Anyone in downtown Ashcroft around noon on Tuesday, June 13 might have thought that Graffiti Days had come to town, as several dozen vintage cars made their way down Railway Avenue to the Heritage Park. While most of the participants were from B.C., one couple had travelled several thousand miles to take part.
The event was part of the Canada 150 Vintage Car Club tour, a nine-day event in honour of Canada’s 150th anniversary. “It replicates a tour that was made in B.C. in 1967, to celebrate Canada’s 100th anniversary,” says tour chairman Ken Hoshowski.
That 1967 tour to Prince George initiated the Vintage Car Club’s “May tour” tradition, which continues to this day.
Hoshowski says that numbers were fluid during the tour, with some people only able to participate in certain legs, but that there were a total of 101 cars and 203 people involved in this year’s tour. It started on June 6 in Chilliwack, then continued on with overnight stops in Kamloops, 100 Mile House, Quesnel, Barkerville, Prince George, Williams Lake, and Merritt before concluding in Abbotsford on June 14.
Ashcroft was the lunch stop for the group on day eight (Williams Lake to Merritt), and is described in the tour booklet as “the heart of Gold Country”. The Ashcroft and District Lions Club had been asked to provide a concession, and more than 100 participants (and a few residents) took advantage of the shade of the Heritage Park to enjoy lunch, while locals admired the dozens of vintage cars, which were displayed along Railway Avenue and beside the park.
At least one train driver enjoyed seeing the cars adjacent to the CP line as well. Although CP trains seldom sound their whistles while passing through town, sight of the cars prompted the driver of a passing engine to toot his appreciation as he sped past.
Hoshowski says that the Vintage Car Club has 22 chapters and 1,200 members across the province. “We hope to promote the preservation and restoration of old cars,” he says. “They’re part of our heritage.”
They are also part of the heritage of New Zealand; and Mike and Brenda Marshall of Palmerston, on the South Island of New Zealand, made the tour part of a three-week holiday in western Canada. They borrowed a car (actually three cars; “We’ve had an eventful time,” says Mike) from a friend, and thus found themselves in Ashcroft on June 13; their 47th wedding anniversary.
Mike explains that at a big vintage car rally in New Zealand he met Dick and Joy Parkes from Kamloops. “They were restoring an Austin ambulance in Kamloops, and I had lots of Austin parts from the same era. I said that every time Dick needed parts he should contact me, and I’d send them.”
It was Dick Parkes who told Mike about this year’s tour. Brenda Marshall, who was ordained as a Presbyterian minister nine years ago, says that they had had a very wet summer in New Zealand. “I had three weeks’ holidays, and wanted to go somewhere with sun. I said ‘Let’s go on this tour’.” So she and Mike decided to head to British Columbia, and make the tour part of their holiday.
The couple are no strangers to western Canada. Mike lived in Edmonton 45 years ago, and after they were married he and Brenda lived there for a time. Mike worked in a variety of places while in Canada, and had a friend in Nelson who he would visit. “I’d stay with him and we’d take tours. This was a trip down memory lane.”
Brenda says that the roads in B.C. were beautiful and wide. “We’re having a wonderful time.” Mike seconds that: “It’s been a wonderful trip, with some really generous people.”