan
This article originally appeared in the Chapter 38 International Harvester Collector Club for Western Canada's IH Legends newsletter and is reprinted with permission. Click here to visit their website: http://www.ihc38.com/
1948 almost ready for business.
A.J. Smith had a garage and shop in Meyronne Saskatchewan, and had been operating it for a few years when one night in 1948 a very heavy knock was heard on the door and a fellow was heard shouting WAKE UP! WAKE UP! FIRE, FIRE, FIRE!
A.J. was my father and at that time I was four years old. I remember my mother, oldest sister and I standing in front of the window watching as his garage went up in flames. I remember seeing fireworks shooting off into the sky. I did not know what they were until much later when I found out it was the old metal oil cans blowing up and the shingles blowing in the wind.
In 1948 after his fire there was an International Harvester dealership in Meyronne that was owned by Joe Girardin who was getting older. A.J. purchased the old building and made arrangements to become the International Dealer in Meyronne. I remember that they built a new addition on the old building where Joe Girardin had his dealership. It was not long before A.J. had a successful business.
As this was shortly after the second world war and farm equipment did not take a priority during the war as the war effort was where manufacturers were putting their resources, and the dirty thirties were just over when the war started. There was a huge demand for new farm equipment. There wasn't a great deal of money available for farmers to upgrade the old stuff but farmers are an optimistic lot. They did invest in the future. So A.J. was off to a good start.
He sold the first rubber tired WD9 in the area to my uncle Art Smith who actually wanted a steel wheeled tractor as he thought the rubber tired tractor would not be able to pull their Holt 21 foot pull type combine. He was wrong as the rubber tired tractor was much better as the tires cleaned themselves, not like the steel wheeled ones which got packed with mud and kept spinning. Some of the models he sold were Farmall H and M, a lot of W6 and WD6, WD9 and numerous discers etc. A.J. came to be known as the dealer to see if you wanted an International truck. In those days he sold lots of one ton models, as well as the 1/2 tons.
The K line were very popular. I remember going to Regina with my dad and driving back in a brand new K model 1/2 ton. It was so cold that he had to keep the heater on so the heater would heat the cab even if he needed to have it turned on defrost to defrost the window. My job was to scrape the windshield so dad could see where to drive. I don't know what he did after I fell asleep.
In October 1950, a disaster struck A.J. and his family as his wife passed away. A.J. was left with four children, myself being the oldest. I was only five with the youngest one being only six days old. The youngest was looked after by my aunt but A.J. looked after the other three. I remember that he was always a hard worker and he would go back to the shop to work or do books after supper. My sisters and I had a nook where we had put a bunch of blankets and pillows in new tractor tires and where we soon were asleep waiting for A.J. to be ready to bring us home. He would grab one sister in each arm and I had to follow them home. Lucky it wasn't very far.
In 1950 a new model truck was brought out by International Harvester, the L line. Things must have been getting better as Dad and my uncle Rene bought a new L110 together. My uncle used it on his farm and dad would use it to go on repair jobs to farms as he was one of the best welders in southern Saskatchewan, as well as a mechanic. Prior to that he used an old Ford Model A (with a rumble seat). Dad sold his Model A Ford shortly after buying the new L Line truck. I rode many miles in the back in that rumble seat. Let me tell you it was not so much fun as all the roads were dirt or gravel. Lots of dust. Sure wish I had that Model A now though.
Time moved on and International came out with new models. A.J. continued selling and working in his dealership. Some of the models he sold were the 400, 450, and the 600 and 650 tractors. He sold hundreds of 45 and 46 balers. He was known as the go to person to get your baler to tie. He spent many hours helping farmers to get a baler that they couldn't get to tie, tying. I am not sure what year International decided to come out with a 6 cylinder model tractor to replace the 650 series models but it was an exciting time for A.J. when the 660 series tractors went on the market. He sold a number of them as well.
Some of these tractors had a problem with burning oil but it wasn't long before International had a solution and I remember an I.H. Serviceman and dad going out to farms fixing the oil burning problem on warranty. The solution was very simple although they would not fix it if the farmer was anywhere near where they were working. (Less than a teaspoon of Bon Ami). I have no idea if this was true or not but
that is what I was told. He also sold discers, cultivators and even the heavy old IH fridges and deep freezers.
The fifties were a time when being an I.H. Dealer was an exciting time and A.J. had his successes as well as his problems. One thing that was happening is that older farmers were selling out to the younger ones and so farms were getting larger but the rural population base was shrinking. A problem that is still happening today. I don't know what year I.H. decided that they wanted their dealers to have a bigger footprint, and so put some pressure on dealers to expand.
A.J. was no exception. He resisted as the crops were not as good as they could have been in the late fifties and 1961 was almost a total failure. He was also getting older and slowing down. I remember in 1963 he decided to quit the dealership and devote more time to his farming endeavours. He was a good friend to another I.H, dealer in LaFleche, Saskatchewan, who was M.J. Verbeek. A.J. needed a farm truck for his farming endeavours so he went to see him about buying a farm truck as he didn't have one on hand. I was very upset
when he came home with a 1941 I.H. model D15 although it did have a pump up hoist. Better than shovelling. I came to love that old truck and still have it today.
Those were the last days of A.J's dealership days as he closed it down and devoted his time to farming.
Memories of A.J. 's son Julien.