By 1909, the world of the horse and the realm of the automobile were having difficulty existing in the same sphere. A plan was devised, by the local Board of Trade, to create a road use schedule. In Oro Township in particular, farmers and lady horse drivers hesitated to travel to Barrie lest they meet up with one of the Tudhope Carriage Co. machines out on a test drive.
Nearly a dozen years after those first autos were spotted in Barrie, the realization that they were here to stay finally sunk in. The proof was the opening of Barrie’s first automobile repair and supply shop in 1911. Charles Kelly and Richard Wolfenden took a big leap of faith when they went into business on Elizabeth Street. They boasted a vulcanizer for tire repair, and all kinds of auto parts and gasoline for sale.
Other signs of acceptance included the addition of automobile blankets and shawls to the wares sold in local dry goods shops, car coats at Simmons Fur, and toy mechanical automobiles at Hoar’s Hardware.
The first case of auto theft and joy riding was reported in the Northern Advance of Sept. 26, 1912. A traveler staying at the Railroad House in Allandale hired two strangers to put new tires onto his automobile. The two then went for a joyride down to Painswick, taking the hotel porter, nicknamed ‘The Monkey’, with them. They struck a large rock and wrecked the machine, and had to walk back to Allandale to confess their deed to the owner, who gave one of the trio a pretty good beating.
The story concluded with, “The machine was brought into town on a dray and taken to Chas. Kelly’s machine shop for repair. It will cost about $50 to put the machine in shape and it is doubtful that it will ever work as good as it did before.”
Speeding, along with drinking and driving, was becoming a problem in Barrie as early as the beginning of the Great War. Bradford, Dunlop and Collier Streets were known as the favourite racetracks for those who liked to drive too fast.
Barrie and Orillia have always enjoyed a bit of rivalry, but the Orillia Packet may not have been entirely joking when it took a jab at the longstanding reputation of its neighbour to the southwest as a regional watering hole.
“If you want sport cheap, just slip down to Barrie. There you might get drunk, drive an automobile, overturn the car, and kill a man all for $40.”
Despite the lingering apprehensions of the folks who disliked motor cars, it became accepted by most that this mode of transportation would be sticking around. More auto repair shops opened up, as did car dealerships. Soon, automobile accessories were all the rage, including this handy-dandy device that was invented in 1915. Some would argue that this feature is still vastly underutilized by drivers today.
For the price of $32.50, you could buy a newly patented signal device for your horseless carriage!
Each week, the Barrie Historical Archive provides BarrieToday readers with a glimpse of the city’s past. This unique column features photos and stories from years gone by and is sure to appeal to the historian in each of us.