LETTER: Remembering a Lake St. institution in Brown’s Garage

Memories of working for Brown’s Garage all my life By Eric Brown Born September 1, 1943 and still kicking

Many times clients would ask what was on the garage property before the garage? We would always say dinosaurs.

I remember my dad, Keith, left H.J. MacFarland on a Friday night with his last paycheque of less than $100 in 1953. He had bought a property that went from Upper Lake Street to Lake Street approximately 360 feet by 90 feet.

The property had a barn on it, which sat about halfway up the sloping property. With help, the barn was moved down by rolling it on logs to where its remaining wall still stands. Here my dad opened Brown’s Garage at 114 Lake Street.

His first job on Monday morning was a valve job for $15. I remember people would say to my dad what kind of work are you going to be doing. He would say we will do everything: we will put rear ends in old dogs, and wheels on baby carriages.

In 1956, dad had signed with Imperial Oil to sell their gas and some of their products, but he stayed independent so that he could buy other products at prices cheaper than Imperial. We had two gas pumps and a small building where we sold chocolate bars, ice cream and some groceries. There was very little profit made in this venture because I ate most of the chocolate and ice cream.

Later that year, my dad got his father Owen to quit his Flagman job for MacFarland and work our gas pumps. When I was 13 or 14, I was recruited to help my grandfather and became a gas jockey. I did this job for five years and my grandfather fired me everyday, but I always said, “You can’t fire me, I quit!”

We hired two people to help pump gas until we stopped in 1976. A big thank you to Bernard Brooks and Melvin McConnell.

Dad was wise enough in 1976 to remain independent and not carry on with Imperial Oil and the gas business because he would have been responsible for all the environmental regulations and issues. We worked seven days a week 7 a.m. to 12 a.m. then 11 p.m., then 10 p.m. and finally we closed at 9 p.m. Eventually we closed on Sundays, too. Most of the time dad and my brother Norm helped out, but not much. I couldn’t take a girlfriend anywhere because I would work everyday until close and then take another hour to do book work.

Dad did more than enough to help out but it was tiring. The best thing that happened to me was when the gas pumps were gone. I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to the generations of Picton and County people from 1953 to 2001 that loyally supported the Brown family.

The garage has been sold to Gavin Bonham-Carter. On behalf of my dad, mom, my late brother and sister, please support Gavin.

Thanks for the ride,

Eric Brown