A Research Guide for Students by I Lee

Autobiography of Carl Kaas

A Member of the Dutch Underground in World War II

Chapter 124: Something New

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Back to our life at Port Robinson Road. Some of our customers also became friends. One was a skinny Frenchman, who worked at the cotton mill. Every night, when he finished his shift, he stopped in to give me a hand. His name was Philip Duchamps, but somebody changed that to FLIP FLOP. Every Saturday, he came and stayed all day, unless he had to take his wife shopping, which was often, three times a week. Pay was not important to him at all. I had the feeling he was not too happy at home. I never had to tell him what to do, he was always cleaning up, inside and out.

The most important person who came into our life at this time was Bud Roberts. He worked at a steel mill, but was not happy with the work and especially the unions. So he came around a lot to find out if he could make himself useful. Originally, he came from Nova Scotia, and had been sailing on the Great Lakes. Now he had settled in Welland, and knew many sailors. In the winter, many freighters tied up in Port Colborne, St.Catharines, etc. Bud helped me to sell many cars to those fellows. When the season ended, those guys would buy a car here and take it back to the Maritimes (where they lived), drive it all winter, then sell it for the same or more, because prices were higher there than in Ontario. Those dealings went on for several years.

In 1958, Bud told me there was a wrecking yard for sale at the other side of town, on Westside Road. He said, "If you buy it, I will run it for you for $40 a week." Wow, he must really hated working in the plant, because there he was making around $60 or $65 a week. "Oke Bud, we're gonna look into it."

We checked the place and calculated that here was a good opportunity to try something I never had any experience in. For $11,000, we became owners of WEST SIDE AUTO PARTS. George Koronev had started this place the previous year, and had married a native woman. Apparently business was not going too well, so we bought it, lock stock and barrel, as they say. Included was a cinder block building, seven scrap cars, a Regent gas tank and pump, and the Provincial Gas Co. as a customer for gasoline. They had their equipment yard across from the place. As soon as we got some cash from Mr. Jansen, and the mortgage, which was held by George, was signed.

Bud quit his job at the plant and took over the reins. Bud ran it the way he saw fit, which worked out fine. Every night after he locked up, he stopped in with a report and the loot. We paid him $65 a week not $40 as he had asked. This of course made him feel good and he earned it for sure. Shortly, we got him a Studebaker pickup to use for the business.

Soon the place became too small, so I persuaded the township of Crowland to sell us the rest of the land which was enclosed by the Westside Road, Shaw Street, Dun Donald, and Grant Streets. This parcel was 200 x 300 ft. I believe this increased our holdings by 150% for a mere $2000. Then Koronev said, "If you pay off the mortgage, I will drop it by $1000." Man, that was a good deal, Ma. "Yes, but where can we get the cash, Mr. Jansen?" "No problem," he said, "when do you want it?" We paid Geo off, and paid Mr. Jansen as soon as we could. It really was a pretty good combination: repair shop and wrecking yard. Here we could buy parts from our own supply and install it on the customer's vehicle. My philosophy was: "If you have to fix a used car, repair it with used parts, this way you don't upset the structural balance."

For used cars to sell to customers, I went to the weekly George Koch Auto Auction in the Dundas arena. This went on from about 1958 til 1962. But then the pressure at home for Bud became unbearable. Mrs. Irene Roberts had to have her man home every night by 5:30, washed up, cleaned up, and dressed up. Five minutes late and life became a burden. Bud was too good hearted to let a customer be stranded if he had to work another few minutes. This was of no concern to his wife. Be here in time, or else. Finally, Bud did succumb to the nagging and irritation and resigned in 1962. He went back to the plant and punched the time clock, just to please his woman. She still was not happy, because when Bud would take her out, she needed two days advance notice or would not be ready in time. Those demands and work in a union-organized work place were so against his idea of a useful life that Bud quit again after a couple of years. Then he went to work in his own business, trucking and a repair garage, with of course irregular hours. The tragic result was: divorce.

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