By columnist Lyle Carter
It was more than a morning cruise when Bill Paul pressed on the gas pedal this summer, hoping to Brookfield in time for a special event.
The former Brookfield resident, left Calgary on July 14 in an antique vehicle intending to get home in time for the Coming Home to Brookfield festivities.
"I had bought the car, a 1951 Ford Coupe, out of a farmer's field in Langdon a few years ago," recalled Paul, 69. "From the day I bought the car, I thought it would be nice to some day drive it home to Nova Scotia."
With the help of a couple of friends, Paul restored the car over a period of a few years thanks to some hometown inspiration.
"The Coming Home To Brookfield week they have every summer back home kind of inspired me," Paul said. "My wife Vivian and I have planned for a couple years to drive the old car back East. We were both pretty excited about putting it in Brookfield's big parade."
A week before starting out, the Calgary Herald came calling.
"Someone had told them that we were going to attempt the trip in the old car," Vivian said. "They wanted to interview Bill and do a story. Bill declined because he wasn't certain that we could make it."
However, the trip was a go and a close maintenance check was made a few days before starting out.
"We made certain all the bolts and everything were tight," Paul said. "When I rebuilt the car everything was rebuilt or new. We left Calgary with our destination Brookfield, Nova Scotia. We knew it was going to be a long, tough journey."
Vivian said they pulled out of their driveway in River Bend, southeast Calgary at 8 a.m.
"It was all pretty exciting," Vivian said. "Although I was expecting the old car to break down, Bill had faith it."
Driving through Alberta and Saskatchewan the first day, the Pauls spent the first night in Manitoba. The next day, they experienced their first major problem as the yoke on the rear universal joint broke.
"We were held up for a day in Winnipeg," Paul said. "Friends of mine sent me parts by courier."
And then another problem developed in northern Ontario.
"We had a serious coolant leak," Paul explained. "I think I put a good amount of Lake Superior in my radiator so that we could keep going."
Changing the thermostat did not help and Paul realized the engine had a cracked head. Nevertheless, he decided to baby the vehicle along in hopes of reaching their destination.
"It seemed to take forever," Vivian said. "But Friday night, July 20, at five to nine, we arrived in Brookfield. We had been on the road for seven days."
With the car heating up badly and the parade the following morning, Paul knew he had to try something.
"I removed the generator after dark," Paul said. "But I found I couldn't repair it. Things weren't looking good for my car being in the parade Saturday morning."
Luckily, thanks to a friend, Charlie Burnett, and others, a used generator was located in Truro.
"Bill borrowed a car and raced in Saturday morning and borrowed it," Vivian said. "He raced back and put it on. Then, he grabbed a pail of water and tried to wash and wax the car."
And despite running against time, there were no regrets.
"It was all worth it," Paul said. "Vivian kept telling me ‘we came this far, we're going in that parade.' The deadline for getting in the parade lineup was 10:30 a.m.; we made it at 10:25."
The Pauls, who took in many of the Coming Home To Brookfield Week activities, said they had a marvellous time and saw many of their relatives and old friends.
Before starting the long trip back to Alberta on Aug. 14, Paul had the head and gasket replaced on the engine at a garage in Kennetcook. In Truro, Al Roland Electric rebuilt the generator and the starter and in Truro Heights, Barry Weatherby tuned up the engine and checked the car over.
"I'd like to thank these people," Paul said. "They were so helpful. They made this trip a success."
The Pauls, who moved to Alberta first in 1968, had an uneventful drive home.
"In total, to and from Nova Scotia, we drove just over 6,000 miles," Paul, a semi-retired carpenter, said. "The car worked great. I'd like to make the trip again someday."