Lately, I had a chance to spend time looking at the old Bow Mac sign on West Broadway. Back in the day, it used to be one of the largest freestanding neon signs in North America and was the brain child of then sales manager, Jimmy Pattison. It was such a simple and brilliant way to promote the Bow Mac car dealership. Just put up a freakin’ huge sign. Boom! Done. Everyone for 10 miles around will be able to find them because they can see it!
Currently, the old car lot is now a Toys R U and, since they just slapped their sign over the Bow Mac part, it looks a bit hideous. Still, I remember that sign with fondness.
My dad was never one to splurge on anything for himself. He was always very practical, especially when it came to cars. If it ran, it was good. If it didn’t run, you had to replace it with something only slightly better than the car that just died.
I was very young, but I still remember my dad sighing over pictures of his dream car – a 1966 dark blue Beaumont. True to my dad’s practical nature, he never dreamed of owning a new car. Even his dream car was 10 years old. With my mom’s encouragement, we made the long trip down to Vancouver on a Greyhound so my dad could buy his dream car for sale at the Bow Mac car lot.
The Beaumont was a solid steel, four doored V8 super charged machine. Its hood was easily 16 feet in length. You could put the entire contents of a medium sized Safeway in its trunk. The trip from Vancouver to Burns Lake usually took 12 hours but in this car we were home in 3.
After my dad bought the car, the rules of behaviour in the Beaumont were implemented.
- No food or drinks were allowed
- All feet must be on the floor
- Punch buggy was prohibited because it might draw blood, which would stain the floor mats
- Windows must remain closed at all times when there was a hint of rain or snow…, which in Burns Lake was daily.
- No popping the bubbles on the plastic seat protectors no matter how tempting. Surprisingly, this plastic wrap was not in the car when my parents went out on a date…only when my sister and I came along.
When my dad was teaching me to drive, I could tell he was panicked that he was letting his baby take control of his other baby. He was always very patient, but the occasional shrieks of “Oh My God…” were a bit distracting. I am firmly aware that if I had been in a car accident, my dad’s first question would have been about the condition of the car.
The Beaumont ran for almost 20 years. The day it had to go to the wreckers was one of the only times I saw my dad cry. He said he was crying because it meant he would have to spend money on a new car. But I know that even though he spent his life taking care of us, he felt like a rebel zooming around town in his hot rod car. I think the irony of it made him young at heart. Knowing that he allowed himself to splurge on something that made him so happy, makes me smile. We should all do that for ourselves every once in a while.